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The PadiÅŸ Plateau is an idyllic corner of the world, a fascinating place where nature has preserved its wilderness and grandeur, weaving together the crude green of the open meadows with the abruptness of the rocky walls. Often frequented by those who love sceneries of unparalleled beauty, the area impresses through the multitude and diversity of its karstic formations; along the mountain routes you will see numerous sinkholes, caves, swallow-holes, canyons and spectacular gorges of unencountered splendor and grandeur. In PadiÅŸ, you can enjoy a relaxing holiday, in the quietness specific to those areas located in the proximity of mountains, or you can taste the adventure and the adrenaline of discovering the surroundings. Wherever you look, you will either discover sunlit glades teeming with flowers, small, clear brooks prattling from among the stones, or waterfalls speeding from the rocks. You will be enchanted by this captivating dreamland, energizing and hearting you with its genuine panoramas, making it impossible not to come back again and again to enjoy its unmatched richness.




The PadiÅŸ Karstic Plateau

The PadiÅŸ Plateau is situated in the north of the Bihor Mountains within the radius of Pietroasa commune, at an altitude of approximately 1200 meters. You have several options to get here. By car, from the Oradea - Deva connection, turn towards Pietroasa, then, from the entrance to the Boga holiday village follow the road going up to the Ponorului Fortresses Lodge; after passing by the Scarita forest range, you have only 5 km to Padis. The second option has as a starting point the Oradea – Cluj-Napoca national road and continues on the RăchiÅ£ele route – Ponor, the PadiÅŸ Plateau, the Scarita forest range. You can also arrive by train to Huedin or Sudrigiu, then take a bus to RăchiÅ£ele, namely towards Pietroasa.

PadiÅŸ presents itself as an immense karstic plateau bordered by steeps, with wild valleys and clear, whirling waters, deep caves, spectacular gorges. With the mild sun rays and the green background of the nearby forests, it creates a fairytale-like atmosphere. During the evening however, the scenery changes, as a dense fog descends close to the ground. Whether you are going to PadiÅŸ in order to spend a few relaxing days away from the turmoil of the city, you want to explore the surroundings on foot, or because you are a fan of winter sports, here is the place to find the suitable atmosphere and sports for a dream vacation.

Glavoi Glade


Ponor Glade

PadiÅŸ and Its Beauties

Packed with mysterious caves and gorges dug deep within the rocks, this part of the Apuseni Mountains is extremely rich in sights worth visiting. In the north of the PadiÅŸ Plateau there is a cave by the same name, whose gallery reaches down to beneath the Boghii Mountain. In the east, the area of the PadiÅŸ Lodge is dominated by MoÅ£ului Church Peak, an amazing point of view offering a wide panorama over the surroundings. You will also encounter a series of pitches near the Lost World Plateau. The western extremity lights up the scene for the Galbenei Gorges and the Ponor Fortresses, two amazing phenomena which you should not miss. Around them, on the water parting between the PadiÅŸ Bazin, the Ponor Citadels and the Yellow Valley, there is a cave called The Live Fire Glacier. It is said that King Decebal hid a treasure here and because of this the grotto was guarded by several giants. The cave consists of two rooms, called the Grand Hall and the Small Hall, each with its characteristics. The first hosts a huge glacier, the third in the country in size, formed due to the accumulation of the cold air and the lack of ventilation inside. Sun beams find enough room to get through the broken ceiling and into the cave, creating bright, ember-like reflections, and thus unveiling the group of stalagmites behind the ice block. Beyond all these, the Small Hall displays a short gallery decorated with a few calcium concretions. The temperature inside the grotto is around 0ºC even during summertime, so don’t forget to bring warm clothes if you plan to visit it. Moreover, the visit is advisable during the noon hours if you want to enjoy the fairylike scenery specific to the cave.

Live Fire Glacier


Live Fire Glacier

The most grandiose karstic phenomenon in Romania however is represented by the Ponorului Fortresses. Made of tunnels, caves, waterfalls and suspended galleries, it reveals a scenery of wild beauty. At the end of the Fortresses' Valley, the forest road goes down the woods, up to Doline I where there is the great 72 meter portal, a symbol of the Apuseni Mountains karst. Underneath it, there is the entrance to the cave, but the tourist’s track runs up the path to Doline II, fenced by vertical, towering walls. In the subsurface, the Ponorului Fortresses hide numerous lakes and waterfalls hindering the tourist’s travel through the cave. The distance up to the Camp Hall can be covered easily, but beyond that, spelaean equipment is necessary. From the balconies of dolines II and III, the impressive karstic complex shows its greatness, delighting the onlooker with its amazing shapes.

The underground brook from the Ponorului Fortresses continues its course freely, coming up to the surface in the shape of a spring along the Galbenei Gorges. The narrow canyon, margined by extremely abrupt walls, from which waterfalls pour down will create the sensation that everything is about to fall upon you. But do not worry, you are not risking a thing, if you are cautious. The entrance into the gorges is adventurous, with a portion which needs to be traveled on chains, in the immediate proximity of water. In the more droughty seasons, you can get across this portion by walking on the stones. The main sector of the Galbenei Gorges ends with an amazing view offered by The Fan Cascade, an almost 7 meter waterfall formed once the river comes out of the cave. Although the track going through the gorges is difficult, involving numerous portions of cables and support chains, the sceneries along the valley are truly worth the effort, as they are spectacular. Above them there are two panoramic spots inviting to an unbelievable view over the canyon.

Fan Cascade


Galbenei Gorges


Ponorului Fortresses

East of these karst formations, the Lost World Plateau spreads, a secular forest that seems cut off from a fairy tale. The natural reservation draws its name from the past wilderness of the area which was jeopardized by massive deforestations. Flanked by the Ursului and Sec Brooks, and Gardisoara peak, the plateau hides in its subsurface a rich network of active galleries signaled at the surface by the presence of several vegetation masked dolines. Two of them are in fact underground entrances, namely the Gemanata and Black swallow holes, which open the area for exploration. The Lost World Plateau still hides the origins of its name, being a realm from another world. Discover it so you can take advantage of nature’s unaltered beauty.

You can learn about the mysteries of the underground by visiting the Rădesei Fortresses, a cave crossed over by a brook, where the sun light finds a way to infiltrate through the cave flue, creating unusual optical effects. The grotto has only one gallery with ample rooms and continues with a long, narrow canyon. The floor is made of big blocks of rock through which water oozes, with a deafening sound. The cave is entirely lit naturally and hence, so the tourist can enjoy the vastness of the interior beauties. Coming out from the subsurface, the Rădesei Brook continues its course flanked by vertical walls and finally unites with the waters of the Warm Someş. At the surface you will find the Rădesei Clearing, surrounded by rocks and steep cliffs, populated by huge spruces. Green and bright, the clearing invites you to a stopover in order to admire the picturesque views and relax. So recharge your batteries, for Padiş still has more fascinating places to charm you with!

Radesei Fortresses




Ponorului Fortresses

Among all of them, the Ruginoasa Pit is just breathtaking. Being a unique phenomenon, it presents itself as a ravine of large proportions, very steep, with a red-purplish tint. At first glance, it seems like an open wound in the mountain's body or like a famished monster that devours everything in its path. The erosion process is still active, expanding the dimensions of the pit in a fast pace. The unusual chromatic contrast where the brick-red of the rocks joins the green of the rich vegetation turns the area into a natural oddity. The scenery is reminiscent of the Great Canyon, allowing a pleasant escape from the everyday routine.

Near the PadiÅŸ Plateau, you can also visit the Bears' Cave, where you can admire unique stalactite and stalagmite formations, as well as fossils of animals which used to populate the area thousands of years ago: black goats, lions, hyenas, bears. The Altar Stone Cave is also a jewel of the Apuseni Mountains, one that speleologists consider a paradisiacal place. Made of four galleries, it impresses with its spectacular, grandiose, yet delicate elements. Tall domes, canopies, drapes, ethereal needle deposits or cave pearls – such elements will surely stand out. In one of the rooms, the over mineralized water has formed perfect calcite crystals underneath its inert mirror, a rare worldwide phenomenon. Unfortunately though, tourists cannot admire this special location, as the cave is only open for scientific research.

Bears Cave


Pojarul Politei


Zgurasti Cave

Explore the PadiÅŸ Plateau

If you plan on spending your holiday in the Padiş area, we recommend that you start by looking for lodgings. Several cottages in the glade are available - Brădet, Vărăşoaia, Cetatile Ponorului and Scăriţa. Here you will find hospitable, cheerful people, willing to share the mysteries of the mountain with you. Another option would be camping in the Glăvoi Glade and in the immediate vicinity of the cottages in order to take advantage of the fresh air and the quietness of evenings spent in the moonlight. Moreover, you can relax or enjoy traditional Romanian dishes in the intimate atmosphere provided by the holiday village Ic Ponor.

The mountain tracks in PadiÅŸ are shaped as a circuit, and some of them are not easily accessible, being even impassable during wintertime or the rainy season. You need adequate equipment for mountain hikes - lanterns or frontals which come in handy when visiting caves, or raincoats, since the weather in PadiÅŸ is really capricious. If you are in good shape and eager to discover the beauties of the plateau, unique and amazing landscapes will unveil before your eyes from along the foot paths. Here are some climbing routes we recommend, covering the most important sights in PadiÅŸ.

Apuseni Mountains



The Lost World Plateau Circuit: PadiÅŸ Lodge - Poiana Rotunda (The Round Glade) - the left slope of the BrădeÅ£anului brook - the Ursului brook - Izvorul Rece - Gemănata swallow-hole - Avenul Negru (The Black Swallow-hole) - Avenul Acoperit (The Covered Swallow-hole) - Avenul Pionierilor (The Pioneers’ Swallow-hole): 2- 2½ hrs, reduced difficulty, accessible during wintertime with touring, off-track skis.

The PadiÅŸ Lodge Route - Măgura Vânăta Peak - Măgura Mica Peak - Vărăşoaia Glade: 3 hrs, medium difficulty, accessible during wintertime with touring skis.

The Ponorului Fortresses Circuit:  PadiÅŸ Lodge -  Ponor Glade - Valea Cetatilor (The Fortresses’ Valley)  - Doline I - Portal Cetatile Ponorului (The Ponorului Fortresses' Portal) - Doline II - Doline III - Balconies - Valea Cetatilor (The Fortresses' Valley) -  Glăvoi Camping - PadiÅŸ Cabin: 5 hrs, high difficulty in some areas, restricted during wintertime.

Pietroasa Village - Intre Ape - Boga Village - FaÅ£a Plaiului - Fantana Rosie - Saua ScăriÅ£a - PadiÅŸ Plain - PadiÅŸ Cabin Route: 5- 5½ hrs, medium difficulty.

Pietroasa Village - Crisului Pietros Valley - Intre Ape - Valea Galbenei (Galbenei Valley) - Valea LuncÅŸoara (LuncÅŸoara Valley) - Cornul PoniÅ£a - ArieÅŸeni Commune Route: 6½ - 7½ hrs, medium difficulty, passable during wintertime only on forest tracks. On this route, you can visit the Galbenei Gorges or admire the Jgheabului Gorges from some panoramic viewpoints.

Åžaua Vârtop - Groapa Ruginoasa - Cheia Rea Valley - GrohoÅ£ilor Peak - FaÅ£a Goala Peak - Åžtei Route: 7-8 hrs, accessible all throughout the year.

The Galbenei Gorges Circuit: Padiş Cabin - Ponor Glade - Borţig swallow-hole - Izbucul Galbenei - Galbenei Gorges - Florilor Glade - The Live Fire Glacier - Glăvoi Camping - Padiş Lodge: 8-9 hrs, with portions of high difficulty, restricted during wintertime.

Apuseni Mountains


Apuseni Mountains

The vast green surroundings in PadiÅŸ, cheered by small, colored flowers, with horses running free in the Ponor Glade all throughout the summer, the fresh air and the lively chirping of the birds will fill you with energy and invite you to adventure on footpaths. If you love winter sports, you can spend quality time with your friends at the Vârtop ski resort, while if you enjoy hiking, the Somesului Cald Gorges and the Ponorului Fortresses will provide the much needed adrenaline. Welcoming you with its unmatched beauties, the PadiÅŸ Plateau will certainly open a world of adventure for the tourist.

[An article written by Andreea Bertea]