Padis, a spectacular place in Transylvania

Padis, a spectacular place in Transylvania

Padis, a spectacular place in Transylvania.

Padis is one of the most beautiful and spectacular places in Transylvania. Most of the area is a karst plateau, and because of this, the water on the surface is nearly missing, being drained completely into the ground. The forests in this area are made ​​of spruce and beech, with a wonderful play of colors in early September. The average altitude of the area is 1200 meters. The area offers attractions to suit all tastes, such as sinkholes and peaceful meadows, as if they were taken from fairy tales, to high difficulty tourist routes.

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As it is part of the Apuseni National Park, camping is permitted only in designated areas, such as the Glăvoi camping (La Grajduri), which is also a Rescue post, and the place is also easily accessible by any type of car. Glăvoi is ideal for camping, because it is a crossroads of almost all trails in the area, and several 1-day trips can be performed from here. We recommend you to put up the tent in the camping, and then from there you can go on one day hiking trips taking with you only the bare necessities: food for one day, 1-2 liters of water (you can fill up bottles at the spring next to the Rescue post), raincoat, and necessarily, the camera!

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Localization & Access

The Padis Plateau is the northern branch of the Bihor Mountains, part of the Western Romanian Carpathian Mountains. It is located near the village Pietroasa, on the border with Cluj and Alba counties. The area can be accessed by car, right to the camping area Glăvoi following one of the following routes:

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Go to Padis on DN76, until Sudrigiu. Here head into the direction to Pietroasa (12 km). From Pietroasa continue to Padis on the main road (paved road). After about 16 km, you arrive at the Scărița cottage, where the paved road ends and a gravel road leads directly to the campsite Glăvoi (La Grajduri). The distance you’ll need to travel on the rocky road is about 4 km, and it can be made smoothly with any car.

Cluj and Târgu Mureș

Once in Turda follow the direction to Cāmpeni and Arieşeni on DN75. In Ștei turn right and enter the DN76 to Sudrigiu, where continue on as described above, as if you were coming from Oradea.

For those who have an SUV and are eager for adventure, from Cluj the area can be reached on the route Cluj – Gilău – Someșul Cald – Mărișel – Poiana Horea – Călineasa – Glăvoi. About 20 kilometers starting from Poiana Horia are unpaved.


From here Glăvoi can be reached on foot, walking along the marked tourist trail. This option is ideal for those who come by public transport. The route to Padis is indicated by the red band.


Camping Glăvoi (La Grajduri) is the ideal campsite, being the place of intersection of several trails in the Padis area, and one-day trips can be performed from here. It is recommended to assemble your tent at Glăvoi camping, where there are also four “shops” where you can complete your food supplies (you can buy bread, canned goods, onions, tomatoes, water, alcoholic and soft drinks), or you can have a hot meal. They are open from May to September.


Ponor Meadow (Poiana Ponor) – Padis

is the nearest tourist attraction to Glăvoi camping, only about 10-15 minutes. After passing the Rescue station, you should continue on the road until it reaches the meadow. The karst water system which can be observed at the Ponor meadow is very interesting – the meadow is crossed by the river, which collects water starting from the intermittent Ponor spring, begins its journey at one side of the meadow, then it disappears under the ground on the other side. It is also worth mentioning that after spring, when the snow melts and the draining system can no longer cope to drain all the water, the Ponor meadow turns into a temporary lake.

The Galbenei Defile (Cheile Galbenei) and Spring – Padis

viewing from above, this area is approximately 700 m long, the valley of the Galbena river being in a narrow canyon with an altitude difference of 100 m. Here we can see inaccessible water sewers, and the mouth of the cave where the river disappears, leaving behind only noise. In fact here starts the underground tunnel of 100 m of the Galbenei Defile, a very difficult tunnel to go through. At the end of this tunnel, there is a fan type waterfall of unique beauty, with a height of 7 m, and on its basis, there is a lake with crystal clear water. Another branch of this route takes us over the rocky walls of the defile, where visiting either panoramic viewpoints (they are suspended at about 200 m above the valley) we get a unique view over the 300 m high wall at the opposite side, and the entire canyon can also be admired.

The Glăvoi (La Grajduri) campsite – Padis

it is the ideal camping spot, as it is the place where several trails in the area Padis meet, and one-day trips can be performed from here. It is recommended to assemble your tent at Glăvoi camping, there are four “shops” as well from where you can complete your food supply (you can buy bread, canned food, onion, tomatoes, water, alcoholic and soft drinks), or you can have a hot meal. They are open from May to September.

Cetățile Ponorului – Padis

consists of three sinkholes, and an underground cave system starting with a huge cliff “gateway”, offering unforgettable views being the most grandiose karst phenomenon in Romania. The cave has a 2 km long gallery crossed by a river, perhaps the largest underground river in the country. The entrance to the cave has a height of 70 m and a width of 30 m, and it is situated in the first sinkhole, which has an impressive 300 m depth and a diameter of 1000 m. The second sinkhole starts after a few tens of meters from the entrance, the vertical walls having a height of about 150 m and a diameter of 70 m. Under this same sinkhole, there is a gallery from which flows a river, which actually comes from the water collecting siphon of the Căput cave. The water then disappears under another gallery, hence the underground river from Cetățile Ponorului. The third one is the largest sinkhole, and the active gallery can be accessed from there. The cracks on these sinkholes’ walls make it possible for natural light to enter, and the cave’s gallery there are also two intermittent springs of water – in fact here we find the water drained from the Ponor meadow.

Bârsa Cavity

it is a closed basin in Cetățile Ponor, in the Padis depression. This depression has an oval shape, the major axis having a length of about 2 km NW-SE oriented, and the small of 1km. On the north-east lie massive rocks with flowing streams which are then drained when they get to the limestone bottom of the depression. The area is full of varied and interesting karst phenomena such as: many caves, including in the northern area the Bârsa Glacier – its galleries having a total of 3,010 m, the suspended Tăul Negru Lake, located in a sinkhole and having almost black water, a slope with a natural bridge, and another collapsed one.

Focul Viu Glacier

a cave of unique beauty located an altitude 1165 m, the Focul Viu (Living Fire) glacier cave is remarkable as inside of it we can find a block of ice fossil – the third and largest in Romania, with the size of 25,000 m3. The cave consists of two halls, and is the second largest in the country, after the cave of Scărişoara. To see the splendor of the cave, we recommend you to visit it at noon, when the stalagmites are lit by the sun that illuminates the cave through a natural chimney – it is similar to sparks of fire.

Pietrele Galbenei

from the north, the slope from the extreme south side of the Bârsa Cavity can be seen, the tourist trail forming a serpentine road which passes through virgin forest, climbing to the top. It is remarkable that this slope on the south side is an impressive limestone steep, more than 200 m deep. Pietrele Galbenei offers spectacular views, the sunlight coming towards the Florilor meadow shining on the white rock walls.

Lumea Pierdută (Lost World)

bearing a name that brings to mind the past or fairy tales, Lumea Pierdută is, in fact, a forested karst plateau, which got its name because of its wilderness of long ago. This area is bounded by southern Gârdișoara Peak, of Sec (Dry) Creek, and Ursului (Bear’s) Creek. The two streams define a plateau by having their sources close to one another and merging downstream. Lumea Pierdută, this plateau with vegetation hidden sinkholes, in the underground it’s actually a large network of active galleries. Two of the sinkholes connect with the underground through splendid vertical potholes and are listed among the largest in the karst heritage of Romania.

Borțig Pothole

a remarkable pothole which has a diameter of 35 m, a total length of 150 m, and 54 m depth – access to the large hall is provided by a short gallery. The Borţig Pothole hosts a huge block of ice of 30,000 m3, which is the second largest in Romania after the Scărişoara Glacier. Indeed, it is worth to visit and enjoy this beauty of nature!

Florilor (Flowers) Meadow

consisting of a group of meadows, the Florilor Meadow (Poiana Florilor) is on the slope that descends below the Pietrele Galbenei, and extends to the Galbenei valley. In the summer months, this meadow is covered in hundreds of species of colorful flowers that adorn the sunny slopes. There is a cool and pure spring down the meadow, near the forest road of Galbenei valley. At North, the Pietrele Galbenei mountain can be seen, with 200 m deep slopes.

Useful Information

  • Camping: as the region is part of the Apuseni National Park, camping is permitted only in marked places such as the Glăvoi or Padis campings.
    Food: only take with you food that won’t spoil easily, such as summer sausage, bacon … food must be kept strictly outside the tent, hanging in the tree. In Glăvoi camping there are also 4 shops where you can purchase food (you can buy bread, canned food, water, tomatoes, onions, and various alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages) – these small shops are open from May to September.
  • Medications: it is good to bring the usual medicines for headaches, aspirin for muscle soreness, for diarrhea … there is also a Rescue post in Glăvoi, where a crew is present in tourist season.
  • Fire: in Glăvoi camping you are allowed to make a campfire, but firewood is a problem, given a large number of tourists. We recommend that you take firewood with you when going there. Never leave the fire unattended, and at departure/before going to sleep always extinguish it thoroughly with water.
  • Garbage: we strongly advise against leaving rubbish in Glăvoi or anywhere else in the mountains. If you take anything full with you, surely you can carry it back too once empty!
  • Clothes: you should take suitable clothing for the season, but it would be advisable to bring warm clothes with you each time. In June, at night minus degrees may still occur, and at the end of August, the evenings are already pretty cool. It is advisable to have separate clothing to sleep in at night, this way you’ll have a more restful sleep than if you slept in the clothes you were sweating in all day. Necessarily have a raincoat or waterproof clothing at hand, the weather in the mountains is changing very quickly. It is recommended that you take your raincoat or waterproof clothes with you all the time, on one-day trips too, even if the sky is clear at the start.

Tourist Trails

according to the official website of Apuseni Nature Park

  • RED STRIPE (Main trail 1): Stâna de Vale resort – Bohodei pass – Fântâna Rece – Cârligatele – Cumpănăţelul pass – the Burnt Stone – Vărăşoaia plateau – Vărăşoaia cabin – Padis plain – Bălileasa depression – Glăvoi camping – Căput glade- Barsa Cohanului – Poniţa pass – Vârtop peak – Vârtop holiday village – Piatra Grăitoare peak – Tarniţa Bihorului- Cucurbăta Mare peak (Bihorul); Length 39,5 km; Duration 12-13 h – Main trail, mostly on summits, that links the Stâna de Vale resort, the Padis karst plateau (the area of Glăvoi camping, also known as “La Grajduri”), the Vârtop holiday village and Bihorul peak. It crosses the Apuseni Nature Park from N to S, offering the possibility to visit many of the most important tourist attractions in ANP. The segment from Vârtop up to Bihorul peak is one of the most visited touring ski trails, given the proximity to the ski resort and the slope. Note: between Căput and Vârtop, the Red Stripe marking replaces the old Red Triangle.
  • YELLOW STRIPE: Stâna de Vale resort – The Wonders spring – Ciripa forestry cabin – the crest between Şutanu and Devil’s Mill valleys – Stânişoara glade – the Thief’s Stone – Onceasa glade – the Burnt Stone – Vărăşoaia Cabin; Length 21 km; Duration 7-8 h – Trail linking the Stâna de Vale resort and Vărăşoaia cabin up in the Padis area, by crossing two mountain crests. Difficulty level – medium, accessible during winter by touring ski.
    YELLOW TRIANGLE: (Stâna de Vale) – Baia Popii summit – Plaiul Fericii – Ferice hill -Ferice village; Length 14,5 km; Duration 4 1/2 – 5 h – Trail linking the Stâna de Vale resort and Ferice village. Difficulty level – medium, accessible during winter by touring ski.
  • YELLOW CROSS (the Custuri Circuit): Stâna de Vale – the Donkey ski slope – Custurilor peak – Fântânele glade – Bohodei pass – (continues on the Main trail 1 Red stripe); Length 9 km; Duration 3 – 31/2 h – Circuit trail allowing the visiting of the crest area from the South-Eastern part of Stâna de Vale resort. Difficulty level – medium, accessible during winter by touring ski.
  • BLUE TRIANGLE (Bohodei waterfall Circuit): Pietroasa village – Aleu valley – Aleu glade – Bohodei waterfall – Bohodei pass – Boiului glade – Snakes valley – Aleu valley; Length 17 km (of which 4 km make up the circuit segment); Duration 6 – 6 1/2 h (of which 2 1/2 h in circuit) – Trail for visiting the Bohodei waterfall. Even though it offers exquisite views, this is a difficult trail, very abrupt on the circuit segment, not recommended except to the well-trained tourists. One has to climb three steep rocky slopes equipped with metal chains. The advice from Bihor Mountain and Cave Rescue Public Service is to avoid this trail on rainy weather when the danger of slipping increases. Highly adherent shoes are needed. No matter the chosen access way (from Aleu valley or Stâna de Vale), the trail can be traveled only following the direction described, it is prohibited in the other direction. Prohibited during winter.
  • BLUE STRIPE: Boga holiday village – Păltinetu hill – Fântâna Rece peak – Bohodei pass – (continuation on the Main trail 1 Red stripe); Length 9,5 km; Duration 3 1/2 – 4 1/2 h – Summit trail for accessing the Northern crest of Vlădeasa from Boga holiday village. Difficulty level – medium, not recommended during winter.
  • YELLOW TRIANGLE: Pietroasa village – Crişul Pietros valley – Între Ape – Galbena valley – Luncşoara valley – Poniţa pass – Cobleş valley – Arieşeni village; Length 25 km; Duration 6 1/2 – 7 1/2 h – Trail linking the Pietroasa and Arieşeni villages, and providing access to the karst area of Galbena valley. Sightseeing in Jgheabului gorges and Galbena gorges. Difficulty level – medium, during winter is accessible only on the segments that follow forestry roads.
  • YELLOW STRIPE: Vârtop holiday village – Groapa Ruginoasă – Cheia Rea valley – Grohoţi peak – Faţa Goală peak – Ştei; Length 28 km; Duration 7 – 8 h – Trail linking the Vârtop holiday village with Ştei town. Difficulty level – medium, accessible during winter by touring ski.
  • BLUE TRIANGLE: Câmpani village – Sighiştel village – Sighiştel valley – (Măgura cave – Coliboaia cave) – Dosul Muncelului cave – Ţapu mountain – Fusului road – National road 75, km 25+100; Length 12,5 km; Duration 6 1/2 h – Trail for visiting the Sighiştel valley, the area with the most natural cavities per unit surface in Romania. On the first half, it’s an easy way, more difficult when the water level is higher; on the segment between Coliboaia cave and Ţapu mountain, in the spring area of Sighiştel valley, the trail becomes difficult, surpassing a big difference in altitude, not accessible during winter.
  • BLUE STRIPE (Main trail 2): Vlădeasa cabin – Între Munţi pass – Nimăiasa peak – Micău peak – the Stone Fence – the Thief’s Stone – Coasta Brăiesei – Cumpănăţelul pass – the Burnt Stone – Vărăşoaia plateau – Padis cabin – Şesul Gârzii – Apa din Piatră – Bătrâna peak – Călineasa glade – Capu Şanţului – Clujului peak – Ocoale hamlet – Scărişoara pension – Ordâncuşa valley – Gârda de Sus village; Length 62,5 km; Duration 21 – 22 h (a minimum of two days hiking, with overnight in the camping or at pensions) – Main trail, mostly on summits, that links the Vlădeasa cabin – the Padis Cabin – the Scărişoara pension and ends in Gârda de Sus village at the intersection with the National Road 75. Until the Burnt Stone, the trail follows the main crest of Vlădeasa, offering large perspectives. The danger of getting lost increases on foggy weather, especially in the Nimăiasa – the Stone Fence area, because of the lack of morphological marks. Difficulty level – medium, accessible during winter by touring ski, overnight in personal tents or at pensions.
  • BLUE CROSS: Piatra Grăitoare (the one in the North-Western crest of Vlădeasa) – Onceasa glade – Alunul Mic valley – Runcu Ars Camping (also known as Ponor); Length 9,5 km; Duration 3 1/2 – 4 h – Trail linking the crest of Vlădeasa (for the tourists coming from or going to Stâna de Vale) and the Someşul Cald valley area. Difficulty level – medium, accessible during winter by touring ski.
  • RED DOT (the Circuit of Someşul Cald Springs): Vărăşoaia glade – the Fortress of Rădeasa cave (through the tunnel cave) – Căpiţa – Someşul Cald valley – Honu cave – the Dry cave – South of Cuciulata peak – the Fortress of Rădeasa cave (by the upper entrances) – Vărăşoaia glade; Length 9,4 km (from and to Vărăşoaia cabin); Duration 6 h – Trail for visiting one of the most complex and interesting karst areas in Bihor – Vlădeasa Mountains, with several caves, canyons, karst springs, grouped in an especially wild region. Composed of two circuits that meet in Rădeasa Glade. The recommendation from the Bihor Mountain and Cave Rescue Public Service is that the trail is hiked in the form of 8, starting to the right in the Rădeasa circuit, and to the left in the Someşul Cald circuit. Trail with difficult sectors, not recommended to untrained tourists, prohibited during winter.
  • RED DOT: Padis forestry cabin – viewpoint Piatra Boghii – Şura Boghii cave (-); Length 2 km; Duration 1 h – Trail for visiting the spectacular viewpoint from Pietrele Boghii. Difficulty level – easy, prohibited during winter.
  • YELLOW TRIANGLE (the Circuit of Măgura Vânătă): Padis cabin – Măgura Vânătă peak – Măgura Mică peak – Vărăşoaia glade; Length 8,5 km; Duration 3 h – Summit trail in a circuit (return to Padis cabin on the main road) offering wide views over the Padis and Someşul Cald basins. Difficulty level – medium, accessible during winter by touring ski.
  • BLUE CROSS: Pietroasa village – Între Ape – Boga holiday village – Faţa Plaiului – Scăriţa pass – Padis plain – Padis cabin; Length 22 km; Duration 5 – 5 1/2 h – This is the main access trail by foot in the Padis – Glăvoi area. Of medium difficulty when going up to the plateau, due to the steep slope in some parts, but easy to climb down in the opposite way. Accessible during winter by touring ski.
  • YELLOW STRIPE (the Barsa Pit Circuit): begins at the resting place from the intersection of the Yellow dot (Galbena Circuit) with the deviation Yellow dot in Yellow circle towards Galbena rock – the Black cave – the Black lake – the Barsa ice cave – – Bălileasa depression – Padis cabin; Length 7 km (plus 1,7 km from the Glăvoi camping to the resting place); Duration 3 – 3 1/2 h – Trail for visiting the karst area known as the Barsa Pit, a wild forested region with numerous lines and that shelters two ice caves belonging to the same karst system (Barsa and Zăpodie). The snow usually persists in this depression until the end of May. Difficulty level – medium, accessible during winter by touring ski.
  • BLUE DOT (the Fortress of Ponor Circuit): Padis cabin – Ponor glade – Cetăţi valley – Doline I – the Fortress of Ponor cave portal – Doline II (optionally) – Doline III – pass through the 4 Balconies overlooking the hills – Cetăţi valley – Glăvoi camping – Padis cabin;Length 12 km; Duration 5 h – Trail in circuit for visiting the most impressive karst complex from the Apuseni Mountains – the Fortress of Ponor. Difficulty level – medium to high, prohibited during winter.
  • YELLOW DOT (the Galbena Circuit): the Padis cabin – Ponor glade – Borţig pothole – Galbena karst spring – Galbena gorges – Florilor glade – the Living Fire ice cave – – Glăvoi camping – Padis cabin; Length 19 km; Duration 10 h – Trail in circuit for visiting the highly spectacular karst area from the Galbena valley springs. A long and tiring trail, with high difficulty segments and a big difference in altitude. In the Galbena gorges, tourists need to pass several segments equipped with metal chains and cables. Prohibited during winter.
  • RED TRIANGLE: Padis cabin – Rotunda glade – Ponor glade – Căput cave – Căput gorges – Căput glade; Length 5 km; Duration 1 h 20 min – This trail provides a link between the two main trails (Red Stripe and Blue stripe) that cross the Apuseni Nature Park, respectively the Padis plateau area and the Căput area. Note: the old Red triangle trail between the Padis cabin and the Vârtop holiday village becomes the Main trail 1, Red Stripe.
    YELLOW CROSS (the Lost World Circuit): Padis cabin – Rotunda glade – left side of Brădeţanu stream – the Bear’s stream – the Cold spring – the Twinned pothole – the Black pothole – the Sheltered pothole – the Pioneer’s pothole; Length 7,5 km; Duration 2 – 2 1/2 h – Trail for visiting the karst formations in the Lost World karst plateau. Difficulty level – easy, accessible during winter by touring ski.
  • BLUE TRIANGLE: Padis cabin – Şesul Gârzii – Gârdişoara valley – Gura Apei cave – Şura Popii cave – Coliba Ghiobului karst spring – Casa de Piatră hamlet – – Gârda Seacă valley – Scărişoara ice cave; Length 17,5 km; Duration 5 h – Trail linking the Padis area and the Scărişoara ice cave, allowing the visiting of the karst area from Casa de Piatră and the Gârdişoara and Gârda Seacă gorges. Difficulty level – easy, the trail on forestry road on more than half its length, accessible during winter by touring ski.

Padis, a spectacular place in Transylvania

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