Munṭii Apuseni

Western Mountains

The Munṭii Apuseni (Apuseni Mountains) are the westernmost of the three mountain ridges of Romania. This is the left arm of the U shaped mountain ridge of the Romanian Carpathians, running south from Oradea towards Danube river. This mountain ridge is also called Romanian Western Carpathians or simply Occidentali (Western Mountains, Sunset Mountains). To be exact, the Romanian Western Carpathians include the Munṭii Apuseni, north of Mureș, the Poiana Ruscă Mountains, south of Mureș, and the Banat Mountains, south of Timiș.

There is sometimes some confusion about this, as the Carpathians actually start at Bratislava in Slovakia. The Carpathians are a mountain ridge from Bratislava through Slovakia, Hungary and Poland to Ukraine, turning south to eastern Romania, then west and finally north again. The part between Slovakia and Poland is called Western Carpathians. However, this region are the Romanian Western Carpathians or Western Mountains, which belong to the eastern (or southern?) Carpathians. This discussion is not new:

East vs. West

The Munṭii Apuseni are not an Alpine mountain ridge, the highest peak, Cucurbăta Mare, is "only" 1,849 m asl. Most mountains are covered by forest, shrubs or grasland, most of them are used for grazing sheep. The geology is nevertheless very complicated, with many uplifts, shears and quite different kinds of rock. The whole mountain range is speckled with patches of limestones and other soluble rocks, which are karstified. This area contains most of the Romanian caves, including the longest (Wind Cave, 45 km) and the second longest (Humpleu Cave, 35 km).

The northwestern end of the mountain ridge is called Munții Pădurea Craiului (Pădurea Craiului Mountains), which means "The Forest of the King". This area with a size of 1150 km² is very rich in caves. There are several show caves around the mountains, but inside the mountains there are numerous caves used for cave trekking. Dozens of tour operators have been founded in the last year, many of them are speleologists. They offer tours in various caves in the area. To visit any cave in Pădurea Craiului, tourists must contact a local operator, who will make them a price offer and will facilitate the visit. At least that's what they tell on the Pădurea Craiului website. We are not sure that there is actually a legal basis to that claim, but we generally support guided tours for visitors who are not cavers.