Peștera Ghețarul de la Vârtop

Pestera Ghetarul de la Virtop - Vartop Glacier Cave

Useful Information

Location: Casa de Piatră 517043.
From Garda de Sus to the village Casa de Piatra, one hour walk to the cave.
(46.540640, 22.780700)
Open: 15-JUN to AUG daily 10-18.
Fee: Adults RON 15.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave Speleologyice cave.
Light: bring torch
Dimension: L=340 m, VR=30 m, A=1,200 m asl, T=4 °C.
Guided tours: D=30 min, MinAge=6, Min=5, Max=10.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: R.N.P. - Romsilva Administraţia Parcului Natural Apuseni R.A., Loc. Sudrigiu, nr. 136, Com. Rieni, Jud. Bihor, COD 417419, Romania, Tel: +40-372-702-242, Fax: +40-259-329-339. E-mail:
Vasile Gligor, Tel: +40-766016482.
Cosmin Dobra, Tel: +40-766445980.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1954 first exploration by a team from the Emil Racoviță Cave Research Institute at Cluj-Napoca, led by Professor Marcian Bleahu.
1955 first written mention of the cave.
1957 declared a natural monument and closed with a gate.
1974 speleological exploration by a team led by Professor Iosif Viehmann from the "Emil Racoviță" Speleological Institute in Cluj.
2010 opened to the public as a show cave.


Peștera Ghețarul de la Vârtop (Vartop Glacier Cave) has numerous names. It is known as Peștera Minunată (Wonderful Cave) or Ghețarul de la Casa de Piatră (Stone House Glacier). It is called glacier cave because it is an ice cave of the cold trap type. And it is named after the Vârtop plateau where it is located, and which was named after the numerous dolines or sinks which are locally called vârtops.

The cave has a huge entrance portal 15 m wide and 5 m high followed by a debris slope leading down into the 70 m long Sala Ghețarului (Glacier Hall). It contains about 1,600 m³ of ice, hence the name. At the end of the hall is the gate and after a low passage the Sala Domului (Dome Hall) is reached. The next chamber is called Sala Minunilor (Hall of Wonders) because it contains various speleothems, including stalactites, stalagmites, columns, curtains, cave coral, and rimstone dams. Finally the Sala Mare (Great Hall) with a length of over 100 m is reached. Here are again different speleothems, including a rare disk and calcite crystals. The speleothems are one of the assets of the cave.

The entrance of the cave was known for a very long time, but it was explored for the first time in 1954 by a team from the "Emil Racoviță" Speleological Institute at Cluj-Napoca, led by Professor Marcian Bleahu. As a result it was actually published for the very first time in 1955. The cave was later mapped by Marcian Bleahu and Iosif Viehmann. In 1957, it was declared a natural monument and closed with a gate.

Further research in 1974 by a team led by Professor Iosif Viehmann from the "Emil Racoviță" Speleological Institute in Cluj led to the discovery of the Sălii Pașilor (Hall of Steps). It was named after three Neanderthal footprints, which were discovered in this chamber. The name omului de Vârtop (man of Vârtop) was coined. One footprint was removed and studied at the Institute of Speleology in Cluj. The other two footprints were cut out and stolen soon after, the perpetrators never found.

It is 22 centimeters long and 10.6 centimeters wide. There is a gap of 1.6 cm between the big toe and the other toes, which led to the conclusion that he could "grab" objects with his foot, similar to monkeys. The specialists also estimated that the height of the "Vârtop man" exceeded 146 cm. Anthropologist Cantemir Riscuția determined that it was a Neanderthal man.

Its difficult to date things, but if there is material containing radioactive elements its possible to date their decay. Unfortunately a footprint is not there, it's just an impression in older material and does not consist of matter itself. The footprint was imprinted into soft moonmilk, a sort of speleothem. But after the man left that place, eventually the water began to drip from the ceiling, and the formation of a small stalagmite began in the footprint. In 1993 Professor Iosif Viehmann and Professor Stein-Erik Lauritzen from the Uranium-Thorium Dating Laboratory at Bergen University in Norway were able to date this stalagmite to 62,000 BP. In other words the footprint is at least that old.

The cave is managed by the administration of the Apuseni Natural Park. In 2010, they officially opened it as a show cave. But the reality is that their "development" included only to equip the guides with lamps. There is no development, one would expect from a show cave, like trails, railings, electric light, or measures to protect fragile speleothems. Malicious tongues claim that the infrastructure created consists of a sign prohibiting cave explorers from entering. And the reason is simple, the specialists would note the degradation of the cave.