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Ciucaș – The Paradise of Needles and Sugar Heads

Ciucaș – The Paradise of Needles and Sugar Heads

Have you ever felt really passionate? Completely mad about something? Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach and spent the night staring at the walls, just tossing and turning and thinking about the plan for the next day? Have you ever felt the urge to shout at the top of your lungs and let it all out from high mountain peak?

If any of the above seem familiar to you, it means that you are exactly like me: simply in love with nature, in love with the mountains, in love with the beautiful and the spectacular outdoors.

I am Dan Chitila. I love mountains and all activities related to them. I enjoy trekking in every season, cross-country skiing, climbing, and of course, photography. I like spending my time surrounded by friends, trekking in spectacular areas, and discovering new places, new people, and new customs.

My profession as a tour guide has taken me in many beautiful places. I love the mountains, especially because they offer a certain feeling of tranquility – almost a spiritual bond that cannot be explained but can be felt if you go there.

I have been on many tours and led groups of tourists in some of my favourite mountains: Piatra Craiului, Ciucaș, and Bucegi, among others. I never get bored with the same routes as every time I go, I see something new and different. The mountain presents itself in different colours, the forests change their garments, the trees become covered with snow, and the trails get their own colourful carpet of leaves.

I have been asked on many occasions about my favourite mountains, and every time my answer has been the same: for me, there is no such thing as my favourite mountains. They all have their particular charm, so it’s difficult to make a choice. However, today I will make a choice and present you with one of my favourite places in all of Romania: the Ciucaș Mountains.

Did you know that Ciucaș is famous for its curious, rounded cliffs called “Needles and Sugarheads?” And what if I told you that the name Muntele Roşu (Red Mountain) comes from the fact that the slopes are usually covered with rhododendrons? Rhododendrons are red flowers that grow on the mountain slopes and enchant the eyes, especially in the spring and autumn. .

My first encounter with Ciucaș was, as I recall, in 1995. Back then I didn’t have a clue about trekking, but it turned out to be one of the most beautiful winter trips I ever made. I can still remember the joy I felt when I saw the trees, with their branches loaded with snow and far away on the horizon, the cliffs surrounding Ciucaș Peak.

The next time I saw these mountains was in the summer of 2001. I literally fell in love with everything about the place, and so I promised myself that I would go there as often as possible.

Since then I have been in Ciucaș many times and in every season. I have tons of photographs and memories from there, and I do trekking in the area at least twice a year. Is that passion, or what?

How can you get to Ciucaș?

The most important point of access is the village of Cheia. If you start out from Bucharest, you have to go to Vălenii de Munte and then on to Măneciu. From Măneciu you follow the road to Cheia. A short stop in Vălenii de Munte is definitely worth your while. Among other points of interest, you can visit the house of Nicolae Iorga, a distinguished historian, politician, literary critic, poet and playwright in the period between the two World Wars. Along the way you can make two more short stops, at the Suzana and Zamfira monasteries. They are in a lovely and peaceful location, far from the noise and commotion of civilization. After your visit to the monasteries, then it’s time to hurry up and go see the mountains.

Trekking opportunities and leisure in Ciucaș

From my experience over the years, I can say that Ciucaș is perfect for whatever activity you choose. You can do trekking here all year round: both Gropşoare-Zăganu Ridge and Bratocea Saddle offer beautiful perspectives on the Bucegi, Grohotiş, Piatra Craiului and Făgăraş mountains.

In winter, the mountain is great for cross-country skiing. You can start your tour from Bratocea Pass or the Muntele Roşu Chalet and then take a tour on Bratocea Saddle, Chiruşca Saddle, and of course, Ciucaș Peak.

There are several ways of discovering the beauty of Ciucaș, and all are possible during all four seasons.

A one day trekking tour, if you are short of time, might look like this: Cheia – Cheia Monastery – Zăganu sheep farm – Gropşoare-Zăganu Ridge – Gropşoare Peak – Chiruşca  Saddle. From here there are two possibilitie

– You can descend to Muntele Roşu. You can have a very good and tasty meal at the Silva Chalet, which is at the foot of the mountain. From Muntele Roşu back to Cheia is about a one-hour walk.

– The second possibility is to descend from Chiruşca  Saddle to the Ciucaș Chalet. You will have time for relaxation there, with great views of Gropşoare-Zăganu Ridge and Ciucaș Peak. From there you just follow the route back to Muntele Roşu, and then to Cheia.

A two day trekking tour is perfect, especially if you choose to do some hiking around the area and then spend the night in a cozy chalet with all the modern comforts and facilities.

         – You can start your tour in Cheia and go on Gropşoare-Zăganu Ridge, with many opportunities along the way for taking excellent photos (panoramic photos as well). The end of the first day will be at Ciucaș Chalet, complete with a tasty meal and a cold Ciucaș beer. After a quiet night and a good sleep, you will have your batteries charged for the next day’s challenge, Ciucaș Peak  – at 1954 meters, the highest point of the Ciucaș Mountains.

         – From the chalet to Ciucaș Peak, you will have a nice hike, passing by the famous round-shaped cliffs called “Babele la Sfat” (The Old Ladies Chating) and “Tigăile” (The Pans). From near the top, there is a spectacular view of the “Tigăi” and this is also a very good spot for panoramic views. I highly recommend a photo session in this particular area because of the spectacular scenery.

From the peak you can go back down to the Ciucaș Chalet and then on to Muntele Roşu. Your day will end in Cheia where there is a small but renowned array of traditional products such as cheese, fruits, honey, bacon and sausages from local growers and producers.

Another point of access in Ciucaș is through the BratoceaPass. You need to go past Cheia and follow the route to Braşov. After a few kilometers on winding roads you will see a sign that leads you to Bratocea Saddle and then finally to Ciucaș Peak.

This is a four-hour hike that will offer exceptional views of the Piatra Mare, Bucegi, Piatra Craiului and Făgăraş mountains. Not to mention the panoramic photos, which seem to be my latest hobby. From the peak you can easily go back to the Ciucaș Chalet and then to Cheia, passing through Muntele Roşu.

Accomodation possibilities. There are three chalets in the Ciucaș mountains which are open all year.

Muntele Roşu and Silva are very close one another, about five minutes apart. They are located in the Muntele Roşu Meadow, with a great view of Gropşoare-Zăganu Ridge. You can easily get there by car or by foot from Cheia.

The chalet at Muntele Roşu has some 20 rooms with two or three beds each, making it suitable for groups of any size. It also has a restaurant, bar and disco.

On the other side of the road, you will find a quieter place called Silva Chalet. It is smaller, with fewer accommodation possibilities. There are 14 small houses, each with 2 beds, and a restaurant with really good food – take my word for it!

The third chalet, renovated recently, is in Ciucaș. It has many rooms with two or three beds, a restaurant and a bar – not to mention a splendid view of Ciucaș Peak.

In conclusion, Ciucaș is a mountain for everybody and offers plenty of opportunities: easy hikes, trekking, ski touring, and great views for photography lovers.

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