A multitude of amazing hiking possibility with plenty of different paths for any level, all starting from Balea Lac, are waiting to be explored if you are planning to cross the Transfagarasan highway in Romania. You'll be impressed of how much beauty you can see with so little effort, since at Balea Lac you are already close to the highest altitude you can reach in Romania!
In fact reaching the lake of Balea was just the beginning of our experience on the Romanian Carpathian mountain. Of course the road trip on the Transfagarasan highway was the main reason why we came here and the one from which we had the highest expectations, but we eventually had to reconsider our priorities and find out that hiking in the surroundings of Balea Lac was the most rewarding experience.
There are many hiking possibility, and we tested four of them in one single day: more details will follow. For the most experienced hikers it's possible to do also multi-day treks and conquer the highest peaks in Romania, but in this occasion we didn't come prepared for a long trekking and we had limited time, so we focused on short hikes that we could complete during the day.
The great thing about hiking around Balea Lac is that since the basin is already at over 2000 m of altitude, the hikes usually don't involve a great altitude gain-loss.
Despite the limited height, the view are still magnificent, so that the ratio worthiness/effort is really high!
In one single day in chronological order, we started with the loop around the Balea lake, then we went to Capra Lake, from there to Fereastra Smeilor and back, and we ended our day hiking to the top of "Varful Vanatarea lui Buteanu" at 2507 meters, jus 37 meters below the highest mountain in Romania, Moldoveanu peak.
And guess what, the last hike that we were about to skip, was the most rewarding! So if you want to focus on one single hike in the Fagaras mountains, you shouldn't miss the description of our experience to the top of Varful Vanatarea lui Buteanu!
Loop around Balea lake
This is the easiest and the most walked of all the hiking options at the top of the Transfagarasan road, and can be completed by anyone.
There is not really much to say about it since it is self-explanatory, you just need to go around the lake! It is quite easy and flat, except for the South side, where the path get lost in the grass and you have to walk around some cliffs hanging over the water in order to continue, before descending again and closing the loop around the lake.
It took us around one hour to complete the loop, but you can do it much faster if you don't stop as much as we do to take photos from every available point of view. What we enjoyed the most apart from the spectacular views, was drinking directly from a water source coming from the mountain!
Hiking to Capra Lake
Capra Lake is another high mountain crystalline lake connected to Balea Lake with a direct hiking path. We actually saw many backpackers adventuring on this route even at night, to camp in a more natural and quiet environment.
The hike is starting from the North East side of Balea Lake, exactly where the paid camping is located, it is a marked track and it's quite difficult to get lost anyway; the path is easy to follow, always going up but never too abruptly, so that it is adapt to any hiking level. We were actually quite impressed to see kids below five years old doing it on their own legs next to their parents, and active grandmothers following not far away!
Once you reach the top of the pass, there is a fork with a hiking sign: Capra Lake is already visible from here in front of you, at this point you don't really need any more directions than your own eyes!
On your left instead there is the trail leading to Varful Vanatarea lui Buteanu, our favourite hike around Balea Lake.
It took us about 45 minutes to get to the fork, but it can be done faster if you wish so. From here to the shore of the lake it's just a few minutes longer down hill.
We visited in summer and we were surprised to still see frozen snow on the side of the lake, despite the moderate altitude!
This picturesque view was completed by a myriad of sheep dispersed on the slopes of the mountain, adding a touch of authenticity and traditional life to the panorama; they looked like a multitude of living cotton balls against the clear blue sky and the green grass, a great occasion to shoot a desktop wallpaper!
At the same time we were a little bit afraid of the several shepard dogs looking after them, since Oti got bitten by one while Hiking in Albania. But our worries turned out to be unfounded, and the dogs really friendly and docile.
If you want to know more about easy and rewarding hiking possibilities in the surroundings of Balea Lake, don't miss the second part of our article where we describe what was for us the best hike from the Transfagarasan road!