Tourists descending to scarisoara ice cave in Apuseni Mountains, Romania.

Tourists descending to Scarisoara ice cave in Apuseni Mountains, Romania.

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The article was written 3.2.2007.

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A walk in the Scarisoara Ice Cave

So it's summer. Days are getting hotter and hotter and all I can think about is the very soon approaching holiday. This year I don't want to lie on the sand. I want something different. Something active!

Last week, a friend called me and asked me if I was interested in a trip to the Apuseni Mountains, couple of days in the wilderness, in the silence of the woods, far away from the melting and crowded city. Well, it is exactly what I needed!

Friend or enemy

As the holiday was getting closer and closer, I started the preparation for the big adventure. It's been a long time since my last trip; so first thing on my list is checking the proper equipment as the mountain can be your best friend -if you are prepared to meet him - , but also it can turn into your worst enemy if you don't respect its unwritten rules. Think about what you would do if you were in the middle of the woods, it starts to rain and all you have in your backpack is a pair of sandals and two T-shirts.
I know I'm overreacting but still you must be prepared for the unpredictable of the mountain - better safe than sorry, you know.

The big day

Tomorrow is the big day! The train leaves at 6 in the morning -kind of early for me but once I manage to get out of bed, everything will go smoothly.

It's time for one last time check-up: the tent is cleaned and packed, the sleeping bag is in good shape, the isoprene is lying silently by the sleeping bag, the flashlight has new batteries, the boots, two pair of pants, shorts, 2 T-shirts, a warm raincoat just in case, the polar-tech anorak for chilly nights, a cap, sunglasses, couple of food cans, some aspirin for the road, the thermos for some hot nice tea, matches, bar proteins, a very large rucksack and plenty of enthusiasm. And of course, the camera! Apuseni watch out! Here I come!

It's noon. The train is almost in Campia Turzii. I once again had the chance to see the beautiful landscapes passing fast before my eyes. A little cloudy though. I hope it will all change when we arrive.

From Campia Turzii we take a bus to Campeni, a small town at the base of the mountains and from there it's up to our feet where we will go.

As it's already night we have to stop. The tent is set, we have a bit to eat and we enjoy ourselves watching the bright full of blinking stars night sky. I swear you don't see those kinds of stars in the city sky.

The next morning

We wake up early in the morning as we have a long road to go in front of us.
We cross though small villages - Arieseni, Albac - leaving people starring at us full of curiosity. Luckily we found a spring near the road - our best friend on this hot summer day. At noon we arrive to the final point of our travel through people - Garda - up from here is a forest bumpy road, a perfect wilderness, rocks, green grass and underground springs. It's an 18 km road to the ice cave. There are no buses so we walk by foot.

After 3 km of winding road we take a small break, admiring the impressive magnificent rocks -it's indeed a spectacular view. From behind us, there is a villager coming down a cottage and he was kind enough to take us with him. So for the rest of the road, we lay back and enjoy the beauty of the wild nature crossing before our eyes.

After two hours our adventure is about to begin. We are very close to the cave. But we have to respect the visiting hours so the visit is postponed until the next day.

Scarisoara Ice Cave

We are in front of a big fence covered with green grass. All I can see looking down there is a big rocky hole with bushes around.

In a few seconds the mystery is revealed as a guide is taking us to see the Scarisoara Ice Cave. We walk on metallic anchored scales in walls. The guide informed us that these scales descend 48 m to the cave's entrance. 48m! That's a lot! Not to mention that I'm afraid of the heights! But I managed to control my fear by squeezing information from the guide about what we are to see soon. Deep down another surprise. The cave's entrance is covered with snow. Snow! In the middle of August! And there were like 30° C when we began the descent. As we found out, this snow doesn't melt as down here the air is much colder. I can feel chills down my spine so it's time to bring out the polar-tech.

The cave entrance! Long waited! I'm really curious about what I am to see. I've seen pictures of the ice cave but there is nothing like the real thing!

It's much more than I have ever imagined. A huge entrance, a huge room - 700 m as the guide informed us- and in the middle an immense block of ice. A 4000 years block of ice!

Enter the Big Hall (Sala Mare)

The superior side of the block forms the floor of the Big Hall (Sala Mare). On the other side there is a dangerous abrupt toboggan that takes us to the second part of the cave - the Church (Biserica). And here is the first stalagmite that I see for real! It's indescribable! Massive columns of ice! As the snow reflects at the extremity of the stalagmites, it creates beams of light that look like huge lit candles. Oh! So that is why it is called the Church!

I'm impressed by all these natural beauty. Still it's cold and the visit is limited to one hour in order to preserve the ice. Due to global warming it is said that the ice will melt in the next 70-100 years. And it's a pity! This is a different world! You see things that can't be found else where -the stalactites and stalagmites offer you a stunning surreal image of what nature is capable of doing. I even asked my friend a question and the echo answered to me. I felt chills! It was unreal, strange, from another world sound!

So this is how it feels to be in a cave. Silence, darkness, humidity, solemnity, unrevealed nature. A show put up by the nature just for me! And you! You can't see this on TV! I mean, yes, you can see but you will never get this feeling, the fear for unknown, the joy of knowledge, the mystery hidden deep down underground.

Towards light

Unfortunately the hour is over and we have to go to the entrance. I give a last hug to the big mountain of ice hoping it will still be here next year. Boots full of mud, frozen hands and pure sheer happiness.I take my camera -which is full with the snapshots taken inside this beautiful phenomenon - memories for later on when I will be in my room studying for my exams and on a small break I will be here again, even if just for couple of moments; this adventure is over for now. But there are a lot of other beautiful places which are just waiting to be discovered. By me. By you. Or by anyone curious enough to see it with his own eyes, not satisfied by others experiences.