The Călimani Mountains are situated in the Eastern Carpathians and cover an area of about 2000 square km, running east-west for about 50 km. It is the youngest mountain range in Romania and the highest volcanic massif in the Carpathians. The main ridge of the Călimani Mountains forms the largest inactive crater of all in Europe, about 10 km in diameter.
For most of the second Millennium A.D., the Călimani Mountains were part of a broad, mountainous borderland between the Hungarian Kingdom/Principality of Transylvania (an ethnically mixed country) and the predominantly Romanian-speaking lands of Moldavia (ruled by Romanian princes) and Bucovina. It is no wonder that among the peaks of the Căliman/Kelemen one can find both Negoiul Unguresc/Magyar-Negoj and Negoiul Românesc/Román Negoj (the italicized words translate as Hungarian and Romanian, respectively). On the south the Călimani Mountains are bounded by the Mureş River, which separates them from the Gurghiu Mountains; and on the southeast by the Sec and Topliţa streams, beyond which the Giurgeu Mountains lie. The northern limits are drawn by the valley of the Transylvanian Bistriţa, which sets the massif apart from the Bârgau Mountains, and the Dorna valley, which separates it from the Suhard Mountains. Towards the west the Călimani Mountains slope gently into the Transylvanian Basin while their eastern limits make a transition towards the Bistriţei Mountains, which sit beyond the pass of Păltiniş and the basin of Bilbor.
The Călimani Mountains are a stratovolcano or a "composite volcano", which means that they formed as a result of successive eruptions during an extended period of time, through alternating layers of solidified lava and volcanic ash. It is the most developed unit of the Eastern Carpathians' "andesitic belt". Talking of the geological evolution, the volcanic activity began in the late Tertiary period (7 million years ago) and reached its climax in the Neocene (5 million years ago). This first phase of the active volcano was followed by a period of volcanic standstill, increased erosion and deposition. The second phase took place in the Upper Pliocene (2 million years ago). An inactive volcano with its partially emptied magma chamber was no longer able to hold the weight of the entire cone. Great tensions caused by differencies in pressure and weight created ring fractures. The whole volcanic surface with cold and solidified lava was colonized by vegetation. The third phase took place in the Quaternary period (Pleistocene) and produced andesites and basalts as well. A large part of the volcanic cone collapsed following the ring of fractures. The result was a caldera. The remains of the collapsed cone filled the emptied space of the former magma chamber. Rivers, rains, wind and temperature variations have modified the landscape ever since. The summits and valleys are the results of erosion of the cone's remains.
The volcanic karst found here is a unique phenomenon which can hardly be seen elsewhere in Europe. However, the cave system of Negoiul Românesc (which used to feature a hall called "Chocolate Palace") was destroyed by the sulphur quarry opened in the 1970's. Inside the main crater there are several secondary craters: Pietricelul, Haitei Peak and Negoiul Românesc. Erosion has led to the formation of picturesque rock formations that have been designated geological reserves: Red Stones, Tihu, Rusca, Tămaulău.
The most beautiful section of the Călimani's rim is a group of bizarre, mysterious rocks called the Twelve Apostles. These fascinating rock formations include The Marshall, Lizard, Dragons, each of them meticulously chiseled from stone by natural processes. They make up an impressive gallery of figures, made of volcanic rocks 8-12 m tall. This place does have some special, almost magical charm.
The most interesting part of the Călimani Mountains, adorned with the highest summits, is the rim of the huge, shaped like a horseshoe, caldera. This is the only spot within the Carpathian volcanic belt which bears traces of glaciation. The highest peak called Pietrosul, reaching an elevation of 2103 m, is the most spectacular bit of the main crater. Pietrosul and the second highest summit, Negoiul Unguresc (2081m), form a massive crest with a length of 4 km, which with its distinct alpine zone stands out from the forested background of the rest of the volcanic range. A very popular place, although much offset from the main crest, is the "God's Seat" ("Scaunul Domnului" in Romanian, "Istenszéke" in Hungarian), which offers fine panorama on the main ridge in good weather conditions.
The table below lists the highest as well as some other conspicuous summits.
As for the faunistic interest, these mountains once used to be the safe refuge for free-ranging herds of European bison. The last one was reported to be shot in 1780. A new reintroduction project counts with Călimani NP as one out of five national parks in the Eastern Carpathians, where future free-ranging wisent should find their lost homeland.
Getting ThereBy plane
|The nearest Airports:|
- From the West: Cluj-Napoca - Beclean pe Someş - Salva - Vatra Dornei
Railway 406: Bistriţa - Bistriţa Bârgăului
- From the South: Miercurea-Ciuc - Topliţa - Deda - Sărăţel
The nearest stations: Ciobotani (blue dot), Stânceni (blue dot, red triangle), Lunca Bradului (yellow cross), Răstoliţa (blue cross), Borzia (blue dot)
- From the SouthWest: Târgu Mureş - Reghin - Deda
- From the North: Vatra Dornei - Dorna Candrenilor - Poiana Stampei - Dornişoara
- From the East: Suceava - Câmpulung Moldovenesc - Vatra Dornei
Romanian trains time-table
German Railways - all Europe covered
- From Transylvania DN 15: Târgu Mureş - Deda - Topliţa (98 km)
DN 12: Miercurea-Ciuc - Gheorgheni - Topliţa(97 km) DN 17: Bistriţa - Prundu Bârgăului
- From Bucovina DN 17: Suceava - Vatra Dornei (105 km)
- From Moldova DN 17B:Piatra Neamţ - Broşteni - Vatra Dornei (165 km)
Red TapeSince the central part of the Căliman Mountains has been declared a National Park, there are some regulations:
- Camping is permitted at these designated sites:
Lacul Iezer, Şaua Negoiului, Poiana Izvoare, Poiana Frumuşica, Pietrele Roşii, Poiana Arsurii
- Portable gas camping stoves only
- Gathering wood and making a fire is strictly prohibited
- The Mountains of Romania by James Roberts
- Weather Station lodge on the top of Raţitiş summit can put up 10 - 20 hikers only with previous approval. The station's telephone numbers:
- The Iezer shelter for 6-10 hikers is open only in the presence of the rescue crew (no regular duty - closed during my August visit)
- Clearly marked camping sites within the Călimani National Park - see Red tape.
- The Poarta Calimanului pension for 20 people in Gura Haitii (megaliths)
Weather & Rescue Service
The Mountain rescue team from Vatra Dornei can be contacted at these numbers:
0230-372767, 0230-375229, 0744-332378
Rescuers are on duty at the Meteo station at weekends.
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