Make your choice: The Danube Delta or The Danube’s Cauldrons?
What's the difference between The Danube Delta and The Danube's Cauldrons/Gorges? Which one to choose?
The Danube Delta – expeditions, adventure and relaxation tourism
Formed in more than 10,000 years, the Danube Delta is one of the biggest and best conserved deltas in Europe. With more than 300 bird species and 160 fish species, the Danube Delta is part of the Unesco World Heritage. This biosphere reserve is home to the world’s third largest biodiversity. It hosts a lot of virgin places that were preserved throughout time. Thus, half of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve is untouched.
The best time of the year for visiting the delta is in spring, because nature comes to life at that time, while the birds’ migration, nesting and mating rituals bring along unique sounds and dances. It would also be nice to see it in summer, as it is more animated by festivals, competitions, holidays and touristic attractions.
Whether you’re a birdwatcher, fisherman, photographer, hunter, researcher or just a tourist willing to explore the beauties of this natural wonder, the Danube Delta welcomes you in its magical realm and promises unique moments and unforgettable experiences. A combination of channels, river branches, oak forests, reedbeds, lakes, sand dunes and wetlands will charm you in an amazing experience that you’ll never forget. It is estimated that around 67 million tones of alluvia are brought by Danube every year, which keeps the river in a continual growth. There are 30 types of ecosystems, which makes the delta a fascinating source of flora and wildlife.
Tourists have a wide variety of activities to choose from: kayak and canoe tours, birdwatching trips which are perfect for photographers and birders, boat tours, water sports, fishing, hunting, photography tours and road expeditions. The Reserve Authority declared that there are around 24 touristic routes in the Danube Delta, 15 on water and 9 on land.
Touristic road routes
Herd of wild horses outside Letea Forest, credits: surub/Bigstock.com
A good idea of road trip is to visit the Letea village and forest, a must see location in the Danube Delta region. The Letea Forest is a subtropical forest with oak trees, climbing plants, high and small dunes. In Tarla Popii, we can find some of the oldest oaks in the forest. The major attraction in the Letea Forest is the big population of wild horses (around 2,000), a national and European natural treasure. The Letea village welcomes you to explore the rural culture, taste some fresh fish and other delicious traditional meals.
Another point of interest is the Caraorman forest which stands on sand dunes and has rich vegetation. “Caraorman” means “black forest” in Turkish. It’s populated by old oaks and all kinds of climbing plants like creepers. You’ll be delighted to meet the oldest and biggest oak in the Danube Delta, called the Kneeling Oak because of its long branches lying on the ground. It is 400 years old and has a circumference of 4 m.
How about checking out the easternmost location in Romania? We’re talking about Sulina, a town at the mouth of Danube’s central branch. Not only does it dispose of a free port and a cool beach, but it also boasts of the well-developed balneary tourism that it offers.
Want to dig more into the Danube Delta’s history? Then explore the Danube Delta Eco-Tourism Museum, located in Tulcea, the biggest city in the delta and central point of access to the reserve.
The museum’s permanent exhibition will introduce you in the magic world of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve. It’s also equipped with and aquarium which has numerous species of fish.
You can choose among speed boats, cruise boats and open rowing boats. There is a Delta specific boat called Lotca, which ressembles to the Vikings’ boats. Tourists may enjoy even a local creation that is Canotca, a combination between lotca and canoe, invented by Ivan Patzaichin, an Olympic Romanian canoeist.
One boat trip could be from Tulcea to Letea. It starts in Tulcea, continuing towards Channel 36 until you reach Sireasa Channel. The next destination is Garla Sontea, a place rich in fauna and vegetation. You can then go see one of the biggest lakes in the Danube Delta, Lake Furtuna. Mila 23 is not too far, you can reach it through the Olguta channel. Arrived in Mila 23 village, you can chat with the locals, try a traditional dish like the Delta fish broth and enjoy nature.
From Mila 23, you will cross three lakes, Lake Radacinos, Three Iezere and Bogdaproste, until you reach the Old Danube Channel and the Letea village.
Want to see the the biggest lagoon in Romania? Then you should visit lagoon Razim-Sinoe, located in the south of the Danube Delta. It comprises Lake Razim and Lake Sinoe. On the shores of Lake Sinoe, you can take a look at the ruins of the Greek colony Histria. Lake Razim also hosts several archeological sites.
Top spots in the Danube Delta region
You must not miss the Letea Forest, an enchanting natural attraction. Also known as “Delta’s jungle”, its lianas and wild horses seem to be straight out of a fairytale.
Cormorant colony on Saint George beach, credits: taviphoto/Bigstock.com
Sf. Gheorghe, the place where Danube meets the Black Sea, is a small and quiet village with a fine sand beach and friendly locals. It disposes of rare species of plants and fish. The Sacalin Island, formed recently, close to the Sf. Gheorghe arm, is a biosphere reserve where migrating birds find shelter. The island can only be seen if sailing in nearby waters, because the access on it is prohibited in order to preserve this new piece of land.
Gura Portitei is considered heaven on earth by the tourists who visit it. It’s a peaceful Lippovan Holiday village on a narrow sand strip, between the Danube Delta, the Black Sea and the Razim Sinoe Lagoon. Formerly a fishing village, it’s now home to white-blue houses and an impressive beach with fine sand and clean water.
The Danube’s Cauldrons – recreational and leisure tourism
The Danube’s Cauldrons are part of the Iron Gates National Park. In the Danube Gorge area, the Danube crosses the Carpathian Mountains and creates Small and Big Cauldrons.
Statue of Decebal
Tallest rock sculpture in Europe, Decebal’s Statue reigns like a guardian of the Danube’s Cauldrons. It represents the head of Decebalus, Dacia’s last king. It was constructed by a team of 12 sculptors throughout a period of 10 years. Iosif Constantin Dragan, a Romanian historian and businessman, had the idea of building and financing the sculpture. The impressive monument is taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York and the Statue of Christ in Rio de Janeiro, being 55 m high and 25 m wide.
The Mraconia Monastery was built on the place of the former monastery that was firstly destroyed during the war, then rebuilt and flooded by Danube. Mraconia means "hidden place" in Slavic. The old ruins of the ancient monastery can be noticed when the water level decreases.
Tabula Traiana is a memorial plaque with a Latin engraving which was built to honour the end of the construction of Trajan’s military road. It is situated on a carved rock above the Iron Gates on the Serbian territory and can be seen when visiting the Danube’s Cauldrons, being opposite Decebal’s head.
Hiking and walking in the Cauldrons’ area
Dubova Bay and Ciucarul Mic in The Danube Cauldrons, credits: Pojornicu Stelian/Bigstock.com
For a spectacular view on the Danube’s Cauldrons and the Dubova Bay, you can go hiking on the Ciucaru Mare peak. The Big and Small Cauldrons are 9 km long. The best way to see the Cauldrons from above is to climb on the top of the Ciucaru Mare peak. The trip will take about two hours. Here’s a quick tip for you: beware of the vipers.
In the Danube Gorge area, you can also visit Dubova, a commune where you can immerse in ancient traditions and discover the beauty of natural landscapes. St. George Day, celebrated in spring, is an important holiday in Dubova. It marks the start of the pastoral season and the sheeps’ milking process.
Surrounded by mountains and the Danube, Orsova is an impressive city with picturesque landscapes and scenic routes. It is the starting point for your trip to the Iron Gates National Park, but also a harbor city that will definitely leave you astonished when walking on the Danube’s shores.
For those who want to see Orsova and the Danube River from above, St. Ana Monastery is a perfect location, as it is located on a hill and it offers a panoramic view on the bay and the city.
The Ponicova Cave can be accesed by walking or driving to the two entrances on land or by boat to see it from the river angle. It is easier to access the cave through the entrance that can be found in the Ponicova Gorge, by going down the bridge over the Ponicova creek. For those who like mountain climbing, you can opt for the second entrance which is more difficult to reach and is located at a higher altitude.
Nautical tourism in the Danube’s Cauldrons
The departure point is Orsova city. The boat will take you to the main touristic attractions, such as: The Great Cauldrons, the Statue of Decebal, then the Mraconia Monastery, the Tabula Traiana plaque, the ruins of the Trikule fortress, the Ponicova and Veterani caves.
Visit to the Veterani and Ponicova caves
Also known as Bats’ Cave, the Ponicova Cave is the biggest and most impressive cave in the Danube’s Gorge. Its tunnels are more than 1660 m long and cross the Ciucaru Mare Peak with an exit to the Danube river. The third entrance can only be seen while being on water, getting close to the Ciucaru Mare wall and passing 500 m below it until you reach the cave’s mouth. The cave’s galleries are displayed on two floors, taking about 2 or 3 hours to visit them. The cave has an ancient pottery object, fossils of cave bears, and endemic species, that is why it was declared speleological reservation.
Situated in the Ciucaru Mare Peak, the Veterani Cave is accessible only by boat. It’s considered to be Zamolxis’s sanctuary. According to legends, the Dacians were praying there and even made sacrifices in Zamolxis’s honour, proof being the numerous bird and animal bones that were found there. The cave was always a point of interest for treasure hunters, as it is said that Maria Theresa’s silver treasury and the treasure of a Serbian tsar are hidden in a stone cavern.
Close to the Serbian shore, you can see the ruins of the Trikule fortress, which was built in the 15th century. It originally had 3 towers, but because of the flooding, only 2 towers can be noticed, unless the water level is low.
Danube’s Cauldrons or Danube Delta?
Your choice will depend on the type of trip you want to have, whether you prefer to relax and enjoy tranquility or simply visit a pristine place. Both destinations will introduce you to the Romanian culture and history, showing you some of the natural wonders that this fascinating country preserves so well.
The Danube Delta offers both adventure and recreation opportunities, being suitable for many kinds of tourists, from birdwatchers and photographers to daredevils. Touristic options are very diverse and range from forests, delta, beach, sea, to hundreds of birds and animals, many species of plants and so on. The delta is a perfect spot for those who love birds, insects and animals, who enjoy wildlife and are willing to make unexpected discoveries in an exotic place. Don’t miss the fishing season!
The Danube’s Cauldrons provide various options for sightseeing tours. If you want to be active in this region, you can hike on the mountains surrounding the Cauldrons or practice an extreme water sport. This destination is addressed to people who want to chill and take a soothing break in the middle of spectacular natural landscapes. It’s a perfect holiday resort for honeymooners, families with children, historians, photographers and for those who enjoy a calm and peaceful vacation. The Danube crossing the Carpathian Mountains creates an impressive scenery that is worth watching. You’ll want to come back there!
So, think about what kind of tourism you would like to perform and what kind of holiday you want to have. According to this, you’ll opt for one place or the other. Feeling lazy and don’t want to move around too much? Go for the Cauldrons then! Are you a wild soul in love with animals and willing to explore untouched lands? In this case, go for the Delta. Whatever you choose, you will spend unforgettable moments in Romania’s amazing natural parks and reserves.