Caciulata is a town in Romania in the country of Valcea. It is located by the Olt River, by the Southern Carpathians. Caciulata has several thermal springs, hence it is mostly known to be a spa town. However, there is plenty more to do for soft adventure seekers, including hiking opportunities, cultural sightseeing and mountain biking.
Beyond the great thermal springs, you can find in Caciulata, there is the famed Cozia Monastery, many come to see from all over the world. Caciulata is especially stunning during autumn when you can photograph the foliage and enjoy the foggy evenings overlooking the river Olt.
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How to get to Caciulata
Caciulata is approximately 3 hours drive away by car from Bucharest, the capital of Romania. The easiest way to get to Caciulata is to rent a car in the capital and make your way by taking the DN7 (also known as the E81). The road is relatively well kept with some challenging terrain, including hairpin turns closer to Caciulata. On your way, you will be passing the city of Pitesti, located on the Arges River. It is an important commercial and industrial centre.
An alternative to driving is getting a minibus from Bucharest to Calimanesti (Caciulata). The price of the ticket is roughly £8 per person and the journey takes about 3 hours and 20 minutes. You can take the minibus from the central bus station in Bucharest. You can purchase your tickets on the day or order them online in advance.
Address for Central Bus Station: Șoseaua Orhideelor 49, București, România
Many come to Caciulata for the thermal springs. I used to go to Caciulata at least once a year with my family, and I still remember the fun of swimming in the indoor pool, hiking in the forest and enjoying a relaxing spa treatment. Caciulata has improved significantly since. Besides the indoor pool, you can now enjoy the aqua park as well as various outdoor thermal springs which will literally make you feel like you're experiencing an onsen.
Which hotel to pick in Caciulata?
Your hotel in Caciulata should be a place to unwind. There are a couple of options you can choose from.
Do you prefer the full Caciulata package? You can book your hotel as a spa package in one of the resorts. The good news is that these packages are all-inclusive, and the pools, thermal springs and aqua park are just a short walk away from your room. These resort hotels might feel a little outdated and in my opinion, are a bit old school.
If you have a car, then going to a smaller bed and breakfast and being looked after by locals, in my opinion, is a far nicer option. You might be able to try traditional food and have a chat and get a few tips from the friendly hosts. You can always just pay as you go for both the aqua park and the thermal pools.
Things to do in Caciulata
As previously mentioned, there is more to Caciulata than just the thermal springs. Although mainly a destination used as a spa retreat, I believe hiking and other activities are a must whilst in Caciulata. Due to its key location, Caciulata is also an epic gateway to the mountains, which gives you an opportunity to experience the beautiful Romanian nature. This is especially breathtaking during the autumn season where the foliage turns the landscape into a rusty red carpet.
Since this is a spa town, bathing in the thermal springs is the number one thing to do in Caciulata. Whether you decide to book a hotel which already has its own spa or you are fine to pay a daily fee to bathe in a special indoor our outdoor thermal pool, Caciulata is definitely the place for it. Surrounded by trees and mountains, I can't imagine anything more relaxing to do than unwinding in the hot springs.
Cozia Monastery (Manastirea Cozia)
Cozia Monastery was erected by Mircea the Elder in 1388. He was buried there and the monastery now houses his tomb. It is an incredible monument of national medieval art. The monastery got its name from the Turkish word koz which means walnut. The appearance of the church was modified under Neagoe Basarab (1517), Şerban Cantacuzino and Constantin Brâncoveanu (1707), who added a veranda, a new fountain, a chapel and a watch tower. Some of the original frescoes are still well preserved. You can enter the monastery should you wish to visit. The monastery also features a garden with roses which looks wonderful and perfect for photography.
Address: Calea lui Traian 816, Căciulata 245601, Romania
Cozia National Park (Parcul National Cozia)
The Cozia National Park has an area of over 171 km and was declared a natural protected area. It is a beautiful mountainous area with flora and fauna specific to the Southern Carpathians. The Cozia National Park is a hiker's dream as you can discover nine hiking trails. Some are short whilst others are intense and require good fitness level. Please check with your hotel for more information on hiking opportunities and always double check the weather before you leave.
Turnu Monastery (Manastirea Turnu)
Located on the eastern side of the Olt river, this beautiful monastery is located right next to the hiking trail. Stop on your way back from the hike and have a conversation with the monks who are usually happy to guide you around and talk about your day. You can also reach the monastery by car. The place is quiet and looks absolutely lovely, especially if you wish to take some time to gather your thoughts.
Address: DN7, 107590, Romania
Stanisoara Monastery (Manastirea Stanisoara)
This is a wonderful monastery which can be reached via a hiking trail. It is located on the eastern side of the river Olt, close to the Fence's Waterfall (Cascada Gardului). On your way to the monastery, you will have several view points to admire the beautiful forested mountains of Caciulata. The monastery can also be accessed by car, however, due to the quality of the roads, I would strongly recommend hiking instead.
Chalet Valley of the Apple (Cabana Valea Marului)
For hiking enthusiasts, this chalet offers night accommodation so one can rest before continuing the journey. There are 2 rooms with 6 beds and one room with 12 beds. There is electricity but unfortunately, no restaurant so make sure to pack your own food. It is located on the hiking trail towards Stanisoara Monastery.
Chalet Cozia (Cabana Cozia)
Located at 1573 metres up the mountain, this chalet can accommodate 50 people. It has a restaurant and a bar. The rooms have 2-5 beds depending on your preference. The price per bed, per person, per night is around £5. You can either hike to the chalet or drive. The trail takes about 4 hours and it is not very difficult.
If history interests you, then a quick visit to the Arutela should be on your itinerary. Arutela was a fort in the Roman province of Dacia, located on Limes Alutanus. It dates back to year 138 and was erected by Surri sagittari by the order of Titus Flavius Constans. The last artefact recovered from the Arutela was a coin emitted between 220-222.
Address: Centura Călimănești, 245601, Romania
Frasinei Monastery (Manastirea Frasinei)
Well, ladies, this one is not for you I'm afraid. Legend has it that there is a curse for any women who enter the monastery. There are many Romanian traditions and rather unconventional rites of passage. Frasinei is the only Orthodox monastery in Romania which doesn't allow women to enter. It is a rather beautiful place, however, only suitable for male solo travellers. You can also read more about Romanian superstitions.
Address: DJ 658, Romania
Although this is a new aqua park the reviews for it tend to vary. Whilst some really enjoy the fact that the aqua park is clean, other mention its small size and it being crowded over capacity. I personally prefer avoiding these types of attractions as I much rather enjoy a hike in nature and a bath in a smaller thermal spa next to a family ran B&B. As alternatives, you have the outdoor thermal spring pool in Casa Romaneasca. To enter the pools at the Casa Romaneasca, you have to pay a small fee of just £4. You can also buy a pass which grants you extended access over a course of several days.
Address for Aqua Park: Calea lui Traian 760, Căciulata 245601, Romania
Fee: £4 per adult
Address for Casa Romaneasca: Calea lui Traian Nr. 597, Căciulata, Călimănești 245601, Romania
Fee: £4 per adult
Have a picnic
Since you are in the mountains, a picnic is an absolute must. Of course, you will need to take a break from the hiking and enjoy a snack, but why not pack several goodies so you can admire the beautiful nature, enjoy the silence and eat good food. This is one of the best things we used to do as a family when I was a kid. I promise you won't be disappointed. As always, please be respectful of your surroundings and leave no rubbish behind.
Eat traditional food
There are several traditional restaurants around and there is nothing better than ordering Romanian food after a long day of hiking. Traditional Romanian food is incredible and it is, as you would expect, full of calories. Romanians have a meat based diet and most traditional meals contain meat. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, I suggest using google translate and tell the restaurant owners in advance. If you are interested in eating traditional food, order tripe soup which is served with sour cream and pickled chilli on the side. Continue with sheep sausages (carnati de oaie), or meat stew (tochitura), or try "sarmale" which is mince wrapped in a pickled cabbage leaf.
If you are vegetarian you can order eggplant salad (salata de vinete), or cottage cheese served inside a tomato. You can have vegetarian "sarma" which is just rice in pickled cabbage (sarmale in foi de vita), but note that not many restaurants will be able to offer this alternative as making this dish takes several hours. You can always go for battered grilled cheese (cascaval pane), potato salad, mushroom soup or stuffed mushrooms.
I hope I managed to intrigue you about Caciulata! Are you ready to venture into the Romanian mountains and have an epic adventure? Let me know all about it in the comments section below.