In the Nerei Gorge, the most available activity is hiking, with its own particularities. The path that leads along the gorge also has many challenging areas, as it is carved in the rock or it forces travellers to wade the river a couple of times. To this we add the increased attention that the sunny areas require, where we can come across the horned viper. It is well worth hiking in these wild places, invaded in summer by the rich vegetation of old-growth beech forests. Four interpretation trails start from Podul Bei leading into different directions, the most interesting of which leads to Beușnița Waterfall.
Zip Lining and Rappel
In the area known as La Tunele (The Tunnels), thrill seekers can enjoy a scenic zip line route. It is 90 m long, starts from an approximate height of 40 m and crosses the Nera River from the left to the right bank. The crossing takes about 12-14 seconds. The distance between the bottom end of the zip line and the rappel place is about 50 m; the rappel starts at 18 m. After the rappel, you return to the zip line through the Big Tunnel along the path connecting Sasca Română and Podul Bei. The zip line is available only for groups of at least 8 people and booking is done at the Cheile Nerei Guesthouse in Sasca Română. The rate varies depending on the number of participants.
Two wheeled tourists can successfully use the county roads around Cărbunari and Stăncilova, as well as a few local and forest roads. Even the Nera Gorge is available to cyclists, from upstream to Meliugului Meadow (Poiana Meliugului) and from downstream to Damian’s Hut. You can also cycle to Ochiul Beiului Lake.
Fauna and Flora Observation
Due to the karst relief and climate with sub-Mediterranean influences, many species live here – some on the very edge of their European range, making flora and fauna observation very attractive. From the mild slopes to the steep limestone slopes along the gorges, the primeval beech forests (Fagus sylvatica) alternate with Oriental hornbeam (Carpinus orientalis), sumac (Cotinus coggygria) and lilac (Syringa vulgaris) thickets and with rocky grasslands of great flower diversity. In summer, here and there, some meadows are adorned with delicate orchids. The vast forests harbour exceptional examples of Turkish hazel (Corylus colurna) which stand out as some of the most beautiful in the country.
On the sunny rocks you may encounter some characteristic species such as the horned viper (Vipera ammodytes ammodytes) or some emblematic ones for the protected areas in the region, such as the Carpathian scorpion (Euscorpius carpathicus). From butterflies and dragonflies that delight the visitor’s sight to beetles hiding in the wood of the secular trees, numerous protected species of invertebrates find shelter here. Along the Nera River you may spot the discrete traces of the otter (Lutra lutra), while its waters are also home to some rare species that survived the glaciations, such as the freshwater snail Amphimelania holandri and the Balkan loach Cobitis elongata. Though hardly visible, wolf packs (Canis lupus) and lynx (Lynx lynx) are also present here. For bird lovers there are over 100 species that can be seen in different periods of the year, among which are the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), the Ural owl (Strix uralensis), the white-backed woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos), the ortolan bunting (Emberiza hortulana) or the crag martin (Ptyonoprogne rupestris).
The area abounds with subject matter for photography. From meadows with picturesque dwellings to the tumult of the Nera River and its tributaries, from the spectacle of rocks invaded by the rich summer green or by the chromatic diversity of the autumn to the icy glitter of the waterfalls, everything attracts the camera lens. Bird lovers may have the opportunity of photographing several species of raptors, both day and night, depending on the period chosen for their visit. In summer, meadows and paths winding along the rivers are the ideal spot for passionate butterfly, dragonfly and orchid photographers – they may immerse themselves into a world of macro photography, which makes up for the lack of vast, monumental spaces. Specialized photographers can take advantage of the underground to capture details of the geological features or of the splendour of the halls and impressive speleothems.
Water Sports: Rafting / Kayaking
Water sports are the most representative activity in the area, as the Nera is even known abroad as an attractive river when it comes to rafting. Its waters are deep and still, so there is even room for beginners. The 23 km of gorges between Șopotu Nou and Sasca Română are a winding and scenic route that can be hiked in 7 hours (elevation gain of 45 m, average flow 6m³/sec.), but there is also the possibility of addressing smaller stretches.
Some caves in the area can be visited by tourists, but only with special equipment and in the company of specialized guides or speleologists. Best known are Dracului Cave (Peștera Dracului – Devil’s Cave), Cutezătorii Pothole (Avenul Cutezătorii) and Boilor Cave (Peștera Boilor – Oxen Cave), all located along the Nera Gorge.