Vârghiºului gorge and its caves, joint nature reserve (711 ha HR*), Mereºti

The gorge is found in the Persanii de Nord Mountains, at the border of Harghita and Covasna Counties, along the Vârghiº’s valley. This region is the second most significant karst region of the county and of Seklerland. This area is renowned for the spectacular karst landscape, with numerous gorges, caves, sinkholes, dolines, with protected species of plants and animals and the significant archeological and paleontological fossils that were found in the caves.

This joint type of reserve includes the Vârghiº valley in the vicinity of the Tiva Peak (946 m), the gorge and its caves and the Câmpu de Piatrã (the Rocky fields). It covers 711 ha of land, where the difference in altitude is of 330 meters. It is located 6 km from Mereºti and 13 km from Vârghiº settlments.

One of the main attractions of the reserve is the Kõ-csûr (Stone shed), a fossil sinkhole, which is rich in limestone eroded formations as dolines, uvales, meanders and drainage channels. The most famous cave of the gorge is the Orbán Balázs Cave (which is 1.5 km long, and has four known entrances).

There are several other caves, as for example the Albert cave, Ló-csûr cave, Ló cave, Kápolna cave, Medve cave (bears cave), Kõ cave (stone cave), Bronz cave, Tatár-lik cave, and Cseppköves cave. In these caves several paleontological remnants of ancient animals were discovered for instance fossils of the cave bear, the cave lion, the cave hyena, the wolf, giant stag, wooly rhinoceros, rain deer, chamois and the wild goat. The results of
archeological discoveries show that the presence of the Homo sapiens can be dated back to 8,000 years. This is due to the 9 Homo sapiens skeletons that were found in these caves.

Among the protected plant species we need to mention the Dianthus spiculifolius, the Sempervivum marmoreum or the iris species, the Iris aphylla. During the summer months along the riverbed we can see several orchid species, and on the eutrophic swamps we can find the Siberian iris (Iris sibirica), the Gladiolus imbricatus, globeflower species (Trollius sp.), the Ligularia sibirica, and the carnivorous plant, the butterworts (Pinguicula sp.).

The gorge gives home to a much diversified fauna as well. From the total of 30 species of bats that are found in Romania, we can find 17 species in these caves. Some of these colonies are considered one of the most numerous ones in the country (the lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros) colony from the Almasi Cave is said to be the largest colony of this species in the country).

Protecting the natural environment is our legal duty. A nature reserve is an area of a particular status, enforced by law, where not just a couple of rare species of plants, animals, geological formations or archeological-paleontological objects can be found and need to be protected. To ensure, that these protected elements will remain or survive, we need to protect their living habitat as well. The natural values and the biodiversity of a given area offer a spiritual experience, and an aesthetic enjoyment, thus contributes to a spiritual recreation of the explorer of nature. Harghita County is one of the few places, endowed with several authentic natural treasures. These gems of nature represent an economical asset, and by this, an improper visitor’s behavior can endanger its content and existence. Protecting our environmental treasures is a collective task and duty. The managing organizations which are responsible for these reserves have been already assigned, and they can enforce or apply special rules for visitors regarding protected area. Below you can find some recommendations concerning the avoidance of natural damages:
  • do not leave the marked trails
  • do not litter or leave garbage behind
  • keep the peace and quiet by avoiding to use strong sources of music
  • do not tear any plants down, including the protected species
  • camp only in specially designed and marked areas
  • make fire only in special designated areas, and make sure that you put you put it out before leaving
  • do not throw lit cigarette butts
  • avoid using motorized vehicles in the vicinity of the protected areas, and use only the marked accessibility routes
  • enjoy the sounds and sights of nature and do not disturb others in enjoying these as well
By this informative material, which presents the natural protected areas of Harghita County, we wish to contribute to the promotion of a responsible and eco-conscious form of tourism. To a better success we count on your open mindedness and interest.

Closer to nature: through visiting and preservation!


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