Do you love spending time in the mountains during winter season and trying new activities? Here is a place in Romania that you can try for a winter vacation, and where you may enjoy many activities: Vatra Dornei. It’s a resort that you may have never heard of.
Vatra Dornei is a charming mountain resort (and locality in the same time) nestled in the North-Eastern Carpathian Mountains of Romania. With its stunning winter landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and soothing thermal baths, it may be the perfect destination where you can spend a winter getaway. Whether you’re a fan of outdoor activities like skiing or snowshoeing, or prefer indoor pursuits like visiting local museums and soaking in the thermal spas, there’s something for everyone in Vatra Dornei. So, grab your winter coat and get ready to explore this enchanting place and all that it has to offer!
The resort is located in the North-Eastern Carpathian mountain range, more to the North of Romania, close to the National Reservation of Călimani. The closest Romanian cities to Vatra Dornei are those in the region of Moldova, such as: Câmpulung Moldovenesc, Suceava or Piatra Neamț. Another important city close to Vatra Dornei is Bistrița, which is located on the other side of the mountain range, toward Cluj-Napoca.
Here are just a few suggestions for activities that you can do in Vatra Dornei during a winter vacation:
1. Skiing or snowboarding on nearby ski slopes
Vatra Dornei is located near several ski slopes offering a range of fun activities for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. The slopes typically have ski rentals, ski schools, and après-ski activities available for guests. The nearest ski slope is Partia Dealul Negru, which has approximately 3 km of length. You can hit the slope here and enjoy the thrill of skiing or snowboarding! Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, there’s something for everyone here. And once the day is done, unwind with some après-ski activities and enjoy the winter wonderland.
Also, another close ski slope is Veverița slope. This is a shorter slope, of approximately 800 – 900 meters, which was opened in 2011. Although short, this slope benefits from night lighting and an installation for artificial snow. Access to the transport facility is based on ski pass. The slope is very lean, so, if you are on vacation with your children, this is the perfect place for them to learn and exercise skiing.
Other two slopes nearby are Parc 1 and Parc 2, each of them being approximately the same in length as Veverița slope, Only Parc 2 being a little shorter. They are probably the most visited slopes in the area. They also benefit from night lighting and artificial snow installations. At the base of the Parc 1 slope there is also a snow tubing track where kids (but also adults) can have a lot of fun.
2. Snowshoeing or winter hiking in the nearby mountains
If you’re not a fan of hitting the slopes, or if there’s not enough snow skiing, don’t worry, there are plenty of other winter activities to enjoy in Vatra Dornei. Get outside and embrace the crisp mountain air with a winter hike or snowshoe trek. This is a great opportunity to explore the scenic trails and the wonderful forests that surround the town.
With guided tours available, you’ll have an experienced guide to show you the best mountain trails and provide information about the local flora and fauna. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or just looking to get some exercise and fresh air, a winter hike or snowshoe trek is a fantastic way to enjoy the local landscapes. It’s also a great way to break away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and reconnect with nature. So don’t hesitate, lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails in Vatra Dornei!
For example, you could try the trekking route Vatra Dornei – Munceii Dornei. It is an approximately 3 hours round trip, starting from the main road. The route is easy, and you can cover it without any special trekking equipment. Access is from Paraul Colacelu, which is located 4 km from Vatra Dornei on the road towards Bistrița Năsăud. It is not a marked route, nor does it require it. It offers a very beautiful perspective on a relatively large area of the Dornelor Depression.
3. Taking a healing bath at one of the local thermal spas
Vatra Dornei is known for its thermal baths and spas, many of which are housed in historic buildings. Visitors can relax in the warm thermal waters, known for their therapeutic properties, and enjoy various spa treatments.
If some people come here for mountaineering and winter sports, many other love this place for the healing thermal baths that they can enjoy in this special place. Or, even better, you can mix both activities: first, you tone your body by doing sports and exercising in the fresh and strong mountain air, and then you dive into healthy water with healing properties.
The types of thermal springs located in Vatra Dornei are well-known for their richness in carbonated mineral water, or water naturally rich in calcium bicarbonate, magnesium and sulf. You can also find here natural springs with high concentration of pure salts and high CO2 content.
The thermal water baths you can take here are useful in preventing all sorts of illnesses to different parts of the body, such as: heart, bones, stomach, respiratory organs, and many other.
Many hotels in Vatra Dornei have their own thermal spas where you can have healthy baths. And in some of them you can follow more complex medical procedures. Such hotels are: Hotel Bradul, Hotel Dorna, Călimani or Dorna Arini.
4. Having fun at the local winter festivals
Generally, during February of each year, a series of events dedicated to winter lovers are organized, with all kind of activities to do in Vatra Dornei. Thus, the Snow Celebrations Cup generally takes place on Pârtia Veverița, with events dedicated to both skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts. At the same time, a themed party, WinterFest Apres Ski & Party, may also be organized at the base of the slope.
So, if you go to Vatra Dornei during February, stay tuned for the local festivals and parties. Mingle with local people, make friends, and taste Romanian local food.
5. Enjoy traditional Romanian cuisine and local wine
When it comes to food, you have to know that Vatra Dornei is located in the Bucovia region, which is well-known for its tasty, meat-based cuisine. You can enjoy it either at the local festivals, or in any traditional restaurant in the resort.
Here you can find a range of traditional Romanian restaurants serving dishes such as:
- mici – these are grilled minced meat rolls, usually from beef or pork, mixed with spices, formed into small sausages and grilled over an open flame. They are often served with mustard and bread;
- sarmale (stuffed cabbage rolls) – cabbage leaves are stuffed with a mixture of minced meat, rice, and spices, then simmered in a tomato sauce. This is a traditional Romanian dish that is often served on special occasions, such as Christmas or Easter;
- papanași (sweet cheese-filled doughnuts) – these are deep-fried dough balls filled with soft cheese, sour cream, and sometimes jam. They are a popular dessert in Romania, especially in Bucovina;
- tochitură (stew): This is a hearty stew made from pork, vegetables, and spices, slow-cooked to perfection. Tochitura is often served with polenta, a traditional Romanian dish made from cornmeal.
The region is also known for its local tasty wine, which can be enjoyed at special wineries or in any local restaurants.
6. Taking a horse-drawn sleigh ride
Take a step back in time and enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the snow-covered landscapes. It’s a unique and romantic way to explore the winter scenery and make some unforgettable memories.
A horse-drawn sleigh ride is a winter activity where you sit in a sled that is pulled by horses through the snow. This can be a fun and unique way to experience the local winter landscape and enjoy the outdoors. During the ride, you can bundle up in warm blankets, and enjoy the gentle motion of the sled as it glides over the snow. The experience can last anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours, and it can be a romantic or family-friendly activity.
You can book it at local stables or horse riding schools. You can also ask at local tourist information centers or do a search online to find companies that offer this type of activity in (or around) Vatra Dornei. It’s a good idea to book in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons, to ensure that you can take your desired ride.
But keep also in mind that weather conditions (such as low temperatures) could impact the availability of horses for such activities. Also, be sure to check the forecast and dress appropriately for the conditions.
7. Visiting the local history and natural history museums
Learn about the history and natural beauty of the Vatra Dornei region at the local history and natural history museums. From the area’s rich cultural heritage to its diverse wildlife and ecosystems, there’s so much to discover. Plus, it’s a great indoor activity if you need a break from the cold.
Vatra Dornei has a number of notable museums which include:
Dorna Ethnographic Museum: This museum showcases the traditional folk costumes, textiles, pottery, and other artifacts from the region, offering visitors a glimpse into the cultural heritage of Vatra Dornei. The museum is housed in a traditional Romanian wooden house and features a collection of artifacts and exhibits that showcase the everyday life, customs, and traditions of the people of the region.
The Memorial Museum “Iuliu Maniu”: it is a museum dedicated to the life and work of Iuliu Maniu, a Romanian statesman and politician. The museum is located in Maniu’s former residence in Vatra Dornei, Romania, and serves as a tribute to his legacy and a symbol of his contributions to the country.
Iuliu Maniu was a prominent figure in Romanian politics during the interwar period, serving as Prime Minister of Romania from 1922 to 1926 and again from 1928 to 1930. He was a strong advocate for democracy and national unity, and his political career was marked by his efforts to modernize the country and promote social justice.
The Museum of Natural Science: is a museum dedicated to showcasing the natural history of the Vatra Dornei region in Romania. The museum is designed to educate visitors about the area’s diverse flora and fauna, as well as its geological history and paleontological finds. It also features a collection of dinosaur bones and other fossils, that demonstrate the rich history of life on Earth.