Hesdát Creek, the river that carved Turda Gorge

Turda Gorge: Land of My Childhood in Transylvania

I grew up close to Turda Gorge, and at the time a trip to visit it meant a short weekend getaway, a day trip. I visited it during school field trips when we learned about Earth Science, or with my family for a weekend picnic or a hike. Though I knew it was special, I took it for granted. It was part of my home, I didn’t think much of it. Being far away now, I appreciate it even more.

Revisiting Turda Gorge as a Foreigner

After I moved to the States, I rediscovered the beauty of Turda Gorge. I stopped by there almost every time I went back home. I also brought my husband and kids back to see it.

Turda Gorge, Transylvania, Romania
Turda Gorge – the place never lost its magic

The place never lost its magic. Every time we visit, we see something new or just enjoy the old.

A Day Trip from Ludus

My father took the kids and me back to the Gorge for a day trip last time we were in the country.

The River in Turda Gorge
At the beginning of the trail through the Gorge – the Hesdát (Hasdate) Creek

My older two kids recognized the place since they had memories from earlier visits. It was new for my youngest child though; she was a baby on our last visit.

Turda Gorge, Romania (Transylvania)
Turda Gorge

We stopped the car by the cabins and took off towards the one-and-a-half-mile trail along the creek on the bottom of the canyon.

My daughter Makes a Friend

As we started off on the trail, my youngest child noticed a beautiful dog. The animal also noticed her and seemed to adopt her instantly. He walked with us, following her, past the first footbridge.

on the footbridge at Turda Gorge
The dog adopted my daughter, following her through the first footbridge

He was trying to follow her further, but we could tell that he knew he should wait there. So after my daughter talked to him, petted him she told him to wait for us to return. The dog sat, then turned around and went back to the trailhead.

At the next bench, my dad also stopped and told us he would wait for us there. It was getting hot for him to hike.

We sat with him and talked about the legend and geological explanation of how the Gorge formed. My older kids remembered it, from earlier visits.

“You tell us the story every time we come, Mom,” they reminded me. But their sister hadn’t heard it yet. So they told her the story, as much as they remembered it, and only occasionally, they needed my help with it.

Formation of Turda Gorge

The Legend

The legend involves the Hungarian King St. László I, who ruled the country between 1077-1094.

The Cumans attacked the country often during his reign, but he won most battles with them. However, once by the Mountains of Turda, the enemy was stronger and outnumbered his army. King László lost the battle and had no choice but to retreat.

But the Cuman army followed them in pursuit. The king, with a handful of his warriors, ran towards the mountains. The Cumans kept pursuing, and they were closing in on him and his small army.

His pursuers were on their heels. Things looked hopeless. King László looked back and knew he needed a miracle to escape. That’s when he looked up at the sky and asked God for help. As soon as he did, a deep chasm opened behind him on the mountain, getting wider by the second. By the time the Cumans got there, they had no way to get over it.

But it wasn’t only the depth and width of the gap that stopped the enemy. They witnessed a miracle, magic they could not explain when they saw how this canyon formed. They retreated in fear.

View from inside the gorge
The two sides of the mountain seem to fit together.

Science – Geology

Turda Gorge is formed on a limestone cliff of the Transylvanian Ore Mountain (Erdélyi Érc Hegység – Muntii Metaliferi). And limestone erodes easily. The original part of the Gorge formed in the Jurassic period when a few of the caves in the mountain collapsed due to erosion. The Hesdát Creek did the rest of the work over the centuries. Flowing through the gap, it eroded it further until the depth of the canyon reached 300 (984 feet) meters in most places.

Turda Gorge
You’ll find caves on the walls of the gorge.

Due to its limestone component, the walls of the canyon, shooting straight up, are filled with caves, 32 of them known. Most are small, but the largest one is 75 meters long, 19 meters wide and 11 meters tall.

We didn’t go exploring the caves, but we could see a few when we looked up the walls.

On the Trail

We left my dad sitting in the shade beside the river and continued on the trail. Seeing they knew the place, my oldest kids took off on the trail, taking their little sister with them. They stopped occasionally to wait for me to catch up.

Though warm outside the canyon, once inside, in the shade of the huge rocks and trees, it was pleasant. The trail follows the river, crossing it back and forth a few times, on old footbridges. We met rock-climbers on the way, and a few groups of hikers, but most of the time we had the trail for ourselves.

Walking in the shade under a rock
Walking in the shade under a rock

We enjoyed the pleasant breeze the rushing river created in the canyon, and the different shades of green of the surrounding trees were a treat for our eyes. Though flat and easy to walk, the trail narrowed on some points, when we had to go single file.

The kids enjoyed crossing the river on the footbridges back and forth. We counted four of them on the length of the trail.

Crossing another footbridge
Crossing another footbridge

At one point we had to climb and walk on rocks on a narrow, and wet part of the trail. If you met hikers coming from the opposite direction, you need to either back off or stop and wait for them unless they waited for you.

A local family was coming back from the opposite direction, and they stopped in the only area wide enough for two or more people.

Freshwater was rushing down off the cliffs, good enough to drink. As the kids saw these locals fill their water bottles there, they had the same idea. We drank the freshest, coldest water from that spring.

We Felt Like Rock Climbers

Continuing farther, the trail narrows so much; they have ropes for holding on to the rocks. The kids didn’t use it, which made me nervous, but I remembered going through the area as a kid, and not using it either.

Now I was happy it was there, I needed it. This was the only difficult moment on the whole trail though. Past this area, we crossed the river once more on yet another bridge and continued through the afternoon shade of the trees.

End of the Trail: A Beach

At the end of the canyon, the trail opens into a small beach formed by the creek.

The water is slower here, creating a pool, and all is silent. A peaceful spot where the sound of the rushing river stops. Still, insects hummed and thousands of butterflies and dragonflies fluttered on the spot.

As we watched hundreds of butterflies fluttering around us, and different plants on the shore, we talked about Turda Gorge being a Nature Preserve.

Turda Gorge Natural Reserve

Turda Gorge is one of the most dramatic and richest landscapes in Romania. With its high steep walls filled with caverns and a rushing stream on the bottom, it is home to 997 known species of plants and 67 of animals, some of them rare or endangered, unique to this region.

Recognizing the need to protect this extraordinary landscape, the Transylvanian Nature Conservancy Committee declared Turda Gorge a Natural Monument and Reserve in April of 1938.

Turda Gorge - Nature preserve
Turda Gorge – a Nature preserve

We saw a few different flowers, various types of snails and hundreds of butterflies. Though we didn’t see all 320 known species of butterflies, we recognized a few.

The kids told me that they spotted a small snake earlier on the trail, that slithered off behind a rock when they got near.

Due to its unusual microclimate, Turda Gorge has unique vegetation and animal life. You might spot rare species hard to find anywhere else in the country.

Turda Gorge - dragonfly
Not so rare, but pretty bright-colored dragonfly in Turda Gorge

In the hard to reach areas, in the shadows of the peaks, in the wind-protected coves delicate, rare plants survive. Some of them originated as long ago as the Ice Age, others are rare alpine species. Down in the gorge, on the shaded side, plants that like reduced moisture and shade dominate.

One of the most unusual plants that thrive here is the cudgel (Ferulina sadleriana), found only in six places in Europe. Another one, unique to this area, is the Turda Onion (Allium obliquum), its closest relatives living in the Southern parts of the Ural Mountains and in Central Asia. A pharmacist from Turda discovered it in 1857. Cleft monkshood, cleft thistle, the coniferous carnation are other unique plants found here.

The gorge is home to a few protected bird species, like the rock thrush, wheatear, wall creeper.

The Hike Back

After enjoying the time there, we started on the way back. We walked by a local group of rock-climbers, starting on the vertical wall of the Canyon. Looking up to where they were headed, I was in awe of them. I would not attempt anything like it. The perspective gave me a new appreciation for my brother, who is able to do things like this. He climbed these walls many times with his friends. Almost seems like we don’t share the same genes.

Rock Wall in Turda Gorge
Rock climbing, anyone?

We stopped at the spring again, filled our water bottles, then met up with my dad.

The same dog that walked with us at the start, joined us again at the last footbridge and followed us to the car.

Hiking in Turda Gorge

In a Nutshell: Useful Information about Turda Gorge

  1. What is Turda Gorge?

    Carved by the Hesdát Creek in limestone rock, Turda Gorge is a narrow canyon in Transylvania. With its high, steep walls filled with caves and caverns, and its rushing creek, it is one of the most dramatic landscapes in Romania. Home to 997 known species of plants and 67 of animals, many rare or endangered, unique to this region, Turda Gorge is also a Natural Monument and Reserve.

  2. Where is Turda Gorge?

    Turda Gorge is in Transylvania, Romania, 14 km (about 9 miles) from the town of Turda, and 40 km (about 24 miles) from the city of Cluj.

  3. What can you do in Turda Gorge?

    Turda Gorge features an easy hiking trail by the creek, at the bottom. Hikers looking for a bit of a challenge have the opportunity to take the trail that climbs to the top of the Gorge, offering stunning views. The rock walls of the gorge are popular with rock climbers. You’ll also find a zipline, and local vendors offering traditional Transylvanian snack food and folk-inspired arts and crafts.

  4. How to get to Turda Gorge?

    Make your way to Turda through the E60. From Turda, follow the signs to Cheia. The road eventually turns to dirt, but it is passable by car, no need for high-clearance vehicle.

Travel Planning Resources to Get To Transylvania (Romania)

Affiliate Disclosure note: The links below are affiliate links, which means that if you book by clicking on the links, I may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Please read my full disclosure for reference. Thank you!

  • Book your flight with CheapOAir to fly into Cluj, the closest international airport to Turda, or to Bucharest, if you plan on visiting other places in Romania.
  • Rent a car using Discover Cars, a great site for comparing car prices so you can find the best deal. They work with car rentals in Romania.
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  • Book your accommodations with Booking.com, my favorite booking search engine for hotels and short-term rentals in Romania.
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Turda gorge 1
Turda Gorge pin4

Turda Gorge, Romania

Other Attractions Nearby and in the rest of Romania

While you are in the area, you can’t leave without a visit to the historic Salt Mine of Turda, museum and underground amusement park.

Or visit some of the castles and citadels in the area, like the Pekri-castle in Magyarózd, less than an hour drive from here.

If you drive through Transylvania, stop in Sighisoara, and visit several of the larger castles and citadels, like Rasnov and Rupea Citadel, and the Fortress of Fagaras. To learn about the bears of the Transylvanian Carpathians, visit the Libearty Bear Sanctuary in Zarnesti, near Brasov.


13 thoughts on “Turda Gorge: Land of My Childhood in Transylvania”

  1. Looks like a lovely place to hike!! I’ve never met a dog I didn’t try to make my friend, so I appreciate that part of your daughter’s personality. 😉 It looks like the park authority tried to be the least intrusive with building the bridge throughout the trail. I appreciate that, too. It’s a stark contrast to the wilderness, but it works! #Theweeklypostcard

  2. It looks like a lovely area, so glad you take your family there. I know what you mean about not appreciating things at home. It’s just you are so used to them. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    1. You are right, Anisa, the most beautiful places can lose their charm when you see them every day; but then we miss them and learn to appreciate them when we move away… Thanks for reading.

  3. I always love hearing legends about how places are formed, it gives such a cool little insight into the culture! Thanks for sharing this story 🙂 Glad you could share this place with your kids!

  4. Romania is on my travel bucket list and Turda Gorge really looks like a magical place! Haven’t heard of it before – interesting legend and impressive landscapes! #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. Yes, it is open all year, though I’ve never been there in the winter, so I’m not sure how good it is in snow and ice ;). It is a great trail, one of my favorites anywhere.

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