The following presentation is a description of some of the caves of the Apuseni and you are welcome to discover some elements of the karst landscape, the complexity and value of which represented the foundation of declaring the Apuseni Natural Park near Smida Park**** – Mountain Resort & Spa.
The Bortig Pit
It is a spectacular pit, with a 35 m diameter entrance. At the bottom of the entrance well (of -38m), you reach a big ice block, highlighted by a level difference of 16 m.
The pit has a 150 m overall length and a 54 m depth, obtained due to a short gallery that provides access to a big size hall. The pit is located above the underground route of Cetatilor Ponorului, the entrance being obstructed by the ice block. The ice block that the pit shelters has a 30.000 m³ volume, being the second ice block in Romania, after the Scarisoara Glacier, which we find in the Apuseni Natural Park as well.
The V5 Pit
It is the deepest cavity on Romania’s territory (-642 m uneven surface, the exploration is not yet concluded). It comprises the second unitary underground space in the country, from the size point of view (the Paul Matos hall) of 1.200.000 mc and 415 m length. It contains aragonite needle-shaped crystals, some having over 25 cm of length.
The Vartop Glacier (Casa de Piatra – the Stone House) (B class)
The cave has sheltered 3 footprints belonging to a human Neanderthal population (one can be found at he “Emil Racovita” Speleology Institute in Cluj-Napoca, the other two being stolen, unfortunately, many years ago).
Izbucul Tauz – the Tauz Intermittent Spring (C class)
The siphon no. 2 is the deepest underwater passage explored on Romania’s territory, -85m deep.
The Alunu Cave
The Caput Cave
Used as a school cave by the speleologists, it collects all the waters from this watershed, being a descending stair gallery, with many waterfalls covering 2.000 meters. These waters are drained towards the underground gallery of Cetatile Ponorului.
The Cetatile Ponorului Cave (C class)
It has the highest cave entrance in Romania (76 m).
The Cetatile Ponorului Cave can be visited by the tourists both at the surface and in the underground gallery, as far as the Sala Taberei (Camp’s Hall) if equipped with light and rubber boots. From that point on, it can be explored by experimented speleologist teams and it requires specialized equipment.
The Coiba Mare Cave
The biggest cave entrance in Romania (54 X 45 m = 2.430 sqm). The most impressive sinkhole in Romania.
The Scarisoara Glacier Cave
It is located at a 1.165 m altitude, at the edge of the Scarisoara karst plateau. The overall length of the cave is 720 m, with a 105 m depth. The access is made through a 48 m deep and 60 m diameter pit. At the bottom of the pit, there is the actual gate of the cave, which provides access to a huge hall, called Sala Mare (the Big Hall), with an approximately 47 m diameter, which continues towards north-west with other two halls located one after the other: Sala Mica si Biserica (the Small Hall and the Church). In the southern part of the Big Hall, the 15 m large and 7 m high entrance of the Maxim Pop Gallery opens, which, after descending 68 m, continues with the cave’s Grand Reserve (Rezervatia Mare). From here, you can go up into the Cathedral (Catedrala), featuring beautiful concretions and with no ice. From the Cathedral, through a small window, you pass into the Culoarul Coman (the Coman Corridor), the cave’s biggest section (+5 °C), which lacks ice as well, but rich in calcite concretions. From the Big Hall you can also reach the Rezervatia Mica (Small Reserve), by descending a 14 m high ice slope. In the north-eastern section of the Small Reserve, there is Palatul Sanzienei (Saziana’s Palace), lacking ice and with concretions. The ice block has a 75.000 cubic meter volume and an average thickness of 16 m, it is located in the Big Hall, forming the hall’s floor, from where it prolongs in the form of ice tongue to the Grand Reserve, the Church and the Small Reserve. In these three halls, at a certain distance from the ice block, ice stalagmites are developing, of variable sizes, raging between a few cm to over 10 m (in the Church). Unlike the ice block that is 3.500 years old, these stalagmites can melt from one year to the other or they can even disappear completely in certain periods.
The Hodobanei Creek Cave (B class)
The most ramified cave in Romania and one of the most labyrinth caves in the world, respectively. The cave has 22.142 m of mapped galleries, located on an extension of only 820 m (27,00 ramification coefficient).
The Humpleului Cave
The Humpleu Cave (Pestera din Valea Firei – the Cave from Firei Valley) is located in the Vladeasa Massif, on the territory of Margau village, Cluj county. The entrance is located down the Humpleu Hill, on Firei Valley. It is one of the five longest caves in the country, with galleries that total over 40 km of length. The element that makes this cave known in the entire world is represented by its galleries, which have impressive dimensions. It is said that here used to be the biggest underground hall in the world (certain sources consider it the second hall in Europe and the forth in the world, size-wise). Up to 2009, 22 halls have been discovered, 4 of which are also the biggest in Romania. The cave entrance is small and tight. It can be covered, at first, without great difficulty, but, due to its enormous dimensions, the presence of a specialized guide is recommended. Inside the cave, there are cave concretions, the most beautiful ones being located in the Treasure Hall (Sala Comorilor). The geode at the entrance contains calcite crystals of impressive dimensions.
The Humpleu Cave will become, most probably, quite soon, the most wide spread cavity in the country, exceeding, in size, the well-known Wind Cave (Pestera Vantului). It is approximated that the Humpleu cave has a gallery development potential of over 100 km of length. At present, the cave is closed and may be visited with the approval of ISER Cluj-Napoca.
Upstream from the Humpleu Cave, on Firei Valley, there are other small cavities, partially explored: Pestera cu Montmilch (The Cave with Montmilch), Pestera din Coasta Vartop (The Cave from the Vartop Slope), Pestera Labirint (The Labyrinth Cave), Pestera Ursului (The Bear’s Cave).
Pestera Lespezi (The Slabs Cave)
It is located near the Rachitele waterfall, Cluj county; it is 220 m long and has 20 m of uneven surafce.
Currently, this cavity ranks forth in Romania, among all the conglomerate caves.
Pestera Piatra Altarului – The Altar’s Stone Cave (A class – scientific reserve)
It has been discovered in 1984 by the speleologists Daniel Carlugea and Doru Croitoru. It develops on 4 levels, an active level, a semi-active level and two fossils. The characteristic of this cave is represented by the calcite speleothems richness and variety. The Palace Hall and The Paradise gallery have probably the most beautiful cave concretion sections in Europe. Among the special formations found here, we mention: calcite macro-crystals (dogtooth type), which coat the walls of the “Geode” and form maces and lilies, calcite skeletal crystals (excavated triangles), mono-crystal stalagmites, palm-type columns, spheroid nodule curtains, many disks, corallites, cave pearls, helicites etc.
Together with the famous Movile Cave (in southern Dobrogea), the Altar’s Stone is considered to be emblematic for the karst phenomena in Romania and among the most important in the world.
Together with the Pestera Rece (Cold Cave), Diaclaza, Ponorul Mare, Ponorul Mic, Pestera cu Oase (The Bone Cave) and Izbucul Alunului Mic, it forms the Ponor Hydrokarst System. Due to its great value, the cave has an extremely restrictive visit regime.
Pestera Zmeilor (The Dragons’ Cave) – Onceasa (the bone cave)
Located on the right slope of the Ponor Valley, left affluent of the Somesul Cald river, the Onceasa Drgons’ Cave opens up at an altitude of 1.320 m. the Dragons’ Cave became known worldwide due to the enormous quantity of “cave bear” remains discovered here. For the inhabitants of the areas close to the cave, this has been for a long time, a fear and mystery reason, due to the unusual dimensions of the bones. The inhabitants of this area have been those who called this cave – the Dragons’ Cave. Unfortunately, the Dragons’ Cave has undergone a long deterioration process, the traces of which are still visible nowadays, because the cave is accessible to the tourists.
The entrance, 7,5 m large and 3,5 m, high, is located at the bottom of a rocky wall, in the middle of the forest on the left side of the Ponor Spring Valley. It is followed by a 67 m long gallery, through which you can descend to the Dome Hall. The ending part of this hall, located in the south-western side, is rich in concretions and contains a first important deposit of bear bones. On the right side, the cave features a large, horizontal gallery, with beautiful concretions, especially in its second half. The most interesting formation is represented by a stalagmite floor, suspended on the left wall, witness of ancient clogging phases and of underground hollow reactivation. The overall length of the cavity is 310 m.