A brief history
Geographically, Bâlea Lake came to be when a glacier eroded the mountains and then melted. Historically, there is a legend related to the lake’s name, whose main character is the young shepherd Balea.
The story goes that one day he was herding his sheep in the mountains, near a forest. Suddenly, a bear jumped out from the trees, but Balea was brave enough to defeat him and chase him away.
When the king heard of his courage, Balea was invited to be part of the king’s guards. His stay at the castle came with the love of the king’s oldest daughter. She managed to convince the shepherd to marry her, but on their wedding day, a violent storm appeared out of nowhere. Unfortunately, the two lost their lives in the storm.
Touched by their story, the locals decided to name the lake after the brave shepherd.
What to see and do around Bâlea Lake
Bâlea Lake is not only a place to do some sightseeing but also a great spot for hiking, ice climbing, cycling or even skiing.
With heights that exceed 2,000 metres (6,561 feet), the Făgăraș Mountains are perfect if you like hiking. Several hiking routes start from Bâlea Lake, going towards the mountains’ peaks and dramatic valleys. Following the marked trails, you can reach their highest peak, Moldoveanu, at 2,544 metres (8,346 feet) in a nine-hour hike or the second highest, Negoiu, at 2,535 metres (8,316 feet) in a five-hour hike.
Another pathway will take you from Bâlea Lake to Bâlea Waterfall, a 10-kilometre (6.2-mile) route sprinkled with breathtaking scenery. No matter what you choose, make sure you have the proper equipment.
If you love mountain biking, then you can reach Bâlea Lake by bike, following the Transfăgărășan Road. It’s a true challenge that will be rewarded with spectacular views.
In winter, Bâlea Lake becomes a ski resort for expert skiers and snowboarders, with off-piste skiing and snowboarding on the longest slope in the Carpathians. The piste, which stretches over 14 kilometres (8.6 miles), offers high-adrenaline sensations. To get there, you have to enter the Transfăgărășan route through the northern part; once you reach Bâlea Waterfall, take the cable car that goes to Bâlea Lake.
If you like ice climbing, you can make a stop at Bâlea Waterfall. Its frozen waters become a much-liked spot for the sport.
Where to stay
The two rustic chalets near the lake, Paltinu Chalet, built initially as the hunting lodge of the communist ruler Nicolae Ceaușescu, and Bâlea Lac Chalet, offers great year-round accommodation that fits perfectly within the landscape. With double rooms and apartments, restaurants with traditional Romanian food and even spaces for weddings, birthdays and conferences, the chalets have all that you might need for a holiday in the middle of nature, at 2,034 metres (6,673 feet) high, surrounded by superb views.
If you prefer something smaller and more intimate, try the Bâlea Tunnel Refuge where the hosts offer their guests an unforgettable experience. Comfortable beds and traditional food prepared by your host come together with a friendly, welcoming ambience.
For the ultimate experience at Bâlea Lake, go there in winter and get a room at the first Ice Hotel opened in Eastern Europe. Made with ice cubes extracted from the lake, the Ice Hotel offers a unique experience. The hotel, which features double rooms, igloos, and the Ice restaurant and bar, is marvellously sculpted and decorated, providing everything you need for an exceptional stay.
How to get there
Getting to Bâlea Lake is also part of an unforgettable experience. To reach the lake, you have to ride on the Transfăgărășan Road, a winding path dotted with hairpin turns that cuts through the Făgăraș Mountains.
You can enter the Transfăgărășan from Arefu village, in the southern part of the mountains, or from Cârțișoara, in the north. However, in winter, you can only approach the lake from the north, as the southern part is closed between November and May. Once you reach Bâlea Waterfall, take the cable car that travels to Bâlea Lake.
If you don’t have a car and you are in very good shape, you can also ride your way up on a bicycle. If that seems too challenging, you can also take the Balea Bus that goes daily from Sibiu to Transfăgărășan, up to Bâlea Lake, or you can go on a private tour from Sibiu or Bucharest.