The Living Fires of Lopătari, Buzău are among the most mysterious, and unusual, phenomena you may find in nature, on a hiking path, within your reach.
That’s if you know where to look. Romania was blessed with a few such miracles, places that could become its landmark tourist attractions, yet few is known about them. Today, we’ll take a look at one of those attractions, that, at the time I left Romania, was neglected by the authorities, and was known only by locals and a few enthusiastic mountaineers. Things have changed in the past ten years, with news of a future Geo-park “Land of Buzău” emerging in the media, but the development may take years to complete.
56 km from the city of Buzău, the county seat of Buzău County in the historical region of Wallachia, you’ll find the commune Lopătari. In one of the villages of this commune, Terca, there are the Living Fires (in Romanian: Focurile Vii) – a natural phenomenon, unique in Europe, but not unique to Romania. You’ll find a similar one, considered even more spectacular by some travelers, at Andreiaşu, a commune in Vrancea County, in the historical region of Moldovia, north of Buzău; and one in Reghiu commune, Vrancea, in the village of Răiuţi – only 8.5 km north of Andreiaşu.
Although the Living Fires of Andreiaşu (image above) occupy the most extensive area (400 m²), the Living Fires of Buzău are more popular with tourists, as they are situated close to other interesting natural attractions in the county, including: the Muddy volcanoes, the amber from Colti, the Salt from Meledic, the petroleum springs, salty springs, and so on.
The natural emanations of gas are lit at the surface, under the rays of the sun. The fires burn at night as well, when the scenery is at its most spectacular display. At times you can see a flame rising up to 1 m into the wind above the ground.
For travelers, the fires are a natural curiosity. For the locals however, they are a source of legends, mystical beliefs, and superstition. Many local traditions have been inspired by these “eternal flames,” some no longer practiced, others still leaving their mark on local pottery, costumes and so on.
If their story has triggered your interest, then take a trip to Terca. In the summer, make sure you have enough water with you, the weather in Romania tends to get very hot, and the area around the Living Fires was not developed for tourist purposes. To understand, this is one of the signs marking the way to the Fires:
To reach the place, drive through the city of Buzău, on the route Mărăcineni–Sapoca-Manzalesti-Lopătari-Terca (the GPS coordinates are N 45.53578 E 26.54857). If you drive through Berca, it’s better to use a four-wheel-drive vehicle. In fact, it’s good to have a good car to drive from Lopătari to Terca anyway. Prepare for a hike as well: the car cannot take you to the Fires. You have to cross a handmade wooden bridge, that looks ancient and wobbly. Then the road takes you on uneven terrain up the hill, on a hike that, although not difficult, it could be pure torture after the rain (mud and all). Below, the terrain map of the area.
[SGM lat=”45.525421″ lng=”26.533282″ zoom=”14″ type=”TERRAIN” directionsto=”DC159, Terca, Buzău, Romania” content=”<strong>Rounite</strong> DC159, Terca, Buzău, Romania ]
Note that accommodation in Terca or Lopătari is hard to find. Your best bet is to lodge in Buzău and take the trip to the Living Fires early in the morning. Alternatively, you could try to find a room in the village, but don’t expect comfort and luxury. For many foreigners, the life standard in the villages here is below the poverty line. If you like fancy sheets, warm water 24h, and a comfortable commode, this place is not for you. If you want to experience the simple joys of life, warm people, authentic cuisine, and life as it used to be years and years ago, it doesn’t get better than this. There are a few more “modern” villas in Lopătari as well, renting rooms – but don’t count on them. The Terca village, your destination, looks pretty much like this: