Routes southeast from Haţeg skim the northern reaches of the Retezat mountains, although access is slightly harder here than in the other Transylvanian mountain ranges. Whereas in the Făgăraş or Piatra Craiului you generally find yourself following a ridge walk, with little opportunity to step aside and view the summits from a distance, here you’ll find yourself surrounded by well-defined peaks, often reflected in clear alpine lakes. There is a large network of hiking routes, so you’ll meet fewer walkers and have a better chance of seeing wildlife such as chamois and eagles. The northwestern part of the massif is a scientific reserve (Ceauşescu treated it as a private hunting ground) and entry is restricted.
The Retezat National Park was set up in 1935, becoming a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1980. To enter, you need a permit, available from an entry post or from a patrol; you’ll be given a rubbish bag and a ticket with a basic map – it’s worth buying a more detailed one in advance. Visitor centres are at Ostrovel (entering Râu de Mori) and at the park’s headquarters just north of Nucşoara; boards here and at Câmpu lui Neag give information in English and German on the trails and the park’s dozen camping sites. Guides can be booked through the National Park.