Duruitoarea – the treasure of the north

In the north of Moldova, around 212km from Chișinău there is a magical place that has been enchanting everyone that been stepping on that land. A region full of history and beauty, but also great touristic potential for hiking and camping activities. Despite the potential of the region stretches over few villages, in this article we will explore specifically the Duruitoarea Veche village which is famous for it’s cave, cliffs and the beaches at the Costești lake with pristine waters.

The journey in this village starts with the cave called “căsoaia”, meaning “the big house” due to being a shelter for the pre-historic man during the stone age. The grotto is situated 33metres high above the village and it stretches over 49m with 3 big rooms. Archeological searches have found bones of cave bear, bizon, deers, cave hyenas and even rhino besides the paleolithic jewellery, tools and human remains which stretch all the way up to 300.000 years ago.  Due to these important findings, the cave has gained its recognition internationally, currently still being protected by the state since 1962. The most recent discovery in the area happened in 2004, when the skeleton of a female mammoth was uncovered and for those that are curios, it can be seen in the museum of the village Costești.

Following the “defileu” sign next from the cave, you can reach the cliffs which offer a stunning view over the village. It is not a difficult climb, but it is recommended to have hiking shoes as it can get slippery at times, especially after rain. The cliffs are separated by the little spring Duruita from which the village has got it’s name. There are various other little caves in the cliffs, but are much harder to reach. Climbing down you will be impressed by the rich flora and the quiet that surrounds you. Every now and then, you will hear the sound of the shepherd and his herd of sheep making it’s way home.

If you’re seeking to stay overnight, at the bottom of the cliffs there is a camping ground where you can stay with your tent or rent one of the housing options available. Duruita, camping la grote was set up by Adrian Musteață, a doctor which had a passion for the region. Initially he bought the land for his family to use it as a summer house, but due to the increase interest of his friends, he opened it to the public. Nowadays he hosts people from all over the world, also organising various artistic art camps and little festivals to celebrate the local culture.

Staying here it is like traveling back in time, in a place where human and nature were co-existing harmoniously. All the little details are creating a magical atmosphere which remind you of childhood – a place with unlimited creativity and unbound possibilities. Starting from the design of the houses, some still keeping the old traditional style to the art stage where you can create your own stories or concerts. Witnessing Adrian’s canvas in his own creation you understand the love that he has for this place. All the sculptures that are scattered around the territory are made by talented moldovan artists, celebrating our most treasured findings – the Cucuteni civilisation goddess figure, the pendant from Branzeni Noii and the walnut, a symbol of strength and love.

And as you step into this play, you can choose your role. Will you be a passerby, a camper, a guest or an artist that finds it’s muse? And this role you can decide through these options:

The first housing option available is of course camping – with your tent, car or even camper van – although do keep in mind, the ground is not straight so it can be a bit tricky to park your camper van. The price per tent/car/van is 100 lei per night (5 euros).

But if you lack any of these things or the weather turns against your plans, you can stay in the little cabins which can host 2 people in them. Each cabin is accessed with a key from the little box next to the door. You get the code for the little box once you’ve booked your place. The price per night is 500 lei (25 euros).

In the case that Duruita is fully booked, do not despair! You will be given the option to stay in a local’s house from 100 lei (5 euros) per night.

Other two options which will be available soon will be individual houses for rent. One of the houses has space to accommodate one person for those that seek to spend some time alone or work on their writing (or project perhaps), while another one will be fully ensuite and will accommodate 2 to 3 people.

In regards the amenities, everything is set up! There are toilets, showers, electricity and free wi-fi available. The water is heated by solar power, so don’t be surprised if it ain’t hot on a cloudy day. There is also a kitchen area outside for those that wish to cook themselves some food, with a stove, some cooking tools and tables available.

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But if you wish to discover the local cuisine, then have some food prepared by the neighbours Liuba and Gheorghe which will more than gladly assist you. Mămăligă, baked peppers or fish soup will be one of the options you will be given to try out. During the summer season they will spoil you with fresh fruits from their garden. You can arrange the food with them on the spot, but preferably mention it upfront when you’re booking your place.

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And while you wait for the food to be prepared, why not have a swim at the Stânca – Costești lake? Only 5 mins drive. One interesting fact is that this is the biggest lake in Moldova and is actually a protected area due to it’s biodiversity. The water is clean, but do have some swimming shoes with you as the bottom is rather rocky and to avoid the potential of getting hurt. This lake is used a lot for fishing or by locals as a weekend getaway, but during the week is completely empty. One thing to keep in mind is that the lake is bordering with Romania, so if you wish to go on a boat – the frontier has to be announced upfront through a phone call (which the locals can organise for you) or have an ID on you in case you will get approached. No need for special permits.

As for the rest of the time, pour yourself some glass of wine, read a book from the viewpoint hut or just breathe the life that is all around you. Allow it to transform you in ways you cannot imagine. And why not at nighttime warm up by the fire, connect with the stillness of the place just like all the people did through thousands of years in the region. And who knows, maybe you will hear their stories through the songs of the flames, the grasshoppers and the flickering of the stars in the clear sky.

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To book your stay at Duruita, camping la grote check out the following links:

Facebook/ Website/ Airbnb – for booking the cabins

PS: There are no signs in the village for the camping ground, so do set up the directions on your map upfront. 

Alternative activities in Moldova

Everybody knows that one of the biggest treasures of Moldova is wine and it’s tourism is based a lot on it. But what about other things to do here besides wine tasting and sightseeing, activities which require more physical movement or a more firey spirit? For those seeking adventures or different ways to discover this country, I’ve compiled a list of alternative activities to do in Moldova. Despite camping being very suitable in the list, it will be written in a separate article with all the details that need to be kept in mind.

Hiking

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If you’re searching for some daily trips out of Chisinau to explore the local nature, then hiking is the best option for you. There are a few people that offer such experiences for a fee in various beautiful points of the country. Despite most of them providing all the information in romanian or russian on their pages, you can contact them and find that they can also provide in english by request. The most local famous hiking trips are organised by Outdoor Moldova and by High and Low Adventures, set up on specific dates. Hiking Moldova are very english friendly and provide fun options, while Alex Hoinaru offers hiking experiences in Pohrebea village and nearby.

Vespa Tours

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One would not expect to find a Vespa in Moldova, but due to the lover of these little gems a unique ideas has popped up – Vespa Tours in Moldova. They organise tours on these beauties in Chisinau but also outside of the city, to Orheiul Vechi or much further in the south or north. Some of these tours can even be customised, including overnight camping stays. Other than tours they also rent their Vespas for photoshoots, videos or just a few hours to discover the city by yourself. To contact, ask questions or check them out you can here.

Kayaking

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For explorers of water, kayaking would be an interesting option. In Moldova there are two main companies that offer this activity organised as tours with guides or self-guided. Kayaking.md are mostly concentrated on russian speakers offering daytrips along Nistru river, but also kayaking trips abroad. Their options are more suitable for groups as they require that they have at least 6 canoes for a trip. The other option which is very english friendly is the Kayakingtours.md, offering a variety of daily guided and self guided tours. They are situated in Vadul Lui Voda and provide experiences in south and north of Moldova on Nistru, Prut and in Danube Delta from 1st of april until the 30th of october. Besides canoes, they also provide bicycles and camping gear. Children get in for free if both of the parents are present and they require at least 2 people per booking. To discover their offers check them out here.

Ural Tours

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For those that are seeking to still experience some of the soviet vibes and impress your friends with crazy ideas, Ural Tours provides a great offer – tours on the legendary russian sidecar motorcycle. Organised for individual or group trips, per hour or daily with a great guide and enthusiasm. Mihai Cecan being an avid lover of motorcycles, will make sure to tell you why the famous Ural motorcycle is so special. To book an Ural tour, you can do it here.

Paragliding

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If you love adrenaline and beautiful views, then paragliding is for you! Costing only 20 euros, a flight lasts 10-15 minutes and it takes place in a variety of beautiful landscapes, such as in Orheiul Vechi, Anenii Noi and Dubasari. There are over 30 professionals around the country that can provide such experiences, but the easiest to reach is Vasile Fornea from Parapanta Moldova or directly at the Paragliding Association in Moldova.

Cycling

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Being widely used abroad, cycling is still trying to make it’s way into mainstream in Moldova. With more and more enthusiasts, it popped up even in the tourism scene, now offering tours in the city, at wineries and even across the country by bicycles. One of the main companies that provides this is Velopoint, which also allows hourly rental of bikes and bike equipment. You can find biking routes and customise your trip by contacting them directly here.

Parachute jumping

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Skydivers do not have to seek far as in Vadul lui Voda is based the most famous point for that. Every weekend they provide these opportunities, with prices starting from 55 euros according to the Parachutism Asociation of Moldova. You have options for jumping by yourself or with an instructor, also a variety of specific techniques and equipment, including such as the wingsuit. The best in this in the country are the guys from Skydive Moldova which attend to foreign tourists also.

Hot Air Balloon Rides

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We may not compete with the stunning sights of Cappadocia in Turkey, but we’ve got our own beauty to be discovered. A ride with the air balloon is easily organised, but a lot depends on the availability of your wallet. A trip with the balloon per person is 99 euros in a mixed group, with the date and time of the flight being set up by the company. If you have a better financial possibility, then the 349 euros package is more suitable, as you decide the date and time of the flight and it requires of a group of maximum 4 people. There are two companies which you can contact to provide this experience for you: Aerobis and Aerolux.

Rock climbing

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Despite not having mountains, we still do have a few places where rock climbing is possible. Butuceni in Orheiul Vechi area is the most common one, with X-Style company organising often such events there. If you’re looking into booking such an experience, check out their events page for the next one or contact them directly here.

Birdwatching

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Not usually the most searched activity, but still available and very off the beaten path. National tourism board has recently opened a trail in Orheiul Vechi for it, but overall Moldova has a variety of birds which can be spotted in specific locations which are known only by those who practice this. To help you organise a birdwatching trip can the local organisation Birdwatching Moldova.