There is a place in Romania where nature has managed to stay unspoiled by civilisation, where a whirling river is flowing through spectacular gorges, and its banks boast centuries old churches and many spas, where people can find peace of mind and a perfect place to rest their bodies. The Olt Valley is one of the most spectacular and beautiful areas in Romania, country's uppermost, between Căpăţânii, Lotru and Făgăraş mountains.
Olt River rise close to the headwaters of the Mureş River in eastern Transylvania (Hăşmaş Mountains) at an elevation 1,800 m. It is 496 km long (the longest Romania's interior river) and flows south through the southern Carpathian Mountains to enter the Danube River near Turnu Măgurele, opposite Nikopol. There are several resorts and spas along its course through the mountains.
The panoramic view of the Olt Valley is fascinating both in summer and winter time and has been a place of interest for 2000 years now. The river was known as Alutus or Aluta in Roman antiquity. During the conquest of Dacia, the Romans settled in the valley and built a road and fortresses. Actually, until 1990, one could see traces of a vineyard, dating back to the first century AD, when Sarmisegetuza was Dacia’s capital. What is still left are the ruins of the Romanian Castrum, where people gather on feasts and celebration days because they love to spend time amidst the nature they are so proud of.
The Olt Valley stretches from the Cozia Monastery up to the gorges. Cozia Veche (Old Cozia) is the entrance point to the Olt Gorges. The 80 km long route between the south and the north of the country, trough Carpathians, is accessible on the National Road 7 or European Road 81. The Cozia National Park covers both banks of the Olt River, and the scenery is breathtakingly beautiful. The departure point is Căciulata, passing through Cozia, by the Cozia Monastery, erected by ruler Mircea the Old. Worth visiting is also the Old Cozia, near the Basarab Mountain; then cross the river on the dam of the Turnu power plant. This is actually the first hydro power plant built on the Olt River and also the largest. On the right bank of the river one can visit the Arutela Castrum and the Arutela tourist complex. The trip can continue with a walk, through the forest, to the Turnu Monastery, and then to the Stănişoara Monastery. If you like mountaineering, it is worth taking a walk to the Cozia and Turnu Monasteries. Both are isolated in the Cozia Mountains, which are beautiful irrespective of season. In summertime, they are all shiny and green, while in autumn the range of colours is rich in shades of green, red and yellow.
Twenty kilometers north, we find the Cornet Monastery, and after some other twenty kilometers we reach Turnul Spart (The Broken Tower), remains of fortifications of custom between Wallachia and Transylvania. At the end of the Olt Gorges we can admire Turnu Roşu (the Red Tower), a castle of the Austrian empress Maria Tereza.