The Bear Cave (Pestera Ursilor) – named after skeletons of the extinct cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) found by quarry workers in 1975 – is one of Romania’s finest caves. It’s a relatively easy day trip from Oradea. Opening hours are roughly 10am-5pm, admission 1.50 euros. The galleries of the Bear Cave extend over 1000m on two levels. Awesome and delicate stalactites and stalagmites loom, believed to be 22,000 to 55,000 years old, growing about 1cm every 20 years. Compulsory guided tours are about an hour, just long enough to feel the year-round chill in the cave (10C or 50F).
If you’re not camping, Pensiunea Daniadis (Tel. +40 (0) 722 699 847) sits at the foot of Bear Cave. It’s a wooden chalet with seven rooms, all with shared bathroom. There’s also a restaurant. A double room is about 14 euros, breakfast not included. La Fluturi (Tel. +40 (0) 259 329 085) is an idyllic camping ground, in the town of Chiscau. It’s located near a bubbling stream and has six wooden cabins. Cabins are 11 euros, breakfast not included.
Getting around this area is difficult without private transport. There’s a single daily bus running between Beius, Chiscau and Stei. It’s better to hire a car in Oradea, then simply head south through Beius, follow Hwy E79 for another 8km along the Crisul Negru River, then turn left at the turn-off for Pietroasa and Chiscau. Continue 4km along this road; the cave is signposted on the right.