Even though the Romanian part of the Danube is most known for the bewitching Delta and its variety of birds, there is also another part of great interest and beauty: the Iron Gate natural park. There we have a great variety of natural and manmade attractions.
At the Iron Gates, the Danube forms a canyon that is 134 km long – considered the longest canyon in Europe – its most important parts being the Great Kazan and the Small Kazan.
At the Great Kazan, the Danube flows through a narrow gorge, only 150 meters wide and it has a depth of 53 meters. There the first bridge over the Danube was constructed by Apollodorus of Damascus for Emperor Trajan’s Dacia campaign, almost 2000 years ago. Now, only the Serbian bank’s commemorative plaque – Tabula Traiana – remains from those times.
On the Romanian bank, in the Small Kazan, we have a 40 meters high carved in stone statue of Decebalus, who was the opponent of Trajan. The construction of the statue took ten years – from 1994 to 2004 – the monument being considered the tallest rock sculpture in Europe.
At the Iron Gates, you can also visit the Iron Gates Museum, where you can see a variety of things, from natural sciences, to history, archeology, numismatics, ethnography and art – paintings of famous Romanian artists are exhibited there, such as Pallady, Tonitza, Petrascu, Luchian.
You can see the Great and the Small Kazan by taking some local boats. On these 2 hours cruises you will be able to stop and visit 2 caves, and hear their legends. If you go there during spring you can see the Tulipa hungarica (ro.: Laleaua de Cazane) and other rare flowers.
Close to this area is Baile Herculane – a thermal spring spa area, considered to be built by Trajan Emperor himself. As a primary interest are the natural healing properties because of the hot springs with sulfur, chlorine, sodium, calcium, magnesium and other minerals, as well as negatively ionized air. There you can also find the multiple layered Cave of the thieves (ro.: Pestera Hotilor/Grota Haiducilor), the bigger replica of one of the six stone statues of Hercules lie in the middle of the town, and you can also visit the ruins of the roman baths, that dates, along with other historical sites, from 2000 years.
Bahna Paleontological Reservation is among the richest area in fossils in Romania and in Eastern Europe, being at the same time a natural area with more than 100 species of plants.
Other places to see in the area would be Cerna Mountains, Cheile Nerei – Beusnita National Park.
Where to stay while being in the area? I would recommend the bank area from Great Kazan, near Eselnita village. There you find a lot of boarding houses that are situated near the water with magnificent scenery, the view including the Serbian bank of the river and the Tabula Traiana.