Gorj County is in the South-West of Romania, North of the historic region Oltenia, sharing boundaries with Caras-Severin, Dolj, Hunedoara, Mehedinti and Valcea counties. It has a surface of 5,602 km2 (2,4% of the country) which overlaps almost entirely on the hydrographic basin of middle Jiu river, which crosses the county from North to South. With a population of approximately 380,000 inhabitants, the county is structured in two main cities (Targu Jiu, the County capital city and Motru), 7 towns, Rovinari, Targu-Carbunesti, Bumbesti-Jiu, Novaci, Ticleni, Tismana and Turceni, and 61 communes.
The landscape of the area is made of mountains, sub-mountain hills and a hillock area in the southern half of the county.
The mountains are part of the Middle Carpathians. The presence of hard rocks, granits, christalline schists, limestone, has created numerous valleys and spectacular canyons which have become valuable tourist attractions. There are also a few summit plateaus that favoured the development of settlements as well as a few tourist attractions and resortsthat benefitted the are and managed to turn it into a tourist sought one. The southern exposure of the area is a favourable frame for the development of leisure tourism and an extra advantage for rural tourism as compared to the mountain winter one.
Valcan mountain, with a height of 1945 metres, represents the West mountain branch of the county and is stretched from West to East, being the starting point of numerous rivers that created the proper environment for several settlements, even from ancient times. It is renowned by the number of caves and speleoogical formations both in the river basin of Motru, Tismana, Jales, and in the famous gorges of Sohodol, part of hte national tourist heritage. On the summits of Valcan Mountains the people of the county hold several holidays and folk activities, like that from Tismana, Pades and Schela. From ancient times, the mountain was intensely used for travel, before opening the Jiu Gorges there were a few famous roads, like ”Neamtului Road”, these being used even today as forest roads and local travels.
Parang Mountains, between the rivers Jiu and Oltet, with a West-East orientation, have maximum heights of 2519 metres in Parangu Mare peak, 2337 metres in Mohoru peak, 2136 Papusa peak. Cuaternary glaciation marks are stretched on a 10 km length on the main ridge Parang – Mohoru. Secondary ridges derive from the main one, marking the most complex glacial core of the area. Thus, numerous glacial lakes from the upper basins of Jiet, Lotru, Gilort, enrich the landscape value of this mountain area. On the southern side there are limestone formations that helped create Oltet and Galbenu Gorges, Polovragi, Muierii caves and a few special speleological formations.
Godeanu Mountains stretch on a narrow area in the North-West of the county. The mountain ridges have medium heigths of 1800-2000 metres. The most important heigths are in Micusa peak – 1824 m, Balmezu peak – 1456 and Arcanu peak – 1760 m. The different types of landscaping are comprised by the smoothness of erosion platforms, rugged aspect of the summits, marks from glacial erosion. The limestone rocks also present here have led to the appearance of special carstic formations: Cerna gorges, Cernisoara gorges, the Coral Cave. The hydroenergetic complex Cerna – Motru – Tismana has enlarged the degree of touristic accessibility in Valcan and Godeanu mountains.
On the county`s territory there are also the Getic Subcarpathians hills, with two rows of hillsides, ranging from 300-600 metres altitude. Between the ast mountain ridges and the first row of hills, there are several submountainous basins of smaller sizes: Cerna on the same named river, Raovita on Taraia river, Polovragi on Oltet river, Baia de Fier on Galbenu river, Novaci on Gilort river, Stanesti on Susita Verde, Bumbesti-Jiu on Jiu, Runcu on Jales, Celei on Tismana and Pades on Motru river. After another row of hills, larger basins stretch on the territory: Targu-Jiu – Campu Mare, a true gathering of waters.
The hills continue southwards with smaller altitudes, but rich in resources (oil, gas, coal), part of the Getic Plateau. This submountainous and plateau space is of less attractive landscapes, the region being intensely populated, the fields being mostrly used for agriculture. There are a few settlements though that stand out for their mineral waters or their special cultural-historic attractions.
Gorj represents an old history home, the first proof of man`s existence and activity dating from over 1.500.000 years, as the archaeological evidence that were found in Danciulesti, Baia de Fier (Muierilor Cave and Parcalabului Cave), Borosteni (Cioarei Cave), Curteana, Sacelu, Targu-Carbunesti, Urdari, state.
The archaeologicl fund with touristic value is represented by a few roman camps and special older settlements, in different towns:
- Bumbeşti Jiu: the ruins of the Roman stone camp, II-III B.C.
The Roman Camp had a role of defending and ensuring the entry to Jiu gorges as well as overseing the Dac population that lived here. The camp was built and used between the two wars for conquering Dacia by the romans (101-102 and 105-106); it was initially buit from an earth wall but then in 201 stone wals were built. Today only the East side still stands (167 metres) and partially the South part (88 metres). In 2002 there were discovered inside the camp a Roman treasure of 92 silver coins, stretching on a period of almost 50 years.
„La Vârtop”, ruins of an earth wall roman camp and civil settlement, centuries I-II B.C.
- Polovragi: Geto-Dac era fort and settlement, century II B.C.;
„La Bulboc” – palelitical settlement from bronze era, with a few cave drawings, century III B.C;
„La Cruce” – civil settlement from bronze era, Geto-Dac, Cotofeni culture, C II-III B.C.;
In Runcu village there are also the ruins of a medieval construction from XV-XVI centuries.
- Valea Perilor (com. Cătunele): earth wall camp, civil settlement from the Roman era, C. II-III B.C.
The climate is mainly temperate-continental, with a great variety of nuances, given the geographical positioning, the air currents and the landscape components. It is characterized by the following traits:
The solar radiation is 1225 kcal/cmc/year in the Sout and drops to 1100 kcal/cmc/year in the North. The annual average temperature is different from North to South: 00C on the mountains of over 2000 m, 3,40C at Parang weather station, 10,10C Târgu Jiu; temperatures that generally offer a high comfort. The average temperature of January has values of –5,80C at Parang weather station, -90C at over 2000 m, -2,50C in Târgu Jiu. The average temperature in July is higher due to the influences of air masses from the South-West of the continent: 6-70C at 2000 m, 12,40C at Parang weather station, 21,60C in Târgu Jiu. The rain has an uneven distribution and their value drops from North to South as follows: 1200 mm/year at over 2000 m, 950 mm/year at Parang weather station, 865mm/year in Novaci, 750mm/year in Târgu Jiu, 585 mm/year in Ţânţăreni. There is a maximum recorded in May-June and another one in November, February being the month with the lowest rainfall. The snow layer has an uneven distribution, in the high mountain area (over 1800 m) it lasts 180-200 days (Parâng, Vâlcan, Godeanu) and its thickness can reach in sheltered areas 7-8 metres. In the lower altitude mountains it lasts only 140-150 days and that value lowers in the plateau areas at 60-80 days/year. This is extremely favourable for the development of winter sports, so skiing can be practiced from January until April.
The dominant winds on the higher summits are those from North-West, and in the basin areas the southern air masses are felt, and the South-East ones of tropical origin. The existence of foehn on the southern parrts of the mountains leads to 00C temperatures ad avalanche forming. In the hills basins the climate has a sheltered character, athmospheric calm being dominant.
The hydrography of the county is dominated by Jiu river who gathers most of the rivers in the county. Jiu has two springs – the West Jiu (formed of several springs that origin in Valcan, Godeau and Retezat mountains) and East Jiu with origins in the northern Parang mountain. On its way to the Danube, Jiu passes through all types of landscape: mountain from its spring to Bumbesti-Jiu, Subcarpathians from Bumbesti-Jiu to Pesteana-Jiu, Getic Plateau until it reaches Craiova and Oltenia Plane until it meets the Danube, near Bechet.
The main tributaries of Jiu river that cross also Gorj are: Gilort, Motru, Tismana, Bistriţa Gorjeana, Jaleşul and Şuşiţa.
The lakes are mostly man-made (storage purposes), with a hydroenergetic purpose and were built on the rivers: Cerna, Motru, Tismana, Bistriţa, Jiu, Gilort and Olteţ. There are also a few important glacier lakes: Gâlcescu, Tăuri, Slăveiul, Mija, Pasărea and Godeanu.
The vegetation of Gorj county has the following vertical layering.
– Alpine meadows layer, at high altitudes, rocky hights, falls and pebble slopes. A few species of junipers, blueberry bushes, gooseberries, rhododendrons and many other grassy species with colourful flowers. This is the ground for mountain hiking and picturesque landscaping.
– Coniferous forests layer is found between 1400-1700 m, mostly on the Northern slopes, the main species being the spruce and fir. The presence of these forests completes the landscape values and create a negative ionization of the air, beneficial in climate-therapy.
– The hardwood layer is found mostly on the Southern slopes where they are mixed or continuing the coniferous species. On the Southern sides of Parang and Valcan mountains there are sole beech forests or mixed with sessile and hornbeam. The oaktree areas in the hillside has been reduced in favour of agriculture land.
A special appearance on the chalky, sunnier slopes is the edible chestnut (Castanea Vesca), sometimes mixed with turkish nut, mezo thermofilic, xero thermofilic species (flowering ash, hawthorn, wig, wild lilac, etc). The vegetation of Gorj county has approximately 2000 species, of which 110 are Mediterranean, 13 Pontic, 36 Balcanic, 26 Balcanic-Dac, all of which play an important part in the different forms of tourism that can be practiced in the county (hiking, rest and leisure, weekend, scientific research) at the same time or as part of rural tourism.
The fauna of the county is diversified – chamois on the high ridges, bear, wild boar, wolf, deer, wild cat, polecat in the hardwood forests. There are also a few Mediterranean species present: the horned viper, land turtle, numerous species of birds as well as rich aquatic fauna (trout, carp, etc.). The diversity of the fauna is an important attraction especially for foreign tourists, which can choose from offers that include hunting and fishing activities.