Last Updated on February 28, 2024 by Jarda
Statistics say that Moldova is the poorest country in Europe, the country is visited by the least tourists and the average European probably knows very little about Moldova. These were the reasons why I was looking forward to visiting this country. How is the visit of the country’s highest point Dealul Bălănești (also sometimes called Bălănești hill)? This article will give you all important information of the highest point of Moldova, including my personal experience.
Important information for visiting the highest point of Moldova – Dealul Bălănești
Short description of the ascent: Short easy walk Essential equipment: Nothing special, it's a short walk Best time to visit: All year round Fees or restrictions: No Camping allowed: Yes Nearest accommodation/food supply: Food and drinks in Bălănești, accommodation hard to find, spend nights in the capital Chisinau Height of the peak: 430 m Hiking distance: 1.9 km Elevation on the way to the top: 177 m Time to ascend to Bălănești: 0,5-1 hour up, 0,5-1 hour down Water availability on the mountain: village Bălănești Difficulty level: * (6 stars maximum) Personal rating of the mountain: ** (6 stars maximum) Beer on the peak: Chișinău Specială Tare *** (6 stars maximum)
Map of the route to Dealul Bălănești
My story of reaching Dealul Bălănești with personal tips
I visited the highest point of Moldova as a part of the European Peaks project during which I climbed the highest point of every European country. My journey started in the Moldovan capital Chisinau where I arrived from the Ukrainian village Vorokhta. It wasn’t a short trip. My friends and I had to use four different means of transport (train, bus, trolley bus and taxi). Since I enjoyed travelling by Ukrainian trains (as described in the previous article), I was looking forward even to this trip. However, I soon found out that the enjoyment won’t apply to Ukrainian-Moldovan night buses.
Potholes and constant turns didn’t allow me to asleep for a minute and when I finally managed we just came to the border where we had to spend over two hours for the customs inspection of our bus. How I missed Schengen! In the end we reached Chisinau after 16 hours. Fortunately, another former classmate Kurt was waiting for us in Chisinau. He fixed accommodation in a nice hotel in the city center, right next to the bus stop so we could go to sleep directly after our arrival.
The largest winery in the world
When we woke up we wanted to learn about Chisinau on a local free guided tour. The problem was that there is no such thing in Chisinau. Just another confirmation that only a few tourists visit the country. We had to look for an alternative program. In the end we decided for a visit of the largest wine cellar in the world – Cricova.
Cricova had been the largest producer of wine in the Soviet Union (up to half of the production was made here) and continued growing even after its collapse. Today, its cellars are as large as a medium-sized city. There are 110 kilometers of roads underground and hundreds of storage rooms for wine. The tour was interesting. We visited multiple storage rooms as well as presidential halls where significant guests such as Merkel or Putin tasted local wines.
Not surprisingly, we looked forward to the tasting held at the end of the tour. During the tasting ceremony we could test four wines and I must say that I was surprised by the quality of Moldovan wines. I will not list all the flavors of citrus, nuts, ginger, chocolate and olives which I should have recognized according to the guide but I definitely liked the wines a lot.
A little party never killed nobody
As we got curious about other wines too, we also visited the local restaurant afterwards. We got lucky. There were no guests so the staff offered us one of the presidential halls. There we continued tasting exceptional wines.
I don’t know if the waiter knew what the risks were, but we were suggested to play our own music in the hall. At first the music created a pleasant atmosphere. After a few bottles of wine though, the guests started to sing along. At first it was calm singing, but when the Queen’s song Bohemian Rhapsody occurred on the playlist the guests couldn’t control the volume anymore. Waiter Juraj started to regret his offer but he didn’t turn the music off, just professionally told us that other guests would be glad to enjoy their dinner in quiet. This remark was enough for us to stop our presidential party.
Our luxury party ended but there was one more point in our program. We found out that Ladislav Zibura, one of the most famous Czech travelers and writers, is in the city and he invited us to dinner with local Czechs working for non-profit organizations. At this unusual Czech meeting in Chişinău everyone initially looked serious. We talked about the serious issues of poverty and other major problems Moldova has been dealing with. After a few drinks, however, the conversation turned to more cheerful topics and the party was soon on. We continued to local clubs where our friend Kurt, the winner of the Star Dance contest, turned the evening into the biggest party of my expedition.
Unexpected trips are always the best
During the party I was feeling like there couldn’t be a better preparation for climbing the highest mountain in Moldova but I changed my mind in the morning. I was so hangover that I couldn’t drive. I will need a one day break which we filled in by a trip to Transnistria, a de facto independent country.
Easter on the Moldovan countryside
The plan worked out. I was ready the next day. I rented a car, picked up my new friend Klára and finally went on a trip to Dealul Bălănești. We passed a lot of socialist architectural gems (huge concrete buildings) and soon left the city. In the Moldovan countryside I was most impressed by the number of decorated wells and bizarre bus stops. It looked like there is a competition in Moldova for the most decorated stop/well in Moldova. It must be difficult to choose the winner.
In an hour and a half we arrived to the village of Bălăneşti, the starting point for the short hike to Dealul Bălănești. I was surprised that we drove on mostly new roads. Impressive. We parked close to the local grocery store where we bought an Easter cake and continued to the peak. We had a pleasant walk, passed several nice country houses with colorful fences, blooming trees, another well and a local farmer.
The peak was already near. We reached it in a few minutes and enjoyed a beautiful spring day. There we had a small picnic with beer and an Easter cake. A nice end of the Moldovan trip.
My tips for climbing the mountain Dealul Bălănești:
- There are several hiking trails around the summit. Browse the beautiful Moldovan countryside.
- Be aware which car you rent. Even though the road to Bălănești was 95% on asphalt there was a short part on a dirt road. After heavy rain it might be very muddy.
- Visit the Cricova winery. It is a great cultural and tasting experience.