about 22 km, to the East of Caransebes, lies the scenic road DJ 608A, which
crosses through the villages Zervesti, Turnu-Ruieni and Borlova, arrives at the
Cableway station from Valea Craiului (773 m altitude), from where a cableway
with a length of 3492 m (the longest in the country) and a difference of level
of about 799 m, makes possible a rapid climbing to Muntele Mic. From here, the
access can also be made on a paved road of about 13 km length.
We must mention, that on the way, we can see the storage lake and the narcissus plains of Zervesti (where annually, in May, a beautiful field celebration takes place), the ruins of the Ruieni Tower, the Tower of Ovid, which, in the Dark Age, was a defence fortification and in the same time, a surveillance point. Stoica of Hateg believed that in the past, on his way to exile, the unhappy Latin poet Ovidiu crossed here and, charmed by the beauty of these places said “Cara mihi sedes” (my beloved home), from where the name of Caransebes came.
The Tarcu Mountains, of which Muntele Mic is a subdivision, occupy the north-west region of the Meridional Carpathians. The limits of the Tarcu Mountains are the Timis and Bistra valleys, the valley of the Raul Rece (Hideg) and the Ses River, continued by the Raul Mare River.
The existent relief in this area is generally speaking mountainous, but rises slowly from plains to high peaks. The light gibbous peak of the Muntele Mic Massif, which reaches the height of 1806 m, makes the ascending on this mountain very easy. For the amateurs of alpine landscapes, the Tarcu massive and the route to the Tarcu Peak (2190 m) offer splendid and panoramically scenery, hard to forget by any hiker. In the glacial valleys, through the retreat of the glaciers, we can see many times glacial lakes, which complete the picturesque landscape of these places.
The Muntele Mic resort is at a height of 1525 m and from here, in four hours, we can get to the Caleanu or Tarcu peaks (where an important meteorological station exists). In about three hours you can get to Cuntu (here is a meteorological station too) and in four hours you can get to the Poiana Marului resort, which is at an altitude of 680 m. An important role of these stations is the altitude, the fresh air with Mediterranean climatically influences, the flora and the fauna, the cold springs and the beautiful sights. Through its position and altitude, the Tarcu mountains, and especially Muntele Mic, fulfil a role of barrage in the path of the circulation of the air masses which enter from the north and the north-east (cold air masses which bring precipitations – especially snow, in winter), and also from the south-east (dry and warm air masses).
In tourism, generally speaking, the weather has a great importance. It can attract or drive away potential tourists. From this point of view the Muntele Mic area is privileged, being one of the areas in the country where the snow is kept even 6 months in a year. The massive precipitations, which come from the north-east, and also the low temperatures in the winter time, make winter sports possible, from November until May. The height of the snow layer is in winter about 100 cm. The preservation for a long time of a constant snow cover makes the resort ideal for winter sports. The ski tracks have slopes with different degrees of difficulty for the beginners and also for the advanced skiers.
The most numerous animal species are linked to the forest. The bear, the wolf, the roe, the wild boar, the squirrel, the capercailzie, the chamois live here (the Tarcu Massif area). The most attractive species are those that can be hunted, which are rich in this area. The hunting amateurs from the country and from outside it are interested in this area, but a material base sufficiently developed for the organization of hunting does not exist. The flowing waters and the glacial and artificial lakes represent an attraction for this area. In the quick fast rivers, the local trout prevails. The newly built lakes, at the same time with the Bistra - Poiana Maru hydroelectrically arrangement, constitute an alternative for the tourists who want to fish or for those who want to practice water-sports.
The official beginning of the tourism in the Muntele Mic area dates from the year 1936. In the manuscript edited by “the Association of the Office Workers of the Town of Timisoara – Muntele Mic” (AMIC), the motto of the Muntele Mic resort was “the highest resort of recreation and winter-sports in Banat”. The manuscript was edited at the same time with the opening, on the12th of July 1936, of the constructions on Muntele Mic, executed under the patronage of the town of Timisoara. The proximity of this area to the urban centres in Banat, and the altitude, awakened the interest for tourism, ski and recreation in the alpine area.
The actions undertaken by the office workers from Timisoara and the members of the “Clubul Turistic Banatean” from Caransebes put the bases of the mountain resort, which had as main profile winter sports on Muntele Mic and of the climatic resort Poiana Marului. In that time according to the manuscript edited by that association, on the mountain the following “shelter houses” existed:
- the castle of the 11th Battalion of Mountain Hunters, built in 1930, from the initiative of general Savu and colonel Ion Dumitrache, which had rooms for about 100 guests;
- The Rotary chalet, built in 1933, by the Prochaska family and the Rotary Club from Timisoara, having 35 places;
- The “Cuibul nostru” house belonging to the Fortune Community of Caransebes, with 10 beds;
- The “Bradisor” chalet, which exists even today, with 20 places;
- the recreational house “Bela Vista”, with 50 places, today inexistent, but at that time the most modern hosting place.
The comfort of the tourists was affected by the lack of electric energy, which was averted through the construction of the Electrical Plant Muntele Mic. Designed by the Electrical Plant Timisoara and executed by the workshops of the Timisoara Trams, the plant had a power of 15 KW, which assured the necessary electricity to the resort. We must mention that this plant was the first constructed on a single wire, after the conception of the university teacher from Timisoara Corneliu Miklosi.
Another aspect, which shows the development of the resort at that time, is the construction of a private phone line through a cable of 4913 m length; the phone put into service on 11th of October 1935, and in 1937 a direct phone call was made with London. The transport to the station was made through the horses hired from the Borlova village. The route Borlova - Fantana Voinei - Complex Muntele Mic was accessible. Besides the hosting capacities and the infrastructure constructions, the Saint Eli (Ilie) small convent and the Cross on the Cleantul Gainii were built in this period. The church was built in the Maramures style, from fir wood, being covered with shingle. It is the property of the Bishopric of Caransebes.
In July 1936, the Monument of the Heroes from Banat, who fought for the unity
of the country, is opened, the Cross on Muntele Mic. The cross was made of 8
stems of fir, offered for free by the Fortune Community of Caransebes, chosen
from the nearby forest, which were pulled to the mounting place with the help of
10 pairs of horses. These stems formed the main body of the cross, which was 25
m high. It was fixed through anchoring them to the ground, on a metallic
platform, embedded in the rock, at a height of 1670 m. On the cross, 4 powerful
spotlights and a siren were mounted; these were supplied with electricity from
the small hydro-electric plant. When the sky was clear, the cross was visible at
night from certain points in Timisoara, but especially from the dome under the
cross of the Cathedral.
After the Second World War, the investments in the tourism of this area began in 1962 through the building of the first ski-lift, which was the first cable transport in the area. It had a length of about 600 m, with at level difference of 83 m and two tracks, one on the left side, for the advanced skiers, and one on the right side of about 1.7 km on the “Valea Soarelui” (Sun Valley), on the south-eastern part of Muntele Mic (now, through a PHARE project, the track was enlarged with 400 m, and the installation was completely remade and modernized). In 1973 the road from the Craiu Valley until up, in the resort, was build, designed by a team led by eng. Mihai Stanescu. In 1976, the longest funicular (chairlift) in the country was put in operation. This made the access to the resort easier and contributed to the growth of the number of tourists. The golden age of tourism on Muntele Mic were the 80’s, through the using in a tourist purpose of the Sebes, Tarcu, Cuntu and Libertatea chalets, and also through the construction of a second ski-lift in 1986, with a length of 800 m. The most important achievement in the domain of hosting places was the opening on the 1st of January 1988 of the Sebes Hotel, with a capacity of 304 places on 9 stories. In these years the hotel functioned at maximum capacity, but with time, the great maintenance costs and the diminishing of the number of tourists determined its closing in 1996. The 90’s were regression years of the tourism in this area, but, at the same time with the new orientation of the Romanian society, we hope that the interest for this area will rise again, from the authorities, through facilities and financial help, but also from the potential tourists, through the interest for recreation and the practicing of winter sports.
After 1996, on the south-western side of the mountain, in the superior outskirts of the fir forest, some new chalets were built; among them there are the Bistra chalet, the “Cerbul” chalet and the chalets of “Iepurasul”. In 2001, the Muntele Mic cross renewal action and the tourist rehabilitation of the area began. This action, supported by many “friends of the mountains” (among them are Cornel Hamat and Cristian Matu, as initiators) was successful in 2003 and 2004, when a new cross made of metal and beautifully lighted replaced the old construction.
In the last years EnduRoMania (the outcome of the cooperation between the German land Nord-Rhein Westphalia and Banat, materialized, beginning with 1995, through the development of active tourism in this area) and newly Promotour (the partnership of the tourist promotion of the Tarcu - Muntele Mic area, founded at the end of the year 2000 through the affiliation of six communes in the Tarcu - Muntele Mic area: Armenis, Bolvasnita, Slatina Timis, Teregova, Turnu Ruieni and Zavoi, with the town of Caransebes and the EnduRoMania Foundation), both having the kind Sergio Morariu as the initiator, brought numerous foreign visitors to the country.
The initiatives of the associations, which were successful until now, are linked with the promoting of activities related to nature, that are active and sportive tourism, as remarkable economical development methods and as an opportunity of considerable enhancement of the living standard of the locals. Because, except the works at the hydroelectric systems and some loggings, the nature is untouched and permits the practicing of ecotourism, the friendly local population is very interested and capable of developing tourist products. Tarcu - Muntele Mic is one of the largest massifs in the Carpathians - the surface of the area being approximately 1320 square km and having 10 peaks of over 2000 m in height. The region has an old tourist tradition and is especially suited for summer and winter hikes, hikes on horse-back or with the wagon, bivouac, “Nordic walking”, “camera hunting”, the observation of animals, tourism on bike, endurotourism, ethnographical trips, land vehicles or tractor trips, flights with the delta plan and the organizing of “teambuilding”. More and more western tourists came in the area.
All these actions, like the promise of rehabilitating the access road to Muntele Mic, determines us to state that in the near future, the tourism in this area will have a fast growth and the switching on of the lights of the new cross on the 14th of September 2004 symbolized the rebirth of it.