The Berca Mud Volcanoes are a geological wonder, hidden deep in the wilds of Eastern Romania.
There’s something bizarre and comical about large mud bubbles forming and popping, the earth’s natural gas erupting up through salty, underground water and mud. The gray, thick clay-like mud dries, creating conical volcano shapes, and spew out surprisingly colorful mud bubbles that display an array of earth tone browns and ochres. Mud Volcanoes are very rare in Europe, making the Berca location a curious tourist spot and a must-see for photographers looking for unusual scenery. The lack of vegetation adds to the surreal landscape, but is unsurprising. What could possibly live in this unfriendly, salt-saturated environment?
There are a few formidable little flora called halophyte plants, which won’t be thwarted by a little mud and salt. Nitraria schoberi and Obione verrucifera are two salt-tolerant shrubs that thrive in this otherwise inhospitable soil, thriving in salinity as only 2% of the plant world can. Sheltering these hardy plants is one of the main reasons the mud volcanoes was declared a natural reserve, and is now legally protected.
The locals refer to these mud volcanoes as “The Gates of Hell,” not to be confused with Turkmenistan’s fiery, horrific Gates of Hell. They also brag of two separate locations quite simply dubbed Little Mud Volcanoes and The Big Mud Volcanoes. The area is difficult to get to, so private transport is suggested. The area is…well…muddy, so dress appropriately, especially footwear. The area includes hiking spots, a restaurant, a visitor’s center for information about the volcanoes and surrounding flora and fauna, and a mini-motel if you just can’t bear to leave.