Tucked away in Eastern Europe, Romania flaunts its stunning natural beauty. Like the famous Transylvanian woods, its thick forests radiate a magical charm, where ancient trees tell stories of olden times. The country’s rich biodiversity showcases its untouched landscapes, with flowing waterfalls, winding rivers, and rugged mountains creating a breathtaking scene. 

Amidst its natural splendor lies a haven for one of its most iconic inhabitants – the Romanian brown bear. They inhabit dense forests and mountainous regions, searching for food and shelter. Conflicts between humans and bears are increasingly common due to habitat loss, climate change, improper waste management, and human-bear interactions.

Why visit the bear sanctuary?

Home to over 80 bears, the Libearty Sanctuary is a testament to the country’s commitment to wildlife conservation and offers visitors a unique and heartwarming experience. Libearty Sanctuary spans 160 acres of unspoiled hazel and oak forest, serving as a haven for Romania’s majestic bears. The land of this pristine Sanctuary was generously donated by the town of Zărnești and operated under the care of “Milioane de Prieteni” (Millions of Friends) Association in Brașov County. Here, bears once held in captivity are granted the opportunity to roam freely in their natural habitat, away from the cruelty and deprivation they once endured. 

TripAdvisor has ranked the “Libearty Bear Sanctuary” in Zărnești among the most beautiful, significant, and worthy places to visit worldwide. This recognition comes from the reviews shared by visitors on TripAdvisor’s website, highlighting the Sanctuary as the largest bear sanctuary in Europe.

Rescue and Rehabilitation Efforts at Libearty

Numerous bears residing at Libearty Sanctuary were subject to inhumane treatment, having endured confinement in cramped cages, coerced performances in circuses, or exploitation as tourist attractions in restaurants and lodgings. Their early experiences were characterized by neglect, abuse, and a profound deprivation of necessities. 

Their stories are poignant reminders of the challenges faced by Romanian bears in the wild and captivity alike. At Libearty, these majestic creatures are given a second chance at life. They find solace in vast, natural enclosures that mimic their wild habitats. From the moment of their rescue, every effort is made to ensure their physical and emotional well-being. 

The Story of Maya

There was one bear that started the movement – her name was Maya! 

Photo credits @ https://millionsoffriends.org/

In 1998, Maya, a brown bear, was found trapped in a small, damp cage near Bran Castle due to inadequate legislation. Cristina Lapis, outraged by Maya’s plight, visited and cared for her for four years while advocating for better animal welfare laws in Romania. Despite her efforts, Maya passed away in 2002, prompting the urgent establishment of a haven for other bears in need.

Life at Libearty

In the Sanctuary, Romanian bears flourish, enjoying the freedom and care they rightfully deserve. Here, they indulge in various activities such as swimming, climbing trees, and nurturing their cubs. Abundant food, including treats like bread with honey, ensures their well-being, and medical care is readily available when needed. But perhaps most importantly, the bears have vast areas to roam freely, covering plenty of kilometers as they explore their natural habitat.

Exploring Libearty sanctuary

The Sanctuary is NOT A ZOO! This means you can only visit it with a guide. The visiting schedule varies depending on the season. We suggest that before booking a trip to this place, you have a look at their official website to see the visiting dates. 

It is important to know that every Monday, the space is closed to the public for maintenance. You can visit from Tuesday to Friday or on weekends, but keep in mind that Saturdays and Sundays are usually crowded, and the fee is just a bit higher on these days. 

The visiting hours are always in the morning: 9 AM for the first visit and 10:45 AM for the last entrance. 

Types of tours you can book

The classic one (17$/adult) – takes about one hour; it’s basically a 2km walk through the forest with your guide telling you the story of the place and answering your questions. 

The private tour (160$/group + 17$/adult)  – takes about one hour, on the same path as the classic one. This one is better for small groups that require the full attention of their appointed guide and must be reserved 48 hours in advance.

The VIP tour (160$/group + 50$/adult) – the most complex tour that the sanctuary visitors can enjoy. It lasts for about two and a half hours on a four-kilometer-long route. It includes a visit to the first Teddy-Bear Museum in Romania, and the bunker from where the bears can be observed in the middle of their enclosure.

The Super VIP tour (500$/group of 1-8 people) – where the visit takes place by car, specially equipped for such an adventure, with guides ready to answer all your curiosities about our bears. It includes a visit to a bear’s home in a bunker placed in the middle of a more than 14-hectare enclosure. 

Good to know

The sanctuary tour starts with a documentary that sheds light on the deplorable conditions endured by the bears before their rescue and the founder’s steadfast commitment to rescuing every captive bear in Romania.

The Sanctuary places utmost emphasis on the welfare and comfort of its bears. Therefore, certain rules, like the strict prohibition of smoking, have been put in place to ensure a safe and pleasant environment for all visitors. You can check them out here.

While the Sanctuary openly welcomes persons with disabilities, offering them free entry based on a certified degree of disability, the nature of the Sanctuary’s paths makes it challenging for wheelchair, frame, or crutch access. It might also be taxing for those with locomotor disabilities.

On public holidays, weekend pricing applies, ensuring visitors are aware of any potential fee adjustments.

Remember to stay hydrated! The 2km walk can be challenging during the warmer months, so bring a bottle of water and a hat to protect you from the sun and help you enjoy the Sanctuary in comfort.

How can you help the bear sanctuary?

In the ongoing battle for animal welfare, the Sanctuary stands at the forefront, leading the charge with unparalleled dedication. Recognized as the largest brown bear sanctuary globally, its commitment to ethical treatment has earned praise from esteemed organizations like National Geographic.

Libearty Sanctuary needs constant support in this battle. You can help by visiting, but you should know you can do so much more! Here are the things you can do to help:

You can adopt a bear by donating 5 euros per month or more. Regardless of the type of adoption, after the one year donation is completed they will send you an online adoption certificate you can print!

Libearty Bear Sanctuary does not receive public funds. It’s built and run by the Millions of Friends Association, an NGO. All the ticket fees, merchandise, and individual donations go directly to helping the bears and their space. 

Another great way to help is to spread the word! Whether through social media posts, blog entries on travel platforms, or simply sharing your experience with friends and family, spreading the word about the Sanctuary and its mission is crucial. The more informed people, the greater the support the Sanctuary can receive. We all can make a difference – one bear at a time!

Make a stop at Libearty with Balkan Trails!

While touring the Sanctuary is done by specialists who know the bears very well, getting to Libearty could be challenging. Why not book a trip fully stress-free? 

Contact Balkan Trails, and you can enjoy a custom trip to Romania tailored to your wants and needs! Traveling with a trusty partner like Balkan Trails will provide you comfort, precious insights, and memorable moments like this unique experience as an add-on! 

P.S. 

Until you book your trip, you can make a virtual stop by Libearty: there is a spot in their enclosure that is always LIVE on Youtube. 

Check it out: Sanctuarul de ursi Libearty Zarnesti