Saint Anne Lake is located in the Carpathian Mountains in the East-central part of Romania. It is the only volcanic lake in the country. Its charm for tourists has the roots into the legends surrounding this place, the beautiful landscape, the healing properties and into the fact that it is also a great place to get in touch with nature and relax.
Saint Anne Lake and the geological truth
This lake formed in a volcano crater at a 946 meters hight and it is around 7 meters deep. The Carpathian volcano erupted about 32.000 years ago. In this area, there were two craters of lava. After the last eruption, one became the Saint Anne Lake and the other become some sort of volcanic swamp. The Lake has no link to any other source of water. All the water in the lake comes from rain. All the water from the mountains around accumulated into this crater hole and created this impressive lake.
The water is really pure, only 0.0029 ml minerals, which is close to the values of distilled water. This phenomenon can be explained by the presence of gasses that rise from under the lake as a still going effect of the last eruption. There is no oxygen in the water of the lake, which is why there are no living creatures in the lake.
Saint Anne Lake and the area around is a complex natural reservation. You can also hire boats to paddle around this great lake.
Locals can predict the weather near Saint Anne Lake
Locals say that it is very easy to predict the weather when you are near Saint Anne Lake. According to rumors, if it smells bad then this is sign of storm. If there is no smell, it means that it will be sunny. This belief has a scientific explanation. There are two crevices in a mountain near Saint Anne Lake. When the air pressure is low and it could be a forecast for storm, gases, like carbon dioxide and sulphur that are inside due to post eruption activity, rise to surface. And this where the bad pungent smell comes from.
Two legends and a desolated girl named Anne
There are two very important legends that are linked to the name of the lake. According to the locals, long ago, there was a girl named Anne that lived in the area. She was forced to marry a young man who she didn’t love at all. Her parents wanted the marriage for his wealth. She was so upset that she chose to plunge into the lake and drown. It is said that no one could find her body and the lake was named after her.
Another legend tells that, on the same lands, before the existence of the lake, two wealthy men used to live in these parts. They were always in competition who had the most amazing objects of fortune. The man who lived where the lake is now had the idea to buy himself a golden chariot and to use young girls from the village instead of horses. The girls tried to move the chariot but it was way too heavy for them. The man, desperate for acknowledgment of his wealth and his idea started whipping the poor girls. One of them, named Anne, mumbled a curse. The next minute, the ground started shaking and crashing down, with the girls, the man and the chariot. It is said that all the water in the lake is actually from the girls’ tears.
Another belief in the area is that the people who bathe in Saint Anne Lake get rid of all their iniquities and they are stronger facing death.
The scientific explanation for this theory could be that the air here has negative ions which is really healthy for tourists and has a good impact on the nervous system.
Some also say that this place is good for couples that can’t have children. These couples must enter a small chapel near the Lake named Saint Anne. They must go there and pray for blessing.
The Mohos Swamp near the Saint Anne Lake
Near this lake you can also see a second volcanic crater that turned itself into a a swamp with volcanic ash and now it is named Mohos Swamp. It can only be visited with a guide and only on marked trails and bridges made of wood. It can be dangerous to step out of the trails. There is a tricky soil that, in some places, can be very soft and can act like quicksand.
The Mohos Swamp is famous for its ice-age relict plants. Moreover, specialists have proved that the area is interesting not only from a botanic, but also from a zoological point of view, being the habitat of a number of rare arthropods.
Its vegetation contains ice-age relics such as different species of sundew (Drosera rotundifolia, Drosera obovata), the swamp rosemary (Andromeda polifolia), the pod grass (Scheuchzeria plaustris), the hare’s tail cotton grass (Eriophorum vaginatum), the black cranberry (Empetrum nigrum) or the cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus). The species structure of the vegetation is characterised by a low number of species and a high number of individuals.
Researchers have also identified 108 spider species representing 21 families. The unique vegetation and fauna of the swamp used to be endangered by seasonal grazing, uncontrolled tourism as well as by forest fruit picking.
When, where, how much?
For those who don’t have much time to spend in nature, you can drive your car near the lake. You just have to pay a small fee to park so close. There is a big parking space at one kilometer and a half from the lake. Here, the fee is 10 lei – 2 euros. For those who want to be even closer, there is a parking space right near the lake where the fee is 20 lei – 4 euros. I wouldn’t recommend to come here in winter. The lake is all frozen.
So, to get to Saint Anne Lake from Bucharest is a 3 hours drive – 244 kilometers. You could choose this itinerary: Bucharest – Brasov – Sfantu Gheorghe – Baile Tusnad – Lake Saint Ana (Lacul Sfanta Ana – written in Romanian on road signs).
Also, if you are searching accommodation in the area, you can easily find it in Balvanyos mountain resort. It is at about 15 kilometers far from the lake. Just enter “Balvanyos, Harghita, Romania” on any website specialized in finding accommodation. If you arrived to the Saint Anne Lake on foot, you must have come through “Baile Tusnad” mountain resort. You can easily find accommodation there too.
If you choose to travel by train or bus, you must first get to Baile Tusnad resort and then there is a two hour journey on the mountain to the lake. To get to Baile Tusnad resort you can get the train from Bucharest. See the schedule here.