The limestone gorge of the Vargyas creek is the second most picturesque and most visited sights of Szeklerland (the pole position being occupied by the Békás Gorge). The exterior and interior limestone mountain range of the South Carpathians is 150 million years old. Not everyone can see this, but who has the courage to venture here will have the experience of a lifetime. The Vargyas brook, loudly coming down from the Madarasi-Hargita Mountains, decided to cut through the limestone “spine” and split the mountain into two 40-50 m high cliffs. There are more than 100 smaller-larger caves along the gorge, most of them served as “homes” for the prehistoric people. The hiker may discover how the creek “hides” under the rocks and cliffs, re-emerging after a while, fascinating the visitor. But not only are the unexplored underwater galleries beautiful, but the whole virgin environment of the gorge with its legends is more than thrilling and makes you want to grab your hiking gear and hit the road up to the mountains. The gorge has a good infrastructure of roads and getting there in easier than we thought: it is 11 km away from Vargyas and from Homoródalmás (Merești) a 7 km macadam road takes the tourist to the fascinating world of the valley. The entire sight is a nature reserve. The reserve is managed by Elveszett Világ Természetvédelmi Turista és Barlangász Egyesület (The Lost World Ecological and Caving Association) from Barót (Baraolt).
The story of the Gorge is well known. According to the decision of Chair of Udvarhely in 1637, the Kőlik, the Nagy-barlang (Great Cave), the longest cave, since then bearing the name of Balázs Orbán, were attributed to the people of Homoródalmás, with the condition that, in case of danger and threat, the people of Vargyas also had the right to use these places as a refuge. According to data from 1704 (during the Kuruc rebellion) this refuge was guarded by armed men. In 1774, József Benkő, scholar and priest in Középajta (Aita Medie) in his work published in Haarlem, the Netherlands, gives a more detailed description of the area. In 1853 László Kővári presents this region in his work Erdély földje ritkaságai (Rarities of Transylvania). István Fekete sketched out the detailed plan of the Nagy Barlang. This was published by Balázs Orbán in his great work about Szeklerland, in which he focuses on the cultural and military value of the caves. Since the beginning of the 20th century researchers have documented the Vargyas Gorge, underlining its values. Before WWI Ferenc Podek and Gábor Strömpl present their findings about the Gorge’s karst morphological values, in 1921 the place is already known by “half of the world” and in 1926 the great Romanian cave researcher and scholar, Emil Racoviţă, visits the Vargyas Valley. Between 1940 and 1944 Károly Haáz and Károly Jodál from Székelyudvarhely (Odorheiu Secuiesc) review the place, Hubert Kessler writes about it and Mária Motl reveals the cave’s former and already extinct primordial (mammal) world. The first Romanian description of the Vargyas Gorge, written by Traian Orghidan, was published in 1955. The historical value of the caves is indescribably rich. From the Late Stone Age (or Upper Paleolithic) until the Middle Ages the caves were inhabited, fact proven by the homo sapiens remains found here. The denar of Sigismund of Luxemburg was found in the sediment; the borders of the Hungarian feudal state and the walls of an 11th-12th century Tartar chapel were discovered on the Kőmál (Cetățuie) peak.
The paleontological, historical and cultural values of the Vargyas Gorge exceed every cave region of Szeklerland. Széchényi’s name is “preserved” by a cliff; the Valley was visited by János Apáczai Csere, Mór Jókai, Balázs Orbán, Miklós Wesselényi and other well known Hungarian personalities. Together with the late István Dénes, my geologist colleague, we have explored this region and because I know the place like the back of my hand, I can write about it.