Visit the Libearty Bear Sanctuary in Zărnești

Bear in Libearty Bear Sanctuary, Zarnesti, Brasov, Romania

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Ever wanted to step into a realm where the whispers of nature merge with tales of redemption and hope? Welcome to Libearty Bear Sanctuary in Zărnești. As the name subtly hints, it’s not just a sanctuary; it’s an emblem of liberty for the majestic bears that call Romania their home.

At the heart of it, Libearty Bear Sanctuary Romania offers more than just a glimpse of the grandeur of the Libearty brown bear. You’re not merely witnessing these creatures in their element—you’re immersing yourself in a narrative of rescue, rejuvenation, and respect.

Yet, the sanctuary is not just about the bears. The ambiance here is a story in itself. Majestic Carpathian backdrops? Oh, yes. Verdant meadows? Absolutely. And interspersed amongst all this natural beauty? The gentle giants themselves, each with a history, each with a tale. Every inch of Libearty Bear Sanctuary in Brașov is a testament to nature’s resilience and mankind’s potential for compassion, ensuring a captivating experience that leaves a lasting imprint on the soul.

Table Of Contents
  1. History of Bears in Romania
  2. History of Libearty Bear Sanctuary
  3. What to Expect When Visiting Libearty Bear Sanctuary
  4. About the Bears
  5. Stories of Bear Rescues at Libearty Sanctuary
  6. Practical Info
  7. Know Before You Go
  8. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
  9. How to Support the Sanctuary
  10. A Visit to the Libearty Bear Sanctuary in Zarnesti is a Must-Do in Transylvania
Brown bear sitting by the side of the road in Brasov.

History of Bears in Romania

Romania, a land of mythical beauty, has always been intricately linked to the bear, both in folklore and in its verdant forests. For generations, these magnificent creatures have roamed the rich tapestry of Romanian landscapes, becoming an integral symbol of the nation’s wild heart. The mighty brown bear, in particular, has carved an indelible mark on the cultural and natural legacy of the region.

However, there lies a shadow in this tale. In times gone by, the bears of Romania were viewed not as wild emblems of freedom, but as mere attractions to satiate human curiosity.

The grim past reveals stories of bears kept in abysmally small cages, often malnourished and mistreated, all to draw a crowd. They were paraded in front of eager onlookers, sometimes forced to perform, and were even locked away as trophies in restaurants and hotels, all for a brief moment of amusement.

Such acts, while deeply saddening, were reflections of a time when the understanding of wildlife was less informed. The bears, stripped of their natural habitats and liberties, became shadows of their majestic selves, mere caricatures to attract visitors and boost local businesses.

But as time moved forward, so did the collective consciousness of the people. With the international community shedding light on animal rights and the intrinsic value of letting wildlife thrive in their natural habitats, Romania began its journey of transformation.

The need for change was palpable, and the birth of initiatives like the Libearty Bear Sanctuary in Zărnești marked the beginning of a new chapter—a chapter where the bears could once again reign free in the embrace of their homeland.

Brown bear in thick brush of the forest in Romania.

History of Libearty Bear Sanctuary

In the lush embrace of Zărnești, nestled against the backdrop of the Carpathians, the Libearty Bear Sanctuary stands as a beacon of hope, not just for the bears of Romania but for wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists worldwide.

The seed was planted in the mid-’90s when Cristina Lapis, a passionate Romanian advocate for animal rights, witnessed the deplorable conditions in which bears were held captive in local restaurants and resorts. These sights, both heartbreaking and infuriating, set her on a mission to alter the fate of these majestic creatures.

In partnership with World Animal Protection, Lapis laid the foundation of Libearty Bear Sanctuary in 2005. The sanctuary was not just an enclosure but a promise, a promise to provide bears with a haven where they could recover from past traumas and rediscover their natural instincts.

Over the years, the Libearty Bear Sanctuary in Brașov has become home to over 100 bears, each with its harrowing past, yet each finding solace in this refuge. From bears saved from the clutches of cruel circus performances to those rescued from minuscule cages outside restaurants, the sanctuary has become a testament to human compassion and perseverance.

Success stories abound. Bears that once paced restlessly in cages, now roam freely, foraging, swimming, and climbing, exhibiting behaviors long suppressed. The sanctuary, in essence, serves as a second chance, a place where these animals can leave behind the shadows of their past and embrace a future filled with hope and freedom.

Visitors to Libearty Bear Sanctuary Romania are often touched not only by the sight of these bears living freely but also by the palpable passion of the staff and volunteers dedicated to their well-being. Their unwavering commitment is a vivid reminder that when humanity comes together with a shared vision, miracles can, and do, happen.

Large bear in Zarnesti, Brasov

What to Expect When Visiting Libearty Bear Sanctuary

Stepping into the embrace of the Libearty Bear Sanctuary is a transformative experience, immersing you in a world where the well-being of its furry inhabitants takes center stage. But, like any responsible conservation area, there are specific guidelines and protocols to ensure both the safety of visitors and the welfare of the bears. Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of what to anticipate during your visit:

Visiting Days and Times

  • The sanctuary welcomes visitors from Tuesday to Sunday, with Mondays reserved for essential maintenance.
  • Tour times fluctuate depending on the season. It’s advisable to check the specific visiting times pertinent to your planned visit period.

Guided Tours

  • All visits to the sanctuary are conducted through guided tours, ensuring an informative and controlled experience. These tours are available in both Romanian and English.
  • To maintain a comfortable environment for the bears and ensure a quality experience for visitors, each tour group is capped at a maximum of 40 individuals.

Safety and Regulations

  • For safety considerations and to ensure a smooth visit, children under five years of age are not permitted inside the sanctuary. If you’re accompanied by young ones, be prepared to present documentation confirming their age.
  • While the sanctuary is an awe-inspiring spectacle, remember that its core purpose is educational. It stands as a testament to rescued animals, offering them a life they deserve amidst 69 hectares of forests, streams, and pools.
  • A critical note: always maintain a safe distance from the electric fence. It is, after all, charged and can be hazardous.

Fees and Charges

  • Given the sanctuary’s non-profit nature and its commitment to bear welfare, no public funds are allocated to it. The Libearty Sanctuary operates under the purview of the Millions of Friends Association, a dedicated NGO.
  • An extra charge of 50 lei is applicable for visitors wishing to bring in photo-cameras, barring the tours specifically crafted for professional photographers.
  • If you’re considering filming documentaries, be prepared for a fee of 200 euro/hour.

Accessibility and Restrictions

  • 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.
  • 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.

The Libearty Bear Sanctuary is more than just a tourist destination; it’s a haven of hope and rehabilitation. As you meander through its verdant expanses, witnessing bears in their element, remember the sanctuary’s core mission and ethos. Every guideline, every rule is in place to uphold the dignity and well-being of these majestic creatures. Your visit, respect, and understanding further this noble cause.

Bear and cubs playing in a river in Brasov

About the Bears

The majestic creatures that reside within the Libearty Bear Sanctuary aren’t just any bears; they’re a testament to resilience, survival, and the indomitable spirit of nature. Before diving into the specifics of the sanctuary’s tours and programs, it’s essential to understand who these bears are and the life they’ve left behind.


Many of the bears at Libearty were victims of cruel human entertainment, trapped in small cages, forced to perform in circuses, or held captive as tourist attractions at restaurants and hotels. Their initial lives were marked by neglect, maltreatment, and a severe lack of essential care.

Species and Diversity

Predominantly, the sanctuary is home to the European brown bear. However, each bear has its unique personality, story, and journey to recovery. While some are shy, others have a playful streak, making each visit a distinct experience.


Upon arrival, each bear undergoes a thorough health check-up. Many arrive malnourished, with physical injuries and psychological trauma. The sanctuary provides medical care, proper nutrition, and an environment where they can slowly adapt to a life that’s closer to what nature intended.

Natural Habitat

Spread over 69 hectares, the sanctuary ensures that the bears have ample space to roam, play, forage, and hibernate. Streams, pools, and wooded areas mimic the natural habitats of the European brown bear, offering them a semblance of the wild.

Social Structures

Over time, many bears form bonds with each other. They’re often seen playing together, lounging in the sun, or even sharing spaces during hibernation. However, some bears, due to their traumatic pasts, prefer solitude, and the sanctuary respects this individual choice.

Age and Longevity

The ages of the bears at Libearty vary. While some are elderly, having spent the majority of their lives in captivity, others are younger rescues. With the care and nutrition they receive at the sanctuary, many live longer, healthier lives than they would have in captivity.

Not Just a Sight

It’s essential to remember that while the bears are a wonder to observe, they’re sentient beings with emotions, memories, and the ability to feel pain and joy. The sanctuary emphasizes this aspect, ensuring visitors approach with respect and empathy.

The bears at the Libearty Sanctuary are symbols of hope in the face of adversity. Their stories, ranging from tragic to triumphant, underscore the importance of wildlife conservation efforts and the need to treat every living creature with kindness and dignity. As you walk through the sanctuary, take a moment to reflect on the stories each bear embodies and the second chance at life they’ve been granted.

Close up of a bear at Libearty Bear Sanctuary.

Stories of Bear Rescues at Libearty Sanctuary

The soul of Libearty Bear Sanctuary is not just the vast expanse of its land or the programs it offers, but the heartwarming and sometimes gut-wrenching stories of its residents. These stories serve as a stark reminder of the inhumane treatment of wildlife and the significant difference a little compassion can make.

Maya – One of the First

Maya spent the first years of her life confined to a small cage in the yard of a hotel near Bran Castle. With minimal care, a restrictive diet, and no proper medical attention, she suffered from malnourishment and joint pain. At Libearty, Maya died in Cristina’s arms as her suffering and depression caused her to self-mutilate and eventually she was too weak to survive.

Radu – The Dancing Bear

Chained and forced to “dance” on hot metal sheets to the rhythm of burning flames beneath him, Radu’s early life was a tale of sheer torture. When he arrived at Libearty, the signs of trauma were evident. However, with time, care, and patience, Radu learned to trust again. He now spends his days exploring the woods and has even made a few bear friends.

Lia and Avram – The Orphaned Siblings

Found abandoned after their mother was likely killed by poachers, Lia and Avram were on the brink of death. They were tiny, weak, and terrified. The sanctuary not only nursed them back to health but also gave them a new family. Today, they’re inseparable, often seen play-wrestling or sharing a cozy spot during hibernation.

Elena – The Restaurant Attraction

Elena lived in a small cage outside a restaurant, serving as a live attraction for visitors. With barely enough space to move, she developed sores and wounds. Her rescue was a complicated one, given the owner’s resistance, but the sanctuary’s persistence paid off. Now, with acres to roam freely, Elena has blossomed into a curious and gentle bear, often seen sniffing around her enclosure and interacting with her caregivers.

Each bear at Libearty Sanctuary has a unique story of resilience and hope. While the scars of their past are undeniable, their present is a testament to the healing power of love, care, and a natural environment. These stories remind us of the crucial role sanctuaries play in giving abused and neglected animals a second chance at a life they always deserved.

Young Romanian brown bear in the forest of Transylvania.

Practical Info

Visiting Hours

The visiting hours for Libearty Bear Sanctuary change with the seasons. Generally, the sanctuary is open from Tuesday to Sunday, with Monday reserved for maintenance. Typical visiting hours range from morning slots like 09:00 or 09:15 to mid-morning times such as 10:45. Ensure you check specific timings according to your planned visit season.

Ticket Prices

Prices are based on age groups and differ slightly during weekends:

Adults: Starting from 65 RON, with a peak price of 85 RON on certain weekends.

Children (5 – 18 years): Starting prices begin at 30 RON, going up to 40 RON during specific seasons.

Students (18 – 25 years): Prices range from 50 RON, peaking at 65 RON on some weekends.

For the most accurate and updated information on visiting hours and ticket prices, it’s always recommended to visit the sanctuary’s official website or contact them directly.

Bear in the Libearty Bear Sanctuary near Brasov, Romania.

Know Before You Go

Planning a visit to the Libearty Bear Sanctuary? While the awe-inspiring sight of these majestic creatures is undoubtedly rewarding, some groundwork ensures a seamless experience. Here are some essentials you need to be aware of before your trip:

Purpose is Educational

The primary mission behind the Libearty Bear Sanctuary is educational. Beyond the joy of watching bears in their natural habitat, understand the sanctuary’s commitment to wildlife conservation. Appreciate the efforts invested in rescuing and rehabilitating bears from harrowing pasts.

Safety First

Children under five years aren’t allowed, primarily for their safety and to ensure a seamless experience for all visitors. Always be ready to show age-proof documentation for young children.

Do not approach the electric fence surrounding the sanctuary. Not only is it dangerous, but it’s crucial to respect the boundary it establishes between visitors and bears.

No Smoking Zone

The entire sanctuary is a smoke-free zone. Smoking disrupts the natural environment and poses a fire risk.

Camera Charges

If you’re keen on capturing memories, note that there’s an additional fee of 50 lei for bringing in a camera. Special tours for professional photographers are an exception to this.

Accessibility Concerns

The sanctuary, built amidst natural terrain, can be challenging for those with locomotor disabilities. The pathways might not accommodate wheelchairs, frames, or crutches.

Respect the Environment

The sanctuary is home to the bears. While it’s a delight to watch them, always remember to maintain silence, avoid littering, and be respectful.

Check Timings and Prices

As highlighted earlier, visiting times and ticket prices vary according to the season. Always double-check the timings for your planned visit date.

Keep Hydrated and Protected

Especially during warmer months, bring along water, wear comfortable clothing and shoes, and don’t forget sunscreen and hats.


Libearty Bear Sanctuary does not receive public funding. Your ticket price contributes directly to the welfare of the bears. There’s also an opportunity to make additional donations or adopt a bear, furthering the sanctuary’s noble cause.

Local Insights

Often, local guides and staff have heartwarming stories and insights about individual bears. Engage in conversation, and you might just come away with a memorable anecdote.

Visiting the Libearty Bear Sanctuary isn’t just another trip; it’s a journey into the world of wildlife conservation. Go in with an open heart, respect the guidelines, and you’re bound to have an enriching experience that stays with you long after you’ve left.

Brown bear sleeping at Libearty Bear Sanctuary in Romania.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The Libearty Bear Sanctuary in Romania has garnered significant interest from locals and tourists alike. If you’re considering a visit, you might have some questions in mind. Let’s dive into the most commonly asked questions about the sanctuary:

Why can’t children under five years old enter the sanctuary?

For the safety of the children and the smooth operation of the tours, children below five are restricted. It’s also to ensure the well-being and peace of the bears.

Are there any language options for the guided tours?

Yes, guided tours are available in both Romanian and English.

Why is there an extra charge for cameras?

The additional fee for cameras contributes directly to the maintenance and welfare of the bears. Special tours designed for professional photographers are an exception.

Can I smoke anywhere in the sanctuary?

No, smoking is strictly forbidden throughout the sanctuary to maintain the purity of the environment and for fire safety reasons.

Are there any concessions for persons with disabilities?

Yes, persons with disabilities can enter the sanctuary free of charge. However, it’s crucial to note that the terrain might not be suitable for all, especially those requiring wheelchairs, crutches, or frames.

What’s the main purpose behind the establishment of the Libearty Bear Sanctuary?

The sanctuary was created to rescue and rehabilitate captive bears who suffered in inhumane conditions. Today, it offers them a chance to live in a natural environment, spread across 69 hectares of forests, streams, and pools.

Is the sanctuary government-funded?

No, the Libearty Bear Sanctuary does not receive any public funds. It’s built and run by the Millions of Friends Association, an NGO.

Can I donate to the sanctuary?

Absolutely! Contributions directly aid the care and well-being of the bears. You can also explore options like adopting a bear or sponsoring specific sanctuary needs.

How much does it cost to go to the Bear Sanctuary in Romania?

The costs vary based on age and day of the visit. For the most updated prices, please refer to the ‘Practical Info’ section. On average, adults pay between 65 RON to 85 RON, children between 30 RON to 40 RON, and students between 50 RON to 65 RON.

How to get to Libearty Bear Sanctuary from Brasov?

To reach Libearty Bear Sanctuary from Brasov, you can either drive, which takes approximately 30 minutes, or use public transportation. Regular buses run from Brasov to Zarnesti. From Zarnesti, you can take a taxi or a local shuttle to the sanctuary. Always ensure to check the bus schedules ahead of time.

Where can I see wild bears in Romania?

While the Carpathian Mountains are home to a large population of wild bears, it’s essential to remember that these are wild animals and can be dangerous. Local tour companies in Brasov and other parts of the Carpathian region offer organized bear-watching trips, which are conducted safely and responsibly.

Where can I see bears in Brasov?

In Brasov, you can either opt for bear-watching tours in the wild or visit the Libearty Bear Sanctuary in Zarnesti, located just 30 minutes away, to observe rescued bears in a more controlled environment. The Libearty Bear Sanctuary is an easy day trip from Brasov.

How many bear attacks per year in Romania?

The number of bear attacks varies each year, and while encounters with bears are frequent, not all lead to attacks. The annual rate from 2000-2015 was 8.2 (of 18.2 in all of Europe).

Are Romanian bears aggressive?

European brown bears, which populate Romania, are typically shy and avoid humans. However, like all wild animals, if they feel threatened, cornered, or are with their cubs, they might become aggressive. It’s always crucial to exercise caution and respect their space.

What to do if you meet a bear in Romania?

If you encounter a bear:

  • Do not run; this might trigger a chase.
  • Speak in a calm, firm voice while slowly backing away.
  • Avoid direct eye contact, which the bear might interpret as a challenge.
  • Make yourself look bigger by raising your arms or standing on your toes.
  • If the bear approaches, throw objects, shout, and make loud noises to try and scare it away.
  • Always carry bear spray if you’re in bear country and know how to use it.
  • If the bear attacks, play dead. Lay on your stomach, covering the back of your neck with your hands. Once the bear leaves, get up and leave the area immediately.
  • Remember, the best way to avoid conflicts with bears is to be aware of your surroundings, make noise while hiking, and store food securely.

Bears playing in the river in Romania.

How to Support the Sanctuary

Dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and care of abused and neglected bears, the Libearty Bear Sanctuary thrives not just on the passion of its team but also on the generous contributions of its supporters. If you’re touched by the stories of the bears and the mission of the sanctuary, here are several ways you can lend your support:

Make a Donation

Monetary donations, whether big or small, go a long way in providing food, medical care, and maintenance for the bears and the sanctuary grounds. Donations can typically be made online via the sanctuary’s official website or through bank transfers.

Adopt a Bear

While you can’t take one home, symbolic adoptions help support the yearly care of a specific bear. In return, you often receive periodic updates, photos, and perhaps a certificate, knowing that you’re directly contributing to the well-being of a rescued bear.

Buy Merchandise

Many sanctuaries, including Libearty, offer merchandise like T-shirts, mugs, caps, and more. The proceeds from these sales directly benefit the sanctuary. Plus, you get a keepsake to remind you of your visit and the cause you’re supporting.


If you’re looking for a hands-on approach and have time to spare, consider volunteering. While you won’t be directly handling the bears, there are myriad tasks, from maintenance and tour guiding to administrative work, where help is always appreciated.

Spread the Word

Awareness is a powerful tool. Share your visit on social media, write about it on blogs or travel platforms, or simply tell friends and family. The more people know about the sanctuary and its mission, the more support it can garner.

Corporate Partnerships

Businesses can play a significant role in supporting sanctuaries through sponsorships, collaborations, or corporate social responsibility initiatives. If you own a business or have influence in one, consider partnering with Libearty to make a bigger impact.

Visit Regularly

Your entrance fees contribute to the daily running of the sanctuary. By visiting regularly or bringing along friends, you’re directly supporting the sanctuary’s operations.

Supporting the Libearty Bear Sanctuary ensures that these magnificent creatures receive the love, care, and respect they deserve. Every bit of support helps in creating a world where animals are treated with compassion and dignity.

Bear playing in the river in Libearty Bear Sanctuary, Romania

A Visit to the Libearty Bear Sanctuary in Zarnesti is a Must-Do in Transylvania

The Libearty Bear Sanctuary in Zărnești stands as a testament to the indomitable spirit of resilience and the transformative power of compassion. Through its sprawling forested enclosures, the heartfelt stories of its bear residents, and the tireless efforts of its caregivers, the sanctuary shines a light on the urgent need for wildlife conservation and ethical treatment.

Whether you’re visiting to witness firsthand the sanctuary’s mission, or looking to contribute to its cause, every gesture counts. As visitors and wildlife enthusiasts, our responsibility goes beyond just observation. By supporting sanctuaries like Libearty, we actively participate in shaping a world where coexistence and respect for all living beings become the norm.

As you reflect on your journey through the sanctuary, from understanding the tumultuous history of bears in Romania to discovering the individual tales of rescue and recovery, let it serve as a reminder. A reminder that change is possible, that kindness can rewrite destinies, and that every bear, every creature, has a right to a life of dignity and freedom. The call of the wild is clear – and it beckons us to listen, to act, and to make a difference.

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