The towering Iron Gates — a dramatic series of gorges — was all but impassable until a group of locks was completed a little more than 30 years ago. River cruises through Eastern Europe now traverse this 83-mile stretch of the lower Danube that creates the borders of Romania and Serbia. The scenic stretch has the Alps on one side and the Carpathian Mountains on the other, and is one of the most beautiful sections of the river.
What We Love
The Great and Small Kazan Gorges: It's not just the natural scenery you'll take in along the way. On the Serbian side of the Great Kazan is a plaque commemorating the site of an important bridge constructed in 105 AD by Roman Emperor Trajan. The more elaborate piece is found at the Small Kazan on the Romanian side: a likeness of Trajan’s arch nemesis, Decebalus, carved into the rock.
Best Known For
Iron Gate Dam I and II: This series of dams, a joint Romanian-Yugoslavian project, took more than 20 years to complete (they opened in 1984). The result was the creation of a reservoir and a 115-foot rise in the river level. The workings of the dams are impressive to watch from the sundeck, but you'll get a completely different perspective from your cabin below (especially if you have a balcony). Head back to the deck before the final steps to see the ship rise up before opening into a wonderland of gorges.
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Who It's Best For
Photo Addicts: With towering cliffs, narrow gorges, rock sculptures, and a variety of floral and fauna, cruising the Iron Gates is basically a day full of perfect shots — and lots of backdrops designed for selfies that will be the envy of your Facebook friends.
Those Looking to Relax: While river cruising is far from a taxing endeavor, having a day to just chill out and absorb the scenery is what vacation is all about.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It's a Day on the Ship: There are no port stops along the gorge, so most of the day is spent watching the scenery. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the view.
Dena Roché is a Phoenix-based contributor to ShermansCruise whose work has been featured in Modern Luxury, Robb Report, and Destination Weddings & Honeymoons.