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Romania is one of Europe’s best-preserved gems and is a country of wonders. Breathtaking mountain scenery, pristine forests, centuries-old traditions, vibrant cities full of art, year-round cultural events, and unique landmarks make Romania a country that everyone should visit at least once. This two-week itinerary will take you through the country’s bucolic countrysides, picturesque landscapes, beautiful castles, medieval citadels and charming cities.
Total distance (approximate): 2,283 km (1,418 miles)
Total driving time (approximate): 38 hours
Recommended number of days travelling: 13
Bucharest, the beautiful capital of Romania, is one of the most vivid cities in the country. It exhibits a blend of traditional and contemporary museums, Communist architecture, great parks, majestic buildings, and lively bars and cafés. Spend your day wandering in the Old Centre. Visit the monumental Palace of Parliament and the Museum of Contemporary Art situated inside. Meander in the Cișmigiu Park or go to the Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum if you want to feel like you’re in a traditional Romanian village. For lunch or dinner, you can go to Caru cu Bere, one of the best traditional restaurants in Bucharest.
Distance: 280 kilometres (174 miles)
Travel Time: 3h 30 min
From Bucharest, head to Tulcea, located next to the Danube Delta. From Tulcea, you can take a boat ride with a local guide on the delta’s channels, discovering its remote villages and surprising forests. For birdwatchers, this is a must-see destination, as from April to September, 350 bird species gather here.
Distance: 375 kilometres (233 miles)
Travel Time: 6h
Sinaia is a beautiful mountain resort town, best known for housing the spectacular Peleș Castle; the former summer residence of Romania’s kings and one of the most charming castles of Romania. Built by Carol I, the palace today is a museum, exhibiting stunning Neo-Renaissance architecture and no less than 170 rooms that take visitors through the world’s architectural styles. Next to it is the Pelisor Castle (the small version of the Peleș Castle), which houses the heart of Queen Marie of Romania, one of the most beloved monarchs of the country.
On your way to Sinaia, you can stop in Berca to see the Mud Volcanoes: peculiar landforms created by the eruption of mud as a result of natural gases or hot water mixing with subterranean mineral deposits.
Distance: 50 kilometres (31 miles)
Travel Time: 1h
The fourth day is dedicated to one natural wonder and to Dracula’s Castle. Leave Sinaia and take the TransBucegi. This is a marvellous route that will take you to the Bucegi Mountains and its fantastic sights: Babele and Sfinxul. Carved in the mountains by Mother Nature, the two marvels are some of Romania’s most unique attractions.
Further on, the Bran Castle appears, perched on a cliff, dominating the valley. While many relate it to the myth of Dracula, the castle was never home to the blood-thirsty vampire, but was surely an inspiration for Bram Stooker’s novel, Dracula. The old fortress had a strategic role at one time as the customs house between Wallachia and Transylvania. The castle today is a stronghold, a royal residence of Queen Marie of Romania and an inspiring place for creatives.
Distance: 65 kilometres (40 miles)
Travel Time: 1h 15 min
Discover Romania’s Saxon heritage by visiting the surprising fortified churches and citadels erected by the German colonists of Transylvania. Start with Prejmer, the largest fortified church in southeastern Europe. Thick walls with built-in shelter rooms shield the majestic Gothic church. The fortifications served to protect the inhabitants of Prejmer from foreign invaders. Each family had a room carved into the fort’s walls. The structure was used as a safe harbour in times of siege.
End your day in Brașov, one of the seven citadels erected by the Saxons and a charming city tucked away at the feet of the Carpathians. Featuring monumental walls and bastions, the Black Church is the biggest Gothic church between Istanbul and Vienna, and it sits on the narrowest street in Europe: Rope Street. With magnificent views, Brașov will surely fascinate you.
Just 30 minutes away by car is the Poiana Brașov Resort, a ski paradise in winter and a great place to hike and enjoy awe-inspiring views in summer.
Distance: 210 kilometres (130 miles)
Travel Time: 3h 45 min
Today’s route will take you to a quaint lake and several astonishing gorges. First stop, Lacul Roșu, The Red Lake. This lake is natural and was formed as a consequence of the 1838 earthquake. Its name comes from the Red Creek that dumps reddish alluvium in the lake. There is a legend that says the red colour comes from the blood of a village’s inhabitants, killed by the earthquake.
Close to the lake are the Bicaz Gorges, carved in the mountains by the Bicaz River. Impressive stone walls border the narrow winding path connecting the regions of Transylvania and Moldova. This is one of the main rock-climbing sites in Romania.
Distance: 180 kilometres (112 miles)
Travel Time: 3h
The capital of the historic region of Moldavia is Iași, and it is a beautiful city that features one of Romania’s most impressive buildings: the Palace of Culture. The Palace of Culture houses the biggest Art Museum in the country. The national poet Mihai Eminescu used to find inspiration on Iași’s streets and parks. Today in the Copou Park, visitors can see the 500-year-old linden tree, next to which he wrote some of his best poems.
Distance: 160 kilometres (99 miles)
Travel Time: 2h 30 min
Head north toward Bucovina. The painted churches of Bucovina stand like bastions of their faith, depicting the Orthodox beliefs through extraordinary works of art. The most surprising one is the Church of Voronet, painted in a blue colour (called the ‘Blue of Voroneț’) that changes its tint every season. The Voronet Monastery is included on the UNESCO World Heritage list together with seven other churches in the villages of Bucovina.
Distance: 235 kilometres (146 miles)
Travel Time: 5h 30 min
Located in the Maramureș region, a land of old customs and traditions, Săpânța features a unique cemetery: the ‘Merry Cemetery’. While a normal cemetery has nothing merry in it, the one in Săpânța features good-humored poems about the ones buried. The whole conception of the place was based on the Dacian (Romanian ancestors) belief that death is a moment filled with joy, as it represents only a passage to a better life.
Distance: 196 kilometres (122 miles)
Travel Time: 3h 30 min
From Maramureș, descend to the ‘Heart of Transylvania’: Cluj-Napoca, a vivid city brimming with Romanian contemporary art, various architectural styles and a multicultural population. Explore the historical centre with its picturesque squares and monumental landmarks, like the Saint Michael Gothic Church and Equestrian Statue of Matthias Corvinus. Go up to the Cetatuia park for a panoramic view of the city. For great Romanian food, head to Roata restaurant.
Distance: 160 kilometres (99 miles)
Travel Time: 2h 30 min
Close to Cluj is another natural wonder of Romania: the Turda Salt Mine. A former pearl of the industry, the Turda Salt Mine is a unique attraction at 120 metres (400 feet) underground. It has been transformed into a leisure space featuring a Ferris wheel, an amphitheatre, a football field and a golf course.
Continue toward Sighișoara citadel, Europe’s best preserved inhabited medieval fortress. Wander on its cobbled streets adorned with stunning colourful houses. Get to higher ground by climbing up the clock tower and enjoy the eye-catching views over the city. If you visit by the end of June, re-live the medieval times during the Sighișoara Medieval Festival.
Distance: 95 kilometres (59 miles)
Travel Time: 1h 30 min
Discover the most romantic city of Romania: Sibiu. This is a city to wander, relax in and discover. Start exploring the city in the Big Square, beautifully decorated with baroque buildings. One of the houses is Romania’s first museum: the Brukenthal National Museum.
Continue your journey in the Huet Square and visit the monumental evangelical church. From here, you have to cross the Lies Bridge to get to the Small Square. Be careful about what you say, as the Lies Bridge allegedly shudders every time someone tells a lie while crossing.
End your day with a splendid view over the city from the Council Tower’s upper terrace.
Distance: 277 kilometres (172 miles)
Travel Time: 4h
Stop by the ASTRA Folk Museum before heading to Bucharest and spend a half-day surrounded by traditional houses and workshops. Built on 96 hectares (237 acres), the museum features a big lake where you can take boat rides.
Once your visit is finished, take the route back to Bucharest and prepare for your departure. Take an evening walk or have a last drink in the country’s capital before saying ‘good bye’ to Romania. Until the next holiday.