If you are searching for a sensational experience near Sibiu, then traverse Romania’s highest mountains. By foot, it might seem impossible, but luckily, an amazing road has been carved in the Făgăraș Mountains, crossing them from north to south. You can get there with your car or use the Balea Bus. A ride on Transfăgărășan Road is both thrilling and impressive. The curves get tighter and tighter as you go higher, offering an intense drive. At the end, you can visit Bâlea Waterfall and from there, take the cable car to Bâlea Lake. Prepare your camera for some stunning photos.
Considered Romania’s spiritual capital, Alba Iulia is the city where Transylvania’s union with Romania was declared in 1918. The Union Hall is open to visitors, and opposite, you can visit the National Union Museum. The two buildings are situated inside the largest citadel in the country, Alba Carolina citadel. An 18th-century Vauban construction, the citadel features elaborately sculpted gates, a 12th-century Roman Catholic cathedral and a Roman museum. If you get there before noon, you can watch the guards parade through its precincts.
South of Sibiu, you can experience the traditional lifestyle in the area’s picturesque villages. In Sibiel, a charming little village, you can visit the Museum of Painted Icons, holding the largest exhibition of glass-painted icons in Transylvania. A fusion of creativity and religious inspirations, the icons are symbolic for the Orthodox faith. From Sibiel, head to Cisnădioara, a former Saxon village sheltering a 12th-century monumental Romanesque basilica and the oldest organ in Romania. The great acoustics of the church made it an ideal place for concerts and plays.
Sheltering protected species like wolves, lynx, bears and capercaillie, a one-day escape in the Cândrel Mountains is a great opportunity to hike among dense forests and climb spectacular peaks. You can begin your journey in Păltiniș, a starting point for promenades and the oldest ski resort in the country, wandering around and admiring the beautiful 19th-century villas. In winter, Păltiniș is a great option for beginner and intermediate skiers, featuring large, wonderful slopes.
Crossed by the Olt Valley, Cozia Natural Park is sprinkled with natural gems. Steep rocks, fortress-like massifs as Cozia and Călinești and dramatic valleys come together in amazing sceneries. If you like hiking, you can take the routes that cross the Lotrișorului Gorges or go towards Cozia Peak. The Natural Park also shields one of the most beautiful forests in Romania, Cozia Forest. High beech, oak and birch trees with endless roots shelter a rich fauna and flora that has given birth to a unique natural heritage, part of the UNESCO Heritage List.
Romania’s smallest National Park is overflowing with natural wonders. Most areas in the park are highly protected, preserving natural habitats, virgin forests and endemic species of wildlife. Its highest peaks, Buila Peak, as high as 1,849 metres (6,066 feet) and Vânturărița Mare Peak, measuring 1,885 metres (6,184 feet) dominate the area and can be reached by foot. Several marked paths lead towards the park’s peaks and valleys, allowing the traveller to explore it without damaging its natural habitats.
If you are a history buff, then a trip to Deva Citadel and Hunedoara Castle should make you happy. Your first stop should be the Deva fortress. Located on an extinct volcanic cone, at around 400 metres, Deva Citadel had a military role and, over time, it has been one of the Transylvanian voivode’s residences. In the 17th-century, when the Turks conquered several Transylvanian citadels, Deva was only that remained unoccupied. Nowadays, the citadel is under restoration but can be admired from Deva city.
Near Deva, in the city of Hunedoara, you can visit one of the most iconic castles of Romania, erected by the Hunyadi family. Spread over 7,000 square metres and featuring 42 rooms, the Corvin Castle is the place where supposedly Vlad the Impaler was imprisoned for several years.
Southern Transylvania’s villages are dotted with majestic fortified churches, a remarkable heritage left by the Saxon colonists in the region. Arriving in Transylvania in the 12th and 13th centuries, the Saxons were called upon by the Hungarian rulers of the era to protect the southern border of the realm. Picturesque Saxon villages like Hosman, Alțâna, Cincu and Cârța boast traditional houses and majestic fortified churches. With a history dating back to the 13th-century, when Cistercian monks founded the monastery, Cârța had a major role in the politics and economics of medieval Transylvania and also in the spread of Gothic architecture in the region. Today, only a chapel is left, still used by the Saxon evangelic community.
Not as well known as Transfăgărășan but no less impressive, Transalpina road is the highest in the country. Built under King Carol II, Translapina is also known as the ‘King Road’. Cutting through the Parâng Mountains, Transalpina reaches its highest point in the Urdele Pass, at 2,145 metres (7,037 feet). A ride on Transalpina offers breathtaking views of the Parâng and Făgăraș Mountains.
A two-hour drive from Sibiu, in Sighișoara you can stroll inside the best preserved Medieval citadel of Europe, still inhabited. With its beautiful, coloured houses, cobbled streets, majestic walls and centuries-old towers, Sighișoara Citadel is just mesmerising. The fortress was the birthplace of the Wallachian ruler Vlad the Impaler, that allegedly inspired the creation of Dracula’s character. Don’t miss the History Museum inside the Clock Tower and prepare your camera for the stunning views that open before your eyes once you get to the top.