Transylvania is one of the most famous regions of Romania, thanks to the ubiquitous obsession with vampires. And although now it is more known to foreign tourists than in Stoker’s times, this beautiful mountainous area is still less popular than it deserves to be. Catch your chance to enjoy Transylvania before the crowds of tourists discover and spoil it! Our guide will help you plan an ideal trip.
Arriving in Transylvania
The most conveniently located base for exploring Transylvania is Brașov. However, the airport there is still under construction as of summer 2017 and there is no telling when it will be finished. Therefore, you’ll have to use airports in Cluj-Napoca, Sibiu, or Târgu Mureș. There are also fast trains connecting Brașov to Bucharest (2.5 hours).
In and around Brașov
Brașov can boast a beautiful historical center that was built by German knights in the 13th century. You can stroll along the remains of the city walls or get lost in the narrow streets full of restaurants with delicious food. Black Church, one of the highlights of the city, is the largest Gothic church in Southeast Europe. But the true treasure of Brașov is the view from the top of Tampa mountain. There is a funicular going to the observation deck or you can climb it yourself in under an hour.
Castles, Castles, Castles…
Probably everybody coming to Transylvania wants to bask in the atmosphere of medieval castle life that has made it famous. Most tourists go to the over-priced Bran castle, THE Dracula castle some 40 mins drive from Brașov. However, in reality, this castle is in no way related either to Stoker’s classic or the historical figure that was its inspiration – Vlad II Dracul. However cute, Bran castle experience is completely ruined by the crowds of tourists and kilometers of merchandise, so it would be wise to skip it if you’re not a fan of either. There are better and calmer castles to visit, promise!
Râșnov castle is situated on a hill in the same valley as Bran castle and is much bigger. One can get there from Brașov on a bus and then take a funicular uphill. Unlike in Bran castle, here you can enjoy a full view of the valley without being pushed about by pesky tourists.
The complex of Peleș Castle, Pelișor Castle, and the Foișor Hunting Lodge is also a good one-day trip destination from Brașov. These castles were built later than Bran and Râșnov, in the 19th century, and they have a very fairy-tale air about them. Do buy a ticket to go inside, as the interiors are very pretty too.
Făgăraș mountain ridge is heaven for hikers and car lovers alike. Mountaineering enthusiasts will find a lot of routes of varying difficulty and length here, all accommodated with comfy chalets and campsites. Petroșani is a great launching point for some of the most exciting hiking routes.
If your heart leaps at the sound of a motor roaring when it goes uphill, then rent a car and go on Transfăgărășan road, the most beautiful road in the world if you are to believe Top Gear. Be careful, as the road is only open in summer, and you have to be a confident driver and not afraid of heights. The entry to the road is between Brașov and Sibiu. On the top, the tunnel leads you to the other side of the ridge, where, if you go down the valley, you can enjoy the view from Vidraru dam and visit Poenari castle – if you’re tough enough to make it up 1500 steps. You can get back to Brașov through Bran valley or through Cozia Park valley.
Sighișoara and Sibiu
In under 3 hours from Brașov lies another beautiful medieval city – Sighișoara. Here you can see where Vlad II lived in exile and also enjoy exploring the old gates and fortifications. Try climbing one of the hills surrounding the city to enjoy the view of this UNESCO site from the distance.
Sibiu is also easily reachable from Brașov and deserves at least half a day of your time. If you have more, make a day trip to the gorgeous Corvin castle, for a very Harry Potter-esque experience.
Tired of medieval stuff? Dive into the energetic and relaxed atmosphere of a modern student capital of Transylvania – Cluj-Napoca. Here you can find great restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. And if you’re more fond of the outside, you can taste the delicious street food and visit numerous festivals in Central Park. Although mostly loved for its atmosphere, the city is not devoid of touristic attractions either. Alexandru Borza Botanical Garden is just gorgeous, and day trips to Turda Salt Mines and Turda Gorge can become the best experiences of your trip.