Did you ever think that Romania could be your next holiday destination? If your answer is yes, then you probably want to consider the next list with 10 things to do in Romania and add some to your itinerary. If not, January is a perfect moment to set new goals and add new things on the bucket list, so maybe one of the next activities will convince you to add this Eastern European country on your list.
You probably need one week to explore the country, but if you have more time available you can fill it with other activities. But some of the things you should do once you arrive in Romania include:
Drive on the most beautiful road in the world: Transfagarasan
Voted the most beautiful road in the world by Top Gear, Transfagarasan is a mountain road that connects Transylvania and Muntenia, two historical lands in Romania. The road is closed from November until July because of snow. Even during summer, you must be a good driver to drive on it, but the narrow curves and breathtaking landscape will reward your gut.
The most beautiful part starts at Capra chalet with a steep climbing until you reach the highest point: Balea chalet. From Balea chalet, you can take the beautiful pictures seen all over the internet: a winding road descending in Transylvania, framed by high mountains. Once you pass in Transylvania you have two options: Sibiu or Brasov, both medieval cities, both known for their long history and well-preserved old town.
Wander on the colorful streets of Sibiu
Sibiu is one of the most interesting cities in Romania and my personal favorite. It has a large square surrounded by the most important buildings in town: an art museum, the city hall and colorful houses. It hosts the most beautiful Christmas market in Romania and its old town keeps the medieval atmosphere from a long time ago. The best part about it is that it can be used as a base to explore other places in Transylvania. If you want to know what things you can do in Sibiu read here.
Go underground in an amusement park (Turda salt mine)
Turda salt mine is not the biggest salt mine in Romania, nor the oldest, but it is the most modern one! Visiting Turda salt mine is an experience you won’t forget too soon. Underground, besides exploring the old chambers of the mine, you can play different games, practice sports and even take a boat ride. Salt mines are used for curing breathing diseases and some even have beds where patients can spend the night. Turda salt mine doesn’t have beds to sleep there and it was designed more for entertainment purposes. So, all the exercises you are doing inside, breathing the salty air, are not only fun but also extraordinary for your health.
Visit one of the most beautiful medieval castles in the world (Corvin castle)
Located in Hunedoara, a small town that doesn’t have any other tourist attractions, Corvin castle is a real discovery for all the ones who visit it. You wouldn’t expect to find such a medieval wonder in an industrial city, but there it is! With amazing architecture, the great history behind it and even a moat that surrounds it, the castle has all the elements of a fairy tale site. Inside you can see a weapon and armor collection, visit the ladies’ room, discover one by one all the towers and even enter the torture chamber.
If you plan to take your kids on this journey, probably this will be their favorite place in Romania. And for those planning to get married, the castle can be rented if you want to feel like Prince Charming and Cinderella on your wedding day.
Explore the wild landscape of Danube Delta
Danube Delta is the meeting point between the Black Sea and the Danube, a river that crosses 10 countries in Europe. This delta is also the newest land in Europe and every year it gains few centimeters back from the water. It is a place with no cars, few people and many animals: a water kingdom. You can take long boat rides from Tulcea, the main city of the region, explore the channels and do bird watching or just get excited when you see the big white pelicans.
Another place you can explore here is Letea, a virgin forest with wild horses. And when your boat trip ends at the Black Sea you will meet savage beaches, with golden sand just for you. Some people come to Romania and spend their whole holiday here, in the Danube Delta
Visit the second-largest building in the world in Bucharest
Bucharest, the capital of Romania, is a city famous for its nightlife. But if you land here and spend some time, you will learn that Bucharest has also interesting places to visit. One of them is the Parliament Palace, a gigantic building, a legacy from the communist era. Its purpose was to protect the Romanian dictator from that time, Nicolae Ceausescu, in case of another earthquake. A whole neighborhood was destroyed to make space for it, but it was named the House of People. Today it hosts the Romanian Parliament. Inside you will see opulent rooms with huge chandeliers, 6-meter long drapes and a labyrinth of halls.
Spend a night in a traditional village in Transylvania
Transylvania became known around the world when Bram Stoker chose it as the homeland for his vampire Dracula. But once you start to travel here, you will see that this region has nothing to do with vampires and a lot to do with traditions, good, natural food and green landscapes.
To enjoy all that you should spend a night in one of Transylvania’s beautiful villages and sleep in a traditional B&B. For breakfast, you will have local products: delicious cheese and homemade bread and jam. You will want to take the day off and just explore the nature around and the way people are living here. In the triangle Sibiu Cluj Targu Mures you’ll find some interesting places to stay.
Discover the castle of the best-known vampire in the world (Dracula’s castle)
And once you have seen the real magic of Transylvania, you can also visit the castle of its best-known vampire, Dracula. Bran castle is the most visited attraction in Romania, even though the medieval construction has almost no connection with Dracula. Vlad the Impaler is a Romanian ruler who inspired the Dracula character with his cruelty and pleasure for torture. But in Romania, Vlad is known more as a traditional ruler, eager for justice, and ready to do anything against thieves. That made him unpopular for some.
When Bram Stoker wrote his novel “Dracula”, he described Bran castle as being the vampire’s “cave”. However, Bran castle never hosted Vlad the Impaler. The castle is connected to the Royal family of Romania and with Queen Mary. Going inside you will visit the chambers, the interior court, and even a secret passage. You will also discover how Queen Mary left her heart at Bran castle.
But if you are a fan of the vampire novel, you must know that just 100 kilometers away from Bran, on Transfagarasan, you can see the fortress belonging to Vlad the Impaler: Poenari fortress. Today it is also called “the real castle of Dracula”.
Take a ride with an old steam strain in Maramures
Another region in Romania that deserves a visit is Maramures. Located in the northern part of the country, Maramures greets its guests with big, wooden gates, a merry cemetery and old, wooden churches, UNESCO heritage sites. It is a perfect place if you want to relax. And once you get there, you can also live an experience perfect for a half-day: a ride with a steam train. Mocanita, as the train is called in Romanian, was used 100 years ago to transport the wood from the mountains.
The journey starts in the morning and as the train follows its tracks, the houses are left behind and green, unexplored forests replace them. The train stops on a meadow where people have two hours of free time to eat (barbeque is served there), lay on the grass and listen to traditional Romanian music. There is no phone signal and no connection with the world, just the opportunity to connect back to nature. The old train will take you back in the civilized world in the afternoon, but you will feel a little sad that you left all that green behind!
Hike in the Carpathians to see a natural wonder (the Sphinx)
If you are a mountain lover, the Carpathians offer a wide range of mountain trails for all tastes. A natural wonder just 150 kilometers away from Bucharest is the Sphinx, a natural stone carved by wind in the shape of a human face. You can get there to see it by cable car, driving until a certain point and walking a half-hour or after a long trail from Busteni, a mountain resort on the way from Bucharest to Brasov. In the Carpathians, you have a thousand opportunities to go hiking!
Romania may be very surprising—you just need to give it a chance and you will fall in love with it!
By Corina Preda
Corina writes on her blog Another Milestone about family travel in Europe, for working moms that want to wander, for fathers in search of new destinations and for curious children. She lives in Bucharest and does also does travel consulting and design for those who want to visit Romania. You can follow her blog on Pinterest and Facebook.