Romania is a country with a huge diversity of wildlife and cultures and a way of life that seemingly has changed little since years past. Transylvania's castles balance precariously on stony outcrops lording it over picturesque Saxon villages and their fortified churches. Hiking trails lead through meadows and forests teeming with wildlife and over hills to isolated hamlets and beautiful monasteries. The marshes of the Danube Delta provide sanctuary to numerous bird and fish species while elsewhere a host of medieval towns sport cobbled walkways and chic cafes. Romania is enigmatic to say the least, Europe's undiscovered jewel.
best time to travel
The best time to visit Romania is from April to October. Blossom time at lower altitudes is in April, later higher up in the mountains. Bird watching in the Danube Delta is at its peak in late May. Summers are sunny and hot and a good time for hiking in the mountains.
places to go
A remarkable blend of turn of the century elegance and communist excess, the country's capital is noisy and chaotic. It is home to some terrific museums, the fascinating Village Museum and of course the second-largest administrative building in the world and former dictator Ceauşescu's folly: the Palace of Parliament. The city has some of the best nightlife in the Balkans.
Painted monasteries of Bucovina
Set within pristine landscapes, the UNESCO listed painted monasteries of Bucovina are famous for their incredibly detailed and colourful outdoor frescoes. The 15th and 16th century paintings feature Orthodox saints, prophets, scenes from the life of Jesus and even a depiction of the 15th century siege of Constantinople.
Wooden churches of Maramureş
An isolated region of huge forests, close to the Ukrainian border, Maramureş's landscape is dominated by beautiful wooden churches. The area is regarded as Romania's most traditional region; indeed you may at times feel you have travelled back several centuries in to a Brothers Grimm fairy tale.
Old cobbled streets leading to opulent baroque squares where beautiful architecture and terrific museums abound. Lively festivals, the workings of traditional guildspersons and a vibrant nightlife all conspire to make the old Saxon town of Sibiu an extraordinary place.
This UNESCO-protected old town is intrinsically linked with the story of Vlad Ţepeş, better known to us as Dracula. It is an atmospheric place full of ramparts, towers and spires as well as craft shops and 500-year old cafés. Wander its stony lanes past pastel-coloured buildings, climb a medieval tower or hike to its hilltop church and see what makes Sighişoara so special.
Fortified churches & Saxon villages
In the lush hills that make up southern Transylvania you will find dozens of ancient Saxon villages, seemingly forgotten hamlets and age-old farm houses. Towns are centered on fantastic fortified churches sporting spiralling towers and defensive walls, while up in the hills farmers ply their trades as they have for centuries. Biertan and Viscri are two of the best preserved Saxon towns.
Braşov & Bran Castle
Surrounded by mountains and boasting an old town rich in Gothic, baroque and renaissance architecture, Braşov is one of Transylvania’s most appealing cities. Visit the famous Black Church or make a trip to nearby Bran Castle, which, perched on a cliff, dominates the surrounding scenery.
Peleş Castle, Sinaia
Richly decorated Peleş castle is Romania's most opulent palace. Resembling a Bavarian chateau it was once the refuge for Ceauşescu and visiting dignitaries.
Where the Danube meets the Black Sea, the river meanders lazily through its reed beds, a beautiful landscape teeming with fabulous bird and wildlife. Peak season for birdwatching in late May while year round you can visit some of the hamlets sprinkled throughout the Delta, some of the most remote settlements in Europe.
Hike the hills
Whether you come to hike the spectacular peaks of the Făgăraş mountains, walk the dense forests of the rolling Bucovina hills or explore the Carpathians in search of wildlife you will be sure to enjoy the first class hiking trails Romania has to offer. Witness farmers cutting grass by scythe, walk through hamlets forgotten by time and enjoy spectacular views. Romania is certain to impress even the most spoiled hiker.
Vişeu de Sus train ride
A ride on this forestry railway takes you through the Vaser Valley, one of the most wild and beautiful landscapes in Romania. Jump aboard and chug through the dense forests past the cascading river and its steep cliffs on this narrow gauge steam train.
Deep inside Romania's forests, brown bears and wolves abound, while in the Danube Delta some of Europe's most prolific birdlife can be found.
Village home stays
In hamlets and villages where time seemingly has stood still since the Middle Ages, you have the chance to stay in village homes and farm houses, where delicious home-cooked food complements the relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
Visit a castle or fortified church
No visit to Romania, and specifically Transylvania, is complete without a visit to one of its many atmospheric castles or fortified churches.
Many sites in Romania are linked to the story of Vlad Ţepeş (The Impaler), better known to us as Dracula. See for yourself if it is Bran Castle, the town of Sighişoara or one of the many other places that associate themselves with one of Romania's most notorious citizens.
Experience folk and Gypsy music
The lively and irrepressible sounds of Romanian folk and Gypsy music are a must-have experience.
Cycle through Saxon villages, past spectacular castles and fortified churches and stop to admire breathtaking views. Meet shepherds as they watch over their sheep and experience a way of life little changed from times past, all while leisurely cycling the backroads of this picturesque country.
With snow blanketing the pastures, farmsteads and woodland of Transylvania, the landscape is reborn as a winter wonderland where you can hike or snowshoe to small villages, into gorges, through valleys and up mountains, visiting castles and perhaps a bear sanctuary along the way.
Food, glorious food
Romanian cuisine is a blend of its farm roots and convoluted history. Meals start with ciorbă, a sour soup with meat or fish. Cabbage roles (sarmale) are the national dish while tochitură is a thick pork stew cooked in a spicy tomato or wine sauce, topped with a fried egg. Corn meal mush, mămăligă, is eaten with gravy, stews or sour cream. Salads are plentiful, as are good desserts. Finally, don't forget street foods such as mici (grilled rolls of minced meat served with a piece of bread and mustard, and shoarma. For drinks try some of the ever-improving local wines, beer or ţuică (plum brandy)