After already falling in love with Romania when we explored the trendy capital of Bucharest we were keen to head out in to Transylvania where the read adventure was to begin. Here Romania really took our hearts with its fairytale medieval streets, freindly locals, traditional culture, tales of Dracula and of course the stunning mountains and countryside that completely blew us away. Romania it turns out hit the top spot in our 4 month adventure around Europe, ticking every possible box! Here is a guide to our base in the area: Brasov
When you find yourself in beautiful and mysterious Transylvania there is really only one place you have to head to: Dracula’s castle of course! Jump on the local bus for around £2 and head to the sleepy village of Bran that sits within the Carpathian mountains. Here you will discover the stunning Bran Castle, first documented in 1377 the castle has been through so much history, from defending the area from the Ottomans to housing the royal family!
The ties to Vlad the Impaler might be a little weak, but it is known that he stayed here for a little while and it lives up to all your Transylvanian dreams!! Head over the road and hike the short route up the the cruxifix on the hillside for the best views of this imposing medieval castle!
Hiking in the Carpathian mountains in Busteni
Heading to Transylvanian? Then you should pack your hiking boots too! This while region is set within the stunning Carpathian mountains, a range steeping in rugged beauty and history. One of the best places to take it in is the Alpine village of Busteni, if you missed the large Romanian flag flying in the shadow of the huge peaks you would be forgiven for thinking you were in the heart of the French, Italian or Swiss alps…but instead of costing a fortune and being packed full of tourists, here everything is affordable and you are surrounded only my locals!
We hiked up the challenging route up to Baba Mare (2293m/ 7.520ft), this path takes you through the forested area before you climb thorough the steep valleys on a series of scrambles using wires and chains. In parts it does resemble an easy Via Ferata, but the hike itself is one of the most sustained in the area and starts just near to the cable car headed to Cabana Babele. The impressive hike took us through some frankly jaw dropping scenery and was our highest peak to date taking 4 hrs to reach the summit. Luckily you can take the cable car back down to Busteni before getting back on the bus to Brasov!
Read more here: Hiking in the Carpathian Mountains
Explore the Transfagarasan highway
Known as the best road in the world, this twisting and turning highway runs through the mountains of Transylvania was built in the 1970’s by the country’s crazy leader Ceaușescu as both a military route but more importantly as a tool of propaganda.
At an elevation of 2,042 metres (6,699 ft) it is the second highest road in the country and is dotted with tight hairpin bends, long S-curves, and sharp descents that attract bikers and driving enthusiasts from all over the world. Especially after it featured in an episode of top Gear a few years back!
We took an amazing road trip though the tiny villages of Transylvania to make our way to this magnificent highway. Little did we know there was also a professional cycling event on at the same time and we luckily got through the barriers before the race with just a few moments to spare.
Read more here: Adventure at the Transfagarasan highway!
Hike almost 2500m/ 7933ft and take in Bâlea Lake and the highway below
We hiked the circle path up to Lezerul Caprei at 2418m for an absolutely magnificent view of Balea lake and the Transylvania Alps. After exploring the Transfagarasan highway below we looks up at the stunning mountains that surrounded us and realised we just had to explore further. Hiking up for over 2hrs we found ourselves in the heart of the Carpathian mountains once again, the jagged peaks seemed to roll out in front of us in an endless stream of natural beauty.
Reaching the peak at almost 8000ft high we once again topped our highest summit and from here the view was one of the greatest we have ever had the privilege of taking in. Not only could you see the panoramic of the mountainside but looking down towards where we can came the joint sight of the glacial lake of Balea and the winding Transfagarasan beyond was the culmination of what has to be one of our greatest ever days!
Head up to the “Brasov” sign on Mount Tampa
Reachable via a 45 minute hike or a short cable car ride the large “Brasov” sign that resembles that of the more famous one in the hills of Hollywood is available for all. Whether to choose to use your own feet or take the easy way out heading up Mount Tampa allows an unforgettable panoramic view over this wonderful city.
At 960 m (3,150 ft) this forested peak is a protected nature reserve that is home to many rare species of animals, birds, butterflies and plants. The routes to the summit number over 25 and were first cut back in 1837 making this trail both historic and beautiful!
Discover the beautiful Council Square, the city hall and the surrounding churches
The main square and meeting place in Brasov this spot has held markets since 1364 and has a long and rich history. Here over the years the square has not only been used for markets but for public punishments, witches trials and beheadings. The most important buildings in the square are the Council House dating from 1420, the Black Church constructed in the late 14th century as well as the many medieval buildings that surround the square.
A hub for local life for hundreds of years even today it is the centre of the social life of Brasov, the now pedestrianised streets that fan off the square all lead to the heartbeat of the city. Restaurants, bars and cafes line the streets in the stunning ancient buildings. It is local folklore that the children the Pied Piper of Hamelin lead away from their German village reappeared in this square!
Wander around the medieval streets of this beautiful city
The real beauty of Brasov is to just wander around the stunning medieval streets of the city, exploring the narrow cobbled alleyways is like stepping into a fairytale.
The city is dotted with amazing buildings with highly detailed facades, carved and hand painted they have been remarkably preserved to create a magical place to visit. Brasov with its centuries old architecture and stunning mountainside setting is exactly what you expect and dream of Transylvania being!
A city we could live in and would love to return to!
Visiting Brasov and having the most amazing week here really cemented Romania as one of our favourite countries in the world. We felt that it offers almost everything you could want in a country. It has amazing modern cities which have preserved their rich history whilst moving into the 21st century with youthful vigour. Then there are the traditional villages, farms and houses dotted all through the countryside, the gypsy way of life still thriving in this beautiful region.
Then there are the mountains, high and mighty they offer hiking, adventure and views on par with the Alpine region. The comes the cost, Romania is a cheap country to visit and your money is sure to take you far. The people are also beyond freindly and approachable, oh, and did we mention it also has a coast too! I think we’ve found where we want to live!!
Where to stay
When heading to Brasov there is really only one hostel to stay in, the wonderful Kismet Dao. This lovely place has a hippy and relaxed atmosphere with a lovely garden, chill out room down stairs out of the way of the dorms, large kitchen and staff that know their stuff! It is also a great place to meet fellow travellers who are up for an adventure. If it wasn’t for staying in this fantastic hostel then we wouldn’t have had the opportunities to visit some of the amazing places we did!
Check them out here: