The real Transylvania, the land beyond the forest, is a place captured within the sheltering arc of the Carpathian Mountains. Its upland forests hold some of Europe’s most important populations of bears, wolves and lynx, while further down the hillsides its meadows, still cut by scythe, play host to a late spring pageant of glorious wild flowers.

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Transylvania, literally the ‘land beyond the forest’, is a wild, wooded, romantic region, filled with mountains, gorges and valleys, myths and legends, bears, wolves – some say werewolves too – and legends of dragons and vampires.

The land that time forgot is a rural paradise: Bram Stoker called it: “one of the wildest and least-known parts of Europe” and little has changed in a century. Considered by many the most beautiful region in Eastern Europe, Transylvania preserves its medieval cultural and artistic treasures in an unspoilt landscape. The real Transylvania is more intriguing than any fairytale and it’s the perfect holiday destination for those travellers wanting to escape the modern high tech world.

Visitors can discover the spooky Murderer’s Lake, wander through hidden Saxon villages of Biertan and Viscri, slip into frescoed interiors of fortress churches or soothe weary limbs at scenic spa resorts. The more adventurous travellers can climb along the precipitous walls of Bran Castle and seek out the myth behind the bloodthirsty Count Dracula. Holidaymakers can even stay with a real-life Transylvanian count, in a British prince’s guesthouse or live it up at a boutique hotel in a sensitively-restored medieval city such as Sibiu or Brasov.

A highlight is the chance to experience true Transylvanian hospitality; visitors can explore the mountains, go bird-watching, bear-tracking and looking for lynx, led by expert local guides, then enjoy Transylvanian hospitality; home-cooking with delicious fresh vegetables, fruits, cheeses and meats, washed down with herbal teas and fiery spirits.

It’s possible to trek or horse-ride for miles through untouched, fence-free mountain wilderness in four outstanding national parks, while two giant salt mines at Praid and Turda offer an unusual glimpse into Transylvania’s underworld. Transylvania is bordered on three sides by the Carpathian Mountains and holds Romania’s best hiking and skiing holiday destinations. The slopes and resorts are perfect for young families and the scenery guarantees the trip of a lifetime.

Lucy Mallows and Paul Brummell

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