Written by Bradt Travel Guides
Transylvania has something to offer every traveller. An ideal escape from the hectic Western world, visitors can enjoy a slower pace of life in traditional villages, whilst those seeking outdoor adventure can find it in the surrounding mountains. No matter what you’re looking for, here are five reasons to start planning your trip to this intriguing destination.
Explore the cobbled streets of Braşov
Braşov’s central square © Calin Stan, Shutterstock
Braşov combines a delightful historic city centre around the Gothic Black Church with a great natural setting at the base of Mount Tâmpa. Those visiting the city can spend time exploring the towers and bastions of the medieval walls, eating and drinking in some great bars and restaurants located in picturesque settings and wandering through the pedestrianised cobbled streets of the Old Town.
Drive on ‘the best road in the world’
Jeremy Clarkson dubbed the Transfăgărăşan Highway the ‘best road in the world’ © Rechitan Sorin, Shutterstock
One for the thrill-seekers, the Transfăgărăşan Highway was boosted to international fame in 2009 when Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson enthusiastically pronounced it ‘the best road in the world’. Climbing to a height of some 2,042m, it is the second-highest paved road in Romania, and makes for a spectacular drive. Both because of the spectacular nature of the scenery and the challenging features of the road, with its numerous hairpin turns and steep ascents, conquering the Transfăgărăşan has become a target not just for drivers and motorcyclists, but is also a frequent component of charitable cycling challenges, and you may even see people attempting the climb using even more difficult means of transport, like roller skis.
Step back in time at the region’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites
The church and village of Biertan were inscribed on the UNESCO list in 1993 © cge2010, Shutterstock
In Transylvania, visitors can explore three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The first is villages with fortified churches, focused on villages founded by Transylvanian Saxons, and dominated by fortified churches which date from the 13th to 16th centuries. The church and village of Biertan were inscribed on the UNESCO list in 1993, and in 1999 this was extended with a further six villages. The second, also inscribed in 1999, is the historic centre of Sighişoara, recognising the town as a fine example of a fortified medieval settlement. The final Transylvanian site on the UNESCO list, which also joined the elite ranks of World Heritage Sites in 1999, is the Dacian fortresses of the Orăştie Mountains, a list of six fortresses including, and clustered around, the Dacian capital of Sarmizegetusa Regia.
Adventure in the great outdoors
The Carpathian Mountains offer great hiking © Dan Tautan, Shutterstock
Transylavnia is surrounded by mountains, making it the ideal destination for those wishing to be active. The Carpathian and Apuseni mountains offer great hiking opportunities, with everything from climbing 2,500m peaks to more gentle walking across flower-filled lowland meadows. The most popular ranges for hiking include the Bucegi, Făgăraş, Retezat and Apuseni mountains, and the Piatra Craiului range, and feature well-marked hiking routes of different levels of difficulty and networks of cabană mountain huts to spend the night in. For those seeking something different, the region also offers rafting, skiing and even caving opportunities.
Experience life in a traditional mountain village
A group of women playing the tulnic, a mountain instrument akin to an alpenhorn © Photosebia, Shutterstock
The distinctive mountain environments of the Apuseni are associated with an equally distinctive ethnic group, the Moţi. Villages here are found at altitudes of up to 1,400m, unusually high in Romanian terms, where settlements more characteristically huddle on valley floors. Distinctive elements of Moţi culture include tall, steep-sided straw roofs on traditional houses, and the tulnic, a musical instrument in the shape of a long tapering pipe, somewhat akin in function to an alpenhorn. The most famous cultural festival of the region, the Mount Găina Girls’ Fair, traditionally features a tulnic chorus at dawn.
Inspired to visit Transylvania? Check out our guide for more information: