9 days road trip through mystical Transylvania - from castles to medieval towns
- + 8
Europe9 days / August 2019
Highs & Lows
Dracula's Castle is a must visit, but don't miss the spectacular Peles Castle
The roads in Romania are very bad and there are few portions of highways, so getting around is slower that you'd expect
You'd be surprised how many people still think Transylvania is a fantasy land, conjured up by Bram Stocker as the homeland of Dracula. But Transylvania is very much a real place and it represents almost one third of Romania. It translates from Latin as "the land across the forest" and while you may not find vampires here, you'll have plenty of traditions to explore and historical places to visit.
We started our journey in Timisoara, Mara's hometown and the westernmost city in Romania, which will be the European Capital of Culture in 2023. From there we drove with our family eastwards through Deva on to Sibiu, the former European Capital of Culture in 2007.
Then we went up north to Bistrita, stopping in Alba Iulia, where the Great Romanian Union was signed in 1918, and at the otherworldly salt mine at Turda. If you have time, make sure you stop in Cluj Napoca, but we skipped it since we were pressed with time.
From Bistrita we drove back south to visit probably some of the most famous tourist sites in Transylvania: the mediaval town of Sighisoara, Dracula's Castle in Bran and the Peles Castle in Sinaia. While there, make sure you don't miss the Rasnov fortress and the scenic Bucegi mountains.
We ended the trip with a couple of days in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, after a roadtrip of around 1,000km.
Q & A
What would you have changed?
The road trip was quite tiring since we covered 1000km in little over a week. There are many sights we wanted to tick off but it would have been nice to spend more time in certain locations like around Sinaia and Bran. We would recommend to extend this to at least 2-3 weeks to pace yourself.
Anything go wrong during the trip?
Even though we stayed just a few minutes away from Bran Castle, we didn't book tickets in advance and we got there at 10am when the queue was already very long so we had to wait in line for 2 hours.
How was the food?
Food in Romania is cheap, diverse and delicious, so you can't go wrong with local restaurants. In Timisoara don't miss Fabrica de Bere or Curtea Berarilor restaurants for an authentic experience and local beers. The restaurant at Conacul Bratescu where we stayed in Bran was very good, though may be hard to find. In Bucharest, Carul cu Bere is an insitution and a must try!
What tips would you give a friend?
Hire local guides wherever available, they are usually very well informed and passionate about the local culture and sights. You'll learn a lot from them and maybe even see things off the beaten path.
Pack for all seasons! Even if you plan to travel during the summer, make sure to pack several layers especially if you are going in the mountains. The weather can change quickly and drop 10 degrees from one day to another.
Driving is the most practical way to get around the country so you don't depend on unreliable train schedules. But it's also a dangerous journey since there are very few highways and the roads are often poorly maintained. Alternatively, you can use the trains but don't expect timeliness or cleanliness.
The food is very cheap! We paid on average 40 euros for 4 persons at a meal, including drinks!
We booked everything directly through booking.com