Home to a deeply diverse landscape, rich with history, and unspoiled by mass tourism Romania is a country every traveler needs to visit.
From the dark shadowy depths of its virgin forests to idyllic green meadows, from rolling foothills of the Carpathians to the wetlands of the Danube Delta, Romania’s landscape is inundated with vibrant color, charming character, and fascinating relics of a history steeped in human machination. This is a country with an expansive and storied past, one that is etched symbiotically into the landscape. The remains of a time bygone are plentiful, nowhere more so than in Transylvania, where a multitude of restored towns and castles bring the past to the present.
Somewhat paradoxically Romania is also a brand new country in some ways. Reborn after the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, the scars Romania carries from fifty years of communist dictatorship are still fresh.
A fascinating amalgamation of very old and new, Romania is standing on the edge of a huge tourism boom. Once known only to a few savvy travelers, the secret is getting out, and when it does the flood gates will open.
This summer we were fortunate enough to spend nearly three months living in Romania, a country we knew next to nothing about just weeks prior to our arrival. Our experience was, without any hyperbole, truly fantastic. The country exceeded all of our expectations in almost every way, and ended up on our short list of favorite places.
Thus, we recommend you visit Romania. Now. Before it becomes a trendy destination, overly crowded with admirers. And maybe plan on going more than once. In our time there we only scratched the surface of all the incredible sights, history, and experiences Romania has to offer.
The following represents our personal opinion of what makes the country great, and why everyone should visit Romania, with the caveat that we have much more left to explore.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind of when you think of Transylvania? Unless you’re Romanian, chances are the word brings up images of a certain blood sucking monster, the grandfather of a thousand and one stories about vampires.
After spending time in Transylvania, however, this correlation is all but wiped from our minds. Yes, the Legend of Dracula is alive and well in the small town of Bran, and invoked to drive tourism to Bran Castle, one of the inspirations for the castle in Bram Stroker’s mythical story. For the most part, however, this is where the relationship between Transylvania and Dracula ends.
Nestled snugly in the rocky embrace of the Carpathian Mountain range, which carve a backwards “C” right through the middle of the country, Transylvania seems like a land that has been preserved in a time capsule, its ancient traditions held in stasis by the rocky embrace of the massive stone sentinels. The region is dotted with proud castles and regal churches, old villages and mysterious monasteries.
Historic Brasov, grandiose Sibiu (pictured at the very top of this article), and tiny Sighișoara are filled to the brim with ambiance and charm. Colorful old buildings, tiny cobble-stoned side streets, and old churches adorn these lovely Transylvanian towns.
The pristine mountains and virgin forests of Transylvania represent Europe’s last true wilderness. The Carpathians are home to 60% of Europe’s brown bear population, 40% of Europe’s wolves and 35% of its lynx, all roaming the unspoiled landscape, harking back to a time where man had not yet gentrified the wild, but lived surrounded by it.
Prince Charles, who fell in love with Transylvania, once said that he was “totally overwhelmed by its unique beauty and its extraordinarily rich heritage”. We could not think of a better way to phrase it. And we praise the Prince of Wales for donating so much time and energy into preserving Transylvanian villages and tradition through his organizations.
Yes, Transylvania is incredible. It took all of one train ride from Bucharest to Brasov to leave us enamored with this region, and even though we explored it for over three weeks there was so much we did not get a chance to see.
We have waxed poetic about our fascination with the architecture of this city at length, but there is far more to Romania’s capital than just interesting old buildings.
Before we arrived we heard mixed opinions about Bucharest. Some said it was dirty and warned us that the communist style housing blocks were an eyesore best avoided, still others told us tales of rude locals and scamming taxi drivers. We also heard that the city was great, the people were open and interesting, the ambiance palatable, the nightlife vibrant. With so much conflicting information coming in we did not know what to expect.
For the first couple of hours Bucharest felt a bit like a post-apocalyptic city; crumbling away while verdant mother nature embraced its steel and stony bones. After a few hours of walking around, however, we realized we absolutely loved the aesthetic. The more we explored, the larger our appreciation grew. Within hours we found juicy peaches at a lush farmers market, drank dollar draft beers in a tranquil leafy cafe garden, and saw more cool looking architecture in a square kilometer than we could shake our cameras at.
There is a palatable energy in the city and ambiance not easily ignored. We were never bored, and the nightlife kept us more than entertained during the dog days of summer.
All reports of rude locals turned out to be extremely over-stated. In fact, we found that talking to people was very easy in Bucharest, with many of the folks there happy to put their knowledge of the English language to use. Engaging with others was easy and welcomed.
So, after seven weeks of living in Bucharest our parting was bittersweet. This once mysterious city has won a permanent place in our hearts, and a spot on our ‘Favorite Cities in the World’ list.
Castles and Fortified Churches
The Romanian countryside is deeply saturated with history, densely populated with incredible castles, and packed with picturesque fortified churches. Anyone who has ever geeked out over medieval architecture, or has fantasized of re-enacting scenes from Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, needs to do themselves a favor and visit the hundred and one castles of Romania.
There is the above mentioned Bran Castle, the majestic and might Corvin Castle, the stately Peles, the citadel of Alba Iulia, the incredibly persevered town of Sighișoara (birthplace of Vlad the Impaler), and so much more. Every village in Transylvania seems to have a fortified church of some sort, most towns have walls, and castles dot the countryside.
It is incredibly difficult to say which of these places you should visit over the others, honestly all of them deserve to be seen and explored. They are bound to whet your imagination and fascinate the medieval lover in all of us.
So, if you fancy medieval architecture, castles, towers, and walled cities then Romania should be on your shortlist of places to visit.
By and large we found Romanians to be an engaging people, mostly good-natured, and eager to interact with others. We had no problems striking up conversations in markets, gardens, on trains, and in bars. Many Romanians are bilingual and can speak English, French, or some Spanish.
Beyond small talk and one time encounters, we also found making friends to be nearly effortless in Romania. Many of the people we met seemed to be genuinely interested in spending time with us, sharing their culture with us, and going out of their way to be helpful. They are without a doubt among the most welcoming people we have come across in all of our travels.
Romania is an extremely affordable country, especially by European standards. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that Romania is the most affordable European country we have visited to date. We ate and drank well, stayed in comfortable accommodations, and didn’t skip out on any of the sights we wanted to see. We had an incredible time and never felt like we were putting much of a strain on our bank accounts.
Take one look at our Affordable Travel Guide to Bucharest and you’ll see just how inexpensive this incredible country can be.
One of the main things that drew us both to Romania is that we knew
very little almost nothing about the country before we decided to spend three months there. We were intrigued by the idea of exploring the unknown and ended up making most of our travel decisions based on what our new Romanian friends told us to see and do. By mostly ditching our traditional method of online research we ended up feeling like we were truly discovering Romania (even if we only scratched the surface).
We were constantly surprised by our discoveries and frequently found ourselves thinking “Wow, I didn’t realize Romania had such amazing produce!” and “Why isn’t everyone talking about the natural beauty of this country?” and “The locals are so friendly and helpful, maybe I should just stay here”.
Perfect for Digital Nomads
Romania’s cost and its incredibly fast internet (Romania has NINE of the top fifteen cities with the fastest internet in the world!!) make it an ideal location for digital nomads, especially during warmer weather in the spring and summer. We are hard-pressed to think of a country better suited for those of us who live a location independent lifestyle. So, if you can work remotely and want to live in an affordable and fascinating country, well hell, Romania is right up your alley.
Romania rocks. Go there!! Don’t wait too long because the secret is getting out. Soon you won’t be the only cool kid on the block who can say “Hey, I visited Romania, and it was freaking great!!”
Want to book accommodations in Romania? We recommend using the following sites:
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