For some, it’s easy to think of Romania as nothing but fortresses and strongholds commanding the tops of the darkly forested Carpathian Mountains, with ties to infamous tyrants and vampires. Far from being a one-note country, Romania is a land of rich landscapes and history. The country is fairly well divided equally between lowlands and mountainous, hilly regions, which are well looked after and offer up a variety of wildlife and opportunities for travel.
One of the most visited areas of Romania is the coast of the Black Sea. And sitting like glittering jewels on the Black Sea, the cities of Constanta and Mamaia make up part of what is often referred to as the Romanian Riviera, with Mangalia, Saturn, Venus, Neptun, Olimp rounding out the list. Being two of the most important cities in Romania, just behind Bucharest, Constanta and Mamaia are well-developed and travel friendly. Resorts line the beaches and fantastic restaurants nestle in the city’s side streets waiting to be discovered. Places like MCM and Restaurant Chevalet are definite destination-food restaurants when you visit. While in Constanta, be sure to see the Grand Casino for it’s architecture and the romantic atmosphere around sunset. In fact, the whole of the Romanian Riviera is a definite must-see if you happen to be there in summer.
Snow and mountains more your style? Since the 1990’s, Romania has seen many mountain resort towns in the Prahova Valley grow to support more and more tourism with an emphasis on winter sports. Which, they have become very involved in and Predeal, a city in the Prahova Valley, was even host to the cross country skiing and snowboarding events of the 2013 European Youth Olympic Winter Festival. The Prahova Valley is also considering putting in a bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, so you know that the winter activities to be had and resorts to stay in are worth the trip!
Of course, Transylvania comes up when talking of Romania thanks largely in part to Bram Stoker but beyond the superficial vampire links, the region is soaked in history and beauty. Sighisoara is perhaps the most well-known city in Transylvania. The Historic Centre of Sighisoara is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as the city has preserved many of the features of a small fortified medieval city spectacularly. The last weekend of every July, the city hosts a medieval festival in the citadel exhibiting everything from theater, arts, poetry to street animation shows. The whole medieval atmosphere spreads throughout the city and could not be better backdropped than against such an ancient city. Any renaissance festival you’ve been to, or Medieval Times you’ve visited seems almost comic after being there. The city is also the supposed birthplace of Vlad Dracul, more infamously known as Vlad the Impaler.
Outside Sighisoara, northern Transylvania hosts another eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites too, believe it or not — they are the wooden churches of Maramures and they are truly beautiful. Most of the country is in fact, very beautiful and has quite a few unique sites that should be on any travel itinerary. One of the nice things about touring European countries is that they are relatively small and you can take in a lot of what a country has to offer versus traveling in the United States, Russia, China or Australia which are all truly vast. So be sure to see the beauty and culture Romania offers in places like Scarisoara Cave, an ice cave in the Apuseni mountains, the Berca mud volcanoes and the Merry Cemetery.
On a final note, if you happen to be driving to Romania and you have a love of motorsports, or majestic scenery, you must drive the Transfagarasan in the southern Carpathians. Made famous by the BBC program Top Gear, when Jeremy Clarkson said of it, “this is the best road… in the world.” The Transfagarasan is a “bucket-list” drive for anyone with a passion for cars.
Want to spend some more time in Romania?
“The Unsinkable Mister Brown” tells the tale of an American man who follows the love of his life to her hometown of Sighisoara, Romania — A must Read!