I visited Romania for the first time in July of 2017. It was a spontaneous trip, but definitely worth remembering. I think traveling to Romania is still a bit underrated, but I definitely recommend it for your next holiday destination.
One of the best things to do in Romania is taking the Transylvania road trip. And this is an adventure that I will tell you about in this post.
I give you here some travel tips about this epic road trip through Romania. You’re going to see some of the best attractions of the region, including Poenari and Bran Castles, Transfagarasan road, and some other cool stuff. So let’s dive into this Transylvania travel guide!
Table of content:
- My personal experience:
- – Not so solo in fact
- – Why travel in Romania by car?
- 4 Days Transylvania Road Trip Itinerary
- – Day 1: Sinaia Monastery, Bran Castle and Brașov
- – Day 2: Prejmer, Sighișoara, and Sibiu
- – Day 3: Transfăgărășan, Poenari Castle, and Argeș Monastery
- – Day 4: Bucharest
- How to plan your Transylvania Road Trip?
- Bonus story: Sunday In Wonderland
Disclaimer: This post contains some affiliate links. That means that if you click on them or make any purchase via them, I receive a small commission. But don’t worry, this will not cost you anything and in a few cases, you can even receive a special discount! And I will still be able to chase my dreams. So thank you!
My personal experience
As I said before, going to Romania in 2017 was a spontaneous decision for me. I simply found cheap flight tickets for a plane in two weeks from that day and decided to go. Unfortunately, none of my friends had time to travel with me on those days. So I went alone.
And this way, visiting Romania was my very first solo travel abroad.
I still remember the worried faces of my parents (“But do you know that you can come back without a kidney?”) and amazement of my coworkers (“Really? Like
But you know what? Traveling solo is not so scary as you might think. Actually, I believe everyone should travel solo for at least one time. It really helps increase self-confidence and take a distance to everything.
Not so solo in fact
But in the end, I was not traveling totally on my own. Since my biggest goal was to ride through Transfăgărășan road, I needed to rent a car (more about this below). But the costs were a little bit too high for my humble budget. So I tried to find travel partners.
To do so, I used the Couchsurfing app. This service is excellent not only to search for a host and a couch to sleep on during travel but also for looking for the people that might join your journey at some step. All you need to do is to switch your search engine from searching for hosts into travelers. As a result, you will gain the list of people traveling in a specific region on exact dates.
Thanks to this feature, and some messages sent to different travelers, I found two guys who were interested in sharing the Transylvania road trip with me. They both were
And this way Jean and Harsh became my travel buddies for a few days in Romania. We rented a car and had an epic Transylvania Road Trip together, spending together 4 days in Transylvania. That is something I recommend to everyone who is traveling to Romania.
Why travel in Romania by car?
Romania is quite easy to travel by train or bus. But some of the best spots on the Romanian bucket list are hard to reach with the public transport. Like the Transfăgărășan road for instance.
The best way to enjoy this journey in 100% is to drive it through with a car, so you can stop, park in a safe place, and admire the stunning views. You can also purchase an organized bus trip, but personally, I prefer a
In the end, renting a car – or joining other travelers with a car – is the best method to make a complete Transylvania road trip. Traveling from Bucharest to Transylvania by car is one of the best ideas for this epic journey.
4 Days Transylvania Road Trip Itinerary
So let’s start our epic Transylvania road trip! On the map below you can see our full Transylvania itinerary and the stops that we took during this journey. Feel free to save this map for later. It might be helpful when you will be planning your perfect trip!
Day 1: Sinaia Monastery, Bran Castle and Brașov
The first day of our adventure began near the Otopeni Airport in Bucharest, where we rented the car. The main goal of that day was to visit Bran Castle. On the way, we also saw the Sinaia Monastery and finished the day in picturesque Brașov. Great beginning of a great trip.
Our first stop was around 1,5 hours by car from the Otopeni Airport where we visited Sinaia Monastery. It forms the complex of courtyards with two churches: Biserica Veche (The Old Church) and Biserica Mare (The Great Church).
This place is a great spot for people interested in the history of Romanian religion. The Monastery took its name after the Mount Sinai in Egypt. Moreover, the Monastery hosts also the museum which was the first one to expose religious objects in the country. It owns a great collection of icons and crosses, but also the first Bible that was written in the Romanian language.
Inarguably, Bran Castle is one of the most popular attractions in Romania. Why? Well, I am pretty sure that all of you remember distinguished yet scary Count Dracula.
Probably, the author of Dracula – Bram Stoker – before creating his novel, was inspired by the life of the historical Romanian monarch, Vlad The Impaler. The stories of horrible tortures that he was serving to his enemies were the base for the writer to create the creepy person of Count Dracula, the most recognizable vampire.
In fact, Bram Stoker has never been in Transylvania. But there is a theory, that he saw the drawings of the Bran Castle and thought that this fortress would be perfect for the Count’s residence.
Nowadays, tourists often suppose that Bran was also the home of the real Dracula – Vlad. But in fact, there
But if it comes to Bran Castle, the truth is that vampire lovers might be disappointed. The environment of the castle seems more like a cheap Disneyland, with lots of sale stands filled with cheap plastic souvenirs and toys, which strip the castle a bit from its mysterious magic.
But Bran Castle itself is worth the visit anyway. And it’s not because of vampires or bloodthirsty rulers. In fact, the fortress will surprise you with romantic stories of the nation’s love for a woman.
In the early years of the XX century, the Bran Castle became a royal residence of Romanian monarchs. Queen Marie, a member of the Royal Family, was affectionate by her people and consider as very popular.
Today, the Bran Castle, one of Queen’s favorite residences, became the museum of her life. While wandering in the fortress’s rooms, we’ll feel Marie’s adoration in every object and informative board. So instead of fearsome dungeon trips, we will enjoy an adorable visit in the memories of past life.
If you’re traveling in the high season and want to visit Bran Castle without waiting in the queue, purchasing a fast-track ticket might be a good idea.
And below you’ll find some more great activities to enjoy in Bran Castle:
- Bran: Guided Castle Tour
- Bran Castle: Flight over the Bran Area
- Bran Castle: After Hours Dracula’s Castle Tour
We ended up the day in the city of Brașov, which is one of the most popular among the tourists coming to Romania. In Old Town, we will be able to enjoy various architectural styles from different centuries. The most well-known places to visit in Brașov are the Black Church and Strada Sforii.
The Black Church is a huge Gothic monument and the largest Lutheran church in the region. It took its name from events that had a
In Brașov, you could also take a walk on the narrowest street in Romania, and one of the narrowest in entire Europe. It’s Strada Sforii, which the main purpose was to create a passage for firefighters in old times. Its width oscillates between 111 and 135 centimeters, and it is 80 meters long.
From Brașov, you can enjoy many interesting day trips and activities. They may make your road trip through Romania even more exciting:
- Brasov: Half-Day Sights & Bites Tour with a Local Guide
- Wildlife trekking in Putna Vrancea Natural Park
- Day Trip to Ohaba Water Mill and Cave Temple
- Small-Group 7 Ladders Canyon Day Trip
- From Brasov: Day Trip to Bison Reserve & Traditional Lunch
- 40-Minute Helicopter Flight over Bran and Peles Castles
Wanna more? Discover other unique experiences in Brașov on the Budget Bucketlist’s blog!
Day 2: Prejmer, Sighișoara, and Sibiu
The day number two was a continuation of diving into the Romanian history. Moreover, visiting the mentioned cities gave us a nice overlook of Romanian life in both big cities and in the countryside.
Fortified Church in Prejmer
Prejmer, in fact, is a small village in the idyllic Romanian countryside. But it hides a great historical place, definitely worth visiting. Transylvania is well-known not only because of Dracula but also because of its fortified churches. And the church in Prejmer is one of them.
The construction of the Prejmer church began in 1218, and since then it was the safest place for local people to take refuge from invaders. The whole complex consists of a small church in the middle, and huge walls around it. The walls were so thick that they formed a place to many rooms and compartments which were used by civils in case of danger.
Nowadays, everyone is able to visit the Fortified Church in Prejmer, and this is something that I highly recommend. It is not so besieged by tourists, so you will have the opportunity to experience the history of this place in your own individual way. If you will be lucky, you will even hear the Orthodox songs while wandering alone in the mysterious corridors inside the fortress’s walls.
Sighișoara was a city that enchanted me the most during the whole Transylvania road trip. This charming town is a true pearl of medieval architecture. Walking among its streets will give us a great feeling of the past times.
The main highlight of Sighișoara is the Clock Tower. Currently being a
Another interesting construction in Sighișoara is the Scholars’ Stairs. This stair-passage covered with a wooden corridor was built in 1642 in order to protect the children marching to the school located on the hill.
On the same hill, we will find the Church on the Hill, the most representative Gothic monument in the whole city. Inside we can admire the collection of altars, and many polychromes which are step by step unraveled from below the walls paint.
But probably the most exciting city curiosity hides in one of the Old Town’s houses. On one of the adorable streets – Piața Muzeului – we will find Casa Dracula. Yes, you are considering it right. In this house, the archetype of the Stoker’s character was born. But Vlad The Impaler was living here only for four first years of his life. But nevertheless, the memory of this event still entices the tourists.
Sighișoara is an inspiring city, and a great idea here will be to take a 2-hour guided city tour. Alternatively, you can also play the Medieval Citadel City Exploration Game and Tour what is a fascinating way of spending time in this city.
Sibiu is another beautiful city on the Romanian map. It is a place where a few cultural influences have been meeting during the centuries: Romanian, Hungarian, German. Its picturesque streets often remain Polish Krakow.
Almost every weekend there is a festival in Sibiu (and we also enjoyed one). The city offers dozens of cultural attractions. Besides many events, you can also spend your time in one of the city museums which tell the stories of art, culture, history, and science.
Sibiu is also a great place to get this unique Romanian experience to be observed by the city’s eyes… The exceptional shape of roof windows on the buildings in the Old Town makes a particular impression, that the city is a huge magical creature that let you discover itself, but still keeps eyes on you.
Day 3: Transfăgărășan, Poenari Castle, and Argeș Monastery
The third day of the Transylvania road trip was the most exciting for me. It was a day when we planned to drive through the Transfăgărășan road. Stunning views guaranteed!
Like I said before, reaching the Transfăgărășan without a car was very challenging. And the biggest advantage of actually having a car was that you could stop anywhere in a safe place on the road and delight your eyes with beautiful views.
Transfăgărășan is often called one of the most beautiful roads in Europe. We entered the road from the Northside which almost immediately rewarded us with the crazy exceptional view of the road serpentines climbing on the mountainside. Although the sky was cloudy and we could not see the highest mountain peaks, the landscape made a great impression.
Even when we passed by this most popular spot of the Transfăgărășan road, the ride was still exciting and we couldn’t get our eyes out of the beauty outside the windows.
This road is so stunning that it depends its own post! Click here to read more about the Transfăgărășan road and how to get there!
Even though we didn’t finish that day in the area of Transfăgărășan road, this is the place where many people would like to spend the night. So I made small research and I choose three places which might be interesting for you if you would like to stay among the mountains:
- Complex Pastravaria Albota – Rating: 9.4/10: This lovely place offers rooms made in a rustic style with free Wifi and delicious breakfast. It also provides many additional activities such as horse riding, archery, swimming pool, and many others! Click here and check the prices in this place on Booking.com!
- Hotel Posada Vidraru – Rating: 8.9/10: This object is located just 200 meters from the Vidraru Tam. It offers more exclusive rooms and a relaxing SPA & wellness area, a gym, a swimming pool, and a sauna. Click here and check the prices in this place on Booking.com!
- Complex Vila Balea – Rating: 9.1/10: This place offers cute rooms and lovely bungalows hidden among the deep forest. It also hosts the guest in a local restaurant serving delicious meals. Click here and check the prices in this place on Booking.com!
Even more breathtaking views! Oh, wait. Your breath will be actually taken by the 1462 steps.
That’s right. To reach the REAL ruins of Dracula’s castle, you need to climb on 1462 stairs. But this adventure is definitely worth the effort.
Poenari Castle was a place of living of Vlad The Impaler (Vlad Drăculea). In this hard to reach the fortress, he was able to rule the whole region and to repel the attack of enemy armies. The castle was also a place of birth all of the terrible stories about Vlad’s cruelty.
And in fact, the authorities managing the castle will take care that you will feel this bloodcurdling story on your own skin. Once you will climb to the ruins’ foundation, you will be welcomed by the view of two gentlemen loaded on piles. Climatic, indeed.
From the ruins, the incredible views of the surroundings are spreading around. This place was almost impossible to capture and was giving to its owner a great advantage in the form of the best observing point in the area. And today we can use it to enjoy the beauty of the Făgăraș Mountains.
Driving through the mountains was the main point of that day on our Transylvania road trip itinerary. But we still had some time before the end of the day, so we took advantage of it and visited the Argeș Monastery.
The Argeș Monastery is one of the most important monuments of the Romanian architecture of the XVI century. The building looks like a piece of art among the green surroundings. The white walls reflect the sunlight, and the sophisticated, highly decorative towers remind more sculptures or jewelry than construction elements.
There is also an interesting legend connected to this place. According to some, Meșterul Manole was the main architect of the temple. But the construction of the building did not go his way, so he was unable to finish the project. He decided to try the ancient custom of placing the living woman into the foundations. This way, he sacrificed his own wife and locked her forever in the Monastery’s walls. After this, the construction went better, and he finally finished the building.
But he also paid a bill for his act. According to some ancient texts, Radu Negru, who was the founder of the Argeș Monastery, was that much delighted with the effect, that he didn’t want Manole to ever build another building which could be even more beautiful. So he locked the architect on the top of the Monastery’s tower. Manole wanted to escape from the trap, so he built wooden wings, and tried to fly away. As you can suppose, he didn’t manage to do it. The well of clear water represents the place where, according to the legend, Manole fell.
Day 4: Bucharest
The last day of the Transylvania road trip was devoted to Bucharest. The Romanian capital which felt very domestic to me. In fact, my personal impression was that Bucharest was somewhere between Warsaw and Paris. The glorious and rich architecture looked like a
In fact, Bucharest was the city that I really liked. Actually, on the first day of my arrival in Romania, I had a walk around the center with my Couchsurfing host. This way, I get into a few hidden awesome spots that only locals knew about. Which was a great advantage of using
But to dive more into the Bucharest’s history and interesting curiosities about the city, I recommend joining a free walking tour. I joined one, and it was great. The guide told us some of the most curious facts about Bucharest, and below you will find a few of my favorites.
The Palace of the Parliament building
The building of Romanian Parliament was another caprice (next to Transfăgărășan road) of the famous dictator – Nicolae Ceaușescu. Since he had a weakness for the giant stuff, he decided to build the biggest possible building to expose his power.
In 1980, the construction site caused the demolition of 7 square kilometers of the Old Town and the relocation of 40 000 inhabitants. In the gained place the army of architects and construction workers created The Palace of The Parliament. Their work is the biggest civil-administration building in the world. Its height is 86 meters and 92 meters below the ground level. It was also the most expensive building in the world: the total cost exceeded 3 milliards €.
Psst. By clicking here you can purchase the skip-the-line ticket to the Parliament building!
The moving churches
Since Ceaușescu was absorbed with his new vision of Bucharest’s architecture, he was open to demolish any building that stood in his way. He planned to destroy many ancient temples in order to build his Palace of the Parliament. Fortunately, some of the people that still had some influence on the dictator’s decisions, prevailed him to move the troubling buildings instead of demolishing them.
This way some of the most beautiful churches, as well as some ugly yet useful blockhouses, get rescued from the devastation. The Romanian engineers used the systems of tracks to move the buildings… by hundreds of meters. Thanks to this, today, we can visit those temples in the less obvious city corners.
The ugliest statue
Statue of Trajan and she-wolf is a thorn in the eye for many Bucharest’s residents. The capital offers lots of beautiful monuments to admire, but this one definitely stands out from the crowd. The naked Emperor Trajan with kind of levitating she-wolf combined with a snake stands on the steps in front of the National Museum of Romanian History.
The intent of the statue creator was to combine various symbols of Romanian nation: Trajan represents the Rome’s times, she-wolf reminds the legend of Romulus and Remus, and the snake – Dacian Draco – is a symbol of the Dacian nation who was living in the region in the old times.
Nevertheless, the statue expression is very controversial among the inhabitants. That much that on the Internet we can find plenty of photo parodies and memes about the statue (including the photos of other people lifting their own dogs next to Trajan).
If you’ll be doing a road trip from Bucharest to Brașov or the other way, there is plenty of interesting stops you should do on the road!
How to plan your Transylvania Road Trip?
- Book your flight: I found my cheap tickets from Warsaw to Bucharest by using the Skyscanner search engine.
- Rent a car: trust me, it will make your road trip much easier. Instead, you can try to find other travelers with a car and join them. And while renting a car remember to pay attention if Roviniete is included – this will be your pass to drive on the Romanian roads. Remember that driving after drinking is strictly forbidden in Romania, and all the passengers must use safety belts.
- Prepare your itinerary: in total, I was in Romania for 6 days at that time. At first, I also wanted to visit the seashore, but when I started to plan my trip I realized I would simply have no time for it. So try not to overload your plan with attractions, because there are so many of them, that you might be disappointed with the lack of time. Feel free to save my Transylvania road trip map from the beginning of this post in your Google maps and treat it as a base for your own itinerary. Not a bad idea will be purchasing a guidebook of Romania. It’ll help you take out the most of your visit to this charming country.
- Book your accommodation: in Bucharest, I used the Couchsurfing. But for the rest of the places we used Booking.com, and to be honest, we always were making it for the last minute. You can also use Airbnb, and by clicking here you will get the 23€ discount for your first stay!
- Remember about formalities: Romania is a part of the European Union, but it’s not yet a member of the Schengen Area. So you need to take your passport with you to cross its borders. If it comes to the currency, the actual is Romanian
leu. In most places you can pay with a card, nevertheless, I recommend to have some cash with you to pay in smaller shops or attractions.
- Exchange some local currency: in Romania, the Romanian leu is currently in use. You can easily exchange it in the Revolut app from other currencies and pay with your Revolut multicurrency card. I love using Revolut because it’s a great international tool to pay in the whole world in almost 150 different currencies. Click here and read my Revolut review.
- Don’t forget useful gear: a flexible backpack (click here and read a review of my current weekender backpacks) to fit all of your stuff, and some other road trip essentials is a must.
Bonus story: Sunday In Wonderland
During this Romanian trip, for the first time, I thought that maybe one day I should start a blog. So it took me one year to realize this idea.
But it was also Romania, where the main part of my blog’s name was born.
My name is Dominika. Which in Latin means literally belonging to God. Maybe it is not exactly true in my case but never mind. Also, this name usually refers to the saint Lord’s day – Sunday.
And in fact, Sunday in Romanian means Duminică. One of my travel buddies during this trip – Harsh – was delighted with this fact and started to call me Sunday.
After a few months, I thought that maybe it could be a nice name for a travel blog. Sunday In Wonderland links to a few aspects:
- my name, obviously
- the weekend traveling, which I was doing quite often before I quit my full-time job
- and the Wonderland refers to my childish fondness for fairy tales and search for unbelievable stories in the world around us
So here you go. Now you know the whole story.
Romania is a beautiful country, full of stunning landscapes and interesting history. Driving in Transylvania is only one of the many awesome activities that you should try there. Nevertheless, this country has lots of other stories to tell which I hope to discover one day.
Have you been to Transylvania already? Which place was your absolute favorite? Share in a comment!
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Dominika is a founder of Sunday In Wonderland and she recently switched her life to be local independent. She aims to travel the world and admire all of its wonders. She is much focused on sustainable life, self-development and making this world a better place.