Guest Post by Adela Bercean
Romania is a place of untamed natural beauty and is one of Europe’s best hidden gems. There is always something new to be discovered, no matter what part of the country you visit. For a first time visitor, it might be hard to choose between relaxing on the Black Sea beaches, hike on the wild paths of the Carpathian Mountains or stroll on the narrow alleys of a medieval city.
In this article you can find the best 10 places to visit in Romania, but before that, there are just a few things you need to know before you visit.
Things to know before you visit
Romania is a pretty safe place, but as everywhere in the world, there might be pickpockets in some touristic areas or public transport. The best thing is to not engage with people who look a bit dodgy and seem to insist on something. Keep your luggage in sight in a train station, tram or bus and take an Uber instead of a yellow cab.
Romania’s currency is Leu (or RON) and other currencies are not accepted. Make sure you have sufficient cash because there are still a lot of places where card payments are not accepted. Do not exchange money on the street or at the airport, but look for an exchange agency that says 0% commission around (but not quite) the city centre. Most locals can tell you where the best place to exchange your money is, just ask anyone.
The official language of Romania is Romanian, a language that has its roots in Latin. It’s easy for Romanians to understand other Latin languages such as Italian or Spanish, although they might not speak them properly. Most youngsters speak English so if you’re ever lost and don’t know where to go, the probability of finding someone who speaks English is very high. Romanians love foreigners and learning a few words in their language will mean a lot to them. Say “multumesc” as a “thank you”, “buna ziua” as “hello”, “noroc” as “cheers” and see the surprise on their faces and the laughs that follow.
There are plenty of B&B’s, hotels, and Airbnb’s to find the perfect accommodation. Depending on the place you visit, you should make a reservation in advance, especially in the summer. If you want to enjoy a full Romanian experience, stay with a local. If you find yourself in a village in the mountains, all you need to do is knock on someone’s door and it’s very likely that they will take you in. Most people will let you camp in their gardens for around $5/night.
Best Places to Visit in Romania
Romania has many castles and fortresses but Peles is special and magical. Out of all the ones I’ve seen, this gave me the complete experience. The moment I set foot inside, I was on the impression I was officially invited as a guest at the royal court of King Carol.
Peles Castle is surrounded by beautiful gardens and amazing scenery, my absolute favourite spots. The interior is a museum that compiles beautiful wooden carved furniture, tapestries, and ceramics – the legacy of Queen Mary, the most beloved queen of Romania.
If you’re not travelling by car, there is a 30-minute walk from the railway station and it’s so worth it because you get to walk through the woods and climb all the way up to the castle. Thank me later!
The ticket price is 7$ for a groundfloor tour or 14$ for a complete tour. There is an additional tax of 8$/camera if you want to take any photos indoors for personal use. You can find accommodation in the many B&B’s all around the area, ranging from 15$ to 50$/night mostly.
Bucegi Mountains are somehow in between being very wild and very accessible. I’m saying wild because there are a lot of undiscovered and beautiful trails that can take you all the way up.
Oh, and bears! Yep, bears are quite common in the area and they’re not afraid to come closer to humans for food. Locals are so used to them that they don’t even pay attention too much. One lady I’ve been staying at said she sees them coming to look through her bins all the time, right behind her house.
Aside from taking a long journey to the top of the mountain on foot, there is a cable car that takes you straight up in only a few minutes. The queues are quite long, especially during weekends. I waited in line for about an hour and a half. There are also people who will offer you a ride with a 4×4 car, but I would suggest waiting for your turn and take the cable car because the view is definitely worth the wait.
The reason most people visit the Bucegi Mountains is to see the unusual rock formations known as The Sphinx and Babele (the Old Ladies). These rock formations were shaped by wind and water throughout thousands of years of erosion.
If you have some time to spare and you’re ready for a hike, go all the way to the highest peak, Omu – 2505m high.
This area is highly visited by tourists, especially in the summer. Make sure you book your accommodation in advance. If you get there by car, in most parking lots the wardens will approach you and try to recommend you a place to stay.
They might seem dodgy, but they are OK and they get a commission from the family they recommend. This option is not for everyone though, because usually the place you would go to might be very modest and lacking some facilities you might be used to.
There is no entry fee to see Babele and The Sphinx, but the cable car will cost 7$. A B&B would cost between 20$ and 100$ per night.
Every time I think of Vama Veche, I think of good times, good vibes and just so much fun! It’s probably why a lot of tourists come here every summer.
Vama Veche, in Romanian, means The Old Customs, because it’s right at the border with Bulgaria. Many years ago, this used to be a wild beach and a fishing village, the only accommodation you could find being the one you brought yourself. You can still camp on the beach today if you want, but only in a designated area. It’s free!
The closest airport is Constanta, a very small airport with only a few flights per week. Printing your ticket is a must because there are no scanners. You will have to book your own transportation online or rent a car because there are no buses or trains that can take you from the airport to Vama Veche.
Once you get there, it’s hard to decide on what to do first. I suggest going for a walk and check out the numerous instragrammable spots.
During the day you can relax with a good book at the Book Beach, have a cocktail at a beach bar straight on the sand, or enjoy a nice meal at Sandalandala. At night, the whole place resonates with good music and the parties go on until sunrise.
No matter the type of music you’re into, you will find the right place for you. If you’re looking to save some money, there are a lot of supermarkets where you can buy your own alcohol and mixers and you can set up your drink right on the spot. They will offer you ice, lime, and glasses for takeaway.
Weekends are the busiest. Probably because Bucharest, the capital of Romania, is only a 2 hours drive away.
It costs around 7$ to rent a lounge bed and 50c to go to the toilet. You can camp on the beach for free, or camp in the backyard of a b&b for about 10$/night. There are B&B’s available and hotels that can cost somewhere between 15$ and 100$/night.
Turda Salt Mine
Turda Salt Mine is the most spectacular mine I’ve seen in my life! Normally, you wouldn’t expect much from a salt mine, but this is an architectural work of art. The mine is so impressive that it might seem unreal! It was designed to also have an uncommon feature: that of being an underground recreational park. You can play pool, bowling, mini-golf, or tennis here but just might have to wait a while for your turn.
One thing I definitely didn’t expect in a salt mine was to see a lake and going for a boat ride.
For the full experience and a great view, take the stairs up and down. Because there are (only) 26 stories, many choose the lifts and the queues can get quite long.
You might even be lucky enough to see a concert or a play inside Rudolf Mine, one of the rooms containing an amphitheatre with 100 available seats.
For the social media addicted, there is wi-fi everywhere inside the mine. Wi-fi is generally not a problem in Romania, as this country has one of the best internet speeds in the world.
Turda Salt mine is also a Wellness Centre. The salty environment is recommended for those suffering from respiratory problems.
The tickets costs approximately 5$, playing the games imply additional costs of around 2-3$/game.
Medieval City of Sighisoara
The medieval city of Sighisoara is a raw and unspoilt destination for medieval enthusiasts. It’s one of those places that don’t feel like a tourist trap, because everything is just so genuine. You will definitely feel like going back in time, just by climbing the stairs to what once used to be the fortress of Sighisoara.
The first thing you need to do is find a place to stay right in the middle of the city. Sighisoara is not Prague, so you can find a proper one for just around 50$. Go for a walk and find your own path through the city because there might be a lot to discover that you will not find in any guides.
Take the covered stairs towards the Church on the Hill, see the Clock Tower and the torture chambers. The Clock tower is now a museum filled with antiques and quite a few scary objects used as torture devices. Every now and then, you might see a fun little train going around or even tuk-tuks.
If you get to talk with the locals, you might be lucky enough to find a lot of stories and legends. They also know the best places to have lunch, visit or stay at. Romanians are generally friendly and they love talking about their country and give advice.
The medieval festival that takes place here every year attracts numerous tourists from all over the world.
Accommodation can be around 20$-50$/night most of the time. During the festival, the prices might go up a bit.
I always thought of Sibiu as being my favourite city of all. A few years ago, Sibiu was the Cultural Capital of Europe, which led to major refurbishments that made this city one of the most precious gems of Romania.
Every year, there is a Medieval Festival that attracts visitors from all over the country or the world. During the day, you can encounter knights and princesses walking around the city centre, shop for souvenirs or see sword fights and various shows. And that’s not only during the festival!
Definitely climb up the Clock Tower, or have a walk on the Bridge of Lies. The legend says if you tell a lie on the Bridge of Lies, the structure will start shaking and the liar will fall of it. It’s best not to take any chances!
It’s hard to choose a favourite spot in Sibiu, but I guess, for me, is seeing the city from the top of The Evangelic Church. I also like to look at the houses and see when they were built, because some of them have the year of the century written on them.
Most accommodations will cost around 20-50$/night for a B&B, but if you want to travel in style, there are a few hotels that can go up to 150$/night.
Bran Castle is one of the most popular destinations in Romania. People know it from its association with Dracula, Bram Stoker’s character inspired by Vlad the Impaler, notorious for his “unusual” ways of ruling. Before visiting, I expected to see a haunted dark castle filled with medieval torture devices, but it has proved to be quite the opposite. Only that once I got there, the castle looked more than inviting. Vlad the Impaler has never actually lived there or spent a single night inside the castle’s walls.
The castle belonged to many Romanian kings and it was the favourite summer residence of Queen Mary, who had a huge impact on making the castle into what it is today: a place worthy of a royal family.
Nowadays, the castle is a museum that shelters an impressive collection of furniture, weapons, and various objects belonging to the royal family. The interior is not as luxurious as other European castles and it resembles more a normal Romanian house interior from the old days.
Psssst! There is also a secret passage you can check out!
The tickets costs around 9$. Make sure you get there early in the morning because, during summer, the queues are huge!
The Merry Cemetery of Sapanta
You’re probably wondering if you read that correctly! How can there be a Merry Cemetery in Romania, or anywhere for that matter?!
In Romania, there are quite a few places where death is not looked at as being something tragic, but a way of going to a better place, where there is no pain or suffering. It’s the case of this cemetery, where all the 800 wooden gravestones are carved with a short poem that talks all about the deceased life. Most poems are funny and it might be difficult to understand for non-natives. However, the beauty of this place comes from it being colourful and…full of life. Quite unusual for a cemetery.
Sapanta is a small village, but a testimony of rural Romania. Locals are proud of their village and you’ll often encounter old ladies showing off their skills spinning a wool spindle or crocheting right in front of their houses. They often sell their crafts to tourists.
The ticket for The Merry Cemetery costs only 1$ and 1$ is for taking photos.
Nera Gorges National Park
It’s easy for me to write about this wonderful place because I was born and raised there. Nera Gorges is a stunning work of art created entirely by nature.
It takes 2 days to hike from one end to another and the best place to start is from Carbunari, a small village with a lot of character. The reason why this is the best starting point is that this way you will get to climb less.
Start very early in the morning, stop at the Devil’s Lake and admire the view of a clear blue lake coming to life from inside a cliff. The paths along the Nera river will take you through amazing scenery and unique rock formations all the way to Vogiun cottage, where you can set camp and get ready for the next day.
There is no official camping site anywhere, but feel free to camp wherever you can find a good spot. Make sure you have enough water and food with you because there are no stops, shops, or springs to get supplies from.
Lake Ochiul Beiului and Beiusnita Waterfall are visited every year by thousands of tourists and they are a must-see for everyone who ventures on Nera Gorges.
What struck me the first time was the colour of the lake: a hypnotising greenish-blue. The water is as cold as ice and no swimming is allowed. Both are easily accessible by car up to a point, in case you don’t want to take the whole route on foot.
The best way to enjoy everything this place has to offer is, however, by hiking your way from Carbunari to Sasca-Romana. Closer to Sasca-Romana, the path will take you through some tunnels that no one really knows how they got there.
Those who want to start the adventure from Sasca-Romana find it quite challenging to go over a rocky bridge over the river. If you’re brave enough to do that, you’re all good for the rest of the route.
The roads to Sasca Romana or Carbunari are the biggest downside of this place and it has been an issue for as long as I can remember. Locals are used to it and they gave up hoping they will ever get rehabilitated.
There is a small entry fee if you want to go by car, at around 3$. In the summer, B&B costs around 25$ and it’s best to book in advance because there are only a few in the area.
It’s hard to decide on only 10 places to visit in Romania, but Bicaz Gorges is definitely worth mentioning. They are so easily accessible because you can just drive through.
When you start seeing huge straight cliffs left and right, you’ll know you’re in the right place. Most people stop their cars right on the side of the road because you just can’t drive past and not be stunned by the view.
Just a few miles away, the road will take you to an artificial lake called The Mountain’s Spring (or Lake Bicaz), the biggest artificial lake in the country. Have a boat ride and enjoy a traditional lunch. Try the local fresh fish with polenta and garlic sauce for the full experience.
Unfortunately, Romania is not known for the good quality of the roads there, which is sadly the case for this area as well. Make sure you don’t get caught in admiring the beauty of these places at the expense of a flat tire!
Visiting is free. Accommodation cost around 20$-40$/night for a B&B. A boat ride costs about 3$.
About the Author
Adela loves researching and writing about sustainability! Her passion for ethical living started early in her childhood, being born and raised in a beautiful remote village in Romania, where life was much simpler. Life took her to the great city of London where she discovered that sustainability in a big city is not only needed but also possible. When she’s not at her desk, she loves discovering hidden gems of London and travel to unique places. Read her blog posts at Nature in the Box.
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