Let’s just say you’ve decided to go ahead and come over to Europe. First off, congratulations for making that fabulous decision, you won’t regret a thing, ‘promise. I’d like to take this opportunity to humbly suggest that while you are probably penciling in going to places like Italy, France, England, and Germany, that you could always go to Romania.
Why? Well, Romania is home to much of what most of us come to Europe for in the first place. Medieval towns? Romania has it. Fairytale castles? Romania is rolling in them. Grand capital city? They’ve got you covered. Rich folk culture full of tradition? Definitely. Underrated wine? Oh yeah. Gorgeous mountains? That too. Heck, the Romanians even throw in beaches on the Black Sea.
So why haven’t you heard a lot of this stuff about Romania before? Well, I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know these things about Romania:
Transylvania is Tremendous
This region is without a doubt the rock star of any Romanian travel experience. Assuming you like storybook medieval towns, enthralling history, and majestic mountains that is. And if you don’t you should probably take a long look in the mirror.
Towns like Brasov, Sighișoara, and Sibiu are all travel-dreams-come-true home to cobbled centers and mountain surrounds. They were all settled by Saxons from Germany, and retain their traditional grandeur in spades. In sleepy Sighișoara, you will find twisty-turny streets and the birthplace of the real Dracula (Vlad ‘The Impaler’ Tepes) all in the shadow of the enchanting clock tower; Brasov stars with an uber-romantic town center and hikes to Mount Tampa that end in priceless views that pair perfectly with local wine at sunset; and Sibiu shines with its stoic town towers and sophisticated feel. You could even stay at this cool place in the mountains like we did.
Maramures is Authentic with a capital ‘A’
The most mysterious of Romania’s regions, Maramures is cut off from the majority of the country by thick forests, and as a result, centuries-old folk traditions still survive and thrive here. In addition, the region is world famous for being home to steepled, eerily-beautiful wooden churches, with eight of them being deemed UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Bârsana Monastery is a great place to see one, which is also home to a myriad of fascinating murals.
The Castles Are High Class
Romania is second to none when it comes to castles, with Peles Castle often coming in atop the European castle power rankings. It was built as a playground for the royal family, and still stuns with its German New-Renaissance architecture and sweeping views of the the surrounding Carpathian Mountains.
While Pele’s Castle was more of a summer play house, plenty of castles in Romania were actual fortifications, and one such example is Bran Castle, dubiously dubbed ‘Dracula’s Castle’. There’s no real evidence that Vlad ever really lived here, but it’s still a fun day out. The most underrated may be the Gotch Corvin Castle, home to a large moat and drawbridge, which if you are like me, I used to think all castles had.
Not to confused with Hungarian capital of Budapest – even though tons of people do, including infamously Michael Jackson at a concert – Bucharest is home to grand boulevards, flowing fountains, and a fascinating albeit turbulent-at-times history. Much of its design was based on Paris, and it still shows.
The Transfagarasan is Entrancing
I honestly don’t know how this road isn’t a household name. Just one glance at the twists and turns in any image of the Transfagarasan Highway shows how special this motorway is. Regarded by many as the ‘best drive in the world’, a trip down the Transfagarasan isn’t solely about twists and turns, as it also offers a portal to Romania’s diverse wildlife and village life.
This post originally appeared on TravelPulse