Romania is another one of those destinations that isn’t usually at the top of people’s travel lists, however, I was lucky enough to spend 10 days travelling through the country earlier this year. I’m ashamed to admit that it’s taken me far too long to post about my experience there, so here is my guide on the 7 biggest reasons why you should go.
1 – The Adventure
I’m always looking for new destinations to visit that are off the beaten track. Places that aren’t just full of other tourists and people trying to sell you stuff, ones that still feel authentic. Boy, Romania doesn’t disappoint on this front. From the terrifying roads and insanely road ragey drivers, to the abundance of beautiful countryside and remote mountainous areas to explore, Romania provides plenty of opportunity for adventure. We rented a car and spent a couple of nights in the capital Bucharest, before travelling up to spend time in the mountain town of Sinaia, and then Brasov another city in the Translvania region (which I’m sure most of you have heard of).
Why you get the sense of adventure in Romania, is that it really feels like you’re making your own way around and finding things out for yourself without your hand being held. There may be moments where you’re overwhelmed (like driving in Bucharest…), but there will also be moments where you’re amazed by SO many surprises along the way. These kinds of surprises are incredible landscapes you’ll encounter, or small villages that make it feel like you’ve gone back in time with horses and carts on the road. Travelling through Romania is a great way to experience something different in Europe you won’t get elsewhere.
2 – The Mountains & Countryside
This really is something that Romania isn’t famous for but absolutely should be! I think this is so high on my list of reasons to visit is because I totally didn’t expect Romania to be as beautiful as it was… We saw turquoise lakes, stunning mountains, and lush green meadows throughout our time there. We spent one day exploring the mountains around Sinaia, and stumbled across some caves too which we explored, as well as so many great hiking spots and stunning mountain passes.
Another highlight was when we went horse riding in the countryside just outside of Brasov, the scenery was just beautiful and to get there we had to go through lots of traditional Romanian villages, with plenty of horses and carts, farmhouses and animals all over the place. You really get the feel of traditional European country living.
3 – Brasov
Brasov was actually one of my favourite places we visited in Romania. It’s really nice and clean with a bustling square in the centre where you can sit out and eat and drink to your heart’s content. Not to mention it’s near lots of really cool places to check out, there are old forts, castles and plenty for you to see in the surrounding area. People even take day trips all the way from Bucharest to see what Brasov has to offer. I’ll also admit that one day when the weather was awful and we felt like staying around the town, we went to a couple of escape rooms in Brasov. This is definitely a positive you probably won’t see elsewhere on other travel blogs… but if you love you’re escape rooms, Brasov has a few great options that are all a lot cheaper than in most other countries. At around 10 Euros per person, one we found called Obscuria was our favourite and you definitely feel like James Bond!
4 – Bucharest
Back to travel… I won’t go into the details, but although I am fully British, I was actually born in Romania just south of Bucharest. Hence the main reason I wanted to visit and see the country having not been back since then. I was born around the time of a very dark part of history where the communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu had just been executed in the revolution in the country. Without going into history, apart from the horrific other impacts he had on the Romanian people, one thing that remains is the Palace of the Parliament Building, formerly known as the ‘People’s Palace’.
History aside, this building that cost 3 Billion Euros, is the largest administrative building in the world, and the second largest building in the world behind only the Pentagon… You may recognise it from a Top Gear Episode where the guys drove through its miles of underground tunnels. Most of all though as you can probably tell, it really is a sight to behold and well worth a visit. Bucharest itself is also a really cool city to stay in as well. The Old Town area has plenty of great bars, restaurants, and little shops and markets to check out so you won’t be short of things to see and do.
5 – Castles
One of the things Romania is most famous for is Dracula. And you can actually visit Dracula’s castle! Which is pretty cool in itself. Romania has lots of absolutely beautiful castles dotted throughout the country however that are all unique in their own ways and most definitely worth a visit. I actually found Dracula’s castle, although still good, was quite busy and not as impressive as some of the others we visited. But I hope you can appreciate, the competition here is pretty stiff!
6 – It’s very affordable
Throughout Romania the prices were very affordable. Food and drink were really cheap and attractions etc were also. Our car rental was under $100 dollars for the week and accommodation also very affordable. We stayed in mid range hotels for the same price as hostels in central European countries. If you’re looking for something different, and a country that’s still safe and developed enough but affordable, Romania is a great option for this.
7 – The driving experience
If you’ve never driven in a country that’s slightly less developed than other central European countries, you’ll be in for a big surprise. Other than a lot of beautiful mountain roads such as the above, a lot of the roads in Romania were absolutely mental. The main road up from Bucharest is two lanes each side, and you’ll have pot holes, horse and carts, random people, other stray animals, cars pulling out from everywhere, the occasional lady of the night at the side of the road, I could go on… it feels like there’s always some sort of something that could join the road at any moment. It’s the intensity of driving that’s new to me. You’ll have people tail gating and making the most dangerous looking overtakes you’ve ever seen.
Luckily this one road isn’t representative of a lot of the roads in Romania, even though the drivers will be equally as impatient. We soon found out that the reason this one particular road is so bad is because, the government built a new super highway to try and ease congestion. However, you have to pay. So this means about 99% of people going this route avoid the new highway as they don’t want to pay, so take this 2 lane road. We took this super highway on our way back down by accident, and I saw maybe 20 cars in the space of 20 miles… It’s very surreal to drive down essentially an empty new motorway and be the only car most of the time.
All this is before I’ve even mentioned the ‘best driving road in the world’ according to Top Gear, The Transfagarasan Highway. Although we did experience some of the stunning mountain passes, and planned to take this ‘best driving road in the world’. The weather meant that it was closed when we visited Romania unfortunately… But if you like you’re driving, rent an awesome car cheap, take the super highway and visit The Transfagarasan Highway in the summer. If it’s good enough for Top Gear, it’s probably good enough for you.
So I hope you’ve enjoyed my whistlestop tour of 7 reasons you should visit Romania. If these don’t convince you I’m not sure what will… I honestly had a great time there, and it was a bit out of my comfort zone in parts, but really offers something different as a country than anywhere I’ve been. The history, people and landscapes provide for a really unique travel experience, and all possible on a budget as well. Are there any other countries in Eastern Europe you’ve been that you’d recommend?
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