- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
There aren’t many countries in Europe where farmers still drive horse-drawn wagons and covered markets dominate over shopping malls, but then Romania isn’t quite like other places.
While other Eastern European countries have become fertile ground for boutique hotels and international restaurants, this traditional country still clings to its dog-eared charm – and good on it.
The first post of call for most travellers is the bustling capital, Bucharest, which was once known as ‘Little Paris’ due to its sophisticated charm. Crammed with grand architecture, fascinating museums and traditional restaurants, it’s well worth a few days exploration. So too are the resorts along the Black Sea Coast, which surprise many with their stunning sandy beaches and ocean panoramas.
Ultimately, though, Romania remains defined by its small, rural communities, many of which still depend on ancient agricultural practices. From the isolated villages clinging to the Carpathian Mountains to the Saxon towns of Transylvania, a tour of Romania’s backcountry will uncover traditional ways of life and a treasure chest of cultural gems.
Things to see and do in Romania
This beautiful old capital was decimated by Nicolae Ceauşescu’s programme of systemisation between the 1960s and 1990s, but the historic centre is still a bastion of old world charm. Wander around some of the most important streets in Bucharest: Calea Victoriei (Victory Road) which holds the The Vernescu House and Boulevards Gh. Magheru, Carol I, Calea Mosilor, Calea Dorobantilor and Soseaua Kiseleff.
See Transylvania's numerous Saxon fortified churches, including the Biertan Church, which stands on top of a hill overlooking the village of Biertan and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The village itself still preserves a large Saxon community and boasts some world-class examples of Saxon architecture from the medieval period.
It's worth the trek to the Painted Monasteries of Bucovina (Voronet, Sucevita, Moldovita and Humor) in Northern Moldavia. These UNESCO World Heritage Sites are painted with frescoes both inside and outside and have been preserved in excellent condition since medieval times.
With its curative thermal springs, salt waters and healing mud, Lake Techirghiol is one of Romania’s premier spa destinations. Bathing in the waters of the lake is said to heal everything from rheumatism and arthritis to peripheral nervous system diseases, and there is a huge range of spa treatments available in the nearby town.
Visit the Carpathian Mountains
TheThe Carpathian Mountains, a densely forested mountainous area, is ideal for hiking. In winter, resorts such as Poiana Brasov and Predeal offer some of the best skiing in Eastern Europe - or go bob-sleighing at Semenic and Sinaia. Recently, the mountains have also garnered a reputation among cyclists and there’s a huge network of upland tracks to explore.
Wildlife on the Danube
Cruise along the Danube Delta, to see over 300 species of birds and foxes, otters, wildcats and boars in a vast expanse of watery wilderness. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and biosphere reservation and altogether 3,460 species of animal can be spotted here – not to mention 1,700 plant species. Most Danube River cruises leave from Tulcea, which also has a museum dedicated to the Danube Delta.
Let imagination run wild at Bran Castle, the legendary abode of the medieval king known as Vlad the Impaler, who helped inspire Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula.