Hidden Gems of Romania
Tucked into one of Romania's least-known national parks is its most beautiful waterfall. Cascading down a series of moss-covered stones, the waterfall is unlike many others! For those who want more than just a quick stop, there is a short hike that takes you into the Nerei - Beușnița National Park. This hike takes you to another waterfall and spring but you do enter the national park so it does cost a few Lei to enter. To learn more click here
This has to be one of the most underrated spots to stop in Romania. Not only is it steeped in history but the small-town life is very evident. Start with Romania's oldest Christian church (11th century) and the 14th-century Protestant church built from reused Roman marble. After a quick visit, take a trip up the hill to numerous beautiful waterfalls, and a Roman bath that’s about 2,000 years old! Quick tip- there is a youth hostel on the site of the two churches which is a great spot to stop for the night. Say hi to the caretaker, Silly and he will be happy to take you around the sites if he has time.
Overlook Bran Castle
Bran Castle is on everyone's list in Romania and for good reason! While it is gorgeous, it is hard to capture the whole castle due to how the landscape is manicured and the fact that it is in the city centre. Though it is steep, not far from the entrance is a short walk to a perfect viewpoint overlooking the castle. Bran Castle is best accessed from Brasov as a day trip.
Quick Tip: you can technically tour the grounds of the castle without buying an entrance ticket though that is up to the security guard. If they do not let you in, you can always say you are going to the onsite restaurant and have a couple of minutes to explore the grounds. Either way lets you into the castle and is a good way to find the perfect Dracula picture!
Fun Fact :
The carving is taller than any of the heads on Mt Rushmore!
Though it is not in the most tourist-friendly location, the tallest relief statue in Europe is worth checking out. Overlooking the Danube River and facing into the unfriendly territories of the former Roman Empire, the last great king of the Dacians stands stoically. This is a great stop to take on a southwestern Romania road trip.
While the Transfăgărășan gets a lot more attention (thanks Top Gear!), the Transalpina highway runs parallel and is almost as beautiful. The highest and oldest mountain pass in Romania zigzags across the Carpathian mountains, passing beautiful rapids, dams, forests and of course mountain towns. It is also open for several months longer than the Transfăgărășan so it is a good option for those travelling through the shoulder season. Check out the southwestern Romania road trip to find out more.
Located just outside of the university city of Cluj, the town of Turda sits with its ever-popular Salina Turda. While most people leave the town after the salt mine, it is worth sticking around to check out one of the most beautiful gorges in the country! It is a true testament to the power of earth forces as you can see the rock has literally been split in two by water. With the gorge being one of the most popular climbing spots in Romania, it has some traffic through the hike, but still relatively little. There are several hikes through the gorge depending on how long or difficult you would like. The main path is well maintained though be careful as the gravel can be slippery. If anything does happen on the path, note there is a mountain rescue team on standby at the start of the trail who are happy to help and are free of charge.
Though Bucharest is already full of things to do, it is worth it to carve out some time to visit one of the best examples of government waste from the Communist era. Just a couple of KMs from the city and with easy public transport options, the high concrete walls of the failed inner-city lake and reservoir remain. With the hope of creating a lake inside Bucharest, Nicolae Ceaușescu took a swampy area, built large concrete walls around the
outside, and filled it with water. What he didn’t take into account is the bottom of the "lake" being very porous and allowing all the water to flow out and flood the city around it. Now, after years of campaigning, the area is conserved as it is home to a number of unique species including, turtles, otters, and birds. Its not often that you can walk through such gorgeous trails in the center of a city!