Beautiful and beguiling, Romania’s rural landscape remains relatively untouched by the country’s urban evolution.
Romania is traversed by the waters of the Danube, bound by the peaks of the impressive Carpathian Mountains, and enhanced by the sizzling beaches along the Black Sea. Romania, a land with a long and distinguished history is a goldmine of culture, art and natural beauty. Despite the hardships and challenges of being a developing country, the splendour of Romania’s days of glory is resplendent in its many monuments and relics of Roman, Greek and Byzantine vintage, and the raw beauty of the deeper country will slowly envelop you.
Rich in culture and tradition, this east European republic has much to offer the unsuspecting visitor. Romania is putting behind its recent past of Communist command that cast its iron hand on sports, the arts, academics and politics with undiscriminating ardour. Romania is a country in transition, renewing itself as fertile soil for discourse and discos, gymnasts and gipsies, travel and tourism.
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ROMANIA QUICK FACTS
Currency: leu (RON)
Area: 37,500 sq km
Population: 19,41 million (2019)
Religion: Eastern Orthodox 87%, Protestant (mostly Calvinist, Unitarian and Lutheran) 6.8%, Catholic 5.6%
Electricity: 220V/50Hz (European plug)
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ROMANIA PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
- 24 January, Unification Day
- 1 May, Labor Day
- 15 August, Dormition of the Virgin Mary
- 30 November, Feast of Saint Andrew
- 1 December, National Day
- 26 December, Second Day of Christmas
Also, Orthodox Easter, Orthodox Easter Monday, Pentecost, and Pentecost Monday.
BEST TIME TO VISIT ROMANIA
Romania experiences rainfall throughout the year, with peak temperatures and precipitation occurring in the summer months (May to August).
The climate is pretty crucial in planning a trip to Romania as winters can be brutal when snow blankets much of the country. With the arrival of spring, conditions start to improve, bringing rain and wildflowers to the mountains and blue skies over Bucharest.
By May, the lowlands are warming up and you might well find strong sunshine on the coast before the season starts in July. Although by far the hottest time of the year, summer or early autumn is the perfect time to investigate Transylvania’s festivals and hiking trails
May - Good for festivals, including the ever-popular Sibiu Jazz Festival.
June - Mountain hiking starts in mid-June, while birding season gets rolling in the Danube Delta.
Sep - The summer heat is gone, but sunny days are perfect for exploring big cities.
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN ROMANIA
The snow sports season in Romania is as long as from November until April.
HIKING & CYCLING IN ROMANIA
The best time for outdoor activities in Romania is from April to October, although some trails only open in July.
BEACH OPTIONS IN ROMANIA
You can enjoy the beaches of Romania from May to September, with the months of June to August being the warmest.
SURFING IN ROMANIA
In between the inconsistency in summer and very cold waters in winter, Romania can offers some surf throughout the year, albeit a little challenging.
KITESURF IN ROMANIA
The best wind in Romania is usually from October to April, although it can be really cold. More pleasant, but less consistent conditions can be found from May to September. Of course, you could also try snow kiting!
ROMANIA TRAVEL COSTS
Romania is a pretty affordable destination, to begin with - here is an indication of what to expect:
On a backpacker budget, expect to spend around $35 USD per day -which would assume that you’re staying in a hostel or camping, cooking most of your meals or buying them from supermarkets, and using the local transportation. On this budget, you’ll have to stick to mostly free activities (like hiking or free walking tours) while occasionally paying to visit a museum or attraction.
On a mid-range budget of about $75 USD, you’ll be able to stay in a budget hostel, eat out at local restaurants, enjoy some intercity travel, and see a few more sights (such as more museums or forts/castles).
ROMANIA TRAVEL TIPS
It’s possible to get just about anywhere in the country by bus from Bucharest, but figuring out where your bus or maxitaxi departs from can be tricky. Bucharest has several bus stations and they don’t seem to follow any discernible logic. The best bet is to consult www.autogari.ro for up-to-date timetables.
However, you will find Romanian cities to have good public transportation systems. (Bucharest is the only city with a metro). The method for accessing the systems is broadly similar. Purchase tickets at street kiosks marked bilete or casă de bilete before boarding and validate the ticket once aboard. For maxitaxis, buy the ticket from the driver.
The extensive train network covers much of the country, including most of the main tourist sights. The national rail system is run by Căile Ferate Române (CFR). It operates three types of trains that travel at different speeds. InterCity, listed as ‘IC’ on timetables, are the most expensive and most comfortable. You can buy tickets at station windows or online at cfrcalatori.ro.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF ROMANIA
Ascend castles and mountains (and castles on top of mountains), using Braşov as a base.
Follow the Unesco World Heritage line of painted monasteries in southern Bucovina.
Soak in Sibiu, a beautifully restored Saxon town.
Explore the medieval citadel of Sighişoara, Dracula's birthplace.
Row through the tributaries and the riot of nature in the Danube Delta.
Enjoy the museums and cacophonous nightlife of the capital Bucharest.
Spend a day ambling around the capital, then take a train to Braşov – Transylvania's main event – for castles, activities, and beer at streetside cafes. Spend a day in Sighişoara's medieval citadel, then catch a train back to Bucharest or on to Budapest.
Arrive in Bucharest by plane or Timişoara by train, then head into Transylvania, devoting a day or two each to Braşov, Sighişoara, and Sibiu. Tour southern Bucovina's painted monasteries, then continue on to Bucharest.
Romania’s capital gets a bad rap, but in fact, Bucharest is dynamic, energetic, and more than a little bit funky. It’s where unreconstructed communism meets unbridled capitalism; where the soporific forces of the EU meet the passions of the Balkans and the Middle East. Many travellers give the city just a night or two before heading off to Transylvania but, frankly, that’s not enough. Spend at least a few days to take in the museums, stroll the parks, and hang out at trendy cafes.
After a century of being name-checked in literature and cinema, the word 'Transylvania' enjoys worldwide recognition. The mere mention conjures a vivid landscape of mountains, castles, spooky moonlight, and at least one well-known count with a wicked overbite. A melange of architecture and chic sidewalk cafes punctuate the towns of Braşov, Sighişoara, and Sibiu, while the vibrant student town Cluj-Napoca has some vigorous nightlife. Bran Castle, too, is well worth the trip – even if 'Dracula' never did spend much time there.
Legend has it the Pied Piper re-emerged from Hamelin in Braşov, and indeed there's something whimsical about the city, with its fairy-tale turrets and cobbled streets. Dramatically overlooked by Mt Tâmpa, the trees sporting a russet-gold coat (and cocky Hollywood-style sign), this is a remarkably relaxed city. Wander its maze of streets, stopping for caffeine injections at bohemian cafes, and lose yourself in a beguiling coalescence of Austro-Hungarian gingerbread roofs, baroque statues, medieval spires, and Soviet flat-tops.
A stopover in Braşov affords an excellent chance to take in some spooky hilltop fortresses; the best known is certainly Bran Castle. The castle is often referred to as ‘Dracula’s Castle’, though its links to the real Vlad Ţepeş are tenuous at best. Facing the flatlands and backed by mountains, the 60m-tall castle is spectacular. It was built by Saxons around 1380 to defend important Bran pass from incursions from Turks and Tatars.
From the moment you enter Sighişoara's fortified walls, wending your way along cobblestones to its central square, the town burns itself into your memory. It's like stepping into a kid's fairy tale, the narrow streets aglow with lustrously colored 16th-century houses, their gingerbread roofs tumbling down to pretty cafes. Horror fans won't be disappointed either, for this UNESCO-protected citadel was reputedly the birthplace of one of history's great 'monsters' – Vlad Ţepeş (The Impaler).
Instantly charming, with a maze of cobbled streets and baroque squares, Sibiu - Romania's cultural first lady - has a magic all its own. Composers Franz Liszt and Johann Strauss were drawn here in the 19th century, and in 2007 Sibiu became the first Romanian city to be named an EU Capital of Culture. Most months have myriad things going on, from festivals and exhibitions to theatre and opera. There are plenty of cafes for people-watching in the three main squares.
North of Transylvania, Maramureş is regarded as Romania's most traditional area, scattered with steepled wooden churches and villagers’ homes fronted by ornately carved wooden gates. Some of the churches date back as far as the 14th century and reflect a time when Orthodox Romanians were forbidden by their Hungarian rulers to build churches in stone. Several of the structures are now UNESCO-listed heritage sites. good base for exploring this rural charm is the Valea Izei (Izei Valley), accessible by car or bus from Sighetu Marmaţiei. The valley follows the Iza River eastward from the city to the village of Ieud and beyond.
Cluj-Napoca, shortened to 'Cluj' in conversation, isn't as picturesque as its Saxon neighbors, but it's famed for cafes, clubs, and student life. Even outside the clubs, Cluj is one of Romania's most energized and welcoming cities.
The painted monasteries of southern Bucovina are among the greatest artistic monuments of eastern Europe. In 1993 they were collectively designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Erected in the 15th and 16th centuries, when Moldavia was threatened by Turkish invaders, the monasteries were surrounded by strong defensive walls. Biblical stories were portrayed on the church walls in colorful pictures so that illiterate worshippers could better understand them. The most impressive collection of monasteries is located west of Suceava. It includes the Humor, Voroneţ, and Moldoviţa Monasteries.
Timişoara, the regional hub of western Romania, has a nationwide reputation as a beautiful and lively metropolis, and for a series of 'firsts'. It's also one of the country's most attractive urban areas, built around a series of beautiful public squares and lavish parks and gardens. It's known as Primul Oraş Liber (First Free Town), for it was here that anti-Ceauşescu protests first exceeded the Securitate’s capacity for violent suppression in 1989, eventually sending Ceauşescu and his wife to their demise.
After passing through several countries and absorbing countless waterways, the Danube River empties into the Black Sea just south of the Ukrainian border. The Danube Delta (Delta Dunării), included on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, is one of Romania’s leading attractions. At the inland port of Tulcea, the river splits into three separate channels: the Chilia, Sulina and Sfântu Gheorghe, creating a constantly evolving 4187-sq-km wetland of marshes, floating reed islets and sandbars. There are beautiful, secluded beaches at Sulina and Sfântu Gheorghe, and the seafood, particularly the fish soup served in restaurants and pension kitchens throughout the region, is the best in Romania.
For many visitors, the main drawcard is birdwatching. The delta is a major migration hub for tens of thousands of birds, with the best viewing times being spring and late autumn.
Caving in the Apuseni - The karst zone of the Apuseni offers fabulous possibilities to explore subterranean wonders such as Meziad and the even more spectacular “Bears’ Cave” at Chişcău.
Hiking the Făgăraş - Cutting across the country are the sinuous Carpathian mountains, whose best-known range is the awesome Făgăraş, harboring Romania’s loftiest peaks, the highest of which is Moldoveanu (2544m).
Wildlife-watching in the Carpathians - Explore forests looking for markings made by large carnivores – there’s a good chance of spotting bears from purpose-made hideouts, though wolves are more elusive.
Skiing - The superior slopes and facilities of Poiana Braşov exert the greatest pull, though there’s also terrific skiing at Buşteni, Predeal, and Sinaia.
Birdwatching in the Delta - Europe’s most extensive wetland, with the continent’s largest pelican colonies, the Delta is heaven for birdwatchers, especially during the spring and autumn migrations.
Black Sea Coast - Bountiful sun, sea, and sand combine to make the Romanian coastline the perfect spot to rest up for a day or two.
WHAT TO EAT IN ROMANIA
Romanian food borrows heavily from its neighbours, including Turkey, Hungary and the Balkans, and is centred on pork and other meats. Farm-fresh, organically grown fruits and vegetables are in abundance, lending flavour and colour to a long list of soups and salads. Condiments typically include sour cream, garlic sauce and grated sheep's cheese, used to flavour everything from soup to the most common side dish: polenta.
Mămăligă - Cornmeal mush, sometimes topped with sour cream or cheese.
Ciorbă - Sour soup that's a mainstay of the Romanian diet.
Sarmale - Spiced meat wrapped in cabbage or grape leaves.
Covrigi - Oven-baked pretzels served warm from windows around town.
Ţuică - Fiery plum brandy sold in water bottles at roadside rest stops.
LGBTQ IN ROMANIA
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Romania may face legal challenges and discrimination not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Romania does not allow same-sex marriage or civil unions, though it does recognise the right of residence of same-sex married couples if one partner is an EU citizen.
Attitudes in Romania are generally conservative, with regard to the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender citizens. Only a very small minority of the population are LBGTQ accepting. Open homosexuality is still uncommon outside of major urban centres, and rural gay and lesbian Romanians typically remain closeted. The largest and most visible LGBT communities exist in Bucharest and in Cluj-Napoca. Bucharest Pride has been held in Bucharest annually since 2005.