Transylvania, the most mysterious region in Romania, stands in the center of the country outlined by steep mountains, vast empty highways, deep valleys and thick forests shrouded in an enigmatic aura. Here, locals have preserved their traditions, customs and rural way of life living in a perfect communion with nature. The best part? This lifestyle has been preserved as if in a time bubble, with no industrialisation, modern civilisation or mass tourism.
While for many tourists Transylvania is synonymous with Dracula’s castle, the region has much more to offer. This diverse region makes up 1/3 of the country and it is bigger in size than Austria. Thus, in order to make the most out of your stay, you will need a comprehensive guide and well-planned schedule.
We put together a list of popular as well as hidden gems must-visit places from the regions of Transylvania along with a couple of hotels and restaurants to complete your stay.
Travel from Transylvanian Alps to Sinaia, a beautiful place named after the Biblical Mount Sinai in the late 17th century. Here you will find one of the finest architecture Romania has to offer, namely the Peles Castle. This has been the first castle to use central heating, as well as the first building in Europe that was illuminated by electricity.
The castle is a masterpiece of German Renaissance architecture, with a unique facade that catches the eye. More than 160 rooms, Murano crystal chandeliers and beautiful spires form a fairytale-like atmosphere. The splendour of the castle is as good as any other royal palace in Europe.
Viscri is a small rural village with a population a little over 420, located in central Romania. This village is one of the seven cities listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site as the ”Fortress of Transylvania”. Walking around, instead of taxis and shuttle buses you will encounter horse-drawn carts as the primary means of transportation. The sound of wheels and horseshoes rolling over the pavement echoes all around this quiet countryside place.
Casa cu Suflet
If you have ever browsed home furnishings magazines and your thoughts remained on those warm and colorful chic interior ensembles with all sorts of romantic details… well, we have discovered a house arranged in this style and we want to tell you about it.
The ”Soulful House” abounds in decorations with a rustic but chic charm such as lace, linen and cotton, floral motifs, wood and wicker, wreaths and ornaments on doors and windows.
Fortified Church of Biertan
In the central Romanian Carpathian Mountains, Biertan is more a town than a city. The fortified churches in the area clearly show the architectural style of the 13th and 16th centuries.
When the Ottoman Empire threatened the Transylvanian regions, the Saxon community at the foot of the Carpathians was at risk. Therefore, they build defenses to protect from invasion. Since there were no wealthy nobles who could invest in fortifying the city, the peasants made fortifications around the churches and surrounded the buildings with walls sturdy enough to withstand long wars.
Similar locations worth a visit if you have time: Fortress Church of Valea Viilor, Fortress Church of Darjiu and the Prejmer Fortress Church.
In the afternoon, walk through Brasov, one of the largest medieval towns in Romania. With a center adorned by baroque facades, bohemian cafes and a beautiful square where you can enjoy a moment of rest on one of its terraces while admiring the Black Church, Brasov is the perfect operations center for touring the Transylvania region. A step away from the Bucegi mountains and the towns of Rasnov and Sinania, it is a lively city that is nothing like its dark past.
If you are in the area, we recommend a stay at the 4 star Wolkendorf Hotel. It is a welcoming place for absolutely everyone: 45 double rooms, spa complex with sauna and indoor / outdoor pool AND a mini rabbit farm!
DOR (short for delicious, organic, Romanian) is a restaurant as you rarely see in the mountains, meaning it is not rustic but modern. It looks like a barn with wooden walls, large windows, elements of industrial interior style and natural plants.
The most impressive aspect of the restaurant however is a giant tree located in the middle of the dining area. The owner said that he was inspired by the local peasants who stopped to eat under the trees after working the fields. If you are close to Bran or Brasov, then you have to stop here.
The owners of Ravens Nest purchased these 200 year old original Transylvanian houses, took them apart and installed them in a remote location in order to create a hidden village up in the mountains. With around 30 guests that can stay in the village per night, you can also experience a lookout called the Ravens Eye, as well as a spa made into the shape of an old barrel.
It should be noted that the holiday village operates exclusively from the beginning of May until the end of October.
If you go there, then you have to visit the Dragon Tavern restaurant. Here you will find a menu inspired by the archaic Romanian cuisine, but adapted to the times and tastes. All ingredients are natural, purchased from the local small farmers. The menus can be adapted, depending on your preferences: for vegetarians, dishes for children or for special diets.
There are also a multitude of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks served at the bar, but their pride is that the entire location gets its water directly from a mountain spring.
Sarmizegetusa was the most important and largest settlement in the history of Dacia, and today it is one of the main historical sites in Romania. It is also a UNESCO monument, along with five other former Dacian fortresses in the Orastie Mountains.
Here you can see a foundation of limestone blocks also known as the “stone sun”. This served as an altar of sacrifice to appease the gods. If you like ancient ruins shrouded in mystery then this one is a must-see.
The Clay Castle
The Clay Castle from Valea Zanelor (Fairy Valley) is located in the Porumbacu de Sus tourist area, in Sibiu county and is the project of two spouses who preferred to give up the hustle and bustle of Bucharest for a quiet corner in the heart of the mountains.
Resembling a gnome village, the Clay Castle has a finishing made with natural and non-toxic exclusive plasters, generating a unique shape and design. The castle blends perfectly into the enchanting landscape of nature and the dynamism is given by the roof inspired by mountain tops.
To stay in a special place, a little out of the ordinary, to have a wonderful host, not to mention good, rustic food. On lazy days, throw the fishing rod in the water and stay in the shade, and if it gives you energy, go cycling. If this sounds ideal, then a stay in these rustic treehouses is exactly what you need. Book it here.
The Hoia Baciu forest located near Cluj-Napoca is named after a shepherd who went missing along with his 200 sheeps inside its depths. However, the place became famous back in 1968 when people spotted a UFO right above the treeline. Ever since then there have been countless inexplicable happenings in the area. As you advance through it, the trees suddenly stop to form a uniform oval shape where nothing has grown for awhile. It has been called the creepiest forest in the world, and it gives off strange energies that not even specialists have been able to place.
For the most brave, you can opt for a night tour but it is still available to visit during the daytime.
And there you have it! These are just some of the attractions that Transylvania has to offer and which are definitely a must-see if you are in the area.