Romania is one of the most overlooked countries in the European Union but it is a land of unbridled imagination. A land, where reality and fantasies intermingle. Find out why Romania travel should be on your 2018 bucket list.
Before October 2017, Romania meant only one thing to me – Home of Dracula. Frankly, I had never imagined Romania to be so soul-stirringly beautiful that it would become one of my favourite countries in the world. So, what brought this massive change?
My country is very beautiful and we welcome everyone who visits us. I want you to experience it yourself and share an honest feedback. Under no circumstance, I want to influence your decision. You are free to write anything you feel like. After all, love is earned and respect is gained.
That’s what Cecilia Enache, the Viadora Group MD, said when I first spoke to her about my visit. This genuineness and passion for one’s country was the first interaction that started my lifelong love affair with Romania. And, rest is history. Romania is no more just another country. It’s become my second home now.
Furthermore, I have a thing for rural landscapes of Europe. And, Romania has some of the most beautiful villages of Europe, where the magic of old times blend with fairytale landscapes, in front of which you cannot remain impassive. The rolling green hills and pine forests of the countryside often confused me if I was daydreaming or was it actually so beautiful. The architecture and little-hidden streets of Bucharest transformed a couch potato into a peripatetic. The forests of Transylvania and Bran’s Castle brought alive my creative imaginations. And, the communist sites peppered around the country took me back to Ceausescu’s time.
In short, if you are a lover of untouched natural beauty and well-preserved culture, Romania is for you. The reasons to fall in love with Romania are limitless.
However, I am going to start with 10 reasons why Romania should be on your 2018 travel list.
1. Home to breath-taking nature
Switzerland might have been romanticised as one of the most beautiful countries in Europe, but when I explored Romania, I was struggling to put words to my feelings. You have to see, taste and feel it in person to understand what I mean. Romania might be a part of Europe yet it feels so different from the rest of the continent. Due to its varied landscape, Romania is the most biogeographically diverse country in the European Union. With the snow-capped Carpathians, lush National parks, rolling hills carpeted with forests and vineyards, Black Sea coast protecting ancient ruins to modern beaches, and Danube Delta harbouring the largest biodiverse area in Europe; Romania has something for everyone. However, one trip is not enough. Despite spending three weeks in Romania, I could barely scratch the surface.
2. Wildlife and Hiking Dreamland
Romania is a haven for nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts, and adventure seekers. And trust me, Romania awards the adventurous. All you need to do is grab a backpack and pick a trail from a plethora of options available to hike in the towering mountains or rolling hills. Oh, and don’t leave out the wildlife. The Carpathian Mountains house centuries-old forests, national parks and animals which could not be seen anymore in Western Europe and found here a final shelter. Wolves, badgers, lynx, bison, and bears can all be found. In fact, Romania is the country with the biggest number of brown bears in Europe (except Russia) – almost 6000. Here’s a great post by my friend Teresa Gomez about her experience at the Libearty Bear Sanctuary.
3. The Legend of Dracula
If nature and wildlife are not enough for you, there’s always the folklore. Home to the legendary Dracula of Bram Stoker’s 19th-century novel, Transylvania is quite possibly the most famous place in the history of the horror genre. Although there is much debate as to the origins of the Count Dracula character and his home, many point to Bran Castle as the place to go for all those looking to play with their imagination. While the connection with Vlad the Impaler, is tenuous, the deep bond of local villagers with the legend is not.
There’s a certain excitement that comes over you when you approach the castle and when you actually get inside. To think that you’re standing at the birthplace of one of the most famous horror stories of all time is certainly enough to send chills down your spine. At the same time, there’s also an overwhelming appreciation for the sheer beauty of both the castle and the surrounding area. And, if you are looking to get a more immersive experience, don’t forget to stay at Hotel Castle Dracula where you are welcomed with blood coloured welcome drinks, a spooky performance and panoramic views of the valley.
4. Transylvania Traction
A trip to Transylvania feels like a trip back in time. Bordered to the east by the Carpathian Mountains, ‘the land beyond the forest’ still feels undiscovered and will charm you with a rare mix of culture, untamed natural beauty, and medieval enchantment.
Transylvania is home to some of Europe’s best-preserved medieval towns, like Brasov, featuring Old Saxon architecture and citadel ruins; Sibiu with its cobblestone streets and pastel-colored houses, and Sighisoara adorned with a hilltop citadel, secret passageways, and a 14th-century clock tower.
5. Where Worlds Collide
Romania is full of medieval castles and old world architecture that will take you to another time. It’s also full of strong reminders of the Communist era, many of which aren’t so aesthetically pleasing. Bucharest is full of massive Communist buildings that remind visitors about the grim reality of a beautiful nation. You will also see parts of the country that are brand new. Renovation and new construction are constant. The combination and contrast of the three worlds can be fascinating.
Walking around Bucharest gives you the feeling of being at an intersection. The clash of old and new is not awkward but fascinating. You grow to appreciate the clash and contrast. One moment you could be discussing the masterpiece of communism, The Palace of the Parliament, the next moment you could be having a conversation at a cool cafe next door or walking through the Instagrammable Umbrella Street.
6. Welcoming People
Whether it was Raluca saying, “Check your buddies” or Georgiana Atanasiu making our day bright with her million dollars smile and green eyes, Romanians leave no stone unturned to make you feel comfortable. They are very friendly and welcoming hosts. I suggest you spend some time hearing stories from older Romanians about life in Communist era, the transition and life as an independent nation. Of course, having a Romanian guide/friend like Stephen from Walkabout Free Tours will make it a lot easier. And, some lucky ones, like me, even get a privilege to travel with Zazou, the Happy Dog 🙂
We don’t always think of people as being attractions for history buffs, but some of the best experiences in Romania will come from people as opposed to museums or landmarks. Once again, the time machine feeling is hard to escape when a new friend is telling you about life under the Communist Era.
7. Traditional Romanian Clothing and Culture
One of my favorite memories of Romania is the traditional attire that becomes more and more common as you distance yourself from urban centers. It’s colourful, unlike almost anything you would find in Western Europe, and clearly made with painstaking attention to detail. And, Romanians would really love, if you dress up like them.
I still can’t forget the day we attended a traditional Romanian Wedding at a small village called Sibiel in Sibiu, where we all dressed up in traditional outfits and witnessed a wedding ceremony. Participating in local cultural events or festivals is the best way to become a part of a new place rather than being a fence sitter.
8. Hearty, Homestyle Food
Romania can be a bit tough for vegetarians as it is primarily a meat-eating country. However, potato. mushroom, cheese, and polenta lovers are in for a treat. The food here is neither too fancy nor too basic. Think more along the lines of homemade plates that fill you up the way five-star restaurants never do. It’s the perfect kind of food for travelers who show up starving after a full day walking the streets of a city or hiking through the woods.
Food like Mamaliga cu branza si smantana (Polenta with Cheese and Sour Cream), Sarmale (Cabbage Rolls), Zacusca (Vegetable Paste), bread and salt (a traditional Romanian custom showing that the guest is welcomed) has a way of creating an emotional connection with visitors and that’s certainly the case in Romania.
9. Buzzing Bucharest
Bucharest is not only a history magnet but appeals to culturephiles too. A plenty of small, hidden cobblestone streets will lead you to excellent cafes. The cafe experience in Paris is, considered to be the gold standard, but in the back of your head, you know hundreds of thousands of tourists have sat in the same place and seen the same sights. A cafe in Bucharest feels much more personal and if you’re like me, you’ll take pleasure in the laidback culture.
And, as the night befalls, you’ll see Bucharest in a completely different light. Partying in Romania is of a different level – goes on until 11 am the next day with a continuous flow of super affordable booze. Yes, you heard it right. Whether it’s going out clubbing or attending a music festival, the atmosphere rarely disappoints. Bucharest is, of course, the best spot if you’re looking for good clubs.
10. Low Costs
Romania will cost you a fraction of whatever your friends are spending in France or Italy. You might not get all the flash and fanfare, but you’ll certainly dodge the crowds and return home with some money to spare. But don’t think you’re getting less out of your trip! Romania offers a world of adventure for those adventurous enough to seek it out.
Have you ever been to Romania? I would love to know your thoughts.
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I went to Romania on the invitation to attend #ExperienceRomania, the biggest independent project to promote Romania. Experience Romania project was brought to life by a team of volunteers passionate about their country, a team made of Travel Massive volunteers, local traveller influencers, and local organizations. 50 special guests, social media influencers from around the world, were invited on a 2-week trip to Romania between 20th and 23rd of October to explore Bucharest and between 23rd of October – 5th of November to explore Moldavia, Bucovina, Eastern Transylvania and Prahova Valley. Views expressed above are completely mine and based on my personal experiences. the pictures were either clicked by me or shared by my friends on the trip with me.