There are so many things to do and places to visit in Romania, some are easy to find, and some you need to squint your eyes a little bit. There are lots of experiences for everyone to enjoy themselves while traveling to this mystical and magical country. Ranging from amazing mountainsides and hikes – if you are feeling adventurous – to amazing and unique festivals – if you want to spend some fun time with your friends – to delicious and traditional food – for those with an appetite, there is pretty much a guarantee you’ll have the time of your life.
This country is a beautiful holiday destination with friendly people, lots of tourist attractions and cool things to enjoy! That said, don’t think twice and put Romania on your bucket list this year when deciding your next holiday plan and use this article as a source of inspiration.
Without further ado, here is a list of 10 best things to look forward to when visiting the beautiful and vast country of Romania:
- Food! Lots and lots of food
- Go hiking in the wild Carpathian Mountains
- Drink tasty Romanian wine
- Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania: Bran Castle
- Travel back in time to medieval times
- Experience authentic Romanian village life
- Travel through Romania’s haunted forest – for real
- See the Romanian Sphinx in Bucegi Mountains
- Admire the 500 year old Painted Monasteries of Bucovina
Let’s get funkyyyyy! Looking for an amazing time with your friends and loved ones? Well we got good news for you. Whether you are a fan of electronic music, rock or pop, you can find a festival that fits your jam. The most notable festivals where it is guaranteed you would have an amazing time at, and find like minded people in crazy and over the top costumes, are Untold Festival, Electric Castle, Neversea Festival and Rockstadt Festival. Each of them are extremely well known here, and each of them have brought a lot of international artists that you may be more familiar with, like Marshmello, Tyga, Jbalvin, Imagine Dragons and 21 Pilots. You can have a truly amazing time at any one of these Festivals where you can let loose and enjoy the moment and best yet, all of these are during the summer time, which means you don’t really have to worry about fluctuations with the weather.
If you are looking for another kind of festival, you can find festivals like TIFF – International Film Festival, where you can watch movies in open air areas or inside classic movie theaters with all types of movies that are part of a 7-day program. For lots of other festivals that might peak your interest, you can find out more information for whatever floats your boat here.
Food! Lots and lots of food
Are you a food connoisseur or do you find yourself being a food critic? Boy, do I have the good news for you! When it comes to Romania, you must know that the people here LOVE FOOD! It is impossible not to fall in love with Romanian cuisine. You might wonder why, but we guarantee that it will truly spoil your taste buds with intense and rich flavors. Dishes here are bigger than in other parts of the world (where you might still feel hungry after eating a two course meal) and they are extremely filling and your belly will for sure feel loved.
This is exactly the secret ingredient in all of the Romanian dishes, LOVE – love for tradition, love for people, love for food. Romanian traditional cuisine is a perfect combination of spices and cooking techniques borrowed from neighboring cultures and transformed into something special reminiscent of grandma’s comfort food. You can taste local specialties like Sarmale – pickled cabbage rolls with meat inside – or even Mici – they are like sausages that are smaller than your usual sausage, no pun intended.
Pro tip: if you are a vegetarian or vegan – you’re in luck! Thanks to the long Orthodox Lent (fasting) periods which a number of Romanians strictly observe, there are lots of recipes without meat or any animal products. Just ask for mancare de post or religious fasting foods and you’ll enjoy filling, nutritious and delicious recipes!
Naming all of the memorable types of foods Romania has to offer, would take the majority of this article. That being said, check here for a fully detailed showcase of all the dishes that should be on your bucket list when visiting Romania.
Go Hiking In The Wild Carpathian Mountains
A large part of Romania’s territory is occupied by the Carpathian Mountains starting from foothills of 800m high and reaching 2,554m at their highest point called Moldoveanu Peak. So our country is not only an amazing hiking destination but also a great place for mountaineering adventures, observing wildlife and other outdoor activities.
The Carpathians offer a wide variety of trails for city folk looking to go out in nature. There are also plenty of natural attractions too, like waterfalls, crests, gorges and glacial lakes, so in general, hiking is one of the best activities to do while visiting Romania.
Romania is also known as Europe’s last wilderness reserve with 2 documentaries about that aspect: Wild Carpathia and Untamed Romania – check’em out to see why!
If you are a big enthusiast about hiking or are just an active person in general, consider going hiking in Romania to discover untouched sceneries and very old forests, a rich wildlife population and secluded mountain villages untouched by civilization.
However, because Romania’s Carpathian Mountains are so wild – tourist hiking infrastructure is really underdeveloped and unfriendly for first-time hikers. To make sure you have a smoother experience with the terrain you’re going to encounter, consider hiring a licensed mountain guide for your trip.
One additional important advice for your journey when hiking is, watch out for brown bears. Romania has a large population of brown bears and you could find them when traveling the mountains, but as long as you make yourself known and make noise while passing through the dense forests, the bears will hear you and keep a safe distance. It’s more than recommended to have a Bear Spray with you, just in case. If you want to see them however, a bear watching tour is more than recommended. Together with a guide, you will be taken into the wild to a safe bear hide and observe these animals in their natural habitat. We strongly recommend booking a guide for both instances.
Drink Tasty Romanian Wine
You may or may not know this, but Romania is Europe’s 5th largest wine producer! With vast hills bathed in Sun and moderate weather, our country’s geography is ideal for vineyards and Romanians love to drink and sit for hours socializing and telling impressive stories over a glass, or two, or three. There is a popular saying which goes like this: “This is the last glass of wine before the next”.
Over the last 15 years, the quality and variety of our wines and our culture surrounding it, has exploded creating an extremely fun and entertaining festival along with it called RO-Wine. It takes place in Bucharest around the time of September and it’s full of like-minded people who share their passion of wine tasting and all of the intricate stories about the wine making process that you heard a million times but love them nonetheless. It goes hand in hand with the myth that Romania is the origin of the Vampires and home to Dracula, so it makes sense that Romanians would love any occasion to drink a glass of wine. Speaking of:
Dracula’s Castle In Transylvania: Bran Castle
Of all the breathtaking places to visit in Romania, Bran Castle is and remains the most popular with international tourists and by far one of the most famous castles in our country. Although this Transylvanian castle was an important medieval fortress and home to Romania’s Queen Marie, it’s far better known for one fictional resident: the vampire Count Dracula…we promise the two were not related in any way shape or form.
Transylvania, the large land of mystery, seemed to be the perfect source of inspiration for Bram Stoker, particularly Bran Castle, which matched with his idea of a spooky castle. Fascinated by the horror folklore stories and legends around Vlad III, that one with the endless thirst for blood, he masterfully combined all of these together and created a bloody good character – Dracula.
Born in 1431 in Sighișoara, Vlad III or Vlad Dracul, better known as Vlad The Impaler, ruled over Wallachia multiple times during 1456 and 1462. Throughout his life, he was one of the fiercest enemies of the Ottoman Empire and his methods were brutal, yet awe-inspiring in their efficiency, leaving onlookers mesmerized by his macabre method of killing. His victims would be impaled to death and their bodies would be displayed as a warning to others. Despite many searching for a connection between the legend of Dracula and real life, the truth is far from fiction, yet still captivating.
Honestly, nobody’s sure how much Bram Stoker was inspired by Vlad III but that hasn’t stopped Hollywood movie fans and tourists renaming it to “Dracula’s Castle”. This is what Romania is famous for because this is the number 1 tourist attraction in the country so brace yourself for crowds of tourists!
Because of this, Bran Castle turned into a commercial tourist hotspot with all things Dracula. Including good-looking Dracula wines you find only in Romanian airports – that are not good! Lots of cheap tour guides and non-Romanian travel guides will give you made-up stories. But if you’re intrigued by the story told so far, check out more of it right here, my fanged friends.
Travel Back In Time To Medieval Times
Sighișoara, the birthplace of Vlad the impaler, is the only major destination truly connected to the man who inspired the myth of Dracula. It is a small city in the heart of Transylvania where you’ll find a really popular tourist location in Romania: Sighișoara Citadel, an UNESCO heritage site since 1999. Situated on a small hill overlooking the plains of Transylvania, this fortified citadel from the Middle Ages was built in the 12th century by German Saxon merchants to protect their trading routes and it is also one of the best preserved medieval citadels in Europe.
One of the best things to do in this small town is to get lost wondering the cobbled streets and admire its medieval houses – where people still live! The iconic yellow house located in the Citadel Square is where Vlad was born. The town is also home to a cute festival that takes homage to the old medieval times. Yes, there is a festival also in this part of the country! It is called “Sighișoara Medieval Festival” of course and it is a place where you find yourself in a time capsule that triggers versions of forgone times. It is a festival where the town’s people dress up as they did so long ago and display a work of art with different melodies, traditions and duels that feel like you’re in a fairytale.
Experience Authentic Romanian Village Life
Safe to say that you haven’t experienced authentic Romanian culture until you spend a couple of days by the countryside. You’ll disconnect from the loud and stressful noises from the city, slow down and reconnect with living according to nature’s rhythm. Villagers in some areas have preserved their ancestral way of living, customs and values – which is why the Romanian villages represent the heart of our culture.
You might find it weird, but living in a small traditional village isn’t something of a taboo for us, on the contrary, we like to pride ourselves on it because it is one of the things Romania is so famous for – even if it’s not your typical popular tourist destination. It isn’t really a place where you “should go’ – it is something to experience!
Some small villages in some areas of the country are a true time-capsule: shepherds will greet you, roosters will wake you up and public transport is reduced to horse drawn carts and locals are more than happy to give you a ride!
The food is something else too – everything from meat, fruits and vegetables are fresh and prepared in-house and come straight from the people’s gardens and people’s animals. This creates that authentic and amazing feeling not only in your mouth, but also in your tummy!
Travel Through Romania’s Haunted Forest – for real
Let’s mention this rather obscure and unique place to visit in Romania: Hoia Baciu near Cluj-Napoca.
The forest was named after a shepherd and his entire flock of sheep went missing without explanation! In 1968, the forest gained even more popularity when a military technician claimed he saw a UFO flying over the forest. What also makes this place unique is the unusual shapes of the trees and weird natural layout you don’t normally see in a forest.
One of the strangest spots is a clearing, a perfectly round-shaped patch of land in the middle of the forest, where not a single ounce of vegetation grows – without any human intervention! Many locals are truly afraid to go into the forest and some have said voices and sounds can be heard at night. Hence the “haunted forest of Romania” title.
See The Romanian Sphinx In Bucegi Mountains
The Romanian Sphinx in Bucegi Mountains is a strangely shaped rock located at an altitude of over 2,200 meters, and it is one of the rocks with unusual shapes on the Bucegi plateau.
They attract a lot of tourists each year and most are coming so that they can enjoy a hiking session in the Bucegi Mountains. Near the Sphinx, you can also find the Babele rock formations and if you take a 4 hour long hike, you can reach the Omu Peak, which is the 7th highest mountain peak in Romania, at 2.505m altitude.
The origin of the name Sphinx is due to its resemblance to a human head, more precisely to the Egyptian Sphinx. It is formed from a large block of stone that has taken today’s shape in a very long time. The Carpathian Sphinx from Bucegi measures 8 meters high and 12 meters wide.
It resembles the unique shape of the Egyptian Sphinx only when viewed from a certain angle. The rock was first photographed in 1900. It has continued to fascinate people ever since. However, the name sphinx did not appear until 1935.
It is accessible via cable car from the small town of Bușteni or on specific tours. Some of the common urban legends include, claiming that the rock represents a god who was worshiped long ago by our ancestors, the Dacians, before the Romans conquered these lands. There are also stories that link the rock to aliens! All kinds of bells and whistles. In any case, many believe the location possesses a special energy and that said, there are lots of visitors that come up with unique ways to interpret the Sphinx. We would personally say it is a World Wonder but who are we to say?
The Romanian Sphinx, being the subject of folklore and conspiracy theories that it is, is a prime motive to come and visit Romania if you are into paranormal activity or just want to see what all the fuss is about – we suggest it should be welcomed on your list of things you want to visit here!
Admire the 500 years old Painted Monasteries of Bucovina
Soooo – back to history and culture! There are numerous beautiful churches in Romania that tourists can visit, because of the important role spirituality plays in our culture and life. But among them the Painted Monasteries of Bukovina definitely stand out.
Built between the 15th and 16th centuries, these monasteries are known for their impressive exterior frescoes which depict scenes from the Bible and are incredibly well preserved despite their age – almost by miracle!
These paintings are so unique and vivid that UNESCO awarded them World Heritage status. There are 6 monasteries to visit, each located in small villages in the bucovina region: Voronet, Humor, Moldovita, Pataruti, Probota, Suceava and Sucevita.
Each of the monasteries frescoes use different colors to depict saints, major Biblical scenes and local legends. The quality and style of these paintings is truly impressive work, not to mention because of how old they are. And because they’re so well preserved with only minor works carried out over hundreds of years, religious people believe these churches have significant spiritual power and meaning.
An amazing place to start your journey when visiting these breathtaking Monasteries, are the painted churches in Voronet, which is the most famous among them for its unique 400-year old unchanged blue nuance, used to depict Judgement Day in an impressively detailed fresco.
All and all, we believe you have enough on your hands now but don’t worry, take a step back, take it all in, and start planning your journey in Romania. You may not make it to every point listed here but hey, you can plan it for next time too! We hope to see you soon!