A road trip around Romania allowed us to see this stunning country filled with interesting history and natural beauty.
Driving around Romania really enhanced our trip. We drove through so many quirky villages with different styles of houses. There were storks making their nests at the top of telephone poles and even some people travelling by horse and carriage.
First I will go through the different areas that we visited and then go through our 5 day road trip around Romania itinerary (which was quite fast paced).
There are lots of cheap flights to Bucharest, so this is where we started our trip. The capital of Romania is an interesting mix of communist era buildings, beautiful churches, nice restaurants and interesting landmarks. This Umbrella Alley is on Calea Victoriei, outside the Pizza Colosseum. For a more in depth look at Bucharest see my post: Bucharest: exploring this brilliant city.
Rock sculpture of Decebalus
Statuia Lui Decebal is a huge sculpture of King Decebalus carved into the rock face. He was a King who fought hard to maintain Romania’s independence and is portrayed as a national hero. King Decebalus died in 106 AD so it is impressive that he has a 141 ft (42.9m) sculpture dedicated to him.
The sculpture is located along the river that separates Romania and Serbia. The closest town is Orșova which is a 25 minute drive from the sculpture. The beauty of having a car was being able to see unique things like this as part of our road trip around Romania. Most tours wouldn’t go here so it’s something that you usually wouldn’t be able to see.
The sculpture dominates the cliffside and is a lot bigger than it looks in photos. The best view is actually from the bridge opposite, if you go down the path closer to the sculpture then it becomes slightly hidden by the trees. There are plenty of boat rides available if you want to get an even better view.
There was a souvenir stand close by, which had very cheap local prices. It seemed like the other couple of tourists that we saw were Romania. Making this an off the beaten path destination in an already under visited county. It was definitely worth the drive to see something so unique. However if you are unable to hire a car then it is best to skip this destination because getting there by public transport is difficult.
Bigar has been named as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world. The unique shape along with the way that the water drips through the moss makes it something special. Even though we were there in the middle of the day we had it all to ourselves. This is probably because it is quite out of the way and very far from the main. tourist cities.
Bigar waterfall is nestled next to a small bridge and smaller than it looks in photos. Despite reading that others have found it underwhelming I though it was beautiful and worth seeing.
This medieval castle was the highlight of our trip to Romania. Corvin castle (also called Hunyadi or Hunedoara castle) is located in the town of Hunedoara and is a must see on any road trip around Romania. The grande gothic features of the castle make it feel like a surreal film. It has a long drawbridge across what used to be a moat, this is now a walkway. Seeing the outside is free but can also pay and go inside the castle.
Although Bran castle is the inspiration behind the legend of Dracula, Corvin castle has its own link to Dracula. It is said to be the place that Vlad the Impaler was held captive. Corvin castle feels like a surreal film set with its grand gothic features.
We visited the grounds at 18:30 and then went back again at 08:00 the following morning. The lighting is much better in the afternoon. When the sun is setting on the castle it gives Corvin an atmosphere that suites the gothic castle. Seeing the outside of the castle is free but you can also pay and go inside the castle.
Entrance fee: 10 lei (or 15 lei between May and September)
Opening hours: 9:00- 19:45 (opens at 10:30 on Mondays)
Salina Turda (salt mine)
Our next stop on our road trip around Romania took us to Salina Turda. This is one of the oldest salt mines in the world and dates back to middle ages. It is complete with a theme park, a ferris wheel, a bowling alley, a mini golf course and rowboats around the underground lake. There is a small additional fee for these activities but it is worth it. We especially enjoyed the rowboats which are down on the very bottom floor of the salt mine. Going on a row boat in the middle of a salt mine is one of the many unique things to do in Romania.
We walked all the way down to the end of the tunnel to explore the top section of the mine. There isn’t much else to see and the lift to the main section is straight away on the left.
Entrance fee: 40 lei (Car park costs 4 lei per hour)
Opening hours: 09:00 – 16:00
Sibiu: houses with eyes
Sibiu is a quaint town full of houses with eyes! Most of the older houses have eyes, especially those around Piaţă Mică. These are actually vents used to air the attics of the house.
In the town centre is the Bridge of lies, which has different legends associated with it. The most popular, and my favourite is that the bridge has the ability to tell if someone is lying. It will creak if someone tells a lie while they are on the bridge and potentially collapse to punish the liar. When we went it was so busy that it was hard to tell who was lying!
Other legends of how the bridge got its name include traders who were found have lied to their buyers were thrown off the bridge as were witches whose predictions didn’t come true. Another version of the legend is that the bridge was a popular location for cadets to meet for a first date. They would make promises that they never intended to keep.
I really wish that we could have organised a longer road trip around Romania and stayed in this city for longer as it has such a unique charm.
Other things to do in Sibiu: a rooftop view from the Evangelical cathedral.
Clay Castle Valley of the Fairies (Castelul de Lut Valea Zanelor) is located in the Carpathian mountains not far from Sibiu, so we stopped here on our way to Brasov. The whole place was like a fairytale, there were little turrets that you could go up and look out over the grounds. There was also a stream in front of the clay castle that was the perfect place for a picnic.
The clay castle was built by a Romanian couple using only natural material. It has been under construction for a long time and was initially meant to be a hotel. However the inside still hasn’t been completed.
Surprisingly this was the busiest attraction we saw during our whole time in Romania. There were a lot of locals there enjoying the nice weather. We went on a Saturday, so if you want it to be quieter I would recommend avoiding the weekend.
Entrance fee: 5 lei (car park cost 3 lei per hour)
Opening hours: 10:30- 17:30
We definitely packed too much into this trip and had no time to see Brasov but it looked like a beautiful city. It has a hill overlooking it with a Hollywood style Brasov sign. I would recommend staying an extra night to see the different famous castles such as Bran castle and Peleș Castle.
It is possible to get to Brasov by train from Bucharest so visiting is easy even if you don’t hire a car.
On a side note, Romanian people are so lovely. As soon as the plane landed in Bucharest I wasn’t feeling well and we were right at the back. The temperature was increasing once the air conditioning was off and it was making me feel even worse. The woman in front of me could tell and told me to start walking to the front and was telling everyone to let me through. Then other people from he plane were all shouting ahead in Romanian so that I could get through. Then when I found a seat and sat down at least three different people checked if I was feeling better.
Also when we were in the underground salt mine one of my rings flew off at the edge of the water. The man working at the rowboats stopped taking money for new customers and spent a long time helping us look for it. Even though we said that it wasn’t valuable and not to worry he continued to look after we had given up. He came running after us a minute later having found it somehow! He was so happy to help and made our day.
We spent 6 days in Romania but I would recommend spacing it out to 8 days. Or missing out the rock sculpture of Decebalus and Bigar waterfall because driving to the other side of the country added on a lot of time. This is our road trip around Romania itinerary:
- Arrived in Bucharest
- Stayed in Bucharest
- Drove from Bucharest to the Rock Sculpture of Decebal (5 hours 20 minutes)
- Stayed in Orsova (26 minutes)
- Drove from Orșova to Bigar waterfall (1 hour 45 minutes)
- Drove from Bigar waterfall to Corvin castle (3 hours 10 minutes)
- Visited Corvin castle
- Stayed near Corvin castle
- Corvin castle to Salina Turda (2 hours 20 minutes)
- Drove from Salina Turda to Sibiu (2 hour 10 minutes)
- Stayed in Sibiu
- Sibiu to clay castle (45 minutes)
- Clay castle to Brasov (1 hours 45 minutes)
- Stayed in Brasov
- Drove to the airport (2 hours 20 minutes)
Visited: end of March 2019