Forget Dracula, Here Are 13 Authentic Experiences You Can’t Miss in Romania

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There’s no escaping that one of Transylvania’s most recognizable exports is the legend of Count Dracula—and it’s definitely fascinating to trace his history with a Dracula tour of all the significant places in his life.

But Romania is way more than just the Transylvania of Bram Stoker’s imagination. It’s lively cities, spectacular scenery, incredible castles, fabulous fortresses, and amazing wildlife all rolled into a one-of-a-kind destination.

Don’t believe it? We asked our guests for their favorite experiences when they traveled to our country—and their answers might surprise you. If you’re wondering what to do on a tour of Romania, check out these 13 out-of-the box adventures you won’t want to miss.

 

1. Take a road trip on the Transfagarasan.

According to some road trip experts, the Transfagarasan is the best driving adventure in the world, a hair-raising trip through the Transylvanian Alps at elevations as high as 7,200 feet. The Transfagarasan has challenging hairpin turns, deep tunnels, and viaducts to keep even the most experienced driver on his toes.

The British TV show “Top Gear” filmed an episode on the Transfagarasan (watch the trailer above) — which the host called the best road in the world. Make sure you check before you travel, as the road is only fully open in the summer months.

 

2. Do afternoon tea at a trendy tea house in Bucharest.

Forget Dracula, Here Are 12 Authentic Experiences You Can’t Miss in Romania

Bucharest has an undeniably energetic urban culture with one of its more modern customs being afternoon tea. And there’s nothing like the trendy coffee and tea houses in Bucharest for an unexpectedly delightful break.

Think delectable pastries, avant garde art, even a little afternoon theatre with your spicy local teas. There’s nothing like it anywhere else in Europe.

 

3. Go birdwatching on a Danube Delta boat tour.

The Danube Delta is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, larger than all but the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Galapagos Islands near Ecuador. It is home to thousands of rare plant species, animal species, and over 300 bird species.

Cruising through the delta on a riverboat, binoculars in hand, is a spectacular experience. You’ll have the most amazing photographs to share will your friends back home.

 

4. Get up close and personal with the bears.

Forget Dracula, Here Are 12 Authentic Experiences You Can’t Miss in Romania

The Libearty Bear Sanctuary near Brasov is a unique place with a unique mission—saving Romania’s threatened wildlife. Don’t confuse the sanctuary with a zoo; this is a place devoted to rescuing the European Brown Bear, a protected species under the Berne Convention. The 95 bears have been saved from a life of abuse in a cage. They learn to climb trees and behave like real bears again.

You can visit the sanctuary (no children under 5 allowed, however) and get deep insight into the plight of these animals and what you can do to help.

Why not watch what they’re up to right now by taking a look at this live stream of the sanctuary!

 

5. Discover the beautiful painted monasteries of Bucovina.

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You can’t visit Romania and miss out a trip to see the beautiful painted monasteries of Bucovina.

Dating back to the 15th century, these monasteries display authentic pieces of Byzantine art and appear on UNESCO’s list of heritage sites.

 

6. You really do need to go castle-hopping.

Forget Dracula, Here Are 12 Authentic Experiences You Can’t Miss in Romania

Romania is definitely known for its awesome castles, so you should definitely spend some time castle hopping—and don’t miss the biggies: Peles Castle, Bran Castle, and Corvin Castle. And while you’re at it, take in a few of the fabulous fortresses like Poienari and Rasnov.

 

7. Visit the Merry Cemetery of Sapanta and see the famous blue crosses and amazing artistry.

Romanians have a robust sense of humor about pretty much everything—even cemeteries. And in fact, death is a joyful event in certain areas of Romania. Ioan Stan Patras, an artisan from Maramures, created a treasure of graveyard artwork at the Merry Cemetery of Sapanta. His signature blue wooden crosses depict joyful scenes from the deceased person’s life and include clever and occasionally ironic epitaphs surrounded with intricate, colorful carved patterns.

It’s a whole new perspective on death and definitely worth a visit.

 

8. Spend a night in a Saxon Village

Forget Dracula, Here Are 12 Authentic Experiences You Can’t Miss in Romania

Romania’s 12th century Saxon villages are cultural and historical treasures which are worth exploring. Drive through the gently rolling hills to see well preserved medieval towns, lovely fortified churches, and village life virtually unchanged over the centuries.

You can spend a night in Viscri and become acquainted with authentic daily life in an ancient village. You can also visit the village of Malancrav and the town of Sighisoara to see history played out before your eyes in the most beautiful way.

 

9. Lose yourself for a day on a walking tour of Brasov.

Brasov is considered to be the heart of Romania. It is one of the most important economic and cultural cities in the country and has a rich historical past – its existence was first mentioned in a scroll dating from 1234!

Treat yourself to a day exploring this fabulous city on foot—you’ll be amazed at the hidden gems you’ll discover. As I mentioned in a previous article, “walking on the streets of Brasov means walking through history; with every step you take, you discover very well preserved remains of ancient times.”

 

10. Get into the cultural scene at a music or arts festival.

If you want authentic Romania, nothing beats spending a day at one of the many music and arts festivals the country is famous for.

There are film festivals, jazz festivals, and even castle festivals with live music and fabulous light shows. You can mingle with locals, enjoy our fabulous street foods, and immerse yourself in modern Romanian culture. It’s a pretty amazing way to relax and unwind after a week of touring citadels, fortresses, and castles.

 

11. Spend a day with the gypsies.

Forget Dracula, Here Are 12 Authentic Experiences You Can’t Miss in Romania

You could have a rare chance to interact with Gypsy family in their own home.

Gypsies are naturally reluctant towards outsiders, and without an already existing trust-based relationship, foreigners would never be welcome in such a place.

We only offer this on two of the Balkan Trail tours (the 11 night tour or 7 night tour) – it’s a truly off-the-beaten-track experience – where you’ll get a chance to see the home, meet the family and enjoy home made cakes and coffee. Not only that, but you’ll get to converse with your hosts (with the help of your guide, of course), gain information about Roma culture and customs, ask questions and even try on Roma attire.

 

12. Explore the pretzels and pastries of Bucharest’s famous food culture.

Why not tack on a few extra days in Bucharest and spend some time exploring our amazing food scene?

You haven’t tried pretzels until you’ve tasted our Romanian covrigi—have them with sausage or cheese or even chocolate! And our patiserii (pastry shops) are filled with heavenly sweet and savory treats—mushroom tarts, fruit tarts, and tasty meat pies, to name just a few. Definitely don’t forget to sample shaorma, Bucharest’s ultimate street food. Mmmmm…

 

13. Explore the Turda salt mine

Perhaps visiting a salt mine isn’t on everyone’s bucket list – but this one should be.

Appearing on Business Insider’s 10 Of The Coolest Underground Places In The World, this is a tourist attraction that will blow your mind.

Dating back perhaps as early as 1075, the massive Turda Salt Mines in Transylvania is now an underground museum with a recreation centre featuring a range of activities from mini-golf to an subterranean boating lake and there’s even a halotherapy spa.

 

Ready to go?

So, yes, you can definitely do Dracula when you visit Romania—but don’t stop there! Get off the beaten track, think out of the box, and try some of these authentic Romanian adventures on your next vacation.

See something that catches your interest? Get in touch today and see how easy it is to picture yourself in Romania this year.