Citadels of Transylvania & UNESCO painted monasteries

Your exploration of the priceless treasures of old Romania begins at the opulent 19th-century Peles Castle, famous for its sumptuous décor. In Brasov’s medieval Old Town, admire the Black Church, the Old Town Square, and St. Nicholas Church.

Proceed to Bran Castle, a former military fortress lovingly renovated in the 1920s by Maria, second queen of Romania. Visit the famous UNESCO World Heritage painted monasteries, renowned for their kaleidoscopic frescoes. Continue your journey along the magnificent Bicaz Gorges and discover the ancient art of egg painting.

In the living citadel of Sighisoara, take in the magnificent view from the 800-year-old Clock Tower. Ascend to the Gothic Church on the Hill via a covered staircase built in the 1600s. Later, stop for coffee at the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler. You’ll visit the home of a family of gypsies—an uncommon opportunity experienced by a select few.

In Sibiu, tour the most secure of the region’s Saxon strongholds. At its height, Sibiu boasted seven protective walls around the city. The Saxons also built Biertan and other “peasant fortified churches” to protect themselves during the tumultuous Middle Ages.

At Curtea de Arges, visit the breathtaking 14th-century monastery teeming with tales of desperation and human sacrifice. Finally, climb the steep steps to Vlad the Impaler’s Poienari Fortress, which provides the ultimate strategic view over the landscape below.

Highlights of the tour

Click Here To See Detailed Tour Itinerary
Detailed Tour Itinerary
Day 1: Arrival in Bucharest, city tour Click for more photos »

Day 1: Arrival in Bucharest, city tour

Arrive in Bucharest, meet up with your guide, and rejuvenate after your flight at the sleek Berthelot hotel, situated right in the center of town. It’s a wonderful starting point for an investigation of the deep history and diverse culture of the city.

Traditionally a center for intellectualism, the arts, and avant-garde thought, Bucharest experienced a significant interruption with the advent of Communism in Romania. The present-day capitol still holds obvious remnants of this epoch in the form of Ceausescu-related monuments constructed on a grand scale. Surviving French-influenced architecture exists side-by-side with cool, modern office buildings to complete Bucharest’s current incarnation.

Follow your guide on an expansive city tour, and glean an exclusive perspective on the daily life of this outstanding city.

*should you travel to Bucharest on a flight that arrives late in the afternoon or evening, the city tour can also be done the next morning

Overnight in Bucharest, Hotel Berthelot**** (centrally located)

Day 2: Bucharest – Peles Castle - Sinaia monastery – Brasov Click for more photos »

Day 2: Bucharest – Peles Castle - Sinaia monastery – Brasov

After breakfast, depart directly for Transylvania. Stop off at Peles Castle, the magnificent 19th-century royal palace. The original outfitting of the décor left no stone unturned, and today, it remains exactly as it was: dripping with marble, crystal, and priceless accoutrements carved of exotic wood. Next, take a small side trip to view the Sinaia monastery, the Romanian Orthodox church that inspired the name of this high resort town.

Next, discover the picturesque city center of Brasov on a guided walk through the Old Town. Explore the vast Black Church and the Old Town square, surrounded by beautifully-preserved medieval houses. A visit to the old city walls and fortifications completes your experience; spend the remainder the day and evening at your leisure, perhaps sipping tea in one of the city’s excellent cafés.

Overnight in Brasov, Hotel Armatti*** (located in the Old Town)

Day 3: Brasov – Bran Castle – Bicaz Gorges - Gura Humorului Click for more photos »

Day 3: Brasov – Bran Castle – Bicaz Gorges - Gura Humorului

This morning, you’ll have the chance to tour one of Romania’s most loved and renowned sites: the breathtaking Bran Castle (widely associated with the fictional Dracula, despite the warm 1920s décor instituted by Queen Marie). After your tour, be sure to check out the wares of the souvenir merchants surrounding the castle and sample some of the culinary specialties of the region: cheeses, pálinka (plum and pear brandy), and meats preserved in the traditional way.

Next, press on to Bucovina by way of the heart-stopping Bicaz Gorges. The view is truly unbelievable, and you may stop along the way to peruse the offerings of the local souvenir shops.

Arrive in Gura Humorului in the late afternoon.

Overnight in Gura Humorului, Hotel Casa Humor****

Day 4: Full-Day Exploration of the Painted Monasteries; Home-Hosted Lunch Click for more photos »

Day 4: Full-Day Exploration of the Painted Monasteries; Home-Hosted Lunch

After breakfast, set out to discover Romania’s kaleidoscopic painted monasteries, each celebrated for the use of a certain predominating color. Begin at the monasteries of Humor, celebrated for its vibrant reds; and Voronet, where you’ll learn about Saint Daniil the Hermit.

At midday, you’ll stop at a local museum, established by a world-renowned egg-painting artist. This for of art, exacting and complex, remains one of the most important traditional art forms in Bucovina. You’ll discover how to identify both secular influences and religious symbolism within the intricate designs.

Later in the day, you’ll tour the remaining two monasteries: Moldovita, dominated by the use of yellow, and Sucevita, featuring extensive medieval fortifications.

Return to Gura Humorului in the afternoon.

Overnight in Gura Humorului, Hotel Casa Humor****

Day 5: Gura Humorului – Popa Ethnographical Museum - Gypsy home visit – Sighisoara Click for more photos »

Day 5: Gura Humorului – Popa Ethnographical Museum - Gypsy home visit – Sighisoara

Before leaving Bucovina, diverge from the beaten path to discover the extraordinary Nicolae Popa Ethnographic Museum, located in the home of the renowned Naïve sculptor. The incredible collections document Romanian peasant tradition, and represent a cultural labor of love carried out by the artist.

Next, you’ll set out in the direction of southern Transylvania. On the way, stop for a fascinating cultural adventure in a Roma (Gypsy) village. Learn more about these enigmatic, sometimes misconstrued nomads as you are welcomed at the home of the Gabor family. It is truly uncommon for Gypsies to open their lives to outsiders, but you will be given the exclusive opportunity to discover the details of their cultural history, day-to-day lives, customs, and traditional costume—which you’ll be invited to try on. As the afternoon progresses, you may find yourself deep in conversation over coffee and cake as you receive explanations to all of your queries about Gypsy life.

Following this rare and wonderful experience, proceed to medieval Sighisoara, where you’ll be taken on an abbreviated orientation walk before dinner.

Overnight in Sighisoara, Hotel Sighisoara*** (located inside the citadel)

Day 6: Sighisoara - Biertan Church - Sibiu Click for more photos »

Day 6: Sighisoara - Biertan Church - Sibiu

When you awaken, delight in a guided walk through the center of the UNESCO World Heritage Old Town in Sighisoara. You’ll find yourself in the middle of a perfectly-preserved medieval citadel, surrounded by fortifications and filled with the secrets of the past. Visit the History Museum inside the Clock Tower, and climb the unusual, centuries-old covered staircase to the Church on the Hill, a lovely surviving example of the Gothic architecture of the Middle Ages. Sighisoara is also known as the 1431 birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, merciless warlord and fierce defender of Transylvania against the Ottoman Turks.

Next, take an engrossing tour of the Biertan Church, a significant UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Saxon townspeople did not skip steps when it came to the protection of their villages, and through a complex system of fortifications, thick doors, and multiple locks, they were able to successfully secure both themselves and their valuables. Today, you’ll witness Biertan, a gorgeous example of the “peasant fortified church” and the very last of its kind.

Afterwards, drive on to exquisite Sibiu, arriving in the late afternoon. After you check into your hotel, meet your guide for a relaxed walking tour of the medieval old town, the most heavily fortified of all Saxon cities. As a critical trading post, Sibiu experienced frequent assaults, and the townspeople responded ingeniously.

Overnight in Sibiu, Hotel Casa Levoslav**** (located in the Old Town)

Day 7: Sibiu- Transfagarasan road - Poienari fortress – Curtea de Arges monastery – Bucharest Click for more photos »

Day 7: Sibiu- Transfagarasan road - Poienari fortress – Curtea de Arges monastery – Bucharest

Today, you’ll strike out for Bucharest – you’ll travel along the breathtaking Transfagarasan road, which crosses the Carpathians at an altitude of over 2000 m (6000 ft) –  making two fascinating stops along the way.

First, climb more than a thousand steps to the ruins of Poenari Castle, the evocative cliff-side home of Vlad the Impaler. The cruel prince of Wallachia chose the location for its inaccessibility, used forced hard labor to fortify it, and ended up with an eagle’s eye view of any oncoming attacker.

Next, take a small expedition to the monastery at Curtea de Arges, a living architectural phenomenon and the dreamlike inspiration for local archetypes, myths, and legends.

Continue to Bucharest, arriving in the afternoon.

*please note that you will travel on the Transfagarasan road between June and September. Outside this period, the road is closed due to snow for the rest of the year, and you will use the road going along the Olt river valley

Overnight in Bucharest, Hotel Berthelot**** (centrally located)

Day 8: Bucharest, departure

This will be your last day in Romania. You will say good-bye to the friends you’ve made here and head on to the airport for your flight home.

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What people have said:

We enjoyed the European style hotels we were booked in. They were quaint and very charming. We particularly enjoyed our visit and meal at the home of Lucia, the egg designer. Our visit with the gypsy family was an eye-opening experience. Adrian made every effort to satisfy our interests and stopped several times to ask the peasants questions for us along the way. We are so glad we chose to see … read more

Joann and Bill Bedics (United States)

We were very satisfied, thank you for your friendly and professional services. We loved Romania and hope to return someday!

Ernesto Arnoux and friends (Mexico)

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vladzoe21

We are Vlad and Zoe Trestian – the owners and managers of Balkan Trails. We have been creating memorable travel experiences in Eastern Europe for almost 20 years now.

We understand traveling is personal and individual, and no two travellers are alike. That is why the majority of our tours are based on customised itineraries. Your tour is exactly that: YOURS. Just let us know when you’d like to arrive and depart, what your interests are, the type of hotels you prefer, and we’ll take care of the rest.

Looking forward to showing you our part of the world.

Other Ways to get in touch:

Have a Question? Call Us: 0040 723 578 452

E-mail address: office@balkantrails.com

Frequently asked questions

1 Transylvania and Bucovina

What is included with this tour?

Included services and features:

  • The possibility of having your itinerary customised in any way you desire before the tour starts, at no extra charge
  • Great flexibility regarding changes to the daily itinerary even after the start of the tour
  • A private, licensed English speaking guide/driver, available throughout the tour
  • All guide’s expenses (meals, accommodation, etc.)
  • Private transportation in air conditioned car
  • All car expenses, such as gasoline, parking and road tolls
  • Complimentary wireless internet access in the car, so that you can stay in touch with your loved ones even while traveling
  • Entrance fees as per the itinerary, with guided visits. If you wish to add any sight on the go, the guide will always be available with information during the visit
  • Accommodation as per the hotel list on the itinerary page (we can also offer a different selection of hotels, based on your preference)
  • Breakfast every day
  • Airport transfers

Not included:

  • Airfare to and from Romania
  • Meals or beverages, other than the included ones
  • Photo fees (some sights require the payment of a fee for allowing you to take pictures – they are mostly inexpensive, around 2 or 3 euro/sight)
  • Gratuities for your guide (entirely up to your discretion)

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About Tours In General

Where do the tours start?

Our tours start in either Sofia (Bulgaria) or Bucharest (Romania). Both cities have well-connected international airports. However, we can also customise the tours to start in a different city, if that better suits your flight arrangements. Alternative airports include Varna or Burgas (in Bulgaria) or Sibiu, Cluj Napoca, Iasi and Targu Mures (in Romania).

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What are the departure dates?

We do not have set departure dates. All our tours are private and organised on request. The dates when you start and end the tour are entirely up to you.

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I like one of the tours, but I’d like to make some changes to the itinerary. Is it possible?

Of course. All our tours are customisable. We can make changes to one itinerary, join 2 itineraries together, or you can just tell us about the places you want to see, and we’ll make a whole new itinerary just for you! Customising a tour comes at no extra charge.

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I would like to change some of the hotels that come with the tour. Can I do that?

Definitely. The hotels are always up to you. We can upgrade the standard selection of hotels, or if you are on a budget, we can also offer cheaper accommodation options.

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I see that in most cases, only breakfast is included. Why is that?

Having meals included means that you would have to be at a certain restaurant at a certain time just so that you don’t miss a pre-booked meal. This takes away from one of the great advantages of a private tour: flexibility. Not having a restaurant pre-booked gives you great freedom to set your own pace each day, add or skip some sights as you go, etc.

To ensure maximum flexibility throughout your trip, meals are usually planned as you go. Your guide knows the best restaurants in each area you travel through and will make suggestions based on the kind of meal you’d like to have.

The meals we include are the ones that come with an important cultural element: home-cooked meals where you can interact with locals, lunches at homes of artists where you learn more about a specific form of art, or refreshments such as the ones offered during the home visit with the Gypsy family.

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Do your tours include any insurance related services?

No. We recommend to all of our clients to  carry a medical insurance that would cover any health-related costs that might incur while on the trip. Insurance for trip interruption and lost/stolen luggage is also recommended.

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Do I have to pay for the guide’s meals?

No. The guide will have a meal allowance, which will cover his meals. Furthermore, the guide will only join you for meals if you ask him to – if you’d rather be on your own for lunch and/or dinner, that is perfectly fine.

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How about changes of itinerary on the fly? Can we do that?

Changes on the fly can be done to a certain extent. You can always choose to skip a meal or a sight, or swap for a totally different sight altogether. Alterations of itinerary that imply hotel changes are subject to rooms availability. Also, please note that in the case of last minute hotel cancellations, sometimes the hotel may charge late-cancellation penalties which can be up to 100% of the reservation cost. Additional costs generated by on-the-fly changes will be billed separately.

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