Danube's Iron Gates

An in-depth experience of the Iron Gates, a series of spectacular gorges separating the Carpathians from the Balkans, stretches out before you on this magnificent tour. Starting in Sibiu, an evocative medieval town characterized by intense fortifications, you’ll set out by car for Hunedoara. Along the way, stop to explore the 7th-century Densus Church, a gorgeous stone edifice covered in inscriptions. It is believed to have served as a pagan temple as late as the 4th century. Densus evolved in stages, with layers of construction developing over hundreds of years. It was the first Christian church on Dacian soil.

Next, take a tour of the superb Hunyad Castle (Corvin Castle), a breathtaking 15th-century Gothic fortification complete with Knights’ Hall, inner courtyard, a medieval chapel, towers, and moat. According to legend, Vlad the Impaler was imprisoned here by John Hunyadi before their later accord.

The exquisite Bigar Waterfall is the next stop on your journey through the magnificent Romanian countryside. Nestled in the Anina Mountains, this beautiful moss-covered cascade, gently fed by springs flowing from a series of caves, is known as one of the loveliest in the world—a vision that seems directly linked to the realm of fairytales.

Spend the night next to the Danube in Dubova, right at the center of the gorge. The next morning, take a glorious two-hour cruise of the Iron Gates by boat. This is the most spectacular stretch of the Danube, and you’ll have the chance to immerse yourself in the very best of it. During the cruise, catch sight of the Tabula Traiana, a Roman plaque memorializing Trajan’s epic military road, and the massive cliff-face carving depicting the face of Decebalus, the last king of the Dacians. At 40 meters, it stands as Europe’s tallest sculpture in natural rock.

The Iron Gates area is by far the most ethnically diverse region in Romania, with picturesque villages inhabited by Romanians, Serbians, and Czechs. In the afternoon, take a break from touring with a scenic 90-minute hike to the Ciucaru Mare plateau, the perfect cliff-top vantage point for taking in the majestic views of the Danube and surrounding area.

On the last day of your trip, head back to Sibiu and enjoy the fantastic sights along the way. You’ll visit the 17th-century Horezu Monastery, an architectural piéce de resistance representing the height of Brâncovenesc style. The village of Horezu is on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list for its extensive tradition of colorful, mosaic-like Romanian ceramics. Make a stop in Târgu Jiu to view the Sculptural Ensemble of Constantin Brâncusi, an outdoor exhibit commemorating the Romanian soldiers who protected the city during WWI. Traverse the picturesque Jiu Valley, arriving back in Sibiu at the end of the day.