Romania revealed

“Romania Revealed” is a meticulously-curated exploration of complex cultural traditions nearly lost to time, but still rich with hidden treasures: mysterious medieval castles, walled cities and citadels, Gypsies, folkloric arts and crafts, fortresses and strongholds, and soaring cathedrals.

Your tour begins in Bucharest and proceeds to Sibiu, a Saxon city celebrated for its exhaustive fortifications. Stop at the 14th-century Curtea de Arges and Poienari Castle, the actual home of Vlad the Impaler. Climb 1480 steps straight into the dark side of Romania’s Transylvanian history.

Explore the medieval fortresses of Alba Iulia, tour the salt mines at Turda, then cross the Carpathians toward Maramures, an area almost unchanged by modern civilization. Visit a traditional market and absorb the old-world atmosphere before touring the lighthearted Merry Cemetery.

Visit the wooden churches, attend a private evening performance of folkloric song and dance, and tour Barsana, famous for its intricately-carved walls and gates. In Bucovina, visit the UNESCO World Heritage painted monasteries. Attend an expert demonstration of the ancient art of egg painting, and enjoy a home-hosted lunch in the master artist’s studio.

Visit the home of a Gypsy family in Transylvania. Drive through the breathtaking Bicaz Gorges to Sighisoara, a beautiful medieval citadel. Spend time in Viscri, an exquisite Transylvanian village, and take a horse-cart ride to the outskirts of the forest to meet with traditional artisans.

Finally, tour Bran Castle and the opulent Peles Castle before tasting some great Romanian wines at the Azuga Rhein Wine Cellars, founded in 1892.

Highlights of the tour

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

Day 1: arrival in Bucharest, followed by city tour

Arrive in Bucharest, meet your guide, and settle into the avant-garde Hotel Berthelot, filled with amenities and located right in the heart of the capital.

Right away, you’ll have the opportunity to explore a vast array of historical landmarks. In Bucharest, French architecture coexists side by side with monumental edifices inherited from the time of Romanian dictator Ceausescu; elegant residential areas are juxtaposed with stark, Soviet-style apartment buildings; and brand-new glass-and-steel office buildings contrast with treasured surviving churches to complete the capitol’s modern incarnation.

Take a panoramic city tour with your guide, and get an insider’s glimpse into the life and character of this remarkable, vibrant 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 - Curtea de Arges - Poienari - Transfagarasan Road - Sibiu Click for more photos »

Day 2: Bucharest - Curtea de Arges - Poienari - Transfagarasan Road - Sibiu

The medieval Transylvanian city of Sibiu is your destination today. Along the way, stop at the 16th-century Curtea de Arges Cathedral, a surreal feat of architectural engineering and one of the most spectacular churches in all of Romania.

Next, visit the dizzying heights of Poenari, the epic ruin of Vlad the Impaler’s main fortress. Legend has it that he forced the labor for its restoration from enslaved nobility arrested under charges of treason. Few survived to see the castle completed; its precipitous location prevented their escape or rescue.

En route to Sibiu, you’ll take one of southeastern Europe’s most famous roadways: the Transfagarasan Road, a high military route built during the Communist regime. Your passage across the magnificent Carpathian Mountains will reach an altitude of 2054 m (over 6000 feet), and the scenery is some of the most breathtaking in existence. It’s easy to understand why the BBC Top Gear team declared the Transfagarasan “the best road in the world.”

In the afternoon, you’ll arrive in Sibiu and check into your hotel. Follow your guide on a walking tour of the medieval Historic Center, and explore the most elaborate and developed of the seven Saxon cities. As a crucial trading post and Transylvania’s most important German settlement, Sibiu was often attacked; seven concentric walls encircled and protected the city throughout the Middle Ages.

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

Day 3: Sibiu – Hunyad Castle – Densus Church – Alba Iulia Click for more photos »

Day 3: Sibiu – Hunyad Castle – Densus Church – Alba Iulia

Today, you’ll diverge from the beaten path and travel deep into wild Transylvania, heading west toward the Hunedoara region.

Explore the 15th-century Hunyad Castle, a Gothic fortress complete with bastions, towers, and a real dungeon. According to legend, Vlad the Impaler spent a few years here as a prisoner after he was overthrown in 1462. Later on, visit the spectacular 7th-century Densus Church, a truly ancient site of worship built atop a Roman temple.

In the afternoon, drive to Alba Iulia, seat of the Roman Catholic diocese in Transylvania. The union of Transylvania with the rest of the country was proclaimed here on December 1, 1918 (Romania’s National Holiday). The town’s most impressive feature is its fortress, beautifully restored in recent years.

Overnight in Alba Iulia, La Maison de Caroline*** (located next to the Citadel)

Day 4: Alba Iulia – Turda salt mines – Cluj Napoca – Surdesti church – Vadu Izei

Today, you’ll proceed toward Maramures, where the landscape, local traditions, craftsmanship, and culture have remained nearly unchanged since the Middle Ages. On the way, stop in the small town of Turda to visit the incredible salt mines. Salina Turda, one of the oldest mines in the area, features soaring, cavernous chambers filled with fabulous acoustics, underground lakes, and giant, illuminated machinery.

Your next stop is the city of Cluj Napoca, one of Transylvania’s major urban centers. It boasts one of the best universities in Romania and a youthful, vibrant street atmosphere. Join your guide for a stroll in the central area of Cluj.

Afterwards, arrive in Maramures to view the famous wooden architecture and hand-carved gates, all surrounded by undisturbed forest, abundant wildlife, and vast, primeval woodlands. Visit the church of Surdesti (UNESCO World Heritage Site), until recently the tallest wooden church in the world.

Overnight in Vadu Izei, in a family run guesthouse, home cooked dinner included

Day 5: Full day in Maramures

Spend a full day exploring Maramures, starting in Vadu Izei, where you’ll learn about the culture of the area, uninterrupted since medieval times. Visit a plum brandy distillery and see a “vâltoare”, a manmade whirlpool still used by locals for washing their wool carpets.

Mingle with local people and sample exquisite traditional delicacies at a traditional open-air market before moving on to the Merry Cemetery in Sapanta. Since 1935, colorful wooden crosses painted in the naïve style have encrusted this landmark. Hand-painted imagery and brutally honest epitaphs describing the lives of the deceased impart a lighter view of death that may trace its lineage all the way back to the Dacians. Visit a woodcarver still working at his trade to learn all about this unique, generational art form.

Later on, stop at the tallest wooden structure in the world: the church at Peri. Recently built in a manner meticulously faithful to the old style, it stands as testimony to the extraordinary level of craftsmanship handed down through the centuries.

Drive on to the nearby city of Sighetu Marmatiei and visit the Memorial to the Victims of Communism. Learn how the Communists, beginning in the late 1940s, carried out a reign of terror over common citizens, who were tightly controlled and could be punished for “thought crime.”

In the evening, you’ll enjoy a rare opportunity: an exclusive folkloric show! The performers are real villagers, singing and dancing to songs passed down through generations.

Overnight in Vadu Izei, in a family run guesthouse, home cooked dinner included

Day 6: Vadu Izei – Barsana – Ieud – Borgo Pass - Gura Humorului

Today, take a drive to Bucovina, famous for its exquisite painted monasteries. Along the way, discover the lovely monastic complex at Barsana. Stop for a visit at the workshop of the most famous woodcarver in Maramures. His gates, revered for their deeply intricate patterns, are the pride of the region. His art is well-known abroad, and examples of his work can be found as far away as the United States.

Next, stop at the oldest wooden church in Maramures (dating back to 1364) in the village of Ieud.

Cross the eastern Carpathians over the Borgo Pass (home of Dracula in Bram Stoker’s novel) and start your descent into Bucovina. Your first stop will be the village of Ciocanesti, where the locals lovingly maintain their beautiful houses, heavily ornate with floral and geometric motifs.

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

Day 7: Tour of the painted monasteries, home hosted lunch at a local artist's home Click for more photos »

Day 7: Tour of the painted monasteries, home hosted lunch at a local artist's home

Enjoy a full-day exploration of the UNESCO World Heritage painted monasteries. After breakfast, set out to discover Romania’s famous painted monasteries, each renowned for a specific fresco and color.

Start the day by visiting the monasteries of Humor and Voronet. Humor is famous for its vivid frescoes, with red as the predominant color, while Voronet, the “Sistine of the East,” is known for its Last Judgment.

Break at midday for a home-hosted lunch at the home of a world-renowned egg-painting artist. Egg painting is one of the most important traditional art forms in Bucovina, and offers a singular mélange of secular art and religious symbolism.

In the afternoon, visit the remaining two monasteries at Moldovita and Sucevita. At Moldovita, the predominant color is yellow, and the most famous fresco depicts the Siege of Constantinople. The monastery at Sucevita, dating to 17th century, is the largest, and boasts an impressive fortification system.

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

Day 8: Gura Humorului – Popa Ethnographical Museum - Bicaz Gorges – Gipsy home visit – Sighisoara

Today, your destination is southern Transylvania, and you’ll travel on a spectacular route through the Bicaz gorges. The view is utterly breathtaking, and you’ll have the chance to do some souvenir shopping at fascinating local shops.

Before departing Bucovina, you’ll have the chance to visit the extraordinary Nicolae Popa Ethnographic Museum, located in the Naïve sculptor’s beautiful home. It is one of Romania’s hidden treasures, and features an exhaustive array of original works of art and traditional folkloric objects.

Along the way, take time for an unparalleled experience in a Roma (Gypsy) village. Visit the home of the Gabor family, and learn more about their intriguing, often misunderstood culture. It is exceedingly rare for Gypsies to open their homes to strangers, but you will be invited in. Discover their culture, history, and traditional attire (you can even try it on!). Feel free to engage in conversation over a glass of homemade brandy; all of your questions about the Gypsies will be answered.

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

Day 9: Sighisoara – Biertan fortified church – Viscri Click for more photos »

Day 9: Sighisoara – Biertan fortified church – Viscri

In the incomparable city of Sighisoara, the fortification system of the upper town remains largely unchanged since medieval times. Enjoy a guided walk through the Old Town (UNESCO World Heritage Site), visit the History Museum inside the 800-year-old clock tower, and enjoy the magnificent view from the top. Sighisoara was the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, source of inspiration for the main character of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The house where he was born in 1431 is still standing, and is now home to one of Sighisoara’s excellent restaurants.

Continue on to the Biertan fortified church (UNESCO World Heritage Site). The Saxons used “peasant fortified churches” like this one, constructed and maintained by locals, for shelter in case of attack.

Before noon, depart for Viscri, where you’ll experience firsthand Transylvania’s gift of living heritage and incomparable rural charm. The village was virtually unknown to the outside world until Charles, Prince of Wales, bought an 18th-century house there in 2006. He continues to work toward the preservation of the traditional Transylvanian way of life.

In Viscri, you’ll explore the famous 12th-century Gothic fortified church (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Lunch will be served right after that and during the afternoon, you will step back in time to discover the rare and diverse range of traditional handcrafts. Watch a village blacksmith famous for his iron chandeliers work at his forge, then enjoy a horse-cart drive to the outskirts of the village, where you’ll meet brick-makers living close to the forest in the old way.

The afternoon is yours to spend as you wish. For the adventurous, a longer horse-cart ride can be arranged, allowing you to meet shepherds living in the hills overlooking the village.

Overnight in Viscri, Viscri 125 B&B****, home cooked lunch and dinner included

Day 10: Viscri – Bran Castle – Brasov Click for more photos »

Day 10: Viscri – Bran Castle – Brasov

This morning, you’ll depart Viscri for the city of Brasov, inhabited since Neolithic times. On the way, visit one of the most famous sights in Romania, Bran Castle (built in 1377 and famously linked with Dracula in the Transylvanian popular psyche). Take your time time sifting through the wares of souvenir vendors around the castle and try the local delicacies available here: delicious cheeses, pálinka (plum and pear brandy), and traditionally-prepared meats.

In the afternoon, join your guide for a leisurely walk in Brasov’s Old Town. Discover the Black Church (the largest Gothic cathedral in southeastern Europe) and the Old Town square, surrounded by the beautiful houses of wealthy merchants of the past. Visit the ancient city walls, the bastions, and the first Romanian school, a site of national importance for all Romanians.

The afternoon is free. You may choose to engage in additional exploration on your own; your guide can suggest additional sites.

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

Day 11: Brasov – Peles Castle – Sinaia monastery - Lunch with wine tasting – Bucharest Click for more photos »

Day 11: Brasov – Peles Castle – Sinaia monastery - Lunch with wine tasting – Bucharest

Depart Brasov and set out for the wild, unspoiled mountains of Transylvania, arriving in Sinaia. Visit Peles Castle, the astounding 19th-century residence of Carol I, Romania’s first king. The interior represents the height of luxury and decadence of the age, with Carrara marble, Murano chandeliers, Venetian mirrors, and exquisite walls carved in forty types of wood.

Discover the Sinaia monastery, a lovely complex dating back to the 17th century, named after Mt. Sinai in Egypt.

Over a hearty lunch at Azuga Rhein Wine Cellars, discover some of the best wines Romania has to offer. At the beginning of the 20th century, the cellars first became one of the official wine suppliers of the Romanian Royal Family, a privilege they recently regained in 2006.

After lunch, drive to Bucharest, arriving in the late afternoon.

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

Day 12: Bucharest, departure

Your tour ends; transfer to the airport for your flight home.

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What people have said:

We learned so many things during this trip : religion, politics, history, art, beautiful scenery, people, economics, which gave us a comprehensive picture of the two countries. Thanks to your two guides which are able to discuss so many subjects. All these enrich our knowledge and understanding. We took 1940 pictures which speaks for itself. The car in Romania was a Mercedes which allowed us to enjoy longs hours ride through the … read more

Jopie and Elsye Manduapessy (Indonesia)

The tour far surpassed my expectations. I chose to work with Balkan Trails because of the flexibility in creating an itinerary to fit my schedule. Also, Vlad was quick to respond to any question or concern. Catalin was a wonderful guide with just enough facts without sounding like the encyclopaedia. Stoyan was also very accomodating even going so far as to arrive 30 mins early for our departure from the hotel just to … read more

Starla Suttles (United States)

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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 Romania revealed

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
  • One lunch with wine tasting, an opportunity to sample some of the best wines in Romania
  • Five home cooked meals (three dinners and two lunches)
  • Exclusive folklore show in Maramures
  • 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)

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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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