The Danube Delta is a vast and unique natural area in Southeastern Europe, where the Danube River meets the Black Sea. It is the second-largest river delta in Europe after the Volga Delta. 

The Danube Delta takes shape around three principal channels, each named after the ports they lead to: Chilia, situated in the northern region; Sulina, positioned in the middle; and Sfântu Gheorghe, found in the south. Located at the tip of the three channels, Tulcea makes a great starting point for exploring the Danube Delta.

Its importance lies in its role as a haven for biodiversity, a critical migratory stopover, a provider of ecosystem services, and a cultural and educational resource. 

The Danube Delta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve, highlighting its importance for biodiversity and environmental conservation. Visitors to the Danube Delta can explore its natural beauty, observe wildlife, and experience the traditional rural way of life in the surrounding communities.

Getting There

To see the Danube Delta, you must start your journey in Tulcea, a gateway to the Delta. That being said, if you don’t have your stay in Tulcea, you might have to decide how you get there first, and you do have a few options:

Air travel to nearby airports

The nearest major airport to the Danube Delta is Henri Coandă International Airport (OTP) in Bucharest, the capital of Romania. The other one is Mihail Kogălniceanu International Airport (CND) near Constanța.

You can easily connect directly to Tulcea by bus or train from either of these. For your convenience, detailed timetables for bus and train routes are readily available, allowing you to plan your journey flexibly and efficiently. 

Road options for those traveling by car

From Bucharest – it typically takes around 4 to 5 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions. Route: 

  • Take the A2 motorway towards Constanța.
  • Exit the A2 at the DN22/E87 road towards Brăila/Tulcea.
  • Follow the DN22/E87 road to reach Tulcea.

From Constanța – it usually takes approximately 2 to 3 hours, depending on the specific route and traffic. Route:

  • Take the DN22 road northward from Constanta.
  • Follow the DN22 road through Medgidia and continue towards Tulcea.

From Tulcea into the Delta

Once you’ve arrived in Tulcea, the next step to explore the Danube Delta involves navigating its waterways. As no overland transit is available to reach the towns inside the Delta, your exclusive mode of transportation is by boat. In this context, you have two choices:

Public Ferry – Navrom Ferry functions as the main public transport in the region, offering several trips daily. Booking tickets online in advance is an option but not mandatory. The boats are adequately sized, and you should be able to show up and obtain tickets when boarding. 

Speed Boat – If you’re planning a trip to a well-known destination in the Delta, such as Sulina, you might have the opportunity to opt for a high-speed boat instead of a slower ferry. These high-speed boats are managed by private companies like Travel Delta Star and are typically located along the waterfront in Tulcea. Stroll along the harbor and explore the available options. 

The Flora and Fauna

The rich biodiversity of The Danube Delta

The flora and fauna of the Danube Delta are exceptionally diverse, making it a unique and ecologically significant destination. It has an extensive wildlife sanctuary covering 5,800 square kilometers (2,240 square miles). This vast expanse provides a refuge for over 5,400 species of plants and animals.

The rich biodiversity of the Danube Delta is a testament to its ecological importance. Here’s a closer look at the diverse plant species and unique animal life, including rare and endangered species, that contribute to the Delta’s natural wealth:

Diverse Plant Species

1. Reeds: Extensive reed beds are a defining feature of the Delta, providing habitats for numerous bird species and contributing to the overall stability of the ecosystem.

2. Floating Meadows: Vast areas of floating meadows showcase a variety of aquatic plants adapted to the Delta’s wetland environment.

3. Willow Forests: The Delta is adorned with willow forests, serving as important bird nesting and feeding sites and enhancing the overall biodiversity.

4. Water Lilies and Aquatic Plants: The waterways are adorned with water lilies and diverse aquatic plants, adding to the Delta’s picturesque scenery.

Unique Animal Life

1. Birds: Renowned for its avian diversity, the Danube Delta is home to 331 bird species, in addition to the 520 species documented in Western Europe. Globally acknowledged as a nesting habitat, the Delta hosts significant populations of various bird species, including the white pelican, the Dalmatian pelican, and the pygmy cormorant.

You can also see Herons and Egrets, including the gray heron and great egret, thrive in the wetland habitats.

2. Fish: sturgeon, pike, perch, carp.

3. Mammals: otters, wild boars.

4. Amphibians and Reptiles: Danube Delta water frog, European pond turtle.

Rare and endangered species include the European sturgeon, pygmy cormorant, and red-breasted goose. 

Birdwatching opportunities

The Danube Delta is also known as a bird paradise! The expansive wetlands, rich biodiversity, and diverse habitats make it an essential destination for migratory birds traversing the East Atlantic and Black Sea routes. 

In addition to the abundant local bird species that reside in the Delta throughout the year, the region witnesses an annual migration of millions of birds. Enthusiastic birdwatchers visit this area to observe diverse species, with a notable focus on pelicans. There are around 3,500 pairs of white pelicans and nearly 150 pairs of Dalmatian pelicans, making it a captivating destination for birdwatching.

Spot for birdwatching 

Plan your visit between April and September for an outstanding bird watching experience in the Danube Delta. This period welcomes millions of migratory birds, offering exceptional bird watching opportunities. Avoid July and August due to a high mosquito population.

Check out the Carasuhat area for a great experience. Since 1993, it’s been part of a project to bring back nature to the Danube Delta, turning old farmland into a home for birds. This effort has made it a fantastic place to see many different kinds of birds in their own environment.

Delta Villages and Local Culture

Charming villages along the Delta

Mila 23 – 53 kilometers away from Tulcea, a charming village primarily dedicated to fishing, situated on the old Danube. Accessible solely by water, the journey is facilitated by the ferry service. The locale boasts a breathtaking landscape, showcasing the genuine beauty of nature.

For avid fishing enthusiasts, Mila 23 is an ideal destination. The village is home to skilled fishermen open to sharing their experiences. Adventurous tourists can also embark on a kayak or canoe expedition on the lake connecting Mila 23 and Crisan, adding an extra layer of exploration to the visit.

Here’s a remarkable fact: Nearly all the old houses in this village have Lipovan roots. They’re made from brick and wood and painted in the traditional Lipovan colors – white and a special light blue. Locals say this blue is like the sky and shows how close they are to God. Others think it also helps keep mosquitoes away because, apparently, mosquitoes aren’t fans of this shade of blue. 

Other villages to visit: Sarichioi, Enisala, Babadag, Murghiol.

What about accommodation?

If you’re adventurous enough, there are some camping areas. But if not, here are some recommendations:

Resorts (4 and 5 stars): Lebăda Resort&Spa, Razelm, Green Village.

There aren’t so many, and the prices are a bit more expensive, especially during the high season (May – September). However, they offer great views, accommodation, and restaurant facilities.

Guesthouses: Casa Filip, Cuplul Călător.

It’s a great choice if you’re interested in getting to know the locals and their traditions up close. Most of them are more on the continental area of the Delta, but they are great for getting a more authentic feel of the culture. 

Traditional cuisine

The food culture in the Delta is deeply rooted in tradition, reflecting the customs and lifestyles of the local communities. Many recipes have been passed down through generations, preserving the authentic taste of the region – most of them are simple but very delicious! 

Fish, in particular, takes center stage, with various species contributing to various dishes. Menu changes with the seasons, ensuring that meals are prepared with the freshest produce and catch of the day.

What you should try:

Fisherman’s Borscht (Ciorbă de pește) – A sour fish soup featuring a variety of freshly caught fish mixed with vegetables and seasoned with herbs. The sourness typically comes from ingredients like lemon or vinegar. 

Fried Carp with garlic sauce – Carp is fried to perfection and served with a savory garlic sauce, a flavorful and popular dish. Have it with polenta! 

Local restaurants to check out: Delta Est Sulina and Ivan Pescar.

Water Adventures

Exploring the Delta by boat

Guided boat tours are family-friendly and offer a great educational experience for children. These kinds of tours are a great way to enjoy a closer look at the beautiful Delta, and they are perfectly safe for both swimmers and non-swimmers.

For those seeking a more adventurous experience, kayaking and canoeing provide exciting alternatives to traditional boat tours. Paddling through the Delta’s waterways allows for a closer connection with nature, enabling travelers to navigate narrow channels and reach secluded areas inaccessible to larger vessels.

Fishing experiences

Fishing in the Danube Delta is subject to strict regulations. Engaging in this recreational activity requires understanding the applicable laws to avoid significant penalties. To enhance your fishing experience while adhering to regulations, consider these recommended spots:

1. Mila 23 Area: Renowned as both the birthplace of champion Ivan Patzaichin and a successful fishing location. Whether from the shore or a boat, this area offers favorable conditions.

2. Olguta Channel: Because of abundant vegetation on the banks, this spot is accessible only by boat and is ideal for pike and perch fishing.

3. Fortuna Lake: One of the largest lakes in the Danube Delta, easily reached from the Sulina Branch. Whether from a boat or the shore, it is preferred for catfish and perch fishing.

Understanding and respecting fishing regulations ensures a successful and enjoyable experience at these recommended locations.

As a visitor, opting for a fishing excursion is better than going alone. If you’re a big fan of the species that populate the water of the Delta, we suggest you try a guided tour! 

Natural Landmarks

Sulina and Sfântu Gheorghe branches

Sulina Branch

As the primary navigation route, Sulina is a vital economic and historical hub in the Danube Delta. It’s home to the town of Sulina, known for its maritime history and diverse cultural influences.

Sulina boasts a mix of traditional and modern elements, including lighthouses, historical buildings, and a vibrant local atmosphere.

Sfântu Gheorghe Branch

Sfântu Gheorghe is recognized for its pristine natural beauty and is one of the three main channels forming the Delta. It offers a more secluded and serene experience compared to Sulina.

Sfântu Gheorghe is characterized by its untouched landscapes, vast sandbanks, and diverse flora and fauna. 

Best Viewpoints and Photo Spots:

Lighthouse Viewpoint: Climb the Sulina Lighthouse for panoramic views of the town, the Black Sea, and the Delta’s waterways. It’s a great vantage point for capturing both maritime and natural elements.

Witness the meeting point of the Sfântu Gheorghe Branch and the Black Sea. The confluence offers breathtaking views and a chance to capture the dynamic transition between river and sea.

Letea Forest

Letea Forest is located in the north-eastern part of the Danube Delta, near Letea village, 23 kilometers northwest of Sulina.

A unique spectacle for global adventurers is the presence of wild horses in the Letea Forest. Witnessing creatures typically associated with domestication in their natural environment freely roaming in substantial numbers—now nearing 2000—is a remarkable experience. In terms of day excursions, this is undeniably one of the most awe-inspiring encounters.

Letea Forest is distinctive for its profusion of climbing plants, including wild vines, hops, berries, and the Greek clinging plant, imparting a Mediterranean aesthetic to the surroundings. The forest is also home to a diverse insect population, with over 2,000 identified species, including the sand viper, nesting eagles, three hawk species, ravens, and more. This flourishing ecosystem adds to the unique charm of Letea, creating a haven for both flora and fauna within the heart of the Danube Delta.

Conservation Efforts

The importance of preserving The Danube Delta

Nature has played a big role in making the Danube Delta special and full of plants and animals. But people have also stepped in, trying to change things to meet their own needs.

The Danube Delta ecosystem faces significant threats because things are changing both upstream (like more dirt staying in the water and more pollution) and in the Delta itself. Back in the Communist times, people messed with almost one-third of the Danube Delta. This has caused big problems for the ecosystem: deforestation, industrial fishing, 

In the effort to safeguard the unique biodiversity of the Danube Delta and enhance the well-being of its residents, WWF, a global conservation powerhouse, has been leading the charge through its Danube-Carpathian Programme for over 15 years. By implementing innovative solutions, they aim to strike a balance between preserving the Delta’s ecological wonders and fostering prosperity for the local communities. 

One standout initiative revolves around eco-tourism, recognizing the allure of the Delta’s exceptional landscapes that draw an increasing number of visitors each year. The key lies in ensuring that tourism is sustainable and respectful of the environment, thus underlining the importance of conserving the region’s ecological and biological diversity.

A crucial aspect of these conservation efforts is the active involvement of the local community. By engaging residents in conservation activities, there’s a collective commitment to maintaining and restoring the unique environment that captivates nature enthusiasts. This collaborative approach not only contributes to the long-term health of the Delta but also serves as a catalyst for local prosperity, creating a harmonious relationship where nature and communities thrive together. 

Through such thoughtful initiatives, the Danube Delta becomes not just a natural wonder but a shared treasure, cared for and enjoyed by both locals and visitors alike.

Practical Tips for Visitors

Best Times to Visit for Optimal Experiences

When planning your journey to the Danube Delta, timing can greatly impact your experience. The best times to visit are during the spring and early summer months, from April to June, when the Delta bursts into vibrant life and migratory birds fill the skies. During this period, the weather is pleasant, and the flora and fauna are at their most active. 

However, if you’re a fan of birdwatching, late spring is the prime time when various species nest and display their colorful plumage. Be mindful of the mosquito population, which peaks in July and August, and consider packing repellent for added comfort.

Essential Items to Pack for a Trip to The Danube Delta

To make the most of your Danube Delta adventure, pack essentials like sturdy walking shoes for exploring nature trails, lightweight and breathable clothing, binoculars for birdwatching, and a reliable camera to capture stunning landscapes. Remember to include a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated during your outdoor explorations. 

As the Delta is a protected area, ensure you bring eco-friendly products, like biodegradable toiletries, and avoid single-use plastics. Lastly, pack a sense of curiosity and an appreciation for the untouched beauty of this natural haven.

Local Customs and Etiquette for Respectful Tourism

Exploring the Danube Delta responsibly involves respecting the protected areas and local customs: 

Avoid disturbing the delicate ecosystem by refraining from picking water lilies or taking bird eggs as souvenirs. Stick to approved tourist trails that exclude strictly protected zones, obtain permits for specific activities if required, and camp only in designated areas. Dispose of waste responsibly, use non-polluting watercraft, and refrain from entering bird colonies or disturbing nests and chicks. Utilize specially designated spots for birdwatching to minimize your impact. 

Support the local community by purchasing fresh fish directly from residents rather than from stores, contributing to the livelihoods of a community reliant on fishing, tourism, and water transport. 

The Danube Delta has an extensive network of canals – almost 5000 km², and it’s easy to get lost. Consider hiring a local guide who knows the waterways well. They can enhance your experience and ensure your safety.

Would you visit the Danube Delta?

In unraveling the secrets of Romania’s Danube Delta, we find not just a place but an enchanting world brimming with wonders. From the ancient oaks of Letea to the dance of vibrant birds in the sky, the Delta is a living canvas of nature’s artistry. It’s an invitation to explore, breathe in fresh air, and witness the harmonious dance between humanity and the untamed wilderness.

For those seeking a hidden gem in Europe, the Danube Delta whispers promises of discovery and connection. With its tranquil waterways and welcoming communities, this untouched haven invites you to step into a storybook where each page holds the promise of authentic experiences. 

Things to keep in mind

If you need to contact the emergency services in Romania, call 112 and state your location and situation. This number connects you to police, medical, and fire services.

Here are some additional websites to find out even more about this unique landmark in Romania: 

https://wwf.panda.org/es/?199638/A-new-project-to-prepare-the-Danube-Delta-for-the-effects-of-climate-changes

A guide on what to wear: https://www.discoverdanubedelta.com/required-in-the-danube-delta/

Map of Danube Delta 

Travel with Balkan Trails!

Did you know the Danube Delta is one of our most-loved trip add-ons? 

If you’re ready to explore Romania alongside a trusty tour operator, contact Balkan Trails, and let’s create the best custom itinerary for you! Check out more about the add-ons available for personalizing your tour to Romania here.