You are here: Home > Romania > Holiday Ideas > Romania Self Drive 1 - Transylvania - History and Mystery
About Romania Self Drive 1 - Transylvania - History and Mystery
Our favourite places in Transylvania; a fly drive through Romania's most famous region.
Activity code: ROFD01
Duration: 8-10 Days
This superb holiday itinerary takes you on a full circuit of the ancient heart of Romania, Transylvania. As well as the world-famous towns and castles we recommend going a little "off the beaten track" in this fascinating land, particularly the northern countryside. Transylvania is a stunningly beautiful region, full of history and dramatic scenery and offers visitors on a self-drive holiday to really explore and enjoy the sights as well as experiencing the rural way of life in Romania.
Transylvania is home to some of Europe’s best-preserved mediaeval towns, such as Sighisoara adorned with a hilltop citadel, secret passageways and a 14th century clock tower; Brasov featuring Old Saxon architecture and Sibiu with its cobblestone streets and pastel-coloured houses. There are many tiny shops offering antiques and fine hand-made products by local artisans across the region. Visitors to Transylvania will also encounter stunning castles and villages largely unchanged in decades.
In close proximity to Brasov and Bran are the fortified churches at Harman, with its massive 13th Saxon towers, and Prejmer, the largest fortified church in Southeastern Europe. Transylvania’s multi-ethnic heritage (including German, Hungarian and Romany) is visible in the folk costumes, architecture, cuisine, music and festivals. Colourful centuries-old traditions are alive and well in the small villages of Transylvania.
The Apuseni Mountain range, in the west, is a landscape of exquisite beauty and mystery. Here, you’ll find ancient legends of mountain spirits and rare species of wildlife, along with 4,000 caves, many of which can be explored.
Rediscover's recommended fly-drive itineraries take you right into the heart of this fascinating country. We share our knowledge and the experience of our staff and partners to offer not just important cultural sights, dramatic scenery and historic locations but the opportunity to spend quality time in the villages, often staying in rural communities as guests of local families, where local culture is at its strongest. The guest houses and hotels in this itinerary are generally small, independent or family-run, properties which add significantly to your travel experience in this fascinating country.
The beauty of this circuit is that you can start and finish at any of the airports in Transylvania (Cluj, Sibiu, Targa Mures) or even Bucharest without needing to adjust the places you visit; it is easy to extend the duration with extra nights in any location or to branch out to visit the norther region of Maramures from Cluj (more details on request).
This very popular route is a tried and trusted itinerary which allows plenty of time to enjoy the countryside as you travel. Whichever route you choose, you will almost certainly traverse the spectacular Carpathian Mountains, take in the mysterious history-filled towns of Transylvania and return following one of the genuine cultural encounters that travelling to Romania with Rediscover affords, leaving you with enduring memories of this truly unique and enchanting country.
If you would like to visit these wonderful places without driving then we can supply a private driver for the duration of the tour or even pre-book train tickets for you. All fly-drives are available with private English-speaking driver services; we can also pre-book many lunches, extra activities and visits in the itinerary to your preference.
Please contact us if you would like a completely tailor made fly drive itinerary. All we would need to know are approximate dates of travel, what standard of accommodation you would prefer, and if there are any particular areas or sights which you would like us to include (or to exclude!) in your itinerary. Your fly drive can be as active or leisurely as you please. Staying one night at each stop allows the maximum amount of sightseeing; two or more nights will allow you to do more side trips, whilst staying in one place will give you the opportunity to relax and explore the local area.
Ask about our fabulous bonus offers when you book this package with us:
Fly into Cluj Napoca International Airport; waiting for you will be one of our drivers for a private transfer to your hotel in the centre of Cluj. You now have the balance of day to explore historic Cluj on foot - the main centre of the old city is ideal for a walking tour including some important monuments and buildings: the Catholic Cathedral of St. Michael built in Gothic style in the fourteenth century, the Municipal Theatre and the Christian Orthodox Cathedral built in the early twentieth century in Neo Byzantine style. Cluj is a big student city so has many interesting bars and restaurants catering for a more cosmopolitan taste than other cities.
After breakfast our suggested route is to drive east, across country, to Reghin and then down through rolling countryside to Targa Mures for a short visit including the City hall, Cathedral and the impressive Cultural Palace. Lunch could be in town, for example at the Hungarian restaurant attached to the Guest House Tempo or in one of the villages further along your journey south through the hills to Sighisoara.
Sighisoara, the most beautiful mediaeval city of Romania, where you will certainly enjoy its atmosphere, its mysterious corners and narrow streets. The Sighisoara Festival of Medieval Arts and Crafts is held on the last weekend of July, a mediaeval festival featuring troubadour music, costume parades, street entertainers and handicraft displays, open-air concerts and mediaeval ceremonies - NB. accommodation availability during this period can be difficult and/or expensive.
Today, you have a full day to enjoy a visit of the historical centre of the city, surrounded by towers and walls, among which stands the famous watch tower with its ancient clock. You will also wish to walk up the wooden, covered stairway that leads to the oldest school and the "church on the hill", with an excellent panoramic view of not just the old town but the lower city and surrounding countryside.
In the afternoon we recommend a short drive westwards to visit the fortified church (included in UNESCO heritage list) at Biertan. This is an example characteristic of the fortress-church style and is one of the 300 fortified churches built between the 14th and 16th centuries.
In the morning set off for a pleasant drive to Brasov, one of the most beautiful mediaeval cities in Transylvania. On the way we suggest a visit of the beautiful villages of Viscri, Rupea and Saschiz with their fortresses, which remained untouched until the 15th century (now UNESCO World Heritage Sites). On his first visit to Transylvania, [Britain's] Prince Charles was immediately struck by the precious legacy of this area and said he was "totally overwhelmed by its unique beauty and its extraordinarily rich heritage"’. In 2006 he decided to buy and restore an 18th Century Saxon house in Viscri.
We recommend a walking tour of the historic centre of Brasov, its highlights include the Black Church, the Council Square, the old quarter Schei, Europe's narrowest street (Rope Street), the Katerina Gate that separated the Romanians from the Saxons in the Austro-Hungarian occupancy period and much more. We suggest a lunch in a traditional restaurant in the city centre. it is also possible to get the funicular railway to the top of the nearby hill for stunning views, some fresh air and a lovely walk (assuming nice weather).
Onward drive at the end of the day to Zarnesti.
We suggest taking this part of your itinerary in a quiet location offering you so many sightseeing choices and countryside activities as well as opportunities for relaxation in this fabulous corner of Transylvania. Within easy reach of Zarnesti are the following:
* Bran Castle
* Libearty Bear Sanctuary
* Rasnov Fortress
* Scenic drive to Azuga and Sinaia to visit stunning Peles Castle
* Prejmer & Harman fortified churches
* Outdoor activities including Hiking, mountain biking, adventure park, bear watching & much more
Rasnov fortified citadel (13th century), founded by the Teutonic knights and now re-opended with a funicular from the base of the hill.
Harman fortified church, dating back to the 13th century when Saxons built the original structure and Prejmer fortress (Unesco World Heritage Site), the largest of its kind in southeastern Europe.
An incredible drive over to the Prahova Valley with its winter resort, Sinaia, "the Pearl of the Carpathians". Here you must visit the most beautiful castle in Romania (in Bavarian style) - Peles Castle, summer residence of king Carol 1st. We recommend lunch in Azuga at the Rhein cellars with [optional] wine tasting.
Bran, the village that hides the most famous castle in Romania - "Dracula's Castle". A visit of Bran castle offers an experience full of labyrinths, staircases and secret passages.
After another fantastic home-cooked breakfast continue to Sibiu (the European Capital of Culture in 2007). On arrival you will have time to embark on an easy walking tour of central Sibiu which would include the Big Square with the Brukenthal Museum (the premier Romanian museum), the Stairs Passage, the Small Square, the Ancient Romanian School, the Iron Bridge (aka "Liars Bridge") and the Huet Square with the Evangelic Church.
Recommend lunch in a restaurant in the city centre.
In the morning you can use the new highway as far as Sebes (or continue further to Deva for a visit of Hunedoara and to visit the greatest Gothic-style castle in Romania, Corvinesti Castle, built by the Anjou family on the site of a former Roman camp). Heading north you must stop to visit Alba Iulia with its beautifully restored citadel, one of the most impressive in Europe. Places of interest include the Roman Catholic Cathedral (the oldest and most valuable monument of architecture in Transylvania), the Batthyaneum Library, the Orthodox Cathedral of the Reunification, the Babylon Building (housing the National Museum of Unification), the Union Hall, the Apor Palace, the Princely Palace. Alba Iulia was known in ancient times as Apulum, the largest military and economic centre during the Roman occupation, a miniature copy of the mother Rome. It was here that on December 1st 1918 the province of Transylvania announced its unification with Romania. Recommend lunch in a restaurant in the city.
In the afternoon, if you have time, you may wish to consider a stop at Turda to visit one of Romania's newest attractions - the Turda Salt Mine. A vast series of chambers with huge spaces underground housing activities such as mini-golf and a boating lake but marvelling at the sheer size of the place and breathing the clean, healthy air may be the most important souvenir you take away.
Private transfer to Cluj airport for flight home or drop off car at airport.
** As this route is a circuit it is straighforward to amend the itinerary if you were to arrive into Targa mures or Sibiu airports instead of Cluj Napoca.
"We have all reached home safely after a very memorable trip to Romania. We were very pleased with your organising the trip and we are particularly thankful to Ms. Doina Anghel for all her support and help. We hope you will help us with our next travel as well."
P Annamalai, India, June, 2017