About Romania Self Drive 5 - The Grand Tour
A full tour of Romania - includes the most famous sights plus our recommended "Hidden Gems" (Transylvania, Maramures, Moldavia & Danube Delta).
Activity code: ROFD05
Duration: 15 Days
This holiday is a "best bits" grand tour of the whole country combining the ancient heart of Romania - Transylvania, the resurgent cosmopolitan capital - Bucharest and the fascinating undiscovered regions of Maramures in the north and the Danube Delta in the east. It is a holiday itinerary full of history and dramatic scenery. Overall it is a wonderful opportunity to visit many very different locations which would be impossible in almost any other country.
START / FINISH - Bucharest.
Transylvania is home to some of Europe’s best-preserved medieval 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. 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 and Hungarian) is delightfully apparent 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 western Carpathians, 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.
Maramures in the northwest is home to many villages where centuries-old traditions are still part of daily life; villages are distinguished by their unique wooden churches with tall spires and shingled roofs. Elaborate woodcarvings decorate the eaves, entryways and windows of houses and this truly is a place where the inhabitants have preserved the rural culture and crafts of their Dacian ancestors. In this region you have the opportunity to ride the historic steam railway through the forests of the Vaser Valley. A highly recommended experience on a working forestry railway, passing through the most spectacular landscape - narrow, rock lined canyons; fast-flowing, sparkling mountain brooks and looking out for the colourful wildlife of the mixed forests.
Bucovina's Painted Churches are one of the most unique, iconic and picturesque treasures of Romania. The painted exterior walls were originally decorated in the 15th and 16th century with elaborate frescoes featuring portraits of saints, scenes from the life of Jesus and images of angels and demons. Seven of the churches were placed on UNESCO’s Word Heritage list in 1993.
Bucharest is the main city of the region of Wallachia and the capital of Romania; first documented in 1459 by Vlad Tepes. Bucharest and its cultural scene is going to surprise you: 37 museums, 22 theatres, 18 art galleries, opera houses and concert halls await your visit. The best way to explore Bucharest is to take a stroll along Calea Victoriei to Piata Revolutiei, site of the Romanian Athenaeum and the former Royal Palace, now the National Museum of Art. The old city centre (near Lispcani) is a must to understand why Bucharest was known as "Little Paris" in the 1920s.
The Danube Delta is a 2,200-square-mile wildlife reserve designated by UNESCO as a "Biosphere Reservation" stretching along the northern section of Romania’s 152-mile Black Sea coast. From the port city of Tulcea, a cruise through the Delta’s waterways gives travellers a glimpse of the abundant wildlife and the traditional fishing villages; floating reed islands, sand dunes and waterways offer shelter to over 300 species of birds, countless fish and 1,150 species of plants.
Rediscover's recommended fly-drive itineraries take you right into the heart of this fascinating country. We are sharing 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.
This 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:
On arrival into Bucharest International Airport we will provide a private transfer to your hotel in Bucharest. Bucharest is one of the least known European capitals, yet the sixth largest city by population. Today (or tomorrow, depending upon your flight arrival time) we can include a tour of Bucharest, with stops on the way for a better look at the monuments and historical buildings including a visit to the outstanding open air Village Museum, the Arc de Triomphe, a drive along Calea Victoriei, Palace Square, the iconic Athenaeum, the Revolution Square, the monumental Parliament Palace and the University Square with the University building and the National Theatre opposite. Afterwards, stroll around the narrow streets of the historic quarter, one of the most popular leisure districts.
As part of your introduction to the country we can also arrange a traditional Romanian dinner at Caru cu Bere restaurant, emblematic of the glittering Bucharest Belle Epoque. Afterwards, a private transfer to your accommodation.
Collect your hire car and drive east towards the Black Sea on the main highway, visiting the ancient port of Constanta where you can visit the Roman Mosaic, the Hunchiar Mosque, Genoese Lighthouse, Archaelogical Park, Roman City Wall and the Victory Monument. Recommend lunch in Ovidiu Square.
In the afternoon make the short drive to Tulcea and take walk on the esplanade admiring the Danube River.
Day 4 - for your full day in the area we will arrange a day cruise into the Danube Delta including lunch on board.
Drive back inland and into Moldavia, to Piatra Neamt. It is a relatively long journey, which will take approx 5-6 hours, crossing the Danube by ferry in Braila, but necessary to travel to the next interesting area of the country but you will be assured of a warm welcome upon arrival. Stop along the way in a typical Romanian restaurant for lunch. Arrive late afternoon in Piatra Neamt.
Day 6 - your full day in this area can be some walking in the Bicaz Gorge and Ceahlau mountains; as well as enjoying a visit to Piatra Neamt to immerse yourself in the local cuisine and way of life. In the recently renovated town there are some fascinating places to visit and we suggest taking time to go for a cable car ride which departs from the centre.
Today, discover the land of Neamt with its large monasteries and also Bucovina’s famous painted monasteries (included in UNESCO’s heritage list). In the morning take a tour of Agapia, Varatec and Neamt Monasteries (900 nuns live in the villages surrounding the monasteries). Recommend lunch at Neamt Monastery.
In the afternoon, visit Humor and Voronet richly decorated churches of worship, "albums" of fresco art that have survived the elements since the 15th century. Voronet Monastery has been named the "oriental Sistine Chapel", whereas Voronet Blue, a colour obtained from lapis lazuli, entered the lexicon of art alongside Titian red and Veronese green - and to this day has yet to be reproduced by manufacture.
Today, time-permitting, you can visit 2 more of the monasteries included on UNESCO Heritage list: Sucevita, founded in 1530 by Stephen the Great and Moldovita, built in 1532, by Petru Rares. These are the most accomplished samples of artistic achievement in Moldavian architecture and painting. Recommend a traditional Bucovina lunch in Vama.
Of course, you could decide upon your favourite monasteries in advance and visit them all on day 7, it leaves you free to travel west and immerse yourselves in the M-tii Rodnei mountains and into Maramures. After lunch, drive to the northern-western part of Romania, Maramures, crossing two mountain passes, a fabulous landscape in the Carpathian Mountains.
Day 9 - is a full day in Maramures region to visit the famous wooden churches and experience the traditional way of life. You can start your journey in the Iza Valley, visiting the wooden churches from Barsana, Ieud (the oldest wooden building in Europe, built in the 14th century) and Botiza. Recommend a traditional lunch in Barsana Monastery. Continue with Sapanta and visit the famous Merry Cemetery, an open-air museum and a national tourist attraction unique in Europe. It is famous for its colourful tombstones with native paintings describing, in an original and poetic manner, the persons that are buried there as well as scenes from their lives.
** an alternative for this day (or for an extra day) would be the forest railway along the scenic Vaser Valley, from Viseu to Paltin passing through the most spectacular landscape; we recommend a picnic lunch at Paltin (which can be included in your return train ticket). In the late afternoon return to Viseu and continue to visit wooden churches en route to Sighet.
Today, depart for the way to Transylvania, another drive back in time en route via Baia Mare and Dej to Cluj Napoca, a small city with a youthful energy thanks to its large student population. Balance of day to explore the centre of Cluj on foot, 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.
** We recommend breaking your journey here as you may well have chosen to spend this morning exploring the villages of Maramures, particularly if you took the Vaser Valley Forest Railway on Day 9.
After breakfast drive across country to Reghin and then down to Targa Mures for a short visit including the City hall, cathedral and impressive Cultural Palace. Lunch could be in town, e.g. Hungarian Restaurant (at guest house Tempo) or in one of the villages along the way south through the hills to Sighisoara.
** you may choose a slightly different route from Cluj, travelling south to visit the impressive Salt Mines at Turda before driving east to Targa Mures.
Sighisoara, the most beautiful mediaeval city of Romania, where you will certainly enjoy its atmosphere, its mysterious corners and narrow streets. Note: 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.
Today is a relatively short drive to one of Transylvania's most impressive historic towns, Sibiu. We suggest a stop on the way to visit Biertan - the Saxon fortified church listed on UNESCO Heritage List, dating from 1492, one of the pearls of the Saxon monuments in Transylvania. Recommend lunch in Biertan at Unglerus restaurant.
From here continue south via Medias to Sibiu, although you could choose to go a little further west to visit Alba Iulia which has a fabulous (restored) citadel area with many wonderful buildings (and places to eat). The new highway from nearby Sebes to Sibiu will make quick work of the remaining journey.
Upon arrival in Sibiu a suggested city tour would include the Little Square, Grand Square, Evangelical Cathedral, Liars’ Bridge and the ancient fortified walls with their remaining towers. There is a good choice of restaurants in Sibiu.
In the morning drive to Brasov, one of the most beautiful mediaeval cities in Transylvania. 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. Nearby you may have time to visit Prejmer and/or Harman fortified churches. Onward drive at the end of the day to Zarnesti.
** an alterantive for this day would be a drive along the first section of the Trans Fagarasan Highway, which is just east from Sibiu, and take the cable car to Balea Lake.
Day 14 - Now you have a free day to enjoy the sights and experiences available in this fabulous corner of Transylvania. Within easy reach of Zarnesti are the following:
* Bran Castle, 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.
* Libearty Bear Sanctuary
* Rasnov Fortress citadel (13th century), founded by the Teutonic knights and now re-opended with a funicular from the base of the hill.
* Outdoor activities including Hiking, mountain biking, adventure park, bear watching & much more
This morning, an incredible drive over to the Prahova Valley with its winter resort, Sinaia, "the Pearl of the Carpathians, to visit Peles Castle, one of the best preserved royal palaces in Europe - it served as the summer residence for several Romanian monarchs including King Carol I. Recommend a final lunch at the Rhein Cellars with champagne and wine tasting (still producing and delivering the champagne for the royal family).
After lunch, depart for the international airport in Bucharest and flight home or one final night in the city (depending upon your flight times). Alternatively, you could add an extra night in any location along the way.
"Overall we had a fantastic holiday with many memorable moments and I’d like to thank you and Dawn for that, not least for the detail and organisation at rather short notice."
J Abson, August, 2019
"We really have nothing but praise for the way our itinerary met all our expectations. The efficiency and responsiveness of Rediscover was top notch and we would (and have already) recommended your company...Romania was a holiday of discovery with so much to see and experience right from Bucharest and then the Delta to the far north and Transylvania. Thank you and your team once more and we hope to use Rediscover again in the future."
H and P Preston, UK, Oct 2018
"We had a wonderful holiday and would like to thank you for putting it together for us. Your knowledge of the country meant that we were able to visit some fantastic places in what is a very beautiful country, though full of contrasts. We have never asked a holiday company to plan a holiday for us but wouldn't hesitate to do so again and would recommend Rediscover the World to anyone seeking a similar sort of trip. Thank you."
C & C Holmes, UK, Oct 2018
"Overall the trip was amazing and we both enjoyed our time in Romania which is a beautiful country. Everything was very well organised and the itinerary was a great help for seeing everything. Thank you :)"
S Phillips, UK, Aug 2018
"A general summary. I was happy with all of our accommodations. The Delta accommodation was difficult for finding a place to eat. We discovered a restaurant in another hotel more inland that was excellent, but it took some doing. Second, I do not remember the name of the hotel, but it was where the wooden churches are located. It did not have AC and did not cool in the evening because of the porch setting. No air could get into the room. The car rental was fine, but the check for every scratch was a bit over done given the fact that they said the roads are bad and that general driving scratches would not be charged. We lost a hubcap due to the "bad" roads. We understand begin cited for that, but they found a scratch that I could have circled in the beginning, but was told "not to worry about it." They were kind and all, but if the inspection is going to be that detailed, I would have checked the car with a magnifying glass. This was another wonderful trip! We could not be more pleased and look forward to another trip with Rediscover. Andy, you read and understand us well. Mona and Doina were wonderful people to welcome us to Romania. We had wonderful discussions and valued the cultural exchange. The trip will be celebrated in our memories for years to come. Thank you for the excellent planning and recommendations."
G Gebbia, USA, August 2017
"The staff at Coroana de Aur were not particularly friendly or helpful but we cannot speak highly enough of Casa Elvira, Hora cu Brazi and Hotel Sighisoara. Some warning about the Romanian style of driving should be provided for this trip. Collecting the rental care and getting out of Bucharest was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life! My wife was anxious that this journey tested her anti-hypertensive medication to the limit. Overall, it was a fantastic trip and we want to go to Romania again soon."
R Santer, UK, July, 2017