Category Archives: Road trip

The best time to visit Romania

Romania is a touristic destination open all year round. Situated in Eastern Europe, with a temperate continental climate, Romania is an area with four full seasons: winter, spring, summer and autumn. Each person has a particular preference for a season or another, so this post will not try to convince you to visit Romania in a certain period. From my experience, I can tell you that the decision for the specific season to come to Romania is depending also on the corner of the World my tourists are coming from. For example, travellers from warm climate ( like Brasil or South East Asia) would choose to come in Romania in winter, in order to experience snow or cooler temperatures they might not find in their countries. And also, each seasons has its charm: winter is about snow and Christmas, spring is about nature rebirth and Easter, summer is by definition a holiday season and autumn is about crops, wine making and an explosion of amber colours in the forest.

may flowers
may flowers, near Sarmisegetuza Regia

But, if I would be a tourist planning to come to Romania, I would choose 2 intervals for my vacation in Romania. First I would choose the second part of May and mid October. In these periods, the temperatures are mild, ranging around 20 to 25 degrees during the day, the chances of 2 continuous days of rain are slim and nature is at its best. More than that, is the low season in tourism, so, besides the higher chances of better prices, you don’t have to worry about spending to much time queuing to enter at the most important touristic attractions.

First, the end of May: the landscape is lush green, the air is fresh and scented with spring flowers ( insider tip: search the places with acacia trees: you will be mesmerised by their perfume). There is still some snow covering the mountain caps, so a great chance for photo opportunities. And, let’s not forget the seasonal fruits: cherries and strawberries.

Transfagarsan road, at the end of May
Transfagarasan in May: mountain flowers, fresh grass and spots of snow.

Second, mid October. I already argued in another blog post about this period of the year as the best time to see the autumn colours. More than that, the atmosphere is perfumed with a perfect combination of dried leaves and fruit aromas coming from orchards and vineyards. And let’s not forget October fest! ūüôā

Brasov in October
Brasov in October

Transylvania: a guided tour

I’m always wondering how many days you need to see Transylvania. The answer is as simple as it is complicated: as many as you need or as many you as have. Two days tour is possible too short, 7 days can be too long. For this reason I designed a tour that gives to the tourist interested to see the essential places of Transylvania in 4 days: http://sibiutourguide.com/complete-transylvania-tour-private-guide.html

The tour can start in Bucharest, but the optimal starting point is Sibiu, due to its location in the heart of Transylvania (and the local airport has very good connections with Munich, London or Vienna). The hub for exploring Transylvania can can be Sibiu or Brasov, as from those cities is easy to reach the most popular touristic attractions of this part of Romania. And the charming set of the medieval old towns of Sibiu and Brasov is also an important element to take into account when the travel plans are made. If you decide to start in Bucharest, you have to take into consideration the option to finish the tour in Sibiu or Cluj, so you can save half a day that you would otherwise lose on the road back to the capital of the Romania.

So, the introduction being made, what are the places not to be missed when visiting Transylvania? First the castles: Bram Stoker’s Dracula made Transylvania a top destination on the touristic map of the world, so the castles are coming first on the list. The best known is Bran Castle, due to it’s links with Dracula, but the truth is that Dracula never lived there, as Dracula is a fictional character! But there is another castle, less known as Bran Castle, however much more impressing and important: the Corvin (Hunedoara) Castle. You will need two days to visit the 2 castes, and the best place to do this is from Sibiu, located at almost equal distance between them. Number 3 on the list is Peles, not because is less important, but because, if you have seen Bran and Corvin, you will not consider Peles a castle. In my views, Peles is a palace, and in term of architectural richness, elegance, originality, history, preservation and background scenery is the first touristic attraction of Romania. And, if we want to be very strict, Peles is not in Transylvania, but is just a few kilometers south from the former border with Wallachia.

Hunedoara Castle
Corvin Castle

Then, there are the cities. I mentioned before Sibiu and Brasov: vibrant cultural cities, with romantic squares and rich history in their CV. We have to add to the list Sighisoara, a charming medieval town, listed on the UNESCO World heritage list, which has preserved basically untouched its medieval walls and defense towers. Add to this the pastel houses and the cobbled streets and you have the perfect recipe for enchantment. I usually visit Sighisoara, when I’m on my way to Sibiu from Brasov or vice versa. I don’t recommend to spend a night there, if you are in a hurry as 2 or 3 hours can be enough to explore the citadel. If you are on extended visit to Transylvania, you can add to the list Alba Iulia ( due its extremely important significance in Romanian history and the Vauban fortress) and Cluj ( the largest city in Transylvania).

Sibiu
Sibiu

The fortified churches: an unique architectural phenomenon that appeared due the geographical and historical circumstances of Transylvania in 15th-16th century. There are around 150 villages with fortified churches, spread around Transylvania, and 7 of them are listed on UNESCO World Heritage list. I will not recommend to see all of them, if you aren’t an architecture and medieval enthusiast, but I strongly recommend to see at least Prejmer, Biertan or Viscri. All of them are near Brasov, Sighisoara and Sibiu, so is not difficult to put them on the travel map.

Biertan
Biertan

The landscape: mountains, countless flock of sheep, horse driven carriages, rolling hills, remote villages lost in the past, lofty fortresses, this is Transylvania! A must do experience is to drive on Transfagarasan, the mountain road that connects Transylvania with Walachia, over the Carpathians mountains. In summer time, Transfagarasan can be an alternative to drive to Bucharest, if the plan is to leave Romania from the capital city.

Transfagarasan south side

The Romaniacs experience

I have to admit, until a few weeks ago I wasn’t a big fan of enduro motor sport. I knew that in Sibiu, every year in July is organised the toughest hard enduro motor bike rally in the world, but so far I was watching only the Prologue, which was taking place in one of the main boulevards of Sibiu. I did’n knew who were the winners of the last years, I didn’t knew what the rules were, I didn’t pay too much attention to the off road stages in the mountains. A couple of month ago I was contacted by an Australian lady, asking me the possibility to organise a tour for her and her friends ¬†before the race, and during the race, to drive them through the mountains around Sibiu, to see the race. The first days of touring with them were like any other tour: we went to Bran Castle, saw Brasov and visited the Rasnov fortress. Then we drove over the Carpathians twice, on Transalpina and Transfagarasan road. But the best part of the trip was yet to come. Finally the Red Bull Romaniacs started, with the spectacular prologue I already knew: ¬†rocks, tractor tyres, giant logs, concrete blocks, all of those obstacles preparing the riders for the next off road day. Since 2 guys from our group were competing, my guests were watching the race with an infinitely greater emotion and passion.¬†And all this effervescence also contaminated me. I began to stay with my eyes on the race mobile app, checking the time of our riders, counting the minutes until they will show up at the spectator point or the service point, being anxious ¬†every time they¬†were late to appear to our sight. In the four days of the race I discovered a new universe, with superstars, with incredible life stories, with people extremely passionate about this sport, with riders from all over the world, coming to Romania, to cross the race off from their bucket list. Looking forward for the 2018 edition.

This is not a Castle Tour

I have to confess that almost all of my tourists are wanting to visit the Bran Castle on their way to Brasov, from Sibiu. But the last excursion to Brasov was different, as my guests had already seen the famous Transylvanian Castle, also known as Dracula Castle. So, I tried to built an itinerary  with attractions less know by tourists, a little off the beaten track.

So, the tour was about people, about experiences, about local tradition and rural life. We visited an complex installation for processing the wool into fine fiber and in a same time a very efficient washing machine: the whirlpool ( valtoare in Romanian). The second stop was at a water mill, 150 years old, using the original flint stones to finely grind the cereals and obtain a high quality flour. Amazing traditions kept alive by faithful and hard working families, with a lot of sacrifice in the Communist time, and a lot of perseverance today.

Between the whirlpool and the mill  he had a picnic, on a shore of a river at the foothills of the Carpathians. Much better option than a lunch at a restaurant.

Picnic on Transfagarasan

Transafagarasan road tour is an unforgettable experience: breathtaking views, pure air, endless curves and sheer drops. In some days, you can literally touch the clouds.¬†This summer is was one Transafagarasan_tourof the most demanded tours by my tourists, and even I drove on this road dozens time, I’m still enjoying each time, because the road is an amazing driving experience as well, besides the¬†stunning ¬†mountain scenery. In summer time, the road can be very crowded, so it’s better to start the tour early in the morning. At least this is I’m doing, when I’m organizing my tours with my guests. In order to make the Transfagarasan experience complete, I can organize for my guest a picnic on the mountains. The last picnic was organised for my guests from Florida, US, and, I think that the assortment of 5 types of Romanian cheese, sausages, home made bread and a glass o Romanian wine¬†delighted their taste buds.