If you are planning a vacation in Sibiu and want to discover Transylvania from this beautiful city, we have put together the list of the best 8-day trips you can do from Sibiu.
last updated on May 12, 2020
The “Tuscany of Romania”, Transylvania is a wide area in the central part of Romania, surrounded like a halo by the peaks of the Carpathians mountains. Made famous by Bram Stoker and his novel, Dracula, Transylvania is lovely and serene land, situated at the crossroads of civilisations ( Romanians, Hungarians, Austrians, Germans, Turks). Its position in Central Europe lead Transylvania to a rich cultural heritage, but the natural attractions are a complementary addition to its touristic potential.
But what are the touristic attractions which are representing a “must” for a journey in Transylvania? Every guide book will mention at least Sibiu, Brasov and Sighisoara as the cities to be explored. Bran, Corvin and Peles are in the castles category. The villages with fortified churches ( at least Biertan, Viscri, Prejmer) should be visited as well, and last but not least, the fabulous mountain road: Transfagarasan. And the list can be extended with the quaint villages of Marginimea Sibiului or Rametea, and let’s not forget the surprising Turda Salt Mine. A long list isn’t it?So, if you are limited in time, here is our recommendation for the best 8 days trips starting from Sibiu:
The fabulous mountain road is crossing the Fagaras Mountains from North to South, reaching an altitude of over 2000 meters. Is an excellent way to enjoy breathtaking mountain sceneries, if you aren’t that much into hiking or you just simply you don’t have the time or the equipment. The driving experience is also unforgettable, as the road is like a Mecca for every driver, motorbike rider or bicyclist. As the closest big town to the road is Sibiu, with just 40 minutes driving time, this is also the perfect place to start a tour to Transfagarasan. It can be a round trip, starting and ending in Sibiu, or it can be part of a transfer to Bucharest or Brasov. In this case, you need to consider a lot of time spent in the car. The most scenic part of the road is the north side, with Balea Waterfall and Balea Lake, but one can admire dramatic alpine landscapes on the south side, a few kilometres from the tunnel cut through the mountain ridge. If you’re just for the road, I don’t recommend to drive on its entire length, as the south side involves driving a few hours through the forest. But if you’re patient enough, and you don’t mind spending that much time in the car, the south end of the road has also a few things to offer to the visitor: The Vidraru Dam ( the highest one in Romania – 166 meters), the Poenari fortress ( this one really belonged to Vlad the Impaler, not like Bran Castle), or Curtea de Arges Monastery, a unique example of religious art and architecture, the burial place of the Romanian kings, since 19th century.
The image of this structure should be put in the dictionary, right next to the word “castle”. It has everything you could imagine a castle can have: a drawbridge built over a rushing river, solid defence systems, large halls, adorned with gothic arches, a prison or a torture bastion. There are so many stories built around the castle, but the real history is also captivating. Just the simple fact that the castle belonged to the most powerful man in Transylvania’s 15th century, Ioan Corvin ( or John Corvin), the military leader who defeated for the first time the conqueror of Constantinopole, the sultan Mehmet II. The son of John, Matias, one of the greatest kings of Hungary, had also a contribution to the castle, modifying one of the wings of the stronghold, making it more suitable for a royal residence. Again, Sibiu is the closest big city to Hunedoara, where the Corvin Castle is located, and the driving time is around 1.5 hours. In the area, there are also some other touristic sites that can be visited on a day, like Alba Iulia – the impressive Habsuburg fortress ( one hour from Sibiu or Hunedoara), Sarmisegetuza Ulpia Traiana – the former capital of Roman Dacia or Sarmisegetuza Regia -the former capital of the Dacian kingdom – one hour from Hunedoara, one hour from Sibiu.
Sighisoara is known as the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler ( which is probably one of the few things true about him). But the charm of this little town is the medieval citadel, probably one of the lasts ones in Europe still inhabited. The citadel was built on an upper terrace of Tarnava river, and due to its position, was a difficult fortress to capture. Today, the defence walls and towers are still there ( not like Sibiu or Brasov), and probably due to this ( and the fact that the buildings inside preserved their initial architecture), Sighisoara is a UNESCO site. Again, Sibiu is the closest city to Sighisoara ( 1.5 hours of driving), even though Brasov is also reachable in a reasonable amount of time ( around 2 hours). The Sighisoara tour from Sibiu can be completed with some stops to the fortified churches in the area (Biertan and Valea Viilor are also UNESCO sites), or the old town of Medias, a hidden gem, with colourful elegant houses and one of the most beautiful Saxon churches of Transylvania.
Probably the number one reason to visit Transylvania, especially for vampire movies lovers. But the castle history is not terrifying at all. Actually, Bran Castle didn’t have anything to do with Bram Stoker character, nor with Vlad the Impaler, the historical character who inspired the Irish writer. The history of the castle started in the 14th century when it was erected as a border stronghold by the Saxons at the order of the Hungarian king. It served its purpose for centuries, until 20th century when the Castle was donated to Queen Mary of Romania, who loved the place for its romantic vice. Since then the fate of the medieval castle changed as it was transformed in a cosy royal residence. All of this and much more tourist will learn from the knowledgeable tour guide accompanying you during the trip from Sibiu to Bran Castle. An extension of the tour can include as well the medieval city of Brasov or to Sinaia, to visit Peles Castle, but this day trip will be around 12 hours due to the distance having to be covered in one day.
If Transylvania is unique for something, the Saxon fortified churches are on top of the list. Nowhere in the world are to be seen such a large number of churches with a consistent defence system like in Transylvania. Their existence is a result of the difficult history Transylvania had to endure, especially due to the proximity to the Ottoman Empire. Initially, the churches were normal religious structures, like everywhere in Europe. But starting the 16th century their look changed dramatically. Almost every community in the Saxon lands in Transylvania, searching for a safe place to offer protection against the Turkish raids, had taken the decision to erect heavy walls around the church. So, in around a century, more than 300 small fortifications appeared all over Transylvania, mostly in the Saxon villages, but we have examples also in the Szeclers villages. 7 of those villages with fortified churches are listed on UNESCO World Heritage List, and most of them can be visited on a day trip from Sibiu: Calnic, Valea Viilor, Biertan, Saschiz, Viscri or Prejmer. Darjiu fortified church is the last of the seven on the list and the only one from a Szeckler village.
The spirit of Transylvania can be found in the former medieval cities, but to a greater extent in the charming villages that seem to be frozen in time. The rural area near Sibiu is a good example of the multiculturalism that characterizes Transylvania. Towards the mountains the Romanian shepherd villages dominate, and towards the plateau, we have the Saxon villages. The area of Romanian villages is called “Marginimea Sibiului“, which can be translated as “the boundary of Sibiu” and consists of 17 villages built at the foot of the Carpathians. The millennial occupation of the farmers from these villages was pastoralism, the proximity to the mountains favouring this occupation due to the alpine meadows offering an ideal place for raising sheep. This activity is still perpetuated, although the attractions of modernism make many young people abandon this profession.
A day tour to Marginime is a foray into the life of the village, it involves meeting the locals, interacting with them, observing them in important moments of the community (for example at Sunday service), stepping on their doorstep to better understand them, their philosophy and their way of life.
One of the reasons why Transylvania has been so disputed over the centuries is the richness of natural resources. One of these resources is salt, which can be found everywhere in the Transylvanian underground, as the area was a tropical sea millions of years ago. No wonder salt mines can be found everywhere in Transylvania. One of these mines stopped extracting salt almost a century ago, and recently the empty mines have been turned into a tourist attraction. In the salt mine, you can find almost everything to please a tourist: a ferry wheel, mini-golf, table tennis or mini football field. The icing on the cake is the small lake at the bottom of one of me, where people can actually boat, over 100 meters underground. But the real thing is the amazement that every visitor feels while walking down in the salt abuses. Turda Salt Mine, because it is about it, is 2 hours away from Sibiu and a tour there can include a visit to the Alba Carolina Fortress, which can be a good incursion in the complex Romanian history or a lesson of military architecture.
For history buffs visiting Romania, a stop at Sarmisegetuza is necessary. And Sibiu is the best location to start a trip there, being about an hour and a half away. We refer to the royal Sarmisegetuza, or Regia, the former capital of the Dacian kingdom. The ruins of the Dacian sanctuaries are hidden deep in the heart of the mountains, and the road that leads there is of great beauty. It must be said that there is another Sarmisegetuza, the Roman one, built after the conquest of the Dacian kingdom by the Romans. It is located in a depression, at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, 40 kilometres from the former Dacian capital. Among them is a unique monument, an old church, built of tombstones recovered from the ruins of the Romanian capital of Dacia. The church is located in the village of Densus, and together with the other 2 Sarmisegetuza is on the list of destinations that will be visited during this day trip.