From the crazy nightlife in Bucharest to the peaceful village life and Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania
Transylvania is best known as the mysterious land filled with dark mountains, creepy castles and fogy forests full of bloodthirsty vampires, flapping bats and howling wolves. Some may think is fictional but this Romanian region exists for real.
Ok, I also have a big imagination but let me break it down for you.
Transylvania is more like a land from the fairy tales. A beautiful green landscape of lush pastures and wildflower meadows where you can find nothing else but warmhearted villagers make hay stacks in the sunshine and where shepherds tend their flocks. No vampires, no wolfs, no such scary things. I’m sorry if I disappointed you guys.
♥ SOME MORE INFO ABOUT THESE MYSTERIOUS LANDS
Transylvania is the largest region in Romania and probably the best known one. When you visit this land you dive into a mix of cultures, nature and history. Transylvania is rich in myth and misty medieval sites – there’re about 100 castles and fortresses and about 70 fortified churches in the region. Romania’s greatest and best preserved castles and fortresses are to be found here. But for those travelers who wants to explore hidden gems, there’re many small villages with beautiful old houses and fortified churches.
As Transylvania is circled by the Carpathian mountains there’re a lot of mountain forests and hiking and climbing possibilities. Transylvania has four national parks. And although no werewolves (just wolves) and no vampire bats (more like small, harmless church bats) are found here, 60% of all wild brown bears in Europe live in Romania. You might be lucky to see a wild one. All over the Carpathians there’re hidden great national parks with many green hills and rivers There’re also some very good ski resorts, where you can enjoy the winter sports.
♥ SO NO VAMPIRES
Nope, Transylvania is not a dark, moody vampire territory at all. But it’s linked with fearsome history of devilish vampires and the most famous bloodsucker of all – Dracula. His fictional character was based on the very real Vlad III, also known as Vlad the Impaler.
Vlad III earned his nickname through his preferred method of dispatching his enemies. He liked to tie victims up then hammer a stake through the poor soul’s rectum as far as the shoulder. And they lived for days this way.
Also, although Vlad III and Dracula by many are seen as one and the same, they’re not. Dracula is a blood-sucking character made up by Bram Stoker. And Vlad is revered in Transylvania, not as a bloodthirsty vampire, but as a national hero who fought for independence against the Ottoman Empire. So naturally not everyone is thrilled with Transylvania’s vampire reputation.
Anyway we think there’s a huge potential in vampire tourism and think it could benefit not only to the tourism in the region, but to Romania’s economy in general.
♥ CHARMING MEDIEVAL TOWNS IN TRANSYLVANIA
Sinaia is a town and mountain resort in Prahova Country, situated in the historical region of Muntenia. The town was named after Sinaia Monastery of 1965, arround which it was built. The monastery in turn is named after the Biblical Mount Sinai. King Carol I of Romania built his summer home, Peleș Castle, near the town in the late nineteenth century.
Nested in a slender fir-clad valley, Sinaia teems with hikers in the summer and skiers in the winter. The town itself is a melange of crayon-colored wooden houses contrasted with the ‘wedding-cake’ style of its grander 19th-century buildings.
There’re some quite popular highlights in the town to visit like Peleș Castle, Pelisor Castle and Sinaia Monastery. You can also enjoy lovely mountain views from everywhere, explore by hiking on the road and make long walks and enjoy the beauty landscape.
Bușteni is another good place to visit – one more mountain resort near Sinaia, situated in the same historical region with fantastic views from everywhere. The town is another hot spot for hikers and skiers and adventure lovers.
A cable car from Bușteni takes you to the top of the mountain to see some monuments carved by the wind, (Babele and Sphinx). Heroes Monument, a huge cross to honor those in WWI on the top of the mountain, is about a 45 minute hike away from where the cable car arrives at the top of the mountain.
There’s also a beautiful waterfall named Urlatoarea which is a 90 minute hike away from the town. You should follow the trail with the red dots.
Another beautiful castle is located on a hill in Bușteni – Cantacuzino Castle. The views from the castle and park are spectacular, reviewing the mountain. You can also visit the Cezar Petrescu Memorial museum – the house of the popular Romanian writer Cezar Petrescu which has been converted to a museum and almost all of the original contents (including 12000 books) have been well preserved.
Bran is a lovely small village you can walk around. It’s most famous for Bran Castle, which is more commonly referred to and marketed as Dracula’s Castle.
Bran is a popular tourist destination, partly because it resembles the home of Dracula in Bram Stoker’s novel but actually it’s really amazing and peaceful place where you can enjoy a long relaxing holiday away from the noise of the big city and free your consciousness from the strain.
There’re plenty of places where you can have a nice traditional meal and also a big local market, where you can buy not only traditional souvenirs but also local cheese, milk and special meats.
Pestera is one of my favorite places to visit in Transylvania. It’s a really small village with unique landscape. I’m so happy I went there and saw this beauty with my eyes! It’s unforgettable really. It’s a must-see spot!
If you want to experience what life was like PRE-communsit times, your best bet is to head to rural Romania, where life still is as unchanged as it can be.
Pestera is roughly 3-hours drive from Bucharest and very near to Bran, so if you’re going to visit Bran Castle, plan a short trip to Pestera after that – it won’t take you long time to walk trough this fairy tale small village.
It’s the complete opposite of being in the city. Fresh air, serenity and silence. Well you will hear the occassional cow bells, and that’s music to the ears.
The endless green hills, the small village houses, the cows, the warmhearted people that let us in their courtyard to film our yoga video (you can watch it here and find out more in this post here), everything was worth finding time to visit the place. If you want an unique experience in Romania, this is one of the must visit places.
♥ TRADITIONAL FOOD AND VINEYARDS
Transylvania’s cuisine displays a variety of flavors with dishes spiced with thyme, red pepper or tarragon. Meats, such as pork, mutton, veal, are among the most popular ingredient in Transylvania’s cuisine. The polenta dishes are very popular and often prepared with cheese and meats. The soups, to which sour cream and egg yolk are ofted added, also include flour dumplings or homemade pasta. The desserts are also fantastic. We tried a traditional honey cake and it tasted so good.
“Transylvanians” are not only artisans in producing fragrant, pleasant and light wines, but also sophisticated double-distilled liquors: palinca, horinca and rachie (varieties of brandy). These are made of fruit, particularly plums, apples, and pears, and aged in mulberry tree or oak barrels.
♥ WHERE TO STAY IN TRANSYLVANIA
You can find plenty of urban comforts and sophisticated hotels in Transylvania, but the best way to get a taste of this mystic lands is to stay in a village, meet the local people and try the traditional foods and drinks. We choosed to stay in Bran and we were so lucky to find the wonderful villa Transylvanian Inn where we will definitely come back one day.
Our stay in Transylvanian Inn was really amazing and unforgettable. When we arrived we were friendly welcomed at the reception and felt like we’re home from the first minute. The manager and all the staff were the best – so kind and always helpful at any time of the day. They provided us with great local tourist tips definitely worth our time.
We got a lovely room with spectacular view of Dracula’s Castle (or Bran Castle). All the view was really inspiring – you can see the beautiful Bran landscape from your terrace. Really unforgettable. We could sit there and watch for hours. We enjoyed it so much.
Our room was spotlessly clean, with a traditional design, with colorful accents – we felt really comfortable there.
Don’t skip having dinner at the restaurant there which offers you an amazing view. And I’m speechless about the food – that was the most delicious traditional food I’ve ever tried during our stay in Romania. Really yummy! The breakfast was also rich and yummy. Just the way we like it!
I’m so happy we visited this amazing villa – Transylvanian Inn was our BEST CHOICE EVER! We highly recommend and will definitely come back again!
* All opinions are my own.