Amfiteatrul Transilvania is a resort in the Southern Carpathians, just a one-hour drive from Brașov, with beautifully restored and modernized 200 year-old houses. It is atop a hill with breathtaking panoramic views of the Bucegi and Piatra Craiului mountains. Their cozy restaurant serves up traditional food prepared with local ingredients. Heads up: there’s a 5-kilometer gravel road to get there, but it’s worth the adventure.
In Viscri, the Saxon village famously known for British King Charles III’s house, you’ll find Viscri 125, an oasis of tranquility and comfort. Rustic meets modern in both the carefully restored rooms (one of which has a sauna and a hot tub) and in the organic food served straight from their garden. Don’t expect to find TVs in the rooms (though there is wifi), but do expect plenty of activities to explore the area and keep yourself active, such as biking, hiking, and horseback riding.
Raven’s Nest is a small and welcoming retreat in a spectacular landscape hidden in the heart of the Carpathian Mountains. You will come here for the traditional houses, refurbished with a modern twist, or the farm-to-table restaurant. But you will come back for the clifftop sauna and hot tub, outdoor cinema, and hidden decks with a stunning view of the surrounding mountains. Ask the owners for a campfire after dinner to make your stay truly magical.
Valea Verde Retreat
Opened by Ulrike and Jonas Schafer, a German couple who fell in love with Transylvania, Valea Verde offers an elevated authentic stay and an exquisite dining experience in the picturesque village of Cund. We especially recommend this location if you are a foodie, as you will appreciate the locally sourced fine dining menu in their charming converted barn. Jonas Schafer is the chef: he has a background in French and Mediterranean cuisine and will surely spoil you. He offers a wide selection of artisanal cheeses and wine tasting seminars. You can also enjoy their peaceful garden, truffle expeditions, bonfires, workshops with traditional craftspeople, and horseback rides.
Cobor Biodiversity Farm
This farm is all about Transylvania’s ecological diversity. It was founded by Barbara and Christoph Promberger, environmentalists who launched the Foundation Conservation Carpathia, one of Europe’s largest conservation initiatives. While you can rest at the cozy guesthouses, fully equipped with kitchens and barbeques, they put an emphasis on the region’s nature. It offers a wide range of family-friendly activities, such as wildlife watching, guided tours, bike rides, photography camps, and archery, among others. In 2016, Barbara’s passion for horses inspired her to open a horse livery and rehabilitation center at the farm, where horses can roam freely over 20 hectares (49 acres) of grassland and be taken care of with love.
Located in Șinca Nouă village, Equus Silvania is a little haven for horse lovers. You can enjoy different rides with over 40 beautiful, pure, and half-bred horses in this guesthouse and riding center with international standards. You can also hike and venture out on wildlife-watching escapades, including bear trails. Equus Silvania is owned by Barbara and Christoph Promberger, the conservationists who started the much-admired Foundation Conservation Carpathia. With this in mind, they encourage their visitors to learn firsthand about the area’s environment, wildlife, and sustainable land-use systems. They welcome dogs (for a small fee), and children under 3 years old stay for free.
Bunea Wilderness Cabin
This eco-friendly and remote cabin was built by Foundation Conservation Carpathia in the heart of the FăgărașMountains. It offers an all-inclusive experience (providing off-road transportation, a specialized guide, and food and beverages). Above all, it gives a unique opportunity to disconnect from phone service and reconnect with the wilderness: you can even watch wild animals from inside the hide. All profits go towards the conservation work of the foundation.
“Authentic” and “organic” are two words that best describe the housing and dining experience at Viscri 32’s. Opened by a couple who traded their fast-paced lives in Bucharest for the serenity of the Viscri countryside, this accommodation prides itself on its respect for local cuisine, materials, and ingredients. You can choose to stay either in the Blue House or the White Barn, but don’t miss the seasonal, slow food restaurant. You can learn more about its story in HBO Max’s Zero Waste Chef documentary.
Zalan (King Charles III’s Private Retreat)
Famously owned by Great Britain’s King Charles III, this small property is located in the quaint Valea Zălanului village, which has just over 100 inhabitants. The guest house is adorned with antique Transylvanian furniture and accessories. All meals are available on the property, including the option of dining al fresco on the nearby hills during the warmer months. This is a great spot to disconnect from the outside world: there is no TV or internet access. You can read, go horseback riding, bird watching, or relax in their hot tub. Keep in mind that the village only has two small shops and no other restaurants.
At Porumbacu Treehouse, you can combine the childlike joy of sleeping in a treehouse with the comfort of modern accommodation, including access to a shower, TV, and internet. Situated in the Porumbacu de Sus village, the property offers four treehouses, as well as a guest house in a refurbished 19th-century barn. This small forest retreat promises to help you detach from your worries and get in touch with nature. Breakfast is included, and there is a minimum two-night stay requirement.
Owned and restored by Countess Gladys Bethlen and her son, Nikolaus, this dreamy estate combines historic authenticity with luxury. Think: handmade beds with Egyptian linen, a private chef, massages, yoga, and heli-skiing in winter. You can choose between three accommodations – Caretaker’s House, Depner House, and Corner Barn – the first of which also boasts a private pool and a sauna. Don’t miss the truffle hunting and picnic in the forest.
The Saxon heritage is kept intact at this lovely accommodation in the Meșendorf village. You can sleep in the old house (recently restored, it includes a private sauna) or in one of the newer houses, built to respect Saxon architecture and provide all of the modern-day comforts. While you’re there, don’t forget to visit the fortified church in the village and taste the artisanal, locally produced Meșendorf cheese.
Villages & Towns
A must-visit destination in Transylvania, this famous and charming town offers an invaluable look into the Middle Ages. Its stunning architecture, small cobblestone streets, and lively ambiance give it a timeless allure. It is one of the few fortified towns in Europe that is still inhabited. You can explore the Citadel, a UNESCO World Heritage site built by Saxon settlers in the 12th century. Sighișoara is also the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Dracul (the inspiration behind Dracula). Make sure to visit the Clock Tower, the Vlad Dracul House (next to the Tower), and enjoy a refreshing beer at The Stag House.
Viscri is an idyllic village best known for its white fortified church and the revival of traditions in recent years. You can visit local artisans, watch them work, and even try your hand at ancient crafts. The village has preserved its Middle Age buildings so well that walking through it feels like traveling back in time (and yes, that means no paved streets). It’s no wonder that King Charles III fell in love with this old Saxon village in Transylvania, purchasing a house and visiting often. Don’t miss a nearby attraction: the Fortified Church of Saschiz, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
This medieval village in the north of Transylvania, located 80 kilometers away from Sibiu, is a little jewel. Home to an amazing 15th-century fortified church, it’s also famous for its local wines. Hopeless romantics shouldn’t miss the “marital prison” on the church grounds. During the Middle Ages, couples who wanted to divorce were locked in this room by the local bishop (with only one bed, one table, one plate, one set of covers, and one glass) to iron out their issues. As the records show, this Saxon custom proved to be quite efficient: in the span of over 300 years when the marital prison was used, only one divorce occurred in the area.
This small annual festival celebrates music, art, and spirituality in a beautiful natural setting with little to no phone signal. Waha has become a beloved event, attracting locals and international free spirits alike. It showcases a wide variety of music genres – electronic, psytrance, ambient, house, and techno – across five stages. In addition to musical performances, Waha offers workshops, talks, interactive art installations, yoga and jam sessions. Promoting a strong sense of community and connection, children have their own dedicated play area, so you can bring your little ones along.
Smida Jazz Festival
In the heart of the Apuseni Mountains, Smida Jazz Festival is a small, three-day music festival. It is 90 kilometers (about an hour and a half drive) outside Cluj-Napoca. Though it primarily explores contemporary jazz sounds, it also offers other genres such as electronic, warm house, and funk. It offers live performances and DJ sets by both local and international artists, such as Romare and Oceanvs Orientalis & Ilhan Ersahin. You can come with your camping gear, bring an RV, or sleep in one of their glamping options. Day activities include yoga, kayaking, and forest bike tours. The festival is dog-friendly and has a dedicated area for children too.
One of the largest and most famous music festivals in the country, Electric Castle takes place in July near Cluj-Napoca (about a 45-minute drive away) at the scenic Banffy Castle in the village of Bonțida. It started in 2013 with four stages and attracted a total of 32,000 attendees. By 2022, it had grown to 10 stages and welcomed more than 272,000 people over the course of five days. It features many genres of music genres, including indie, pop, electronic, techno, and drum and bass, drawing music enthusiasts from across the country and around the world. In its past editions, the festival’s lineup has included internationally renowned artists such as WhoMadeWho, Caribou, and The Black Madonna. It also features prized Romanian artists, such as Petre Inspirescu and Raresh, for its techno stages. Regarding accommodation, you can pick from camping in your car or tent, or one of their many glamping options. You can also stay with a local nearby since many convert their homes into accommodations for the short festival period.
Popularly (and inaccurately) identified with the fictional Dracula’s Castle, Bran Castle is one of the most famous landmarks in Transylvania and attracts a large number of visitors in Romania. Beware: many tourists. Perched on a 60-meter high rock, this 14th-century fortress was restored by Queen Mary of Romania and now houses her art and furniture collections. You can travel through the Time Tunnel – a secret passage 30 meters below the ground and 40 meter-long, where you can meet Dracula, Queen Mary and Vlad Țepeș, as holograms.
Though it is one of Europe’s largest castles, Corvin Castle remains relatively unknown internationally. Built in the 15th century in a Gothic-Renaissance style, the castle proudly overlooks a river. It has an imposing structure with large columns and an inner courtyard you can visit. After years of neglect and a damaging fire, Corvin Castle has been fully restored and now stands as an important tourist destination in the region.
Cantacuzino Castle was the summer residence of Prince Gheorghe Grigore Cantacuzino. Built in 1911, it bears great architectural, historical, and artistic value and spreads over a vast area of about 6 hectares. The castle’s architecture is in neo-Romanian style, with neo-Brancovian elements. The castle is surrounded by a park similar to European royal parks. It includes paved alleys, artesian fountains, sculptures, and manicured flower gardens. It also offers a beautiful panoramic view of the mountains and nearby river. Due to its unique charm, the castle has been used for several international film productions, the most recent being the mini-series “Wednesday.” The castle’s exterior represents Nevermore Academy.
Hauntingly beautiful, although in ruins, Cârța Monastery is a former 12th-century Cistercian monastery located 53 kilometers outside of Sibiu. Fans of horror movies will recognize it from the film The Nun, which was set here. Although the main hall of the church sadly collapsed, the choir was transformed into an evangelical church. The grounds that once held the nave became a war cemetery dedicated to the soldiers who died in World War I. You can climb to the top of the still-standing bell tower, but mind the narrow and dark stairway.
The ruins of the ancient city attract tourists due to their mysterious sanctuaries (resembling the famous Stonehenge in England), as well as the many legends regarding hidden Dacian treasures. Sarmizegetusa Regia, the legendary capital of the Dacian Kingdom, is one of the oldest and most enigmatic historical sites in the country, dating back to the first century BC. To see the artifacts discovered here, visit the History Museum of Deva. Make sure to also check out Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa, the capital through which the Roman Empire marked their triumph over the Dacian Kingdom – it is a UNESCO site and located only 40 kilometers away.
Libearty Bear Sanctuary
Many years ago, bears were kept in confined cages for entertainment. Luckily this is now illegal, and Libearty Bear Sanctuary has stepped in to provide a healthier home for over 100 bears. Libearty Bear Sanctuary is Europe’s largest project for the rescue, care, and welfare of brown bears. This ethical animal sanctuary is located in Zărnești, about 45 minutes from Brașov by car. In 2016, the sanctuary was named one of the world’s best ethical wildlife attractions by National Geographic Traveller. Well-informed guides will show you around while the bears climb trees, swim and forage through 69 hectares of oak forest. Please note this is not a zoo: you can only visit in the morning, and children under five are not allowed. We encourage you to learn about these majestic animals and “adopt” one too.
A dream destination for driving enthusiasts and cyclists alike, the Transalpina highway is the highest paved road in Romania (reaching an elevation of 2,155 meters above sea level). Its hundreds of turns and stunning vistas, especially from Novaci to Obârșia Lotrului, make it a bucket list experience worth having. The road spans 148 kilometers, so you should complete the drive in about three hours if you don’t make any stops along the road. But that would be a pity since there are a few open-air markets along the way, where you can stop to eat or buy local souvenirs. Good to know: this scenic road is not open in the winter due to heavy snowfall.
Romania’s most spectacular highway, the Transfăgărășan, was built under Ceaușescu’s orders during the early 1970s in anticipation of a potential Soviet invasion. It became an international sensation when Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson called it “the best road in the world.” You can judge for yourself by embarking on a road trip along its 151-kilometer stretch, but make sure to do so from June to October, the only time it is open. Enjoy the fantastic scenery and take the opportunity to make a few pit stops along the way. We recommend visiting the Poienari Castle (though be prepared to climb the 1,500 steep steps to get there) and the Bâlea Lake and Bâlea Waterfall, at the summit of the Transfăgărășan.
Piatra Craiului National Park
Located in the Southern Carpathians, Piatra Craiului National Park is home to one of Romania’s largest biodiversity of wildlife. You can find wild boars, deer, brown bears, wolves, and even lynxes. It is best known for the Piatra Craiului, the most breathtaking ridge in the Carpathian Mountains. There are 42 hiking trails to choose from and numerous tourist attractions (like Zărnești Gorges or Dâmbovicioara Cave). If you’re a beginner but still want to enjoy the scenery, we recommend the easier hiking route from Bran to Măgura Peak (1,375 meters), for a total distance of 8.5 kilometers. For a medium difficulty level hiking route, we recommend Poianea Tămășel.
Retezat National Park
Retezat National Park is the country’s oldest national park. It has one of the most impressive landscapes in Europe and one of the best-conserved wilderness areas in the Carpathians. Over one third of Romania’s flora species grow here. Many mammals live here too, including brown bears, wolves, and lynx, and is also an ideal place if you like bird watching. The park has a rocky landscape with 20 peaks and numerous glacial lakes. It is a must-visit destination for passionate hikers and wilderness enthusiasts.
Dubbed “the Transylvanian Alps,” the Făgăraș Mountains are the tallest mountain range in Romania and are part of the Carpathian Mountains. Historically, these mountains were the natural border between Transylvania and southern Romania. These mountains have high altitudes and steep slopes. Mountaineers come here for the Moldoveanu Peak (the highest in the country, at 2,544 meters), but there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the view with little to no effort. Don’t miss the Transfăgărășan, or the 3.7-kilometer cable car ride between Bâlea Lake and Bâlea Waterfall.
Easily accessible from Bucharest (2.5 hours by car) or from Brașov (1 hour by car), the Ciucaș Mountains are perfect for easy to moderate day hikes. You can start at Cabana Muntele Roșu (1,280 meters), go up to Șaua La Rascruce (1,663 meters), then descend to Cabana Ciucaș (1,595 meters) ascend to Vârful Ciucaș (1,954 meters) and return along the same trail. Throughout the hike, you’ll find unique geological attractions (unusual karst formations): Tigăile Mari and Tigăile Mici, Turnul lui Goliat (Goliath’s Tower), Babele la Sfat (Old Women Talking), or Mâna Dracului (Devil’s Hand).
The Apuseni Mountains are an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Here you can find The Bears’ Cave (spectacular for its many stalactites and stalagmites), the Ice Cave of Scărișoara – home to the second-largest underground glacier in Europe – but also picturesque villages and pristine forests. For bikers, there are numerous trails. We recommend you try Arieșeni – Bihorul Peak – Tăul Mare – Hen Mountain – Avram Iancu village – Biharia – Garda village – Arieșeni (with a total distance of 67 kilometers).
A few hours away from Brașov, the Bucegi Mountains are especially popular for a couple of spectacular rock formations – The Sphinx/Sfinxul and The Old Women/Babele – on the Bucegi Plateau. You can reach this place either by cable car (Bușteni – Babele), by car (to the Piatra Arsă cabin and then on foot for another 30-40 minutes), or on foot if you’re in a good shape. The Bușteni – Valea Jepilor – Cabana Caraiman – Cabana Babele – Hotel Peștera trail takes about six hours. If you’re less adventurous but still want to take in the view, try the forest walk from Bușteni to the Urlătoarea Waterfall.
Via Transilvanica is a newly developed long-distance trail that starts in Putna, Bucovina, and ends in Drobeta Turnu-Severin, in Oltenia, crossing through Transylvania. It is the Romanian version of Santiago de Compostela. It consists of 1,400 kilometers of trails which can be done in stages by foot, cycling, or even horseback riding. It is adapted to every traveler and aims to revitalize rural areas and promote eco-tourism.
Located 40 kilometers south of Cluj-Napoca, Turda Gorge is a natural reserve with a breathtaking limestone canyon, ideal for hikers of all fitness levels. Beginners can simply walk from one end of the gorge to the other (no hiking equipment needed) and enjoy the wild and spectacular landscape. More experienced hikers can challenge themselves by climbing over the top of the ridge. As for the adrenaline junkies, you can try paragliding above the canyon or rock climbing on the east side of the gorge.
Located in eastern Transylvania, Băile Tușnad is a perfect destination if you want a variety of hiking and cycling routes while immersing yourself in nature’s splendor. The area includes the main trails to the only volcanic lake in South-Eastern Europe, lake Saint Anne. Though you can arrive at the lake by car, we recommend you venture on the 3-hour hike from the city center of Băile Tușnad. We also recommend you visit the lesser-known Mohoș Peat Bog, a volcanic crater nearby, in a protected nature reserve with unique and rare flora. To know: the reserve is populated by many bears and can only be accessed with a local ranger, booked in advance.
To experience the best Romania has to offer, we encourage you to reach out to Ionuț Maftei, the founder of Bike in Time. He offers carefully curated and guided tours through biking, hiking, and snowshoeing throughout the country. These tours vary in duration (they can last a single day or even a week). In recent years, Ionuț has been involved in national projects to develop cycling infrastructure and tourism. Bike in Time has also become a cycling policy auditor and a cycling routes evaluator, certified by the European Cyclists Federation. By exploring with Ionuț, you will also be able to discover lesser-known spots, experience local cuisines, visit vineyards, and explore secluded villages.
Mountain Trail Website
No matter what outdoor activities you’re into (hiking, biking, climbing, trail running, etc.) – we recommend you visit Muntii Nostri, a platform dedicated to outdoor activities throughout Romania, consisting of detailed routes. You can choose a trail based on the region, difficulty level, and type of activity.
last updated: summer 2023