Rolling hills of Bucovina, Romania
ROMANIA

10 Things You Should Know Before Travelling to Romania

By on 19/04/2018

Do you know anyone whose list of top ten countries to visit includes Romania? Probably not. This is because it is one of the most underrated countries in Europe. But there are many reasons why Romania should be at the top of your bucket list, one of which is its gritty yet super instagrammable capital, Bucharest. But I’m pretty sure that if you are reading this post, you have already decided to visit this intriguing country, so I’m going to focus on important things that you should know before travelling to Romania – things that will make you want to visit even more!

Romania has the most colourful towns

Romanians know how to make buildings look pretty. Pastels seem to be the shades of choice for the decoration of buildings here, which make towns so pretty and charming!

The most colourful of the towns has to be Sighisoara, one of the most beautiful and best-preserved medieval towns in Europe. Get lost in the cobblestoned alleys of this small and contained town and you will find all the pastel shades you can ever imagine. 

Sighisoara, Romania

The colourful buildings of Sighisoara

Not far from Sighisoara is the historic town of Sibiu, built by German settlers in the 12thcentury. The town still maintains the grand feel of the olden days, but the beautifully coloured buildings make it feel more cosy than grand. But look out, for the buildings here have eyes… you never know who may be watching! To learn about the secret of the houses with eyes and many others, be sure to join a tour of the city.

Brasov, one of the most visited places in Romania, shows the splendour of gothic, baroque and renaissance architecture. Wander around the Old Town and discover some of the most beautiful streets in the country as well as plenty of pastel coloured buildings.

Brasov, Romania

Brasov from above


Romania is home to breathtaking landscapes

From alpine mountains to the most idyllic lakes and dramatic gorges, Romania offers breathtaking landscapes that will stay engraved in your memory. It is, after all, the most bio-geographically diverse country in Europe.

The Transylvanian Alps, part of the Carpathians, are not only spectacular but they’re ideal for outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, etc and you can even visit an ethical bear sanctuary where you can observe rescued bears that have had a bad deal in life, enjoy the closest thing to freedom in their natural habitat.

With all the mountains, there is no shortage of lakes, some of which are pretty unique like Lacul Roșu (Red Lake), a natural dam lake created almost 200 years ago after a major landslide, and located in Harghita County.

Not far from Red Lake, you will find Bicaz Gorge, and incredibly narrow road that snakes through 8 kilometres of ravines. It is one of the most spectacular drives in the country.

Going further north, you have the picturesque rolling hills of Bucovina, a vision of what a quintessential pastoral scene would look like in everyone’s mind. And if you visit in autumn, you will get a real show of reds, yellows and oranges from the unspoiled Romanian forests.

Rolling hills of Bucovina, Romania

The idyllic hills of Bucovina


Romania is completely unspoilt

Go a little bit off the beaten path away from some of the most popular cities in Romania, and you will enter a different world. A lot of the communities in the Romanian countryside are not used to seeing visiting tourists, so you will feel like you are discovering something new. Everyone is extremely welcome. In fact, one of the highlights of visiting Romania is how incredibly kind and welcoming people are.

Some of the villages that we visited included Crit, near Sighisoara, one of the oldest villages in Transylvania. Its peacefulness and tranquility are part of its charm, and the rows of pastel coloured houses are just delightful.

Crit village with sheep in Romania

Crit – Photo Credit: The Traveler Twins

Ciocănești is another example of a village you feel like you are stepping back in time. Located in Suceava County, in Bucovina, it is famous for its painted houses, decorated with traditional motifs. It all started with one of the residents wanting to decorate her house with traditional motifs embroidered on the folk costumes, and, after the interest it received from tourists, the mayor decided that all newly built houses should be decorated in a similar way. This tradition has now been passed down the generations, and it is said that the most spectacular your decorations are, the better a householder you are, so there can be stiff competition in the village.

Painted house in Ciocanesti Village, Romania

Ciocănești village


Romania has a fantastic range of hotel choices

During my Experience Romania adventure, we stayed in excellent accommodation that ranged from rustic and traditional to boutique hotels. Here is a selection of my favourites:

‘Pensiune’ Casa Cu Tei, Buzau

Casa Cu Tei, Buzau RomaniaNot far from the famous Muddy Volcanoes, and nestled in the hills of Sarata Monteoru, Casa Cu Tei offers a romantic atmosphere. This rustic ‘pensuine’ has views over valley, the garden and the salt-water pool. The restaurant serves excellent traditional food, and the couple who runs this hotel will welcome you with open arms and make you feel like home as soon as you arrive.

Check Availability for Casa Cu Tei

Republique Hotel, Sibiu

Hotel Republique, Sibiu RomaniaOnly 10 minutes walk away from the main square in the Old Town, Republique Hotel is the perfect place to stay in Sibiu. The rooms are super spacious with a modern design. With only 10 rooms, you can guarantee that the service will be personalised. I happened to be unwell while I stayed here and the owners really made sure I was ok. If you are looking for something right in the heart of the Old Town, Casa Luxemburg is run by the same owners.

Check Availability for Republique Hotel 

Hotel Privo, Targu Mures

Hotel Privo, Targu Mures RomaniaHotel Privo is a hotel in a different league to anything you will find in Romania. This swanky hotel has garnered a number of awards over the years (31 to be precise), one of which is the Best Hotel Restaurant in Europe at the Haute Grandeur Global Hotel & SPA Awards Gala in Bangkok in 2017. The minimalist design will make you feel like you’re in a futuristic building, but if you’re looking for something with a little bit more character, you can stay in a suite in the classic villa within the grounds of the hotel. This hotel really has it all – including a wonderful spa!

Check Availability for Hotel Privo


Romania has an incredible amount of history

Wherever you go in Romania, you will find history in every corner. Despite the country as we know it being only 100 years old, Romania has gone through a lot of changes through the times and the different regions.

In Bucovina, in the North East, you will find the world famous painted monasteries from the Byzantine times. Built in the 15thand 16thcenturies, these elaborately decorated monasteries are covered in frescos with the most vibrant colours, inside and out. There is even a shade of blue named after one of the monasteries – Voronet blue. It’s made with lapis lazuli and can only be found in Voronet Monastery.

Moldovita painted Monastery, Bucovina Romania

Moldovita Monastery, Bucovina

Transylvania was, until relatively recently, home to hundreds of Saxon (German) towns and villages. Saxons arrived in the region in the 12thcentury and thanks to their skills, they quickly established themselves and gained administrative authority. This unique Saxon heritage is obvious in cities and towns such as Sibiu, Sighisoara and Brasov.

More recently in time, evidence of communist history can be found everywhere across the country, but particularly in Bucharest. The imposing Palace of Parliament is the most obvious legacy of these times, but a lot of the city has gone through massive urban change to accommodate the ideals of the regime. You can take a tour that specialise in this particular historic era.

Bucharest Romania Palace Parliament

Palace of Parliament, Bucharest


Spending time in Bucharest?
Here are some off-the-beaten-path tours and experiences you can do


Romanians are proud of their traditions

This may not be evident in the big cities such as Bucharest and Brasov, but dare to travel into the countryside and you will find traditional villages and customs that are still part of every day Romanian life, and that the locals are very keen to preserve. During my Experience Romania adventure, I was lucky to witness some of these traditions and to meet people from the diverse ethnic groups that are part of the fabric of this country.

In Bucovina we met a group of Hutul people, an ethnic group that came originally from Ukraine and have lived in this part of Romania for centuries. The Hutul way of life is traditionally based on logging, and cattle and sheep breeding, but they are more famous for having created a horse breed named Hutul pony, which is known for its endurance and hardiness.

Egg painting is also a custom that is kept very much alive. Traditionally, it would be Romanian women who, particularly in rural areas, would paint hollowed out eggs to celebrate Easter. This has now become an art in its own right, and you can visit the Muzeul Ouloi (Egg Museum) in Vama, Bucovina and admire over 7,000 intricately decorated eggs from all sorts of animals.

While on the road in the north east of the country, we also came across a group of locals who were on their way to celebrate the harvest festival. With their beautifully decorated horses and their traditional outfits, it was a real treat to come across.


Romania has a unique link with horror stories

We all think of Dracula when we think about Romania. And yes, in Sighisoara you will find the birthplace of Vlad The Impaler, who was the ruler of Walachia in the 15thcentury and the figure that inspired Bram Stoker’s character Dracula.

You also have Bran Castle (Dracula’s castle), which not only was it Vlad The Impaler’s home, but it matches the description of the Count’s castle in Bram Stoker’s book. This is despite Bram Stoker having never set foot in Transylvania and only using research and a good measure of imagination. The castle is located in the town of Bran, near Brasov, so you can imagine this is the ideal place to spend Halloween if you are a fan of horror.

Bran Castle, Romania

Bran Castle

But it’s not all about Dracula. Romania is a deeply religious and superstitious country, with a dark mythology that includes Strigoi (The Undead), the Pricolici (undead in the shape of a wolf) and the use of a lot of garlic to ward off the country folk from evil spirits.


Romania has more fairytale castles than you could ever imagine

With over 250 castles peppered around the country, you can’t go very far without the opportunity to visit one. Some pretty impressive ones include Bran Castle, mentioned above, and Peles Castle, possibly the most beautiful castle in Romania and not too far from either Brasov or Bucharest.

Peles Castle, Romania

Peles Castle, Romania

Another beautiful castle is Cantacuzino Castle, in the outskirts of the capital, and one of the most instagrammable places in Bucharest. And for something a little bit different, Neamt Citadel, a castle in Moldavia that it’s really a fortress and has beautiful views over picturesque farmed fields.

Neamt Citadel, Romania

Neamt Citadel, Romania

There really is something for everyone in Romania when it comes to castles.


Romania is a meat-eater’s (and polenta lover’s) paradise

Romanian food is absolutely delicious, but being mostly meat based, it can be a little bit heavy. Dishes such as grilled mixed meat, stews, goulash and all sorts of charcuterie-type meats are a staple on the Romanian diet. So if you are vegetarian or vegan, be prepared to eat a lot of vegetable soup, mushrooms and polenta!

And yes, polenta (or mămăligă, as it’s locally known) goes with absolutely everything, as it was traditionally the food of peasants and shepherds. This cornmeal-based side dish is so popular that you will find it in pretty much every restaurant, no matter how posh they are.


Finally, Romania is very affordable

We all know that travelling in Europe can cripple your wallet. However, compared to other countries, Romania is really affordable and you can get great value for your buck. I was always surprised how little everything costs. You can find pretty good accommodation for $25 a night and a meal with a glass of wine rarely reached $15 – the perfect country if you are travelling on a budget.

I hope you enjoyed this summary of things you must know before travelling to Romania, packed with ideas for places to visit.

If you have any Romania-related questions, feel free to ask in the comments!


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Disclosure: A big thank you to Experience Romania, who hosted me during my time in Romania. As always, all views are my own. This post also contains affiliate links, that earn me a small commission but come at no extra cost to you. Thanks as always for your support!

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20 Comments
  1. Reply

    Tianna

    19/04/2018

    This was a great overview. I am headed there in May and this article made me even more excited to go. I love castles and history and it seems like Romania will be a perfect fit!

    • Reply

      Teresa

      20/04/2018

      Thank you Tianna! I’m really happy you enjoyed it! Spring is a fab time to visit and you’re going to love all the castles and history around. There’s just so much of it! Have an incredible time! 🙂

  2. Reply

    Erika

    20/04/2018

    I just returned from a ten day trip to Romania. I had a great time and found the people very friendly. One of the highlights of my trip was visiting several of the fortified churches near Braşov. I really enjoyed your tips and would love to check out some of these places if I end up going back.

    • Reply

      Teresa

      25/04/2018

      Thank you Erika. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. People’s friendliness and hospitality was one of the highlights for me. I missed the fortified churches as I was on a tight schedule, but I’d love to go back and explore more 🙂

  3. Reply

    Rize gezilecek yerler

    21/04/2018

    Very interesting country. Absualty want to see there Thanks

    • Reply

      Teresa

      25/04/2018

      I highly recommend it 🙂

  4. Reply

    Joanna

    21/04/2018

    This was a very nice article about my home country and I am glad to hear a traveller’s perspective on it. I am glad that you took the time to travel to the corners of the country which are not very known to foreign tourists, such as the painted monasteries from the North of Moldova or the Bucovina county.

    • Reply

      Teresa

      21/04/2018

      Thank Joanna. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I found the more rural areas fascinating and I’d love to go back to learn more about the local way of life 🙂

  5. Reply

    Erin

    21/04/2018

    Okay okay I’m intrigued! Better add it to the list!

    • Reply

      Teresa

      25/04/2018

      Hehe. It’s definitely worth dedicating some time to explore Romania! 🙂

  6. Reply

    Cristina

    21/04/2018

    This is exactly what I needed! I bought plane tickets to Romania in late June and haven’t planned anything yet. I’m gonna read all of your Romania posts. :)Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply

      Teresa

      25/04/2018

      Thank you Christina! I’m so glad this post helped! If you enjoy exploring interesting countries with tons of history and amazing landscapes, you’ll love Romania. Enjoy your trip in June! 🙂

  7. Reply

    Karla

    22/04/2018

    I badly want to visit Romania. I WISH TO GO EARLY NEXT YEAR. I would love to see the rescue bear place. I love exploring areas that are pretty and unspoilt and I think you’ve shown that this definitely belongs to that category. Definitely Definitely up for this.

    • Reply

      Teresa

      25/04/2018

      I hope you manage to visit Romania next year. This country has so much to offer! I’d love to go back too and explore more 🙂

  8. Reply

    Teslaru Aurelia

    23/04/2018

    Loved this article! So glad that you loved Romania! Hope to meet you again soon!

    • Reply

      Teresa

      25/04/2018

      Thanks Aurelia! I’m so happy that you liked this post. Especially coming from a Romanian 🙂 I hope to meet you again soon too!

  9. Reply

    Lee

    25/04/2018

    How did you travel? I’ve heard the roads are not the best.

    • Reply

      Teresa

      25/04/2018

      Hi Lee. I travelled by coach – privately hired, not public transport – and the roads seemed pretty good 🙂

  10. Reply

    Portia Jones

    28/04/2018

    What an amazingly comprehensive post! I love the sound of the colourful towns, I have a bit of a thing about colour streets right now. I have only ever been to Bucharest but I would really like to visit the rest of Romania, it looks stunning.

  11. Reply

    Janine Beynon

    22/05/2018

    This is such an interesting read; I definitely want to visit Romania after reading! The countryside looks so stunning.

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HI, I'M TERESA!

Hi! I’m Teresa, a London-based traveller and photographer who quit her job in the summer 2016 to explore the world. I’ve been to 39 countries and have ticked some adventures off my bucket list. I hope I can inspire you and motivate you to get out there and explore this beautiful world we live in. Follow my updates and discover the essence of travelling with me!

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