The most authentic from our list of Romania tours: a small group tour, specially designed for tourists willing to visit Transylvania with a hand-on approach: learn to cook, visit farmers, craftsmen or small factories.
What to see How to get here Where to stay What to eat
Transylvania is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Romania.
Transylvania is probably the most popular tourist destination in Romania. Yes, is part of Romania, is not a country by itself and is as real as it can possibly be. Located in the north-central part of Romania, Transylvania had a complicated history, being a territory which was under Hungarian, Ottoman, Austrian rule, just to mention the last few. It has a majority Romanian population, but the Hungarians and their Szeklers relatives are representing the most important minority. We have to mention also the Saxons (the Germans) and the Romas, to have a complete image of the cultural mix.
Geographically, Transylvania is located in central Romania and it is surrounded by the Carpathian mountains, from where it receives its name: The Land beyond the forests. The interior of the region is flat and hilly, so the tourist will never get bored here: from the snowy peaks of the Carpathian mountains, going down through its thick forests to the hilly plateau, the natural landscape never ceases to amaze.
There is plenty to do and see in Transylvania. From exploring the medieval towns, visiting the castles, going out of the beaten path in the countryside or deep in the Carpathian mountains, Transylvania has something to offer to every type of traveller.
Dracula. Probably the number one touristic attraction in Transylvania is a legend and a fictional character: Dracula. So if you come to Transylvania for Dracula legend, you don’t want to miss the place which is usually associated with the count: the Bran Castle. So, there is no surprise if one of our most popular Transylvania tours is the Dracula tour.
Lovely cities. But Transylvania is more than that. The medieval cities, like Sibiu and Brasov, are on the top of the list of the places to be visited in Transylvania and should be used a hub to a more deep exploration of the region. A guided tour in the old town of those cities can be the highlight of any trip to Romania.
And if we mentioned Dracula and medieval towns, Sighisoara is matching both categories, being the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler and also a lovely medieval citadel, listed on UNESCO world heritage list. A walking tour on the cobblestone streets of this beautiful medieval city is like stepping back in the14 century when its defence walls were erected.
One place not to be missed is Cluj-Napoca, the largest city in Transylvania and the most cosmopolitan among the others. A university city, Cluj-Napoca is the home of more of around 80.000 students which are giving the city its youthful vibe and great nightlife possibilities.
Wonderful and diverse architecture. Gothic, baroque, art-nouveau, secession, neoclassical or neo-Romanian or neo-Byzantine cathedrals and palaces, castles and fortress spread around Transylvanian cities and countryside are making this region a destination for tourists having interests in architectural splendour. The Black Church in Brasov is the largest gothic church east of Vienna. Taking about gothic, the Corvin Castle is another fine example of lay and military gothic architecture. The Main Square in Sibiu is the places where one can admire the baroque Brukenthal Palace, the former residence of the governor of Transylvania, nowadays a fine art museum. Another art museum, The Banffy Palace in Cluj-Napoca is one of the best examples of Transylvanian baroque. Its secession style palaces define Targu Mures: The Culture Palace and the Administrative Palaces.
The orthodox Cathedral in Sibiu is a Byzantine-style church and a small copy of the more famous Hagia Sophia in Instanbul. Vis a vis of the orthodox cathedral lies the Faculty of Orthodox theology, a good example of Neo-Romanian architectural style.
The large square in Sibiu: on the left the baroque Brukenthal Palace and on the right the Art-Nouveau town hall
Castles. We already mentioned Dracula’s castle, but Transylvania has another castle, less famous, but at least as fascinating: The Corvin Castle. This castle is easily reachable from Sibiu, and if you have a day to spare, don’t miss the opportunity for a day trip to Hunedoara, where the castle is located.
Regarding Dracula’s castle, we have to say that Bran Castle is not really the one. The real Vlad the Impaler castle can be related to Poenari fortress, which is in Wallachia, the region located south of Transylvania. If we are looking at Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the Irish writer positioned the count’s castle in the north part of Transylvania, in the Borgo Pass. Bran Village is located in the south part of the region. The connection with Dracula’s castle is made because Bran Castle is best matching the description given in the book.
One of the most beautiful castles in Romania is Peles Castle, but this one is located in Sinaia, in Wallachia, very close to the border with Transylvania.
Fortresses. Transylvania suffered a lot from its historical conditions, so each community tried to defend as good as its resources have allowed. The simplest defence elements was the fortified church, found in the Transylvanian villages. In most of the cases, a wall and a few defence towers were arrected around the village church, offering a kind safe space for the community. The most elaborate were the fortified medieval towns, made of a few kilometres of strong defence walls, towers and bastions.
Smaller towns who didn’t have the resources to raise a wall around the entire town, were able to build separate citadels, with the financial help of the central administration. Rasnov Fortress is the best-known example, but the fortress of Rupea or Saschiz are also worthing a visit.
The medieval castles were either border strongholds, whose role was to collect custom taxes and to defend the border, like Bran Castle, or rich person’s residences, like Corvin Castle.
Transfagarasan Another must on every traveller list is the famous mountain road. Its popularity grew even stronger after the road was featured on the BBC show “Top Gear”. Besides the fabulous mountain views, there are a lot more to get from a tour on Transfagarasan. If you are a more active traveller, you can hike in the mountains as the road intersects or it the starting point for numerous hiking trails. Or just take a picnic blanket, find a nice place near one of the dozen streams, lay in the grass for a couple of hours, breathe the fresh air and listen to sounds of nature. There is no better way of relaxing in the middle of nature. Those are the reasons why we consider this one of Transylvania best tours.
Aerial view of Transfagarasan Road
Countryside. If you want to feel the spirit of the area, you need to take a tour of the Transylvanian countryside. Meet the locals, observe their daily routine, taste home-cooked food, get to know better their preserved traditions and diverse culture. Visit the former Saxon villages from Transylvanian highlands ( Viscri, Malancrav, Saschis, Crit, just to name a few) or venture in the mountain villages from Apuseni mountains or Marginimea Sibiului.
A Transylvanian village in the morning
Fortified churches. A unique example of vernacular architecture, a mix of religious and military elements, the fortified churches are the result of the historical situation of Transylvania. Most of the fortified churches are to be found in the former Saxon villages, who needed a safe place for the community. So they have raised walls around the church, to protect themself from the Turkish or Tatars raids plundering the region in the 15ht and 16th century. 7 of the fortified churches (Biertan, Saschiz, Prejmer, Calnic, Valea Viilor, Darjiu, Viscri) are listed on UNESCO World Heritage lists, another proof of their cultural significance.
The fortified church in the former Saxon village of Biertan
Turda salt mine. It is an amazing place, a former salt mine transformed into a touristic attraction. Have you ever imagined paddling on a salt lake, over 100 meters below the ground? You can do this at Turda Salt mine.
Don’t expect a labyrinth of galleries like in a normal mine. The salt mines are having a bell shape and there is only one gallery connecting all of them. One of those bell shape mines is called the echo chamber, due to its fantastic acoustic reverberating the sound countless times.
Turda Salt Mine
Antique sites. Transylvania is also the place of the most important antiquity sites in Romania. From the Machu Pichu looking ruins of Sarmisegetuza Regia, the former capital of the legendary Dacians, to the Roman capital of the province, antique history lovers are having a lot of things to discover here.
Sarmisegetuza Regia – the mysterious capital of the Dacians
there a few options: if you plan to arrive by plane, Transylvania has 3 international airports: Sibiu, Cluj and Targu Mures. If you don’t have good connections with these airports, you can use Bucharest and Timisoara or even Budapest. You can be picked up in Budapest if you book a private tour, or you can reach Transylvania by train if you want to arrive on your own.
In the big cities, there is a wide list of options, from luxury hotels, or cheap airbnbs or hostels. But if you want to feel the real spirit of Transylvania, our suggestion is to search for traditional guesthouses in the countryside. Our recommendation would be the Saxon villages from southern Transylvania ( you probably heard of Viscri, but like it, there are many others less known). We also really like staying in the mountain villages from nearby Bran or Sibiu or the ones from Apuseni mountains ( like Rosia Montana or Rametea)
If you want the Balkan cuisine and the Central-European cuisine on a plate, you should go to Transylvania. Because this is Transylvanian food: a delicious blend of influences from this wide area, as a result of the complex historical conditions the region had developed in. Transylvanian food is rich, simple, hearty and, of course, delicious. Forget about any diet of cholesterol restrictions is you want to fully enjoy the food here.
A quintessential element of the Transylvanian cuisine is the smoked lard, “slana or slanina” in Romanian. It can be served as it is or it can be the ingredient of dozens of traditional Transylvanian dishes.
Smoked lard, with a buttery consistency and full of flavour, is one of the elements of the traditional Transylvanian appetiser. The other ones are red onions, telemea cheese, homemade bread and a glass of palinka, each of them being important representatives of the local cuisine.
Telemea cheese is similar to the Greek feta, and it can be found all over Romania, but it is said that the telemea from Sibiu is the best in the country.
The beaten bread is something you can fall in love with. After trying this bread you will not want to try other bread. Wheat flour, water and yeast, or sourdough. Those are the ingredients. In the Transylvanian countryside, making the bread is a process having a kind of religiosity, as the housewives making the bread have to respect a strict ritual. The bread is baked for 2 hours in wood fire heated ovens. Then, the burned crust is removed by “beating” the bread with a small stick, hence its name.
Romanian food, and Transylvanian food in special is rich in sausages. Mostly pork, but also beef, goat or sheep meat are used. One particular type of sausage is specific just to the south-western part of Transylvania. Is called “virsli” and is a thin, smoky, sheep or goat sausage, wth is usually boiled, and sometimes grilled. It is served simple, with mustard, as an appetiser, and the best ones can be found in the food markets in Alba or Hunedoara county.
Romanians love sours soups like Italians are loving pasta. The sour soup, or “ciorba” in Romanian, it is considered to have healing properties and should be eaten every day. Ask a Romanian granny and she will confirm. Most of the soups can be found all over the country, but some of them are specific to only one region. This is the case of the pork soup with tarragon. It is the tarragon which is giving this regional particularity, as this seasoning is mostly used just in Transylvanian cuisine, an influence from the Germans or the Hungarians living here. Like any other soup, it has a base of vegetables (onion, celery, carrots), pork (usually smoked), vinegar for acidity (long ago whey was used instead of vinegar) cream and tarragon.
The potato stew with smoked pork is probably the comfort food every Transylvanian from the city has eaten during its summer vacation in the countryside. Potatoes and smoked pork ( we can include here smoked pork sausage as well) are 2 ingredients that mixed together will definitely end up in a mouthwatering result. Some say that this is the Transylvanian version of the Hungarian goulash, but the taste is quite different. Is simple and cheap food, a hungry student will try to cook for the first time the dorm kitchen. So, the main ingredients are potatoes, smoked pork or sausages and onions. Then, the rest of the ingredients range from paprika, cumin seeds ( that is making the dish closer to the goulash) to tomatoes, tomato sauce, bay leaves, peppers, carrots, garlic or thyme. In any combination, the end result will be delicious.
In terms of desserts, we are proposing 2 sweets which are emphasizing on the cultural and ethnic interconnections in the Transylvanian cuisine. Firs is the cremes or cremsnit, evidence of the Austrian-Hungarian influence in the Transylvanian cuisine. Is a dessert made of a puff pastry base and custard cream and variations of this dessert can be found all over Central Europe.
Second is the kurtos kalac, which is a Hungarian cake made of sweet dough, rolled over a cylinder and then baked rotating it over charcoal heat. Again, it can be found all over Central Europe, but some are saying that it originated from the Szeclers living in Eastern Transylvania.
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