Romania map & itineraries
Make the most of your time
"Romania is much more than mountainous Transylvania – there are stunning wetlands and idyllic coast, alpine plateau, primeval forests, and lush wine regions."
Though Romania is best-known perhaps for its wild mountains – particularly, the Carpathians which encircle the central heartland of Transylvania –there are diverse landscapes to suit all tastes. Wildflower carpeted plateaux are tailor-made for hiking, while Europe's best ancient woodland rustles with amazing wildlife (big predators to the fore). The Danube Delta is one of the world's great wetlands, complemented by brilliant beaches, classical ruins and fishing hamlets. Don't forget the many medieval and magical towns!
Apuseni Natural Park
Apuseni's forested ridges are home to elk, owls and eagles, while startling limestone rock formations conceal a subterranean wonderland - a nether world of spectacular caves with rare bats, underground glaciers and prehistoric fossils. Mountain villages like Albac and Garda are renowned for wood craft, while Patrahaitesti is one of the best places to hear sonorous Romanian alpine horns (bucium).
The giant HOLLYWOOD-style sign on Mt Tampa's woody slopes seems brashly incongruous for a 12th century walled-and-turreted Saxon town whose beguiling old quarter underscores fairytale ties to the Pied Piper story. Visit the Black Church, eastern Europe's largest Gothic church, then listen to heraldic trumpeters at midday on the medieval cafe-lined Council Square (Piata Sfatului) - reputed site of Europe's last witch-burning.
With its tree-lined boulevards, Belle Epoque architecture and eye-catching copy of the Arc-de-Triomphe, the nicer bits of Romania's capital have been likened to Paris. Today, it's an energised city of parks and cool cafes, where Orthodox churches rub shoulders with Art Nouveau villas. The Lipscani District preserves a sense of old Bucharest. Be sure to visit Ceasescu's colossal People’s Palace to see megalomania turned unforgettably into stone.
Piatra Neamt – aka ‘Pearl of Moldova’ - is a perfect base for Bucovina's ravishing UNESCO-listed painted monasteries. Voronet's 15th century exterior frescoes have seen it dubbed the Sistine Chapel of the East, while Moldovita is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. Sucevita is the largest and most heavily fortified against Eastern invaders. The nuns at the convent of Agapia, meanwhile, are famed for their carpet and embroidery workshops.
Split into ranges like the flat-topped Bucegi, the Carpathians encircle Transylvania with lonely peaks cut through by spectacular gorges walled by 300m cliffs. Hike primeval forests and alpine meadows, while scanning for wolves, bears and lynx - or 50 species of wild orchid. Traditional Szekler villages dating to the 9th century provide colourful human counterpoint.
Romania's star Black Sea resort – and largest port - boasts a 2500-year history dating to its founding as the ancient Greek settlement of Tomis. Legend has it Jason landed here with the Argonauts after finding the Golden Fleece. Fine 19th century mansions are complemented by grand mosques, Roman and Art Nouveau beauties, fine art and history museums plus lively cosmopolitan bustle.
Europe's longest river ends its journey in an idyllic 4,200 sq-km wetland of floating reed islands, marsh and shifting sandbars by the Black Sea. It's a birdwatching nirvana with over 300 species of winged wonders from pelicans to red-breasted geese - but don't miss fishing hamlets like Crinan with its traditional reed houses, gorgeous secluded beaches at Sulina and Sfantu Gheorghe – or the renowned local fish soup!
Romania is the 9th biggest wine producer in the world, and this south-eastern enclave is one of its prime areas, set between the Danube Delta and the Black Sea. It yields rich and bright reds, dry whites and natural sweet wines from grapes picked as they wither. Top vineyards include Murfatlar, Sarica and Niculitel, working with Romanian grapes such as Feteasca and Babeasca alongside more familiar varieties.
A region that feels like a living exhibition of centuries-old rural life. Villagers dress like extras in a Brothers Grimm movie, while folk music and dance is celebrated at festivals such as August’s Hora de la Prislop. Wood craft encompasses immense ornately carved village gates or delicate musical instruments as happily as UNESCO-listed wooden churches.
Retezat National Park
Boasting more than 60 peaks over 2,300m and over 100 crystal clear glacier lakes, this glorious adjunct to the Carpathians cradles one of Europe's last remaining intact old-growth primeval woodland and the continent's largest single area of pristine mixed forest. It's a botanical paradise featuring around 1200 plant species (130 endangered), complemented by less familiar wildlife stars including Eurasian wildcat, chamois and otters.
One of Europe's best preserved medieval cities, Sibiu was dubbed the Red Citadel as Transylvania's first Saxon stronghold. Its bohemian blend of cobbled alleys and eye-popping squares comes with cultural treats like May's Jazz Festival, October film festival, Brukenthal gallery and Astra open-air architecture museum featuring 340 historic buildings. The strange eye-slit windows on its multicoloured houses are just as memorable.
Enchanting as a fairytale film set, Sighisoara's technicolour 16th houses nestle on cafe-lined lanes overlooked by onion-domed churches and the gorgeous medieval Clock Tower. Trace 14th century citadel walls, delve the History Museum, then get a bite at Casa Dracula – a restaurant carved from the 1431 birthplace of the infamous Vlad Tepes. The atmospheric nearby Saxon villages of Viscri and Biertan are also must-sees.
This cosmopolitan park-filled city showcases chic modernist architectural style, notably Art Nouveau. Timisoara also takes performing arts seriously, with plentiful opera, dance and classical music. Its pioneering spirit has manifested in contrasting ways: the world’s first city to adopt electric street lights in 1884 – and Romania’s first city to rise against dictator Nicolae Ceasescu in 1989. The magical Apuseni mountains are within striking distance too.
Travel times in Romania
The following times give you a rough idea of the travel times between the main attractions in Romania by train, boat and foot.
- Bucharest – Brasov: 2hours 40 min by train
- Bucharest – Sighisoara: 5 hours by train
- Bucharest – Constanta: 2 hours by train
- Tulcea – Sulina (stopping at Crisan): 1hour 30 mins by hydrofoil
- Tulcea – Sfantu Gheorghe: 2 hours by fast ferry
- Omu – Bran: 8 hours hiking