In May 2016 we wanted to take a trip to a destination that wasn’t too far from Belgium, inexpensive and cheap to fly into. So I used Skyscanner to check out the cheapest flights that month, and quickly Romania caught my eye. I knew so little about this country, but as I looked up more information, I knew this was the hidden gem I was looking for.
Here are 10 reasons to visit this beautiful unknown country:
1. Danube Delta
At the border of Romania and Ukraine lies an area of more than 5000 square kilometers of wetland, called ‘The Danube Delta’. It is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. More than 300 bird species and 45 freshwater fish species call this place home. With birds like white pelicans, swans and white-tailed eagles this is a birdwatcher’s walhalla.
From Tulcea you can walk down the boardwalk and choose which boat ride you prefer. Best time to visit: April until september.
2. Carpathian Mountains
Rock climbing, via ferrata, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, horseback riding, etc… There is an activity for everybody to enjoy in the Carpathian Mountains that stretch for more than 900km in Romania. There’s wildlife like bears, lynxes and wolves. The highest peak at 2544 meters is Moldoveanu. In the summer you can easily hike to the top of this mountain, although it will take about four days to go back and forth from Brasov.
3. Bustling Bucharest
In the shadow of the cold, outrageous Palace of Parliament, a project of Romanian dictator Ceaușescu, lies the colorful bustling old town of Bucharest. Food trucks, hipster coffee bars, rooftop terraces, … vibrant and energetic Bucharest never sleeps. With it’s beautiful parks, interesting architecture and never-ending streets full of cozy bars this city with it’s traumatic past will do nothing but surprise you.
4. Dracula and castles
The province of Transylvania is home of Dracula, the fictitious character based on Vlad Tepes (aka Vlad the Impaler and Vlad Dracul). He was the ruler of Wallachia in the 13th century, and was depicted by some historians of that time as a blood-thirsty ruthless despot. He didn’t live at Bran castle, but he has a connection with it and that’s why Bran Castle is now known as ‘Dracula’s Castle’. This reputation makes the castle a tourist attraction, but it is well worth the visit. Prices and further information on: http://www.bran-castle.com
5. Good food
Romanian cuisine is not very refined, but pure comfort food. They love their meat, and pork in particular. When in Romania, you must try the grilled sausage, ‘mici’, which is full of flavor. Or ‘sarmale’, sausages in pickled cabbage leaves. If you’re not a big meat-lover, they also have fantastic soups and salads.
6. Friendly people
When talking about Romania to friends and family, we noticed that Romanian people don’t have the best reputation. Although not many Romanians speak or understand English, during our travels through Romania, we only met kind, warm-hearted and welcoming people.
7. Photography heaven
Broken-down buildings, colorful towns, cows on the streets: Romania is heaven on earth for photographers who love pure, rough and rugged pictures.
There are about 6000 bears in Romania, about 60% of Europe’s brown bear population. When hiking through the mountains, you can see many traces of them. They avoid humans, so the chance of an encounter is very small. Unfortunately, bears aren’t always treated well in Romania. They used them as tourist attraction near castles. Keeping them in cages, ripping out their teeth and putting a ring through their nose so tourists could take a picture with them. Visit the bear-sanctuary near Zarnesti, where 70 bears enjoy their new life in a forest of 70 hectares. (for further information or donations: http://bearsanctuary.com/libearty-bear-sanctuary)
Although their future is getting better, bear hunting is still allowed. 140 bears and 97 wolves are probably going to get killed because attacks on humans have increased.
9. Traveling back in time
Horse-drawn carriages and Lada’s are still common transport. People are still herding cows, sheep and goats. Children are playing in the streets. Once outside of Bucharest, you might feel like you just traveled through time.
10. It’s dirt cheap!
Everything from food to drinks, and activities is much cheaper than Western Europe.
Your money will go a long way in Romania!