Transylvania is a historical region of Romania in the northwest of the country. Its core is a giant mountain plateau, shaped like a horseshoe, enclosed by a ridge of the Eastern and Southern Carpathians. This is the land of orchards and vineyards, rocky peaks and gentle wooded slopes, ancient castles and modest village houses, where a guest will certainly find a supply of strong slivovitz in the cellar.
Note: according to allcitypopulation, the population of Romania is 19.12 million (2021).
Covered in legends, Transylvania is the birthplace of the famous Wallachian prince Vlad III Tepes, nicknamed Dracula, who was distinguished by a severe temper and a bad habit of impaling people. Word of mouth gave him the fame of a vampire, and the British writer Bram Stoker made him the hero of his novel and the most famous character in Transylvanian history. Today, many people come here to follow in the footsteps of Count Dracula, hear legends and buy souvenirs with the main bloodsucker of Europe. A trip along the high-mountain highways Transfagarashan and Transalpina, one of the most picturesque roads in the Carpathians, causes no less spiritual awe.
Among the hotels in Transylvania, there are two dozen “five-star” hotels – from the pretentious Hilton Sibiu to the more than decent Grand Hotel Italia. They are quite consistent with the world level, the price is from 360 RON for a double room.
The “fours” have the optimal balance of price and quality, among which there are network Golden Tulip Ana Dome, Best Western Silva and others. The rooms are smaller, in half the cases there is no pool and spa, but for a great room they ask from 240 RON. A budget, but quite decent option – 3 * hotels from 150 RON per night but without a restaurant and food delivery to the room.
Regardless of the number of stars, all hotels have free Wi-Fi and, with the exception of some located in city centers, free parking. Every second hotel offers bike rental.
For those who travel by car, it is convenient to stay in private mini-hotels and guesthouses, which Transylvania abounds in. They attract with sincere hospitality, sincere home atmosphere and low prices – from only 100 RON.
Regions of Transylvania
Historically, Transylvania is divided into 9 counties (administrative regions). Located in the south of the region, Brasov and Sibiu are especially popular among tourists. It is here that Bran Castle and Ryshnov Fortress, the ski resorts of Sinaia and Poiana Brasov, the Piatra Craiului National Park, puppet villages and cities that amaze with German architecture are located.
The main highlight of Mures County in the central part of Transylvania is the small medieval town of Sighisoara, entirely included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Every year in July, a costumed medieval festival takes place here. Many historical monuments have been preserved in Alba – in the 16-17 centuries it was the capital of Transylvania. The administrative center of the county of Hunedoara – Deva, traces its history from the fortress built by the Dacians. It was later replaced by a medieval castle, of which only ruins remain today.
Covasna in the southeast of the region is famous for its mineral waters, healing mud and spas. The castles of Fey and Zebale and the Devil’s Swamp are also located there. Covasna’s northern neighbor, Harghita, is full of peaceful villages with hospitable residents and delicious homemade food. Here, near the Tusnad resort, there is the only volcanic lake St. Anna in Romania.
Cluj-Napoca is the largest city in the region, having grown out of the outpost of the Roman legion. A large university is located here, so the city has a lot of youth and entertainment venues. Bistrica-Nasaud attracts with a kaleidoscope of Romanian, German and Hungarian villages, resorts, beautiful lakes and mysterious caves.
The ski resorts of Transylvania are in the shadow of the Alpine monsters. The service here is more modest, but the prices are much lower, and snow is guaranteed already in December. The most famous of them is Sinai, which lies in the picturesque Prakhova valley at the foot of the Southern Carpathians. The main skiing areas are located on the southern slope at an altitude of 1000-2030 m. The total length of slopes of various difficulty categories is 40 km, the longest is Tourist, 2800 m with a vertical drop of 460 m. The slopes are served by a two-stage funicular that starts from the resort center, and 8 chair and tow lifts. Ski pass for one day adult / child – 145/100 RON. There are toboggan and bobsleigh tracks with 13 turns, as well as 20 km of cross-country ski runs through coniferous forests.
Poiana Brasov is the most prestigious winter holiday destination in Romania with a high level of service, good hotels, bars and restaurants. Its infrastructure includes an Olympic ski track, two ski jumps, a bobsleigh track, an outdoor artificial ice rink, a riding center and other sports grounds. Due to the special microclimate, the snow stays here longer than in other resorts, and snow cannons guarantee skiing from November to March. The total length of the trails is 24 km, the longest is 3.8 km. In addition, off-piste skiing is possible at the resort. Ski pass for one day adult / child – 150/85 RON.
The smallest resort in Transylvania, Predeal, is located 33 km from Poiana Brasov. The length of the tracks is only 11 km, the slopes are not too steep and you should not count on interesting skiing. But they are ideal for beginners and families with children. Ski pass for one day: 130 RON.
What to bring
Looking at the shelves of souvenir shops, you begin to believe that Dracula is really more alive than all the living. His images flaunt on T-shirts, plates, mugs, magnets and key chains. The “vampire” theme is continued by masks and other paraphernalia that can solve the problem of a gift for the next Halloween.
Souvenirs with a national character include painted Easter eggs, embroidered linen blouses, tablecloths and napkins, willow products, monochrome and painted ceramics. Transylvania still has a strong tradition of folk painting on glass. Once an icon painted on glass was in almost every peasant house. Today, such icons and art panels in the Transylvanian naive style can be bought in salons or art galleries.
Other beautiful and fragile souvenirs are products of the world-famous Romanian porcelain company Apulum and truly unique products made of colored laminated glass. Inexpensive and original so-called “wickerwork” – vases, baskets, plates, bells, as if woven from thin strips of porcelain.
Gastronomic souvenirs include Burduf sheep cheese, very strong fruit vodka Tsuyka, and red wines Terra Romana and Prahova Valley.
Cuisine and restaurants of Transylvania
“What does the sparrow dream about? Of course, about hominy!” – this proverb is the essence of Romanian cuisine. Mamaliga is a steeply brewed porridge made from cornmeal, served here as an independent dish with sour cream, milk or cheese, and as a side dish for meat or fish, and for soups instead of bread. The local cuisine is predominantly peasant – simple and solid. Very popular sour soups – “chorba”. Often they are prepared from beans, vegetables and meat with the obligatory addition of boiled wheat kvass (“borsha”). But there are vegetable and fish options.
The favorites of the meat menu are “mititei” – small sausages without a casing made of minced meat, fried on a grill. They are served without a side dish, but always with mustard. From Greece, moussaka came to the local table, from Turkey – dolma from grape leaves “sarmale”, the Hungarian heritage – meat stew “gyuvech” with vegetables, and in the pork knuckle “cholan de porc” a German trace is guessed. The most popular fast food is kürtoshkalach: the dough is wrapped around a hot pipe, sprinkled with sugar or cinnamon and sold from street stalls.
The food is full: expensive restaurants with European cuisine, cozy establishments in the national style, roadside cafes with home cooking, pastry shops with wonderful coffee and fantastic cakes.
Dinner with wine in a restaurant with national cuisine – 120 RON per person, lunch at a roadside establishment – 50 RON, coffee with dessert in a pastry shop – 15 RON, kurtoshkalach – 7 RON.
For motorists – roadside stalls with homemade sausages, cheeses and wine. From hot – boiled corn and hominy in the form of a bun with cheese inside, baked on charcoal. The price of pleasure is 10 RON.
Entertainment and attractions
Among the cultural and natural attractions of Transylvania, a special place is occupied by places associated with the literary and quite real Prince Dracula. Small medieval Sighisoara with a palisade of church spiers and towers is the city where Vlad III Dracula was born in 1431. There is a memorial plaque on the house where it happened. It is impossible to make a mistake, now the Casa Vlad Dracul restaurant operates in it, and on the opposite side there is a bust of the Wallachian prince, whom the Romanians consider a national hero. After all, he not only impaled, but also fought against the Turks, built churches and did charity work.
Bran Castle, perched on a small rock 140 km from Sighisoara, claims to be the main dwelling of Dracula the bloodsucker. It was he who described in his famous novel Bram Stoker. One of the most beautiful castles in Romania, indeed, is more like an imaginary vampire dwelling – dark furniture, narrow passages, low ceilings and, of course, a secret passage.
However, the real Vlad Dracula also hunted more than once in the forests surrounding the castle. At the beginning of the 20th century, Bran became the residence of the last queen of Romania, Maria, and is currently owned by her descendants.
Another residence of the Romanian kings is the magnificent Peles Castle near the city of Sinai, built by King Carol I. It still surprises with the luxury of interiors, carved oak panels and huge wall-to-wall mirrors. In these fabulously beautiful places, many rulers of Romania liked to relax. The neighboring Pelisor Castle (“Little Peles”) was built for the heir to the throne, the future King Ferdinand I. From it, a winding road leads to the Foisor villa of the ex-dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and even higher – to the observation deck of the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph at an altitude of 1250 m.
The climate of Transylvania is not very mild, due to the high location above sea level and the surrounding mountain ranges. In December, snow covers the entire earth, the lowest temperature is in January. In March, the bright sun shines, there are practically no clouds, and only memories remain from the snow. True, in the mountains the cold can return until the end of April. May is the most generous for rains, July and August are the hottest. In autumn, there is little rain, the temperature drops to a comfortable level, the mountain forests turn yellow and red – it’s time for excursions and road trips.