Welcome to another post of Behind The Lens! In this section I will be writing a little guide about the places we visit. We travel with a tight budget so that means we have to prepare quite a lot before hand, and that also means that we are able to get to know quite a lot about the countries we visit so I thought that would be a nice idea to share it so you can benefit from it and hopefully save you time. I will include images, tips, hotels, restaurants, routes and many more. Also make sure you check the bold words together with the Tips section to get key information about your trip.
I really hope you enjoy it and find it useful!
Great food, nice people, stunning landscapes, natural parks and much more. What else can you ask for a country?
Romania have 13 national parks and 3 biosphere reserves, so there is plenty to discover. During our stay in Romania we were able to stay and visit in 2 different areas within the Transylvania region so that gives us plenty of reasons to return and see what we could not see this time. However we did not feel like we saw everything in those 2 places but for sure was good enough to fall in love with this country which is truly a hidden gem.
We landed in Bucharest the capital of the country and straight rented a car to escape north to the Brasov county. After a 3h drive we reached our destination for the next 3 days: Magura.
Magura is a tiny town at the base of Piatra Craiului Park in between Pestera and Zarnesti that does not have paved roads, so the last 15-20min drive were quite unique and fun, specially in the dark. Nevertheless we could not be any happier with the stay, very secluded, in the middle of nature and nobody around, no cars, no factories, just animals and nature.
Being in this area would allow us to visit the main town of Brasov, a medieval town that has German roots, Piatra Craiului park, Bucegi National Park and tourist spots like Bran Castle. Just driving to those places was an experience as the landscape changes and it is just stunning. If you are more into towns I would recommend staying in Brasov as it would be more comfortable, if you are more into nature and get away from people then Magura is the place to go, also Fundata or Moieciu de Sus are great options.
In Piatra Craiului and Bucegi are plenty of options to hike, trek and just chill. The locals will give you some ideas of where to go but we found the area to be quite well marked despite being very wild and not very touristic. Wherever you go, you will enjoy of nice views and nature in its purest form. Make sure to bring food with you or stop to eat before and after as there are no refugies with food.
Although we drove past the Bran Castle, we found it quite a tourist trap rather than a must stop, the area it is surrounded by its great, but the castle itself is a bit overrated in our opinion.
It may sound a bit hard to pronounce but this place is one of a kind, for sure one of the best places I have ever been to. It has it all, a breathtaking road, stunning views, lakes, mountains and… bears! Yes, it is not recommended to wander around the mountains as there are so many bears that you may find yourself in an awkward spot. We were lucky enough to find 2 young bears near the road, they were brave and curious, so I would not mess around with them or there parents too much.
The Transfagarasan road is is a paved mountain road crossing the southern section of the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. It has national-road ranking and is the second-highest paved road in the country after the Transalpina. It starts near the village of Bascov, near Pitești, and stretches 90 kilometres (56 mi) to the crossroad between the DN1 and Sibiu, between the highest peaks in the country, Moldoveanu and Negoiu. The road, built in the early 1970s as a response to the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union, connects the historic regions of Transylvania and Wallachia. It is a winding road, dotted with steep hairpin turns, long S-curves, and sharp descents. It is both an attraction and a challenge for hikers, cyclists, drivers and motorcycle enthusiasts. Due to the topography, the average speed is around 40 km/h (25 mph). The road also provides access to Bâlea Lake and Bâlea Waterfall. Rated by Top Gear as the “best road in the world” and I would not say otherwise.
Pack some winter clothes as up there the temperature drops. But the views are worth it. At the top of the road before you cross the tunnel, you find Balea Lake, a beautiful black lake surrounded by peaks with some restaurants and street food spots.
If you visit the area, make sure you have all the essentials with you as there are no supermarkets nor petrol stations within 1h distance from there, so make sure you have enough petrol or gas in your tank. There are a few hotels and cabins around so you will have a few options but not many.
Food and other tips
The local food is quite good, you will find polenta wherever you go but it is not the only food they like to serve. Dishes like Sarmale, tripe soup, goulash, papanasi etc are a must try. It may not be the richest in Europe but certainly has plenty of options for everybody and it is good enough to give you a unique flavour. The food is quite cheap compared to UK and you can find all sorts of street food in many places including main spots and off road. The main street food dish would be the polenta and cheese ball, add some sausages and you will have a very filling bite.
If you fly to Bucharest, make sure to have some extra hours on your arrival or departure, as 5min away from the airport there is one of the nicest Terms in Europe: Therme Bucaresti.
A beautiful complex with palm trees inside the pool. You have 3 areas, the main pool, the relax area and the playing area. So there is plenty to do for everybody. It has restaurants inside and they rent towels, sell slippers and swim shorts in case it is needed.
It is a great option to rest after the flight or just before you go back to your routine.
The currency is not Euro, is Romanian Lei. There are plenty of ATMs in the main towns and at the airport. As always, the best choice is to use a card like Revolut and withdraw money upon arrival.
Do you want some more? Just click play to watch the video of the trip!