This ultimate trip takes you through Romania's Transylvania region and beyond, visiting medieval cities like Brașov, Sighișoara, Sibiu, and Alba Iulia. You'll explore fortified churches, traditional Saxon villages with Szekler populations, and Europe's largest ethnographic exhibit at the ASTRA open-air museum in Sibiu. Enjoy the beauty of the region with hikes in forests, gorges, and lakes, as well as a road trip over the Translpina roadway, the highest road in Romania that takes you out of Transylvania and into the country's southern region of Oltenia.

Highlights

  • Visit beautiful medieval cities like Brașov, Sibiu, Cluj, Alba Iulia, and Sighișoara
  • Tour the fortified churches and Saxon villages of Transylvania
  • Explore Europe's largest ethnographic exhibit at the open-air museum in Sibiu
  • Drive over the Transalpina roadway, the highest paved road in the Balkans
  • Enjoy hiking through forests and gorges with beautiful views of the countryside

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Bucharest - Explore Bucharest
Day 2 Transfer to Transylvania - Explore the City of Brașov Brașov
Day 3 Hike to Poiana Brașov and ride a cable car Brașov
Day 4 Explore the historic mansions in Covasna County Covasna County
Day 5 Discover the nature and history of Covasna County Covasna County 
Day 6 Transfer to Sighișoara and explore Sighișoara
Day 7 Visit the fortified churches of Transylvania Sighișoara
Day 8 Drive to Cluj-Napoca, Transylvania's capital city Cluj
Day 9 Explore the Turda Salt Mine and hike Cheile Turzii Cluj
Day 10 Drive to Sibiu via Rimetea and Alba Iulia Sibiu
Day 11 Explore Europe's largest ethnographic exhibit at the open-air museum Sibiu
Day 12 Navigate the Transalpina road through the Carpathian Mountains Obârşia Lotrului
Day 13 Explore the Horezu Monastery in Oltenia Horezu
Day 14 Optional tour of the Drăgăşani wine region Horezu
Day 15 Return to Bucharest - Depart Romania  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bucharest - Explore

Typical Architecture in Bucharest
Typical Architecture in Bucharest

Welcome to Bucharest, the dynamic capital city of Romania!

After settling into your accommodation, take some time to explore this interesting and complex city. Make the most of your first day by exploring the newly-preserved Old Town and enjoying a walk through the city's oldest park, Cișmigiu Park. If you're interested in a museum, check out the city's National Museum of Art along one of Bucharest's most architecturally-rich streets, Calea Victoriei.

Other suggested activities include:

  • Take a tour of the Palace of Parliament. It's the largest building in Europe measured by usable space and the heaviest in the world. Also known as the "House of People" in Communist times, this surreal building is symbolic of the love/hate relationship between the city and its dwellers.

  • Enjoy a coffee break in one of the many specialty coffee cafes all over the city, placing Bucharest on the hipster coffee map. Some great options include Artichoke, M60, Bandit, Sonder, Bob's, and more.

  • Take a guided tour of Bucharest, which is best understood through the eyes of its locals, especially those who lived through its recent, turbulent history. Take an alternative tour of the city to learn more about how the effects of Communism still linger, and how a younger generation is breathing new life into its streets.

In the evening, you'll meet with your local guide for a welcome dinner at one of the city's traditional restaurants. You won't be in the city center surrounded by other tourists; rather, you'll dine in a truly authentic restaurant loved by the locals.

Day 2: Transfer to Transylvania - Explore the City of Brașov

The Old Town in Brasov, Romania
The Old Town in Brașov, Romania

After breakfast in Bucharest, your guide will transfer you to the city of Brașov in the beautiful region of Transylvania. Here you will begin your tour through one of the country's most beloved and historic areas. After settling into your hotel, take some time to explore this historic city, known as Kronstadt in the German language.

Founded on an ancient Dacian settlement by Teutonic knights in 1211, the city was originally established to guard the southern border of the Kingdom of Hungary. Thanks to the German Saxon population that followed, Brașov blossomed into a medieval citadel known for its trade. Its location economically linked Western Europe with the Ottoman Empire to the east. 

Wandering the streets is an excellent way to enjoy Brașov. To help guide your exploration, some suggested activities include:

  • Take a peek inside the Biserica Neagră (Black Church), the largest Gothic church in Romania.

  • Visit the two towers Turnul Negru (Black Tower) and Turnul Alb (White Tower) for scenic vistas of the Old Town.

  • Stroll through the 16th-century stone gate, Poarta Ecaterinei.

  • Walk down Strada Sforii (Sforii Street), one of the narrowest streets in Europe.

  • Ride the cable car to the top of Tâmpa Hill for a spectacular view of the city from behind the Hollywood-like Brașov sign. Alternatively, you can climb up a small hill to Cetățuia de pe Strajă (The Fortress on the Sentinel) for an eye-catching and different view of the city.

  • Take an alternative guided tour that will help you explore some of the best places for craft beer and authentic local cuisine.

After exploring the city, find a cozy restaurant to grab a traditional meal. Due to its Germanic Saxon roots, the city has a delicious mix of both German and Romanian cuisine.

Day 3: Hike to Poiana Brașov and ride a cable car

Hiking Trail Near Poiana Brașov
Hiking Trail Near Poiana Brașov

After breakfast, you'll stretch your legs in the countryside surrounding Brașov. You'll enjoy a beautiful hike up to Poiana Brașov, a popular ski resort in the winter and one of the most renowned outdoor retreats in Romania.

The hike starts within the forest outside of the city. You'll enjoy paths lined with tall pine trees, passing streams and viewpoints that look down into the valleys and meadows below. Enjoy the tranquility of the Romanian countryside, stopping to take in the sounds and smells of nature.

Eventually, you'll arrive in Poiana Brasov where you can wander through the small, alpine town. Stop into a cafe or have lunch near the lake. From here, you'll find additional trails that take you higher, up to over 6,000 feet (1,900 m) in elevation. If you're feeling tired, you can opt to ride the cable car instead, which offers incredible views of the entire region.

In the evening, you'll descend back to Brașov for dinner in the Old Town.

Day 4: Explore the historic mansions in Covasna County

Mansion in Covasna County, Romania
Mansion in Covasna County, Romania

Today you'll explore Covasna County, known as the Land of Mansions. It's home to more than 160 mansions and a few modest castles that historically belonged to families of noble rank. A great place to start is the town of Bicfalău, which has the most mansions in the area. Mostly built in the 17th century, the 36 estates line the streets, each retaining its architectural elements thanks to local and international preservation efforts.

After WWII, many of these buildings were seized and served other purposes, such as kindergartens or engine houses. Others were simply abandoned by their owners, as many people residing in Covasna County were forced out of the country during Communist times. In the 1990s, a few properties were returned to the owners and efforts began to restore and preserve the historic town.

After admiring the villages and the county's architecture, you'll settle into your accommodation in one of the mansions. Many have found new life as guesthouses and boutique hotels, such as Daniel Castle in Tălişoara or Benke Mansion in Moacşa. Others function as museums, such as the Kálnoky Castle in Micloşoara, which hosts the Museum of Transylvanian Life.

Day 5: Discover the nature and history of Covasna County

Saint Ana Lake in Autumn
Saint Ana Lake in Autumn

After breakfast in your guesthouse, you'll continue to explore the beauty and history in Covasna County. Start in the county's capital city, Sfântu Gheorghe, where you can visit the Szekler National Museum. The region is home to much of Romania's Hungarian minority, and this museum gives you an insight into the population's typical peasant life. You'll find hand-painted wood paneling, models of traditional architecture, and relics of tools, clothing, and homeware. 

Next, make your way to Lake Saint Ana, the only volcanic lake in Romania. It's a great place to enjoy a peaceful walk and a picnic lunch, plus a visit to the Chapel of St. Anne. If you're up for a more invigorating hike, try the trail through the Gorge of Varghis in nearby Harghita County, which passes by (or through) over 100 caves.

On your way to your accommodation, stop for dinner back in Sfântu Gheorghe. Try a traditional Hungarian restaurant to experience the culture of the Szekler population. Suggestions include Hunyadi Csárda, Kastély Vendéglő, or Szikra.

Day 6: Transfer to Sighișoara and explore

View of the Fortress in Sighisoara
View of the Fortress in Sighișoara

Sighișoara was developed by the Transylvanian Saxon population (mostly of German descent) in the 12th century. The King of Hungary wanted a walled citadel to defend its border. Today the town's main attraction is its historic and preserved Old Town, sitting atop a hill overlooking the river valley below. 

Sighișoara has many claims to fame, including as the hometown of Vlad the Impaler, more commonly known as Dracula. He was the son of Vlad Dracul, who was the ruler of the historical region of Wallachia in the 15th century. Vlad got his reputation after years of impaling, imprisoning, and torturing his enemies. Today, you can visit the original home of Dracula in Sighișoara.

After settling into your accommodation, take time to wander the historic, cobbled streets of the citadel. You can't miss the famous Clock Tower, which houses an interesting museum and views over the city from the top. Several other towers secured the citadel's walls, including the Butchers' Tower, the Tinsmiths' Tower, and the Turnul Cizmarilor. You can climb the steps inside the Covered Stairway for views of the valley and town, then head down to the Petőfi Sándor monument, dedicated to the short life of the famous Hungarian poet and revolutionist who died here during the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.

In the evening, enjoy dinner at one of the town's traditional restaurants.

Day 7: Visit the fortified churches of Transylvania

The Fortified Church of Biertan, Romania
The Fortified Church of Biertan, Romania

The region of Transylvania is home to many fortified churches that you can easily visit while cruising through its countryside. Start in Biertan, a village just 19 miles (30 km) from Sighișoara. Here you'll find The Fortified Church of Biertan, which was built in Gothic-style in the mid-16th century. Its complex includes a tower, a covered stairway, a garden, and views of the town and surrounding valley. The church itself is home to a collection of Renaissance artwork.

Next, head toward the Fortified Church Viscri, set in a small town of the same name. This is a Lutheran church built by the German Transylvanian Saxon population in the 13th century. You can enjoy the church's wooden art gallery. For lunch, stop in the town of Criț to explore the Fortified Church Criț and enjoy a traditional meal at Casa Kraus.

On your way back to Sighișoara, complete the short walk up to the ruins of the citadel, Cetatea Țărănească. Here you'll enjoy views of the town of Saschiz, where you can explore the final fortified church, the Fortified Church St. Stephen.

Day 8: Drive to Cluj-Napoca, Transylvania's capital city

The National Opera House in Cluj
The National Opera House in Cluj

Cluj-Napoca, often referred to as just Cluj, is the unofficial capital of Romania's Transylvania region. It's a lively university city known for its vibrant nightlife, trendy coffeehouses, and landmarks dating back to Saxon and Hungarian rule.

Enjoy walking around the city's central core, starting in Piața Unirii where you'll find the Gothic-style St. Michael's Church and the statue of the 15th-century king, Matthias Corvinus. This is a common meeting point and where the city hosts several festivals and markets throughout the year. Grab a coffee at one of the terraces surrounding the square.

Nearby you'll find the Ethnographical Museum of Transylvania, which is home to numerous relics depicting rural life in the region, including architecture, pottery, tools, and clothing. After perusing the museum, take a walk through the city's central park which lines the canal. You'll enjoy walking paths and a historic lakeside mansion where you can rent boats in the summer months. 

Next, walk back through the Old Town to view two of the city's iconic landmarks. Start with the Assumption Cathedral, which was built in the 15th century and now houses the faculty or art and design at the University of Cluj. In the evening, the fountain in front of the cathedral performs a light and music show. On the other side of the fountain is the Cluj-Napoca Romanian National Opera, a brightly-colored building with an impressive exterior and interior design. If you'd like to visit a museum, the beautiful baroque-era Bánffy Palace highlights both Romanian and Hungarian art.

In the evening, settle into your accommodation and enjoy the city's numerous bistros and restaurants. Then have a drink at a wine bar or pop into a club for a little dancing.

Day 9: Explore the Turda Salt Mine and hike Cheile Turzii

Salt Mine in Turda
Salt Mine in Turda

After breakfast at your hotel, head out to explore the town of Turda and its impressive salt mine. You'll enjoy the museum inside Turda Salt Mine, which guides you through its nearly 100 years of history. You can explore the depths of the mine through tunnels, elevators, and stairs, visiting its current main attraction, a small amusement park. The health benefits of the salt are enough to bring you into the mine, but the minigolf, rowboats, and Ferris wheel will keep you entertained as you breathe in and absorb the minerals.

For lunch, enjoy a traditional meal at the restaurant across the street from the mine, which is also an operating winery. La Salina Winery offers tours on weekdays and tastings in its restaurant. Its wine production includes reds and whites, including a red varietal from one of the heritage grapes found in Romania, Feteasca Neagra.

After lunch, you'll make your way to Cheile Turzii, a scenic gorge that offers an easy hike along the Hășdate River. You'll walk through forests, along rocky cliffsides (with the help of ropes), and over bridges, ending on the other side of the gorge in rolling fields filled with sheep. 

Return to Cluj in the evening to enjoy your final dinner in the city.

Day 10: Drive to Sibiu via Rimetea and Alba Iulia

Traditional Saxon Village of Rimetea
Traditional Saxon Village of Rimetea

In the morning, you'll start today's road trip to the other large city of Transylvania, Sibiu. Along the way, you'll stop in the small Szekler village of Rimetea, where nearly its entire population consists of the Hungarian minority. It was once a mining town but now sits as a colorful village known for its large karst rock and traditional Saxon houses.

You'll continue through the scenic Transylvanian countryside until you connect with the E81 highway, which will take you straight to the city of Alba Iulia. Here you'll visit the famous star-shaped fortress, Alba Carolina Citadel, which was built in the 18th century during the Hapsburg rule. You can walk along the walls of the citadel and through its four main gates. Then enjoy strolling within its "town", visiting the Reunification Cathedral, the Roman-Catholic Cathedral Saint Michael, and the National Museum of the Union.

In the late afternoon, you'll arrive in Sibiu. After settling into your accommodation, enjoy exploring the city's historic Old Town.

Day 11: Explore Europe's largest ethnographic exhibit at the open-air museum

Typical Folk Interior at the ASTRA Museum
Typical Folk Interior at the ASTRA Museum

Enchanting you with its medieval fortress walls, Sibiu is a beautiful example of Transylvanian culture and architecture. Start your morning with a walk through the historic streets and a visit to the Bruckenthal Museum, set within the citadel near the Big Square. Afterward, relax in the square with a specialty coffee at one of the terraced cafes.

Make your way out of the city center and visit The ASTRA National Museum Complex (Museum Of Traditional Folk Civilization), which was established in 1963 and is the largest open-air ethnography exhibit in Europe. The ASTRA Museum is based on the "living museum" concept, aiming to salvage, conserve, and showcase traditional folk culture. 

In the afternoon, you can opt for a hiking or cycling excursion near Sibiu. The city is framed by the Făgăraș Mountains, so there are plenty of opportunities to hike up into the hills or cycle along its flat roads twisting through the valley.

Upon returning to Sibiu, settling into a traditional restaurant to enjoy typical Saxon or Transylvanian cuisine.

Day 12: Navigate the Transalpina road through the Carpathian Mountains

Views of the Transalpina Roadway at Sunset
Views of the Transalpina Roadway at Sunset

Our destination for the day is Obârșia Lotrului, which is a spring spilling into the Olt River. This remote place is hidden in a deep valley, covered by ancient forests and hills. You'll spend the night in a rustic inn, where you can enjoy traditional Romanian dishes and wine.

To reach our destination, you'll drive along the country's famous Transalpina roadway, which is a paved mountain pass located in the Parâng Mountains of the Southern Carpathian Range. It's the highest road in Romania, built under the rule of King Carol II and rebuilt during World War II by German troops. The route meets its highest point at Urdele Pass, where the elevation is over 7,000 feet (2,145 m) above sea level. Given the high altitude, the road is closed during the cold months of the year. 

Along the way, while enjoying the twists and turns, plus the views of the Transylvanian valleys, you'll stop in Jina, a small village in Mărginimea Sibiului. It's known for its dairy products and cured meats.

After settling into your accommodation, you'll enjoy a traditional dinner featuring regional wine.

Day 13: Explore the Horezu Monastery in Oltenia

Horezu Monastery
Horezu Monastery

Today you continue to explore the Transalpina roadway as you leave Transylvania behind and head into Oltenia, Romania's most southern historical region. Your final destination is Horezu, a small town renowned for its handmade ceramics.

One of the most important sights around Horezu is the Horezu Monastery, a UNESCO heritage site. Founded in 1690 by Prince Constantine Brancoveanu, the complex is a masterpiece of the 'Brancovenesti' style. Renowned for the richness of its sculptural detail, the treatment of its religious compositions and its painted decorative works, the monastery houses precious collections of frescos and icons dating from the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century.

The Hurezi School of mural and icon painting established at the monastery in the 18th century had a profound influence on religious art and architecture in the Balkan region. Its museum, housed in the princely residence, features masterpieces of Brancovenesti art: icons, books, embroideries, silver collections, and an interesting library of books containing approximately 4,000 volumes.

After settling into your accommodation, you can explore the small town, stopping into the shops selling its famous pottery.

Day 14: Optional tour of the Drăgăşani wine region

Explore Romania's Wine Region
Explore Romania's Wine Region

Horezu is near one of Romania's most prized wine regions, the Drăgăşani Valley. The soil of the region is well-suited for wine production thanks to the rocky Carpathian Mountains to the north, and then banks of the Olt River to the east. The region is home to two heritage grapes only found here, including the white grape Crâmpoşie Selecţionată and the red grape Negru De Drăgăşani. It also grows other Romanian varieties, including Fetească Albă, Fetească Regală, and Tămâioasă Românească, plus international grapes like Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc.

The Drăgăşani DOC consists of several producers, and you can select a few to visit. Suggested vineyards include Prince Știrbey, Crama Bauer, and Avincis, which all produce award-winning wines. You can opt for vineyard tours or just tastings, as well as lunch. 

In the late afternoon, return to Horezu via Râmnicu Vâlcea. Here you can enjoy your final dinner in Romania at the high-end Simfonia Restaurant.

Day 15: Return to Bucharest - Depart Romania

Streets of Bucharest at Night
Streets of Bucharest at Night

Enjoy a relaxing breakfast before your return to Bucharest. You'll transfer to the Henri Coandă International Airport (OTP) or the city's main train station.