A driving experience through Carpathians

Transalpina 1

Day 1:

Bucharest

After landing at Otopeni airport, you will be welcomed by our guide for handing over the traveling documents and the planning list of the trip. You will be transferred to the hotel (4*) where you will check-in.

For the first day, depending on the flight arrival (in order not to be very exhausting), we invite you to visit the City of Bucharest and to get familiarized with us, Romanians.

First you can visit the Parliament Palace, the second largest building in the world, after Pentagon, the building that was erected at the order of Nicolae Ceausescu, the dictator of the communist era.

Parliament Palace by night

Visiting hours: between March-October: 09.00-17.00

Prices:

  • standard tour: 35 RON (~8 EUR) / Pax
  • standard tour + panoramic view-terrace (access by elevator): 45 RON (~10 EUR) / Pax

After this visit, you can take a short walk to the Old City Centre, to admire the narrow streets and the old nice buildings, which are now hosting many outdoor restaurants and terraces, shops, pubs and other businesses. You should stop by at one of the restaurants and try a cocktail or a coffee. I recommend the Bicicleta or Energia coffee-shops, or if you prefer a quieter place, you can go near the Cotroceni Palace, which is hosting the Presidency of Romania, and try a coffee in the beautiful inner-garden of the Infinitea teahouse.

In the evening, you will be our guests for the dinner, in one of the most famous traditional restaurants in Bucharest – Caru cu Bere – which was opened during the interwar period and is preserving its authenticity until nowadays. Here, depending on the restaurant’s programme, we will enjoy a nice traditional Romanian dinner, tasting some of the most delicious traditional products, made after some old receipts.

The day ends into the very cosy 4* hotel.

Day 2:

Bucharest

After the breakfast, being rested over the night, you can visit the main interest points of the City. Head toward the Romanian Village Museum (where you can admire old houses and traditions from different parts of Romania) driving on the Magheru Boulevard, passing through the Victoriei Square and further through the Charles de Gaulle Square where you turn left, heading toward the Arch of Triumph Square (the monument risen in the memory of the Heroes of the Romanian Independence War); here you take the first exit on the right and after some driving you will reach the entrance of the Village Museum (on the right side).

village museum

The visiting hours of the museum are from Tuesday to Sunday, between 09.00 – 19.00 (Monday 09.00 – 17.00). The price of the ticket is 10 RON (2.2 EUR)/person and the price for the guided tour (in English) is 300 RON (~67 EUR)/group. Note that for the guided tour, a prior appointment is needed (we will take care of this, just let us know before).

Since this is quite a large museum, it will take you some time to visit it, but being outdoor, it will be like exploring live the rural heritage of the Romanian people. Here you can find some traditional restaurants where you can take the brunch.

After finishing this visit, you will turn back toward Victoriei Square, driving near the Arch of Triumph and onto the Kisseleff Boulevard. Just before entering the Square, you will see the National Museum of Natural History, which we recommend you visit (it’s fabulous).

After this second portion of culture, you will head toward Calea Victoriei (just straight ahead, following the line of Kisseleff Boulevard). This street is an interest point itself, as it preserved some of the most beautiful buildings from the beginning of the previous century. Almost at the end of this Boulevard you will reach the national Savings Bank (on the right side) and The National Museum of History (just opposite, on the left side). Visiting hours for the Museum are from Wednesday to Sunday, between 10.00 – 18.00. For the guided tour, prior appointment is needed.

Between visits you can take the lunch in one of some other nice traditional restaurants from the City Centre (Vatra Romaneasca, Jaristea, Hanul Berarilor).

For the dinner, we recommend another famous traditional restaurant: Hanul lui Manuc (stunning scenery + delicious food!).

Day 3:

Bucharest – Transalpina

After the breakfast, with the hope that we enticed you to explore more, we go further for the hidden beauties of our country. We head toward Transalpina, following the A1 highway until reaching the city of Pitesti (approx. 105 Km) where we pass by and keep going on toward Râmnicu Vâlcea (approx. 62 Km on the regular road E81). Just before the entrance into this town, turn left, following the indicator toward Târgu Jiu. Keep driving for about another 46 Km, on the same road (E81) until getting to the village of Horezu. Here you can stop almost at each house on the sides of the road, to admire the traditional pottery art works. In some of the workshops (especially on the Olari street), you can even see the pottery masters working live and you can ask them to try yourself the creation of similar artworks.

Pottery art works

After this break, you can also visit 2 natural points of interest: Muierii Cave and Polovragi Cave. Both are very close to Horezu village.

Intermediary route: Horezu – Polovragi (follow 67) – Pestera Polovragi (follow 665) – return to Polovragi – turn right to Baia de Fier (on 665) – Pestera Muierii – return to Baia de Fier – turn right heading toward Novaci.

The first cave (Polovragi) is the house of Zamolxis, the god of Dacians. You will reach this point after passing through Oltețului gorge which is magnificent. The river with the same name is leading you right to the entrance of the cave. Out of its total length of 10 km, only 900 metres are open for the public, the rest are being reserved for the researchers. Inside the cave the air is hot and moist. Now it’s time for taking pictures. The sight is impressive as it hides several spots that gives the visitor deep thrills. No more words for now, we let you discover yourself the treasure.

Second cave: Pestera Muierii

The legend says that Muierii Cave is helping the young unmarried girls and the infertile women. Those girls and women were brought here by their fathers or husbands, with the hope that miracle will happen. Dressed in holiday clothes, the women were being brought to the entrance of the cave, from where they would have been taken over by the priests of the local god. After passing through a catharsis ritual, the women were brought in front of the altar, where each of them was praying and giving their offerings to the god. At the end of the prayer, the high-priest was starting to ask the god to come down over the woman in need and bring her fertility. Eventually, he would have given this woman to take a drink, specially prepared for this occasion. This special drink was containing a mix of analgesics and narcotics that was inducing a sleepy mood. Under the effect of these drugs, the women were being left in the cave for almost three days, dreaming about meeting the god himself. It seems that the god was sending his priests to breed with the women over there. Not too many details are known so far, but the fact that the underneath town is still preserved, means that the people were satisfied with the results. There still are women nowadays, that are going to visit the Cave, with the hope they will get pregnant.

Don’t worry! Your visit here will be without ritual ?

Now follow the above-mentioned itinerary to get to Novaci, which is the starting point for Transalpina (The King’s Road). Drive on this unique road that climbs toward an altitude of 2,145 metres in its highest peak. But before reaching this point you will stop in Rânca Resort for a well-deserved rest over the night. Accommodation in the Taverna Olteanului Pension.

 

Sunset up in the mountains

Day 4:

Transalpina – Hațeg

The more you deepen into the heart of Romania, the nicer is the sightseeing. Be warned: the following landscapes are breath-taking (however, your heart will only be thrilled by the joy of the views).

After the breakfast, start driving through the clouds (indeed, you will drive through clouds). When reaching the highest point of the road (you will recognize it, as you will see a large side area where you can park, near many other cars), stop the engine, get down of the car and take a long, deep breath of the fresh, full of ozone air and touch the clouds. Of course, you can take pictures. It’s free!

Transalpina (aka King’s Road or Devil’s Trail) is crossing the Parâng mountains from South to North, being the highest road from Romania. It is known as King’s Road as the former King of Romania (Charles the 1st), together with his family, used this route in the past for traveling from North to South. It is also known as the Devil’s Trail as, before being arranged as a modern road, it was only a footpath used by the shepherds in their transhumance.

Transalpina on the top

This route is between and parallel to other two magnificent areas from Romania: Jiului Valley and Oltului Valley, which I invite you to admire with the occasion of your next visit to Romania.

Coming back to Transalpina, after filling your lungs with the freshest air in the area, keep driving toward a cross-road called Obârșia Lotrului. Here you must look for directions toward Petrosani (normally you should take an exit to the left of direction).

After arriving in Petrosani, keep the road’s line further toward the next stop: Hațeg. Here you will rest over the night, but if you manage to get here sooner than 3 p.m., after check-in at the guest house and lunch, you still have plenty of time to pay a visit to the ancient fortress of Sarmizegetusa Regia. It is in a remote area, but it’s worth paying a visit. This settlement was in ancient times the head-quarter of the Dacian Kingdom and here the inhabitants of the citadel have built a temple which it’s presumed to have some sort of energy (some details here, more details on the spot).

Day 5

Hateg – Hunedoara – Deva – Simeria (take A1 highway) – Sebes – Alba Iulia – Aiud – Turda – Cluj Napoca

After the breakfast, you can take a visit to the Prislop Monastery (14 Km away from Hateg) where Arsenie Boca (a very gifted priest) used to serve and heal the soul of many people. Therefore, nowadays this place is crowded with visitors that are coming to pay him tribute. However, this trip is optional.

Returning from Prislop (if went there) or departing from Hateg, head toward Hunedoara (30 Km away), where you will discover the famous and intriguing Corvin Castle. This is, definitely, worth visiting, as it’s a masterpiece of the Medieval Art. Check out some more details here.

Start again driving, setting the navigator toward the city of Cluj Napoca. On the way (following the above-mentioned itinerary) you can stop in the city of Alba Iulia which is hosting the medieval citadel Alba Carolina, also a masterpiece of the XVIII century. The most important monuments here, have QR codes that can provide you free guidance of the place.

Now it’s time to go on toward Turda (another intermediary point) which is hosting the underground salt mine Salina Turda (if you don’t manage with the navigator, just ask the inhabitants for direction toward it). This salt mine excels through cleanliness, harmony and architectural boldness. If outside the mine there are 30˚C, inside the deep cave the temperature barely pass over 10˚C. Therefore, it is a good idea to have with you here some warm clothes. The access is made through some modern lighted stairs that goes deep underground until reaching a 200 meters’ gallery that takes you to an elevator which is going down for about 13 floors. The entrance tickets costs 20 RON (about 4.5 EUR). Once that you arrive into the main cave, a stunning underground world will lay out in front of your eyes. Souvenir shops, resting benches, play-grounds, bowling, table tennis and many other interesting points, including the impressive salt ceiling of the cave. To the left side of the main gallery, you will be welcomed by the real surprise of the place: some other 13 floors downward, ending in a subterranean lake.

Salt Mine

Intelligently lighted, an artificial wooden island is hosting some resting rooms and a mini harbour where from you can rent small boats for sailing about 20 minutes.

You can take pictures freely everywhere around.

For exit you have 2 options: either you come back on the same route, inside the cave, or you can walk through a 700 m long, wet and shiny galleria. If you take the 2nd option, on the exit you will discover that you are 5 km away from the parking place. Most of the tourists prefer to take the first way out, through the chilly cave, rather than to walk 5 km facing the sun. As the stairs ascend to the surface, the temperature is rising fast, so you will have to take off the cosy clothes one by one (of course, the last one you should keep it on you).

Now that you chilled out into the mesmerising salt mine, it’s time to go back outside into the burning sun and resume your way toward Cluj Napoca. First stop will be at the wonderful Lara Pension (Pensiunea Lara), which is located about 48 km away from the city, in an idyllic landscape that you will fall in love of instantly. Here you will end your day, enjoying the virgin nature and the local tasty food.

Pensiunea Lara

To reach this point you should set the navigator to take you from A to C, through B (A is Turda, C is Pensiunea Lara and B is Băișoara, where you take the 107N route). Being a remote area, reaching the destination will be a bit of a challenge, with some impaired roads, but with an outcome that will pay off.

Day 6

Cluj Napoca

After breakfast, you will depart toward the city of Cluj-Napoca. Here you have the choice of visiting the Old City Centre, where you can admire the Union Square (set your Sat-Nav to Piata Unirii Cluj), the most important symbol of the city, a state of mind, a form of life that will charm you with its authenticity. It’s impossible for you to miss here the church of St. Michael or the Statuary group of Mathias Rex. Also, here you can admire the Banffy Palace, which is hosting the Art Museum, as well as the adjacent street (Iuliu Maniu street) on sides of which the buildings are twins (the mirror street – you will see it). There is also the Continental Hotel (on the S-W corner of the Square) hosted by one of the most famous building in Cluj Napoca (since 1894). In the middle of the Square there are the roman artefacts of the former city of Napoca (Napocensis) as an evidence of the passing by of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (and later Commodus).

Close to the Continental Hotel, passing by the main building of the University of Cluj-Napoca, there is a very intimate café, called Insomnia, that I warmly recommend you pay a visit to. Find some more details on this link: http://trip-to-romania.eu/story-about-cluj/

For the lunch, you can pick any of the open restaurants that are to be found everywhere around (especially on the N-W side of the Union Square).

After a tasty meal in the noon, walk toward east side of the Square on the Eroilor Avenue, until reaching the Avram Iancu Square, where you will find the National Theatre of Cluj Napoca, the Orthodox Cathedral of Cluj and some very representative old buildings that are hosting nowadays some institutions: Regional Army HQ, Palace of Justice, Railway Palace and other. In the middle of the square you can see a statuary group of the national hero Avram Iancu and in front of it a very nice artesian fountain.

From here you can pay a visit to the Beer Factory of Cluj and The National Museum of Transylvanian History that is hosting the famous Tărtăria Tablets.

In the evening, you will return to the Lara Pension, setting the Sat-Nav toward this point (it should take you to the western exit of the City and further on the following route: Luna de sus – Vlaha – Săvădisla – Liteni – Băișoara – Moara de Pădure – Pensiunea Lara).

Day 7

Cluj Napoca – Sighisoara

A new day within your voyage, heading toward the famous medieval Citadel of Sighisoara. It will be a 3-hr drive road, going through Băișoara – Turda (take A3) – Luna (exit A3) – Luduș – Iernut – Recea (Transylvania Airport) – Ungheni – Leordeni – Acățari (where you turn right) – Bălăușeri – Chendu – Țigmandru – Hetiur – Sighișoara. There’s no need to speed up. Drive carefully, as there is no highway, and enjoy the sightseeing.

After reaching Sighisoara, look after the Casa cu Cerb Pension, that will host you over the night. Check-in and then take a walk into the Citadel which is hosting among other, the house where Vlad the Impaler (historical character that inspired the myth of Dracula) was born. For the rest of the day, enjoy the surroundings! (including the pubs, restaurants and the Tower of the Fortress).

The Tower of Sighisoara

Day 8

Visiting Dracula’s Home! ?

In the morning, refresh yourself with a good coffee and a tasty breakfast and then, off you go, toward Bran, that is hosting the Bran Castle, home of Dracula.

Follow the E60, heading toward Brasov. On your way, you will pass through the village of Saschiz, one of the several Saxon’s villages in Transylvania that preserved the heritage of medieval life. Here you can admire the fortified church that is located quite on the edge of the road, in the centre of the village (you cannot miss it, it’s visible from far away). After this break, continue your journey toward the city of Brasov, another city that preserved the medieval architecture and culture. You can stop by in the Old City Centre to enjoy a nice, tasty brunch (or lunch) in any of the many open restaurants from the area. Just look for the “Black Church” reference in your Sat Nav.

Brasov

Now it’s time to head toward today’s resting point: Bran village which is about 30 km away from Brasov (30 min drive, through the village Cristian and the town of Râșnov. After a busy day, you will be hosted into the very cosy Brătescu Mansion, where you can experience some delicious Romanian dishes and noble wines and then, rest in your retro, yet modern styled, room fitted with genuine antique furniture.

Day 9

Bran – Bucharest

In the morning, you will wake up into a stunning, peaceful scenery: the mansion is surrounded by green nature and the majestic Mountains of Bucegi. A good coffee in the room’s balcony will give you the right mood to start the visit at the Bran Castle, which is located very close from the mansion (just walk for about 5 min, down to the main road, then turn left and there you are, at the main gate of the Castle). Count Dracula might not be there to welcome you, so don’t be afraid to walk inside. Within the Castle, you will find some interesting historical info about its founders, its story and its legend. You will learn about the story that is behind the fictional character of Dracula and you will have the opportunity to imagine yourself living into those long past times.

Bran Castle - West Gate

You can linger in this place for as much as you want (however, try to avoid staying overnight in the Castle), as from here you will head toward the ending point of your holiday: Bucharest.

As such, you will have to take the road toward Râșnov and just before the entrance into this town, turn right, following the road sign toward Bucuresti and Predeal. Keep driving for about 20 km (1/2 hr.) until reaching the cross-road with the E60 roadway. Here you will turn right and keep your way straight forward heading toward Sinaia, a famous mountain resort which is hosting the not-less famous Peleș Castle, the former Royal residence of King Carol the 1st. If it’s not too late (let’s say around noon) it’s worth paying a visit to this Castle.

After visiting this last Romanian history jewel from your trip, start again driving toward Bucharest. You will take the E60 roadway again up to the neighbourhood of Ploiesti City, where you will follow the road sign for A3 highway that will lead you toward Bucharest. When you will get to the exit of this highway (after about 60 km of driving) set you Sat Nav for the Novotel Hotel and call us to welcome you back in the City.

In the evening, you will be our guests for the dinner, when you can share us the experience of the trip and, why not, make some plans for the next trip ?.

Day 10

Bucharest – Otopeni

Your final day in Romania. Check out from the hotel and enjoy a tasty coffee or tea, or have a shopping session, before we will come to guide you toward the Otopeni airport.

With the hope that you will enjoy this trip, we should say just:

Welcome to Romania!