I love road trips as they give so much flexibility to go where you want. The flipside is that I tend to want to see even more, since I have the possibility. In hindsight, we could favorably skipped some of the places we stopped by, so here is the route and sights I recommend, including links to the more informative blog posts from the different places. Naturally, I could have liked to stay longer at the various locations, but at least you get a taste.
Getting there: Most people fly in to Bucharest, and are serviced by both low cost and full service airlines. Wizz Air is a major operator, with direct flights from more than 30 destinations.
Local sim card: As we did not have a GPS in the car, and also had not booked our accommodation upfront, we got a local sim card from Vodafone. You can get one in any Vodafone shop, but make sure to ask them to activate the program you want, as all the instructions will be in Romanian….
Navigation: We used Google Maps for navigation, and it worked like a charm most of the time. We named our “Google Voice” Vladina, and she only let us down once, when we were driving the Transfagarasan Highway. But that is a different story….
Day one: Bucharest – Brašov
Pick up the rental car at Bucharest airport. We chose the national Romanian company Autonom. Drive straight to Brasov, and skip the detour to Snagov Monastery unless you are extremely eager to see the tomb of Vlad Tepes… It also ended up being a long detour, as we struggled a bit to find the way to the monastery.
Stroll the streets of Brasov and soak in the atmosphere. If you have time, take the cable car to the top of Tampa for an overview of the city.
Central House Hostel
Central location on the main street in the old town. We stayed in a 4-bed room with private bathroom. Beds were comfortable, bathroom clean and the room was spacious. Enough sockets for everyone.
Wonderful and big apartment in a quiet parallel street to the main street. Lovely balcony and pleasant host. Nice and clean, and great to have the fridge for cold drinks in the morning.
Day two: Bran and Rasnov
Visiting Transylvania, Bran Castle – known as the castle of Dracula, was a must! Dracula pops up in most people’s minds when they hear Transylvania. With good reason. Bram Stoker’s novel took place here, but the writer himself actually never visited Romania. Get ready for a day of Dracula, medieval citadel and (disappointing?) views. Arriving back in Brasov, walk around a little bit more.
Stay overnight in Casa Postavarului
Day three: Drive from Brasov to Sighisoara via Fagaras
In case you have not yet seen what I suggested in Brasov, it is time for some morning sightseeing before hitting the road. A short stop by the castle in Fagaras is nice, before continuing on a scenic country side road. Watch out for sheep and holes in the streets. And beautiful scenery, of course!
Very nice host, centrally located in the citadel, in what turned out to be our favorite street. The room was spacious and bathroom nice. The host invited us for a drink and gave us information about the city. Breakfast is available for an extra fee, either bread with jam/honey or omelet.
Pension am Schneiderturm
The room was not the biggest, but good enough for us. Nice outdoor seating area. Very helpful host, gave us a lot of information both about Sighisoara, the area, and gave us tips what roads to choose for our onward journey. The breakfast was outstanding, with all types of cheese, sausages of sheep, deer, bear and boar. Also many types of both marmalades and honey. Cereal, fruit and yoghurt was also available. A great way to taste many local specialties. Make sure you do not miss this breakfast!
Day four: Daytrip from Sighisoara to Biertan fortified church and Bethlen castle in Cris
Sighisoara is the perfect base for a daytrip to Biertan and Cris. Explore the majestic Manor house with the adorned cylinder shaped tower in Cris, before heading on to the charming rural village Biertan and the fortified church that is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Return to Sighisoara for more strolling and enjoy a drink outside between the lovely colorful houses.
Day five: A full day drive to Maramures.
Not the most interesting day, the road was actually quite boring, with exception of a few stretches of attractive scenery and lovely villages. The settlements in the north are different; the houses are more scattered, not like pearls on a string along the road as further south. Horse and carriage is also noticeably more prevalent in this area.
The first wooden church we saw, we stopped the car and got out. Just hold your horses and don’t. There are so many nicer, and older, coming up along the way. We did a detour to Moisei Monastery but you can easily skip that as well, as Barsana Monastery complex that you will visit later is much nicer.
Ieud was along the way and we stopped by the old wooden church to get a taste of what was in stall for us the next day. Driving the picture perfect rural road between Ieud and Botiza was a great choice, and we had to stop several times for photographing.
A wonderful home stay with a lovely family. The room was spacious with shared bathroom in the hall. We chose half-board with dinner and breakfast. We got a fantastic soup with vegetables, potatoes, meat and egg for first course, polenta with cheese as main, and apples in syrup for dessert. And of course homemade wine and snaps from the grapes in their garden. We did not go to bed hungry….. Breakfast was egg, bacon, jam and bread. The oldest generation did not speak English, but Ioana came home after a short while. The three year old daughter was super sweet and tried her best to entertain us with dancing and singing.
Day six: The day of wooden churches, the Merry Cemetery, and bars…
What is your definition of Hell? According to the ones making the wall paintings inside the wooden church Poienile Izei, it is the Devil playing violin while you try to sleep!
After being amused by this, we continued for more laughter at the Merry Cemetery. That does sound completely wrong, I know. But the people in Sapanta wanted to turn the tragedy of death into something funny, and created the Merry Cemetery.
Arriving in Cluj, I must admit that I did not find the city particularly charming. However, the Old town of Cluj is an energetic area with many bars. After some days in quiet areas, it was nice to be able to enjoy the lively atmosphere and some people watching.
Very spacious apartment, nice and clean. Good location near the main square and old town. Parking available nearby.
Day seven: Sibiu
We got an early start, both because we needed to get the most of the time in Sibiu, but also due to the fact that we did not figure out how pay for the parking longer than to the evening. We could of course go in the morning to pay to park longer, but then we had to wake up anyway.
To break up the drive, we made a stop in Sebes. It can easily be skipped to avoid wasting the time you could spend in Sibiu. Sibiu on the other hand is worth some time, and getting a short guided tour of the city even more so.
Nice location in the old town. Pleasant family, the room was big and new, and everything was very clean. Parking nearby.
Day eight: Driving the Transfagarasan Highway and Bucharest.
The Transfagarasan Highway is the Romanian version of the Norwegian Trollstigen. And what a spectacular drive! At least if you are lucky enough to escape the fog….
After starting with an unnecessary detour (thank you very much, Vladina….), the drive took a little longer than expected, but as the weather was pretty bad, we saved some time doing less photo stops. I would call that a lose-lose situation, though…
Anyway, arriving safe back in the city center in Bucharest, a man from Autonom car rental company came to meet us, as they offer free pick up of the car within the city limit. Perfect! That saved us the time and hassle to get back after delivering the car at the airport.
Time to explore Bucharest, the last stop on this fantastic journey through the beautiful and fascinating Romania! Several times along the way we were already talking about when we could go back to explore more….
Maya Old Town Apartment
Good location on the street just outside of the old town. The room is one of three in a bigger apartment. Shared kitchen and seating area with the other rooms, but had a private bathroom. Spacious and clean room.
So go ahead and explore Romania on your own! Feel free to get inspired by this itinerary, and if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask!
If you prefer someone else to plan and book everything for you, or even join an organized tour, the travel agent VisitRomania.No offer these services. Their wine tour already got me tempted….