The Ultimate Romania Road Trip Guide
A Romania road trip is one full of twists and turns, both literally and figuratively. The country has some absolutely stunning scenery, while much of it is unspoiled by tourism. It is a country full of contrasts, with classic European old world cities, villages where man still uses horse & cart and, of course, some of the most road trip worthy roads in the world.
Romania is located in southeastern Europe and is probably best known for the forested region of Transylvania and the macabre stories of Dracula, however there is so much more to this country than the sum of its most well known parts. Romania has well-preserved medieval towns, fortified churches and castles, biodiversity reserves and so much more.
The following Romania road trip guide will provide both story narrative as well as tips and recommendations when visiting this up-and-coming destination.
This nearly 3-week long road trip of Romania was done with the help and participation of Romanian native and fellow travel blogger, Mihaela Popa of World Travel Bug, with support from Marian Oancia of Zig Zag prin Romania.
Romania Road Trip Vehicle – Mercedes-Benz B-Class
This road trip of Romania was driven in the new Mercedes-Benz B-Class. The B-Class got great fuel millage without compromising on performance. Mixed fuel consumption: 4,9 – 5.5 l/100km. CO2 emissions (g/km): 128-145].
It has wonderful acceleration, great handling and is very comfortable and fun to drive. It’s also loaded with technology, including many Intelligent Drive systems. Key elements of the B-Class are the dynamics, comfort and safety.
While the B-Class is a fantastic general-purpose vehicle, for the road trip outlined below, we would recommend a higher clearance SUV as many of the roads in Romania are not paved and can be challenging for lower-profile cars. Click the following link to read my full review of the Mercedes-Benz B-Class 200d.
Romania Road Trip Map as detailed below
Romania Road Trip Interactive Map Coming Soon
Road Trip Romania Started in Bucharest (Day 1,2,3)
As the capital of Romania, you will likely fly into Bucharest (Henri Coandă International Airport). It’s absolutely worth spending a few days in the capital city, but for a truly unique experience, follow the guide below for a Romania road trip adventure of a lifetime.
I flew into Bucharest from Frankfurt on Tarom, the Romania national airline, where I met up with Michaela of World Travel Bug who would be my guide and co-pilot for the next few weeks.
We began our trip with a stay at the Epoque Hotel, which is one of the best hotels in Bucharest and is the only Relais & Châteaux property in the country. The location is in a quiet alcove of Bucharest near the beautiful Cismigiu park and walking distance to the old city center, where you’ll find a wide variety of restaurants, shops, museums and plenty of ways to entertain yourself.
The exterior of Epoque hotel is iconic looking with representative details of old-world Romanian architecture, called “Brancoveanean style”. The rooms have an air of sophistication, and some feature mini terraces. The spa, with its beautiful mosaic pieces of artwork, is not to be missed.
On a nice day, breakfast on the outdoor patio is a great way to start the day. The bar and lounge have a classic contemporary style with a mini grand piano and a candelabra on display. The lighting throughout the property is designed to enhance the setting. The artwork in the lounge represents some of Romania’s most prolific creators…from artists, musicians, poets to a politician.
48 hours in Bucharest, don’t miss…
- Unirii Square water fountains (Don’t miss the evening light show May-Oct on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings).
- Old Town – the very happening heart of the city, full of historic buildings, restaurants and clubs.
- Dining at Pâine și Vin – Great little wine bar.
- Herăstrău Park – a huge park surrounding the biggest lake in Bucharest. There you can find lots of outdoor dining options, lounge bars and even night clubs. This is more high end area and it feels a world away from the city. Travel blog Two Scots Abroad have a great post on more things to do in Bucharest.
Romania Road Trip day 4- Bucharest to the Danube Delta (Tulcea County)
Distance: 280km/174miles (3.5 hours without stops)
Smack dab in the middle of the Danube Delta, we spent an afternoon exploring marshlands with paths carved though a sea of lily pads and floating forests. The wildlife thrives in this area and bird watching is particularly entertaining.
Ionut Calin is one of the best guides in the Delta with over 26 years’ experience—he knows every channel, waterway and bird species. As a matter of fact, when he shows you a bird, he can even tell you what page the bird is featured-on in any of his three books of birds. We were very fortunate to have Ionut as our own private guide for a few hours.
As the sun was setting, we entered a channel shaded by trees on both banks. Birds of all types would frequently leave their perches and fly over our heads, silhouetting themselves against the waning sun, flying gracefully through the sky.
We approached an embankment with a small clearing to get an unobstructed look of the setting sun. In the foreground we saw irises in full bloom, while lush fauna ensconced us. The harmonic sounds of birds, frogs and other wildlife filled the air with a symphony of sounds.
The sunset gave way to darkness, but our journey had not yet concluded. The boat engine revved up to increase speed as we made our way to our accommodations for the night. We arrived at a small inn owned by the sister of our guide (Ionut). It was a modest inn with seven rooms and a common area for dinner and breakfast.
It was after 10pm when we arrived. We were shown to our room where we placed our luggage and headed into the dining hall. We sat at a table with five other people who clearly knew each other, all speaking Romanian. Because of the rural nature of the area I wasn’t expecting any of them to speak English, but to my delight, they all did.
We actually had wonderful conversations full of laughter. It was well past 11pm before we got back to our room.
The morning light came early, but exhaustion enable a couple more restless hours before having breakfast and heading back out on the Danube, eventually arriving to the spot where we had parked our car.
Where to Stay in this Part of the Delta
- While navigating the waterways we noticed there are a number of stationary houseboats that seem to be a popular choice for tourists. Apparently you can sign up for guided tours and they provide transportation to/from your car.
- We also floated past the Pensiunea Casa Dintre Salcii Delta Dunarii, which looks like it might be worth checking out.
Romania Road Trip days 4 and 5 Danube Delta – Tulcea to Mahmudia
Distance: 32km/20miles about 40 minutes
Our homebase for staying in this part of the Delta was the Hotel Mon Jardin, which has a fleet of boats and guides that can take you deep into the Delta (a different part from our first day). They also have a large cruise vessel that can fit up to 90 people for corporate events.
Hotel Mon Jardin makes a great home-based for exploring the Delta. The hotel is located on the banks of the Saint George branch, a major arm of the Danube River.
The accommodations are quite nice and they have a lovely restaurant with a large patio right on the river serving many fresh fish dishes. Their Delta guides are quite knowledgeable with the ability to accommodate a variety of needs and interests.
On one of our tours we explored Litcov, the largest channel in the Delta at over 100 km, as well as Gorgova, one of the largest lakes in the Delta. Gorgova is usually a great place to see flocks of swans and pelicans. Mon Jardin is well positioned as the entrance to the channel and the lakes are not far from the hotel.
Some of the channels in this area of the Delta are well canopied with weeping willows, other trees and tall grasses. Birds often flew right in front of us while soaring through the open channels. The area feels a bit like the Amazon, but with completely different vegetation.
Frogs sing in unison while leaping from lily pad to lily pad. The sun occasional bursts through the canopy of trees creating a surreal or dream-like effect, similar to one you’d see in the scene of a romantic movie.
It’s impossible to be stressed in the Delta. The warm sun on your skin, the breeze on your face. The songs of nature emanating through the grasses and other foliage…it lulls you into a stupor of relaxation.
A road trip through this area of Romania reveals many small villages with sheep and goat herder‘s, silver steeple churches, rolling hills and roaming horses. In late spring when we did this trip, the roads were lined with wildflowers; many were red poppies that popped against the green grass.
Driving through some of the villages we found locals selling a variety of fruits and other homemade goods being offered from makeshift stands right from the front of their yards/houses. We bought half a kilo of cherries and half a kilo of strawberries for 12 Lei (about $3) for a road trip snack.
Road Trip Romania Day 7 – Delta to Ferma Dacilor (Dealu Mare wine region)
Distance: 321km or 200 miles about 6 hours without stops
After three days in the Delta it was time to head to our next destination. While leaving the region we had to board a small vehicle ferry (Trecere Bac Braila) for about a 5-minute crossing across the Danube river. This would be one of our longest days of driving.
Our first stop of the day was to a place called Vulcanii Noroioși Pâclele Mari, which is a fascinating geological area where small mud volcanoes erupt every few seconds, oozing warm goo down a hill that has been formed by the eruptive activity. Over time, large crevasses have been created as the muddy area expands. The landscape is quite remarkable, especially with the aerial views we had from the drone.
We then headed to Dealu Mare, which is the largest wine producing region in the country, just 1.5-2 hours from Bucharest (great for just a day trip).
While in the area we stayed at Ferma Dacilor, which was such an amazing experience. It is a bit difficult to describe Ferma Dacilor—it’s sort of a boutique farm lodge (looks a bit like a hunting lodge), set within an incredible setting of rolling hills of farmland. There are rooms in the main farmhouse, or for more privacy, you can stay in the raised tree houses like we did. In the near future guests will have the option to stay in individual structures that look like yurts, but are permanent rock wall structures with thatched roofs. These new structures are inspired by the ancient population call Daci (which is also where the name of the Romanian car Dacia is coming from).
The facility has a very large common area with a series of smaller areas for dining, as well as meetings. Rough cut lumber makes up the benches for dining, tongue-and-groove wood makes up the ceilings. There is wonderful outdoor space for dinning/congregating around the occasional bonfire. The food is very traditional Romanian, much of which is grown, harvested and produced on-site. Animals on site include deer, rabbits, pheasants and many others. All the cheese, cured meats and organic vegetables are all grown and harvested at the farm. The aesthetics of the interior construction, as well as the music, reflect traditional Romanian roots.
There are some really cute dogs that roam the property, one of whom walked us to our accommodations that evening and was more than eager to join us inside, but when we refused him, he stayed at the front door all night, as if guarding us. We checked on him several times, each time expecting he would have left, but yet, there he laid. Occasionally, we would open the door just to give him some lovin’.
We found out from the owner that only 30% of the farm has been completed from the overall plans for the long term vision.
In hindsight, we really wish we would have stayed more than a single night a Ferma Dacilor, it’s a fantastic location to use as a home base to explore the region. As I mentioned, this is an extensive wine region…one winery you can’t miss for a tasting and tour is Lacerta.
Road Trip Romania Day 8 and 9 – Dealu Mare to Brasov (Brasov County)
Distance: 140km or 87 miles – about 3 hours of driving with no stops
On our way to Brasov we stopped by the Peles Castle and did a tour. The grounds are simply amazing, but you do have to go with a group tour to see inside. Personally, I don’t care for these large group tours, but I have to say, this was definitely worth it as the interior is pretty spectacular. If you don’t have much experience visiting castles, I would definitely recommend you this one.
We arrived into Brasov where we called the Hotel Safrano home for a couple of nights. The location of the hotel could not be better, literally right across the street from the old square and walking distance to everything you’ll want to see in Brasov. There is however no parking near the hotel, so you have to drop off your luggage and then find nearby parking and walk back. We were pretty lucky and found free parking rather close.
The accommodations at Hotel Safrano are what you might expect from a 3-star historic hotel. Our room was quite spacious with fantastic views of the old square.
Brasov is a fantastic place to visit and also makes for a great hub to explore other nearby sites and activities, such as the Bran Castle, aka home of Dracula.
Things not to miss in Brasov:
- The Black Church – the most impressive monument in the city, right in the old town square.
- Old town square
- Climb up to one of the two towers (Black tower or White tower) to see amazing views of the city.
- Tampa Cable Car – This cable car experience will take you to the top of Tampa mountain where you can hike, picnic or just take in the sweeping views of Brasov and beyond.
- Strada Sforii – One of the narrowest streets in all of Europe.
Places to eat in Brasov:
- Bella Muzica Restaurant – Located in an old wine cellar. The atmosphere is amazing; the food however is pretty average.
- La Ceaun is a nice place with a great outdoor patio and some really nice traditional Romanian dishes.
- Terroirs Boutique du Vin – Fantastic wine bar with some pretty decent food.
Click the following link for more information on Brasov:
Romania Road Trip Day 10 – Brasov to Transfagarasan (Transylvania)
Distance: 195km or 113 miles – about 4 hours of driving without stops
As we left Brasov, our next stop was to the most popular and well known attraction in all of Romania, the Bran Castle (aka Dracula’s Castle). While some say this castle is the home of the title character of the Bram Stoker’s Dracula, others claim this is only a myth. Whatever the truth, the Bran Castle has become famous the world over.
Personally, I would not recommend visiting Bran Castle. In this trip I found out that there are so many other more impressive castles and things to see in Romania. It’s also not fun having to contend with the hoards of tourists in such small corridors to tour the castle. On the positive side, you can tour the castle without a guide, so you can go at your own pace, which is really nice.
Transfagarasan is one of the most scenic roads in the world, it’s windy, twisty, and very scenic…nirvana for road trippers. It became even more famous after the show Top Gear did an episode on the region by bringing three ultra high-performance vehicles to the area to race to the top. Transfagarasan has dramatic rock formations, waterfalls that trickle down the mountainside, lakeside views of Vidraru Lake (One of the deepest lakes in Romania), and stretches of road that take the driver through a canopied forest. There’s also a series of tunnels carved out of the mountain to make the trip even more dramatic.
Notes: It was raining on the day we arrived and the grey cloudy sky did not provide us with much opportunity to take photos or even test out the handling of our Mercedes-Benz B-Class.
The dam that holds back the lake is a great stopping point and is also the largest hydroelectric facility in the country.
The full length of Transfagarasan (90km) is only open a 2-3 months out of the year. A small portion of 23km is closed the rest of the year due to snow. In late May when we did this road trip of Romania, we got stopped by a barricade well before reaching the top. We were however greeted by a massive 500-foot waterfall, snowcapped peaks and a glimpse of the famous curvy road ahead.
We ended up staying the night at a run-down hotel (Cabana Cumpana) about 20km downhill from where we met the baracade. We had to travel on a very rugged muddy dirt road about 7km from Transfagarasan. As we made our way at a snail pace, we finally reach Cabana Cumpana. We actually saw the hotel form the other side of the small lake we had to travel around to get to the hotel. Through the trees we both remarked that we hoped that was our hotel.
Our wish was granted, but our enthusiasm soon diminished as we entered the stately structure. At first it seemed like a hotel similar to the one portrayed in the 1970s horror movie, The Shinning with Jack Nicolas. It was really run down and it looked like we were the only guests staying there. Ended up, there were perhaps a dozen people staying at this 1-star hotel. Funny enough, we ended up getting an outstanding night’s rest.
The bathroom was so gross that neither of us even showered the next morning, we only took a change of underwear with us and got the hell out of the hotel as soon as we could the next day.
The following day was quite pleasant, while there were many clouds in the sky, the rain had passed and we really enjoyed our time driving down the mountain, stopping frequently to take in the scenery.
As we were leaving Transfagarasan we stopped by Hotelul Possada-Vidraru for lunch. This is a nice looking hotel and one that we would recommend over the place we stayed. We initially thought it would be better to stay higher up the mountain, but found that staying at the base and traveling up during a day trip would have been perfectly suitable.
Click the following link to continue reading this Ulitimate Road Trip Romania Guide.