Is Maramures County in Transylvania

The best sights of Transylvania

Have you ever heard of Transylvania, a place somewhere in Eastern Europe that is said to be beautiful and mysterious? If the answer is yes, you are probably thinking of vampires hiding in medieval castles with dramatic landscapes ... without knowing where that is!

Indeed, Transylvania is MUCH more.


A lot of people I know have told me that you want to visit Transylvania, but it wouldn't be easy for her! Transylvania is not a city or a small piece of land. It is 1/3 the area of ​​Romania and is larger than Austria. To get your basic information (exact location, entry cities, sub-regions) you should start with our guide to the Transylvania region. Long story in a nutshell, Transylvania - correctly speaking, is an area that is located in a triangle between Sibiu - Brasov - Sighisoara.

If you are planning a trip here, you will need at least 3-5 days to travel between different parts of Transylvania and understand why this region is so famous. In addition to the fascinating history of the Middle Ages, you should also travel to sub-regions such as Maramures, Bucovina or Motilor Land (S-W Apuseni Mountains), each of which has its own cultural identity. There you will experience the magical Romanian landscape - slow, peaceful and archaic. It's one of the best things you can do in Romania - guaranteed!

But the most important, what you should know is that visiting Transylvania is not about seeing its top sights, snapping some photos and going to the next town. The reason HRH Prince Charles fell in love with this region and now owns 4 village guest houses where he spends his summer is the authentic charm and unique village life. Here the locals have preserved their traditions, customs and rural way of life in perfect communion with nature. The best part? This lifestyle was preserved like in a time bubble, without industrialization, modern civilization or mass tourism.

The cultural heart of the Romanian people is best experienced in village life, as many of our historians have said, where a self-sustaining, God-fearing, simple and nature-loving way of life was the cornerstone of Romanian culture, passed down from generation to generation.

So, if you're short on time and want to see the best attractions in Transylvania - read this article. On our website you can find day trips that can visit all of these attractions and many others such as Cluj-Napoca, Sibiu or Brasov. But if you want to experience the authentic slow life of Transylvania, then consider spending a few nights in the region, preferably outside of major cities - we can help with planning an individual tour or suggest the best places for it.

But before we move on with the list, there are a few things you should know about Romanian history so that you have a better idea of ​​what these landmarks represent and what to expect.

A short story about Transylvania

Latin for “the land beyond the forests”, where the Carpathian Mountains have always taken care of the natural protection of this hidden pearl, Transylvania is probably one of the most picturesque in Europe, next to Tuscany or Provence. 2,000 years ago, large parts of it (the southwestern part known as Tara Hațegului) were settled by our ancestors, the Dacians. The ruins of the Dacian Citadel are now a UNESCO heritage. After Dacia was conquered by the Roman Empire in AD 100, the combination of people, migrants and settlers is what ultimately gave birth to the Romanians.

Southeast Transylvania was settled in the 13th century by Saxons (later Protestant Germans) and Szekely (Catholic-Hungarian) settlers who, along with Orthodox Romanians, Jews and other peoples, inhabited the region for almost 800 years. You can now imagine the mix of cultures, traditions and lifestyles that you will see in towns and villages.

Sibiu or Hermanstadt


In the Middle Ages, Transylvania was founded as a principality under Hungarian (later Habsburg-Austrian) rule, although the Romanian population had an overwhelming majority. The feudal lords of different subregions had different interests so a number of alliances, betrayals, battles and truces ensued that you will need a guide or a history book to learn more about. This lasted until 1918 when the centuries-old dream of the Romanian-speaking people came about: the Great Union of Alba Iulia, when all Romanian provinces were united in the same state.

So you see, there is a lot of history behind all the locks and fortifications. And everywhere the Romanian villagers bravely survived and preserved their way of life.

And now, let's check out the top attractions in Transylvania:

1. Bran Castle or (also mistakenly known as) the famous Dracula Castle

We're starting with this so we can get it straight from the start: Thanks to Bram Stoker's Dracula novel and the 1992 Hollywood movie, the castle itself is a sight to behold. Located on a mountain ridge in dramatic landscapes, the stark medieval views and menacing towers will impress you. Built 700 years ago as a strategic fortress to defend the valley against the expansion of the Ottoman Empire from Wallachia, the castle has a fascinating history.

It is also Romania's first tourist attraction and has Dracula day from most of the tourists. Located in Bran, you can easily visit the castle with day trips from Brasov, Bucharest and Sibiu. If you want to avoid all 'Dracula tourist traps' and (false) stories, consider one of our tours with handpicked guides that offer you an authentic experience.

And just in case you're wondering - staying in Bucharest for a few days and taking a day trip to see Peles Castle, Brasov and Bran Castle that you visited Transylvania!

2. Fortified settlements that are part of the UNESCO heritage

With so much migration and colonization in the Middle Ages, many medieval settlements and larger cities in Transylvania were built with defensive intent, fortified or with a citadel nearby to take refuge. These well-preserved buildings are a living testimony to the fascinating and unexpected twists and turns of Transylvania - there are more than 150 fortified structures in the area!

the fortified church in Viscri


Because of their importance, two of these historical landmarks have been included in UNESCO heritage: the Citadel of Sighisoara, which is among the best in Europe and is close to 7 villages with fortified churches also known as Saxon Villages in Transylvania and by German settlers were founded in the 13th to 14th centuries. The citadel of Sighisoara is still inhabited. The village is from this group Viscri the most popular, thanks to HRH Price Charles personal interest - he even bought a house here!

But apart from the fact that these villages are incredibly old, these medieval villages preserve our rural culture and the way of life of our ancestors as if in a time bubble. You will literally travel 100 years in the past when you see these villages or spend a night here. Brasov, Sibiu or Cluj-Napoca are good starting points for discovering Transylvania and the historical sights.

3. The most authentic Romanian castle - Corvin Castle (Hunyadi)

Time for another castle - one of our favorites! A strong contender for Bran is Corvin Castle, also known as Hunyade Castle, a splendid Gothic and Renaissance sight that has retained its authentic medieval feel.

Built in the 15th century as a fortified residence for a regional ruling dynasty, there is a lot of Transylvanian history to learn here (on a different plot of land than Bran). There are also some legends about the family seal and the symbol of the castle - a raven, Corvus in Latin, with a gold ring in its beak. Better than any Dracula story you hear!

The Corvin Castle is located in central-western Romania in the city of Hunedoara, near Sibiu and Timisoara. Although the castle has become increasingly popular in recent years, it is very difficult to get there by public transport.

4. Immerse yourself in spectacular (and healthy!) Salt mines from Romania

Time for a unique sight - you should visit a salt mine during your trip to Transylvania. The difference between salt mines and all other mines is that breathing salty air is good for your health. Romanian doctors send people with respiratory problems to salt mines for therapy. There is even evidence that the Romans were in salt mines 2,000 years ago for the same reason.

Going to a salt mine in Romania is like going to the park on a chilly day - spending time reading, talking, playing all kinds of games, doing sports or even tasting wine. Incidentally, no cellular reception - that's a big plus! The idea is to spend at least 3-4 hours inside, and for this reason, salt mines in Romania are usually set up as small amusement parks.

There are 2 salt mines in Transylvania that you should visit: Salina Praid, hidden in the communist mountain town, and the spectacular one Turda salt mine (Picture above). The long corridors and the man-made caves are adorned with light installations and offer a breathtaking and unique view of a ... cave! There is also a small lake where you can practice your rowing skills (or impress someone!). Visiting Turda Salt Mine is one of the unique activities in Romania that you can tell your friends and family about!

5. At the heart of Romania's modern history: Alba Iulia Citadel

Surprise - another historical sight, but one of great significance for Romanian history. The Alba Iulia Citadel is considered the spiritual birthplace of modern Romania. Within its walls, the Great Union of 1918 was proclaimed, which united the Principality of Transylvania with the rest of Romania (Wallachia and Moldova). It was the last moment in a 300 year struggle for all Romanians to be united under the same state.

The citadel itself was built on the remains of a Roman castrum in the early 17th century and served as a strategic fortress and center or power in the heart of Transylvania. Today the Alba Iulia Citadel is a splendid sight that breathes history through its cobblestone. It is home to many buildings that can be visited and there is a guard that changes the ceremony every day at 12:00. Visit Alba Iulia Citadel on a day trip from Cluj-Napoca or Sibiu.

6. Transfagarasan Highway - a mouth full of fantastic views

Judging by the picture - it doesn't need any further introduction. Shown in Top Gear as the best road surface in the world, it probably is. I did it myself and it's the best driver memory I have. Built with a special purpose in mind during communist times, a lot of dynamite was used to carve this 2,000m high path.

Of Brasov or Sibiu coming you drive on one side of the mountain until you finally come to a gently winding road that leads upwards. Magnificent views open up when you bend at 60 km / h in search of the top. There you will see how sharp mountain ridges offer wonderful views of the great plains of Transylvania. Transfagarasan means “via the Fagaras Mts.” From Wallachia to Transylvania. There is also a cable car from the base, but the experience is not as good as taking a car ride on the Transfagarasan Highway!

7. Romanian life, people and culture

Every city in Transylvania has its own unique personality and ambience that will inspire you. The hip, trendy and student city of Cluj-Napoca will be juxtaposed with the cultural charm of Sibiu or the medieval atmosphere of Brasov. The towns of Sighisoara, Targu-Mures or Bistrita shouldn't be overlooked - all of them are rich in tourist attractions, with large medieval-style squares or narrow streets to get lost in.

But Transylvania true beauty lies in its famous landscape, where the simple way of life of the locals, with their sense of community and their hospitality, conquers your soul immediately. Together with the beautiful landscapes, the quaint village life and the slow pace for everything, you have a perfect vacation in Romania far away from the busy cities. Spend some time in a local village in Transylvania to get a taste of authentic local life:

Or explore the Carpathian foothills of Transylvania on a horseback excursion:

Or would you like to spend the night in a rural farmhouse?


And then there are some regions with a unique charm that will give you the most authentic Romanian landscape you can find - yes it is possible. The traditional Maramures region will impress you: centuries old Romanian traditions and customs part of daily life, wood carving everywhere and locals in traditional clothes on Sundays (the Romanian traditional blouse called ie by the way). In addition to the delicious food (with regional dishes!) There are some interesting attractions such as the Merry Cemetery of Sapanta or the famous wooden churches. A visit to Maramures is a sight to see Transylvania and Romania!


***


There is more to visit in the area, but hopefully that's enough to start planning. There are many places to hike in Transylvania and the region is also famous for traditional dishes that cannot be found anywhere else! So, as you can see, there is a lot to discover - if you need help planning your trip or want to do a personally defined tour - don't hesitate to contact us!

Your Romanian friend

Marius