Romania and Transylvania travel guide, including map of Romania, top Romania travel experiences, tips for travel in Romania, including wildlife watching
Few countries divide the beens from the haven’t-beens quite so sharply as Romania.
For distant observers, the country conjures up a grim trio of images: vampires, communism and orphanages. Those who have visited, though, know the truth: that this is one of Europe’s most beautiful, unspoilt and culturally fascinating lands – a time-capsule only now opening up to the outside world.
The great central region of Transylvania is Romania’s green heart, ringed by the Carpathian mountains and home to bears, wolves, wooden villages and traditional shepherd camps. Dracula’s mythic homeland is in fact an Eden for walkers, wildlife lovers and history buffs, and holds many clues to lifestyles long-lost elsewhere in Europe.
To the north lies the even more isolated, forested region of Maramures – little changed for centuries until the fall of communism. To the east is the buzzy university city of Timisoara, where the revolutionary spark was lit in 1989; while to the south are the shimmering plains of Wallachia and the sinuous wetlands of the Danube Delta – perhaps Europe’s top birdwatching destination.
Now part of the EU, Romania is undoubtedly modernising fast – Bucharest recently acquired a Ferrari dealership – but throughout the country, a precious cultural heritage endures. Communism may have spread its usual concrete fungus across towns and cities, but rural life remains slow-paced and seasonal. Whether you’re interested in Gypsy music, Saxon festivals, Ukrainian churches or nomadic shepherding, in Romania you can still see it in action.
The fight to preserve these traditions is one reason why those who visit Romania tend to become passionate advocates, returning again and again. Go and see what you’re missing.
Take bears seriously – they can run up to 35mph and kill a cow (let alone you) with one cuff. Watch from a hide with an expert guide: naturalist and tour leader Danut Marin is a former winner of the Wanderlust World Guide Awards.
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