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Time to pack your bags and get ready for the trip of your lifetime. This truly off-the-beaten-path destination tucked away in South-Eastern Europe will take your breath away over and over again.
We arrived in Romania on a warm, sunny day in October. The streets were lined with old ladies sweeping the dust from outside their houses whilst men wearing Trilby hats played chess on benches. Others were taking fresh vegetables to market by horse and cart. Everyone was smiling and the friendly presence about us was instantly infectious.
Romania has improved ten-fold since the revolution and subsequent collapse of communism in 1989. Whilst the tabloid press may still paint a dreary outlook of this overlooked country, the reality here couldn’t be any further from popular belief. Romanians are extremely welcoming to foreign visitors and the warmth they show is testament to their positive outlook on life and the prosperous future of their country they’re eagerly awaiting. Since joining the EU, Romania has enjoyed significantly less governmental corruption, better transport links, new road infrastructure and improved job prospects.
Exceptional landscapes coupled with fascinating history and culture will leave you wanting to stay here forever. Don’t even get me started on the delicious food. Here are our top 7 reasons you have to drop everything you’re doing, and visit Romania.
Traditional cuisine here fuses Turkish, Greek, Hungarian and German influence with true Romanian style. Hearty foods are an important part of life here and you’ll rarely see a small plate laid in front of you. This is definitely a country for the meat-eaters. Traditional specialities include; Ciorba de Burta (beef tripe soup), Varza a la Cluj (Cluj-style cabbage) and Sarmale (minced meat cabbage rolls) to name just a few. For the vegetarians, be sure to try Mamaliga cu branza si smantana (polenta with cheese and sour cream). If it's authentic street food you're after then look no further than Kürtőskalács, a strip of spun, sweet dough coated in sugar and lemon zest. Delicious!
The Carpathian Mountains arc their way through Romania for over 600 miles, surround by thick green forests, beautifully desolate plains country-wide and golden beaches along the 150 mile Black Sea coast, not forgetting Europe’s largest Delta at the mouth of the Danube creating the European Union’s most biogeographically diverse country. Romania boasts 14 National Parks and is host to over 3,700 species of plants and 33,700 species of animal.
Romania has the largest bear population in Europe with around 60 percent living in the Transylvania region. In some areas, it’s common to see bears in broad daylight ripping bin bags apart in search of food. Check out Bucegi National Park if you want the best opportunity to spot the bears. It’s also possible to camp here overnight (unofficially).
Despite over 24 million people speaking Romanian as their first language, it is often over looked as one of the Romance languages. Interestingly, it is the only Latin-based language spoken in Eastern Europe.
Despite Slavic influences, Romanian remains a significantly easier language to learn for native English speakers than those of neighbouring countries, particularly if you can already speak French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese or Catalan. According to the Foreign Service Institute of America, Romanian is easier to learn than German for English speakers.
If, like me, you find it difficult grasping any foreign languages then do not fear. Romania actually ranks above France, Spain and Italy in English proficiency and you’ll be sure to find someone who can help you translate.
For those who need to stay connected, Romania will not disappoint. With speeds of around 60mbps, Romania has the fastest connection in the whole of Europe and currently sits at 6th fastest in the global rankings. A SIM-only deal for a mobile phone will cost around 5 euros and give you around 10-14GB of high-speed 4G data. Perfect for bloggers, vloggers and Facebookaholics alike!
If you prefer the comfort of a car seat to the burn of a mountain hike, there are plenty of beautiful, breath-taking and jaw-dropping roads to explore here.
The Transfagarasan and Transalpina famously defy logic as they climb, wind and tunnel through the Carpathian mountain range at heights of 2042m and 2145m respectively, with the foremost being built in the 1970’s by crazed dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, claiming many lives in the process.
The quality of roads is constantly improving in Romania, with many being of better standard than you would find in the UK. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect to turn a corner and find the road turns to gravel and mud, with thirty goats and a drunk shepherd holding you up for a while, it’s all part of the fun!
Expect to witness one of the most inventive and creative driving styles in Europe, with drivers often spending more time on the wrong side of the road, overtaking horses and carts or avoiding pot holes.
If the open road, few people and no restrictions is what you’re after, then why aren’t you in Romania already? This country boasts endless amounts of wilderness, packing in National Parks, coastal hideaways, winding mountain tracks and all in between.
Natural attractions are not advertised or over-visited such as they are in Western European countries; subsequently you can park your van, light a fire or pitch a tent pretty much wherever you like without being ushered into tourist facilities and campsites by local authorities.
On the contrary, we had a police car stop us on the way to a wild park-up one night. Two men got out – one man wearing a knitted cardigan, seemingly the town mayor – and asked what were up to, wished us well and genuinely seemed pleased to see us visiting the area!
An elderly lady sits on her doorstep.
A view across the hills.
Camping in Bucegi National Park, nr Brasov.
Mud Volcanoes, nr Berca.
Kürtőskalács being traditionally cooked.
DN22, nr Constanta.
Have you visited? Let us know what you thought in the comments!
So much more…
We spent two weeks zigzagging across this incredible country, mainly tucked away enjoying the beautiful never ending natural wonders on offer. Looking back now, we regret not taking more time to visit the famous castles, the picturesque Transylvanian towns and indulging in more of the history.
Needless to say, we’re already planning another visit and would recommend to anyone serious about discovering and exploring new places to come to Romania during its exciting transitional years.