Before my trip through Romania a couple of weeks ago, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Having very limited travel experience of Eastern Europe, my knowledge of the area wasn’t fantastic, and my knowledge of Romania as a tourist destination was almost non-existent. This allowed me to travel there with little to no pre-conceived ideas or expectations, and everything I encountered was more than a pleasant surprise.
I was fortune enough to be invited on this trip by Cox & Kings, who’re the world’s longest standing travel company. Romania is their second most popular European destination, behind only Russia; and after only a few days it was clear why it has such an appeal to their discerning clients.
Our trip began with the direct flights from Heathrow into Bucharest, where we spent one night before our road-trip began. The following morning we were up early and whisked off into the foothills of the Bucegi Mountains, home to two of the biggest tourist attractions in the country: Peles and Bran Castle – home to the infamous Count Dracula. They were completely contrasting in their styles, with the former being a huge palace that used to house King Carol and his wife (and apparently his many mistresses) and still to this day contains all of the original décor (which is really quite stunning!); and the latter is more of a ‘traditional’ castle which contains little other than various pieces of torture apparatus and a small selection of original furniture. It is the latter which draws the most tourists, as it was made famous as the home of Vlad The Impaler in the Count Dracula film and novels.
The next few days followed a similar pattern with the journey taking us into the very north of the country, not far from the border with Ukraine, across the Carpathian Mountains from Transylvania into the Bucovina region, which plays hosts to most of the monasteries and fortified churches. Throughout the journey, our incredibly knowledgeable local tour guide, Adrian, would inform us about everything we were seeing as well as giving us an incredibly detailed run down of Romania’s history, which is heavily scattered with invasions, foreign occupancy and years of communist rule. This colourful past can be seen in all kinds of shapes and sizes throughout the nation, with huge communist cities towering over tiny Austrian villages reminiscent of the Alps, adjacent to German and Hungarian-style churches and settlements.
Over the 7 days we visited castles, churches and fortified monasteries; crossed countless mountain passes; ate in traditional lodges and guesthouses in cities, right through to tiny farming villages; and witnessed traditional folk dancing and hospitality in absolute abundance.
In addition to this, there were a number of beautiful little towns that would be perfect for a long weekend away: Brasov, Sibiu, Sighisoara and Cluj-Napoca, plus it’s also home to some fantastic (and extremely cheap!) ski resorts up in the Carpathian Mountain range – so there’s plenty of reason to visit!
Whilst Romania probably doesn’t feature at the top of many people’s travel bucket list, as a destination is contains history, culture and breath-taking landscapes as far as the eye can see, and Cox & Kings as a tour operator could not be faulted one bit. Through them we offer private, bespoke itineraries as well as expertly guided group tours, which I can now say with confidence, will ensure you have an incredible, all-encompassing travel experience in whichever holiday destination you desire.