Imagine beaches, ski slopes, the Sistine Chapel of the East, the Arcul de Triumf, mountains, plains and valleys, and the beautiful Northern Balkans. You can find all of this in Romania, a mysterious land where adventure awaits you! This is a country with a variety of landscape, and lots of opportunities to see and do many interesting things. If your desire is to reconnect with nature and its wildlife, you can visit various parks and biosphere reserves protected by UNESCO, such as the Retezat Rodna Natural Park, the beautiful Danube Delta, as well as various gorges and mountains, which attract many visitors with their nature and charm.
In addition to ecology, Romania also offers the Black Sea coast, famous spas in the Balkans, and an especially rich history and culture, with destinations such as the painted monasteries of Bukovina, the numerous castles and fortresses of Transylvania and legends, such as that of Count Dracula. Romania has long had close ties with France, especially with writers, poets and philosophers. For this reason, Bucharest is also referred to as the “Little Paris of the Balkans”.
Let yourself be rocked to sleep by the sound of dripping rivers throughout the valleys, and wake up to a beautiful mountain view with birds singing in the morning! Adventuring in Romania is a prerequisite of immersing yourself in a different world, making new friends, and also learning about the lifestyle of the locals, who have preserved the folklore and traditions, while also embracing the innovations following the fall of totalitarianism in December 1989, which gave Romanians a free and democratic nation, and began the process of the country acceptance into the European Union in 2007.
Romania is a lively country filled with emotion, and is ready and willing to share! Do not hesitate to embark on the adventure of your life, and discover this magical and mysterious country.
Romania is a wonderful country from a cultural point of view. In terms of architecture, it covers a period from the 7th century B.C. up to the communist era. A common mistake people make is to refer to Romania only as the country of Dracula. This cliché is true among those who have not yet visited Romania. In fact, it is difficult to narrow down the selection of cities, districts, and cultural monuments that this beautiful country has to offer.
The Romanian government has been aware of its rich cultural heritage for many years, and tries to preserve it by registering important areas in their list of historical monuments. There are 29,540 classified monuments as of 2010. There are also six cultural sites and one natural area in Romania that are included on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. These include:
- The Danube Delta (1991)
- The Historic Center of Sighisoara (1999)
- The Horezu Monastery (1993)
- Villages and fortified churches in Transylvania (1993)
- Dacian fortresses in the Orastie Mountains (1999)
- The wooden churches in Maramures (1999)
- The monasteries of Bucovina (1993)
The various civilizations that have lived on Romanian territory have certainly left their mark. From the Greek settlements along the Black Sea and the Ottoman heritage in Dobrogea, to the strongholds of the Dacians, the cultural heritage of Romania is lengthy and diverse. Many monasteries have been established in more recent times, further adding to the beauty of the country. Among these are: the painted monasteries of Bucovina, the Cozia Monastery, the three monasteries of Tulcea, as well as the Sinaia and Horezu monasteries.
In Transylvania, there are many Saxon strongholds that complement the local landscape. Whether in towns like Sighisoara, Cluj-Napoca and Sibiu, or smaller villages like Biertan, Viscri or Rasnov, the influence of Saxon culture is felt everywhere.
In Bucharest, you will find the influences of medieval Wallachia and the communist era. The Lipscani District, the Palace of the Parliaments, the Palace of Mogosoaia and Revolution Square are the main monuments of these times.
Whatever region it is that you choose to visit, you will find hundreds of unique locations, each one different from the last. Whether it be Dobrogea, with its Greek, Turkish and Bulgarian influences, Transylvania, proud of its Saxon and Hungarian origins, or the regions of Wallachia, Moldova, Banat, Crishana , Maramures or Bucovina, each territory leaves their own mark.
Finally, the heritage associated with Daco-Roman culture, although partially vanished, is still present in Romania, especially in the territory of Oltenia.
The Black Sea forms a natural barrier between Europe and the territories of Caucasus. The sea provides Romania with 245 kilometers of coastline, dotted with many wild beaches, as well as beaches suitable for tourism. The coastline offers miles of fine sand and places to relax, extending to the Danube Delta to the north.
Many Romanian seaside towns were created by Greek traders, who came to trade on the Black Sea. These coastal towns not only offer beaches and relaxation, but also archaeological discoveries, and last but not least, some remarkable fauna in the Danube Delta. In order to avoid the large summer crowds, we recommend travelling to the following Black Sea resorts during a low tourism season:
A town on the Bulgarian border since the end of the communist era. This is a major Romanian resort, where young people go to relax and have a good time.
A seaside town built on the site of an ancient Greek city.
The largest Romanian coastal city, famous for its casino.
Razim-Sinoe Lagoon Complex
A few kilometers north, the décor changes. Buildings and crowds suddenly disappear to make room for the largest lake in Romania, home to many plant and animals species.
St. George and Sulina
Located at the mouth of two branches of the Danube with the same names, these towns are nestled in between the Danube Delta Reserve. Cars are prohibited on some of the streets in these towns!
Viata la Tara (village life) is a term used to describe how people live in remote areas. The architecture of these villages is often modest, but contains “gems” thanks to the hard work of the craftsmen. Visitors often receive a warm welcome, as it’s not every day that the villagers have the pleasure to meet strangers!
Once you get to know these kind people, you will surely have the opportunity to participate in some of their domestic or agricultural activities. These experiences will show you the beauty, but also the difficulties of this type of life. In these villages, among the unspoiled nature, you will have the chance to taste the flavorful local specialties, and wash them down with a glass of Tuica, in order to help you better digest the food!
The regions of Bukovina, Maramures, Marginimea Sibiului, Apuseni, the Danube Delta and the Macin Mountains are true museums of Romanian culture. Each region offers a wide range of folkloric events, in which locals are always happy to share their values with their guests. For many people, the time they spend in the Romanian villages is their best chance to explore the local culture and accumulate some unforgettable memories.
Romania was among the first European countries to open spa centers (19th century), thus making spa tourism the oldest form of tourism practiced in Romania. In some areas of Transylvania and Baile Herculane, procedures conducted with thermal water date back to ancient times.
The mineral springs, filled with a range of useful properties such as salts, mud, and carbon dioxide put Romania on the map as one of the main European destinations for natural medicine. All of these natural elements offer a wide range of natural treatments, which has been proven to be effective.
The thermal waters are not the only healing elements to be found here. The temperate climate of Romania is not affected by the excessive humidity of oceanic climates and the dryness of continental climates. Immersed in healing waters, sunshine, and find sand, a stay in a Romanian spa center not only provides effective treatments, but great opportunities for relaxation and recreation.
The therapeutic procedures and programs utilize mud, dry massages, underwater massages, shower massages, herbal baths, electrotherapy, and ultrasound.
Today, Romania has more than 160 spa resorts. A large number of hotels and medical centers have complied with EU standards, allowing them to acquire fame beyond their borders. Here are some examples:
Baile Herculane – historically, this was the first spa resort in Romania. In the 19th century, the city was host to many personalities, such as Empress Elizabeth of Austria, as well as various Hungarian and Romanian leaders. Following the difficulties and consequences of the revolution, the town updated its spa centers in order to provide comprehensive services to tourists. Baile Herculane is located a few kilometers from the Serbian border and the Iron Gates Natural Park.
Calimanesti – Located in the Olt Valley, not far from the Cozia Monastery, the spa resort Calimanesti began its spa activities during the 19th century, and is now one of the main spa centers in Romania.
Techirghiol – This town is located on the coast of the Black Sea. Thanks to the elevated quality of service, it was able to join the European Association of Spa Towns (EHTTA), along with Baden Baden, Budapest and Le Mont-Dore.
Vatra Dornei – This spa resort is part of the historical region of Bukovina, and began to develop during the 19th century. This remote resort situated among the mountains offers various activities, from hot baths to hiking and winter sports.
Thanks to its geographical location, Romania features a rich natural diversity and biological wealth throughout its various regions. The flora is diverse and abundant. Some plants are found only in Romania, while others are native to the Caucasus and Central Asia.
In order to protect and enhance its nature, Romania has worked since on the creation of several national and natural parks since 1990. 14 national parks were created in the early 2000s, most of them protecting mountain ranges (the Rodna Mountains, Kalim Mountains, Ceahlau Massif, Piatra Kraiului, Cozia Mountains, Buila Vanturarita, Retezat National Park, Macin Mountains and the Domogled Massif), various ravines and gorges (the Bicaz Gorge, Nereus-Beushnita Gorge, Jiu Gorge and Karas Gorge) and the Danube Delta. 17 nature parks were also created at this time, enabling the stable development of nature tourism.
The beauty of the Romanian limestone mountains is steadily becoming more recognized. There are gorges, canyons and about 12,000 caves scattered around the country, which in recent years have aroused a growing interest among visitors, thanks to the incredible views.
Flora and Fauna of the Carpathians
Forests take up 26% of Romania’s territory. The northern regions are dominated by conifers, while the in central and southern areas forests of oak are the most common. At higher elevations, forests of beech and spruce are replaced with different types of pine forests and meadows, where herds of grazing animals can be seen.
The forest is one of the richest in Europe, in terms of fauna. There is a large population of wolves (around 3000), and they can be found in all parts of the country. Wolves inhabit many nature reserves in Romania, including the one in Piatra Kraiului, which has developed a special program for the conservation of large carnivores. The Roman symbol of Lupa (an immortal wolf goddess) is common in Romanian cities, serving as a reminder of the origin of this culture.
Romania is home to about 60% of the bears in Europe, with over 5000 individual specimens. Bears, along with deer, are key figures in the imagination of Romanians, especially during the winter holidays, when they are portrayed in various items and candies. It is not unusual to see bears coming down from the mountains in spring, even reaching the outskirts of cities like Brasov with one goal in mind… to make a mess!
The lynx population is also very important in Romania. These creatures, about the size of a dog, can be found in the forests if Transylvania. There are many different species living in the mountains, such as chamois (wild goats), marmots and numerous types of birds, including the golden eagle, capercaillie and partridge. In some regions, it isn’t necessary to travel to the villages to spot a stork or heron, as they often make their homes near cities, even inside church bells!
The natural environments of Romania are not limited to the Carpathians. The Danube Delta is well known for its charming landscapes and outstanding biodiversity: there are nearly 1700 plant species and about 3450 animal species, including 160 species of fish and 300 different birds, 166 of which are nesting birds. This fragile ecosystem was officially added to the global network of biosphere reserves in 1990. There are 18 sites, or 8.7% of the Romanian portion of the delta which benefit from strict protection. Human activities in these areas are prohibited, and access rights are generally limited to specialists and researchers. The areas surrounding these protected zones constitute another 38.5% of the delta. Traditional activities and tourism are allowed here. The remaining 52.7% of the delta is allocated to the areas of economic development, where protection of the biosphere and sustainable use are a priority. For years, the Romanian government has taken advantage of the resources of the delta, and poachers are free to do whatever they wish. There are many associations attempting to solve the problems in this region, and will do everything in their power to preserve the delta, and also allow more people to witness its majesty.
Ecotourism activities are developing more and more in Romania, and the Romanians are become more aware of their rich natural heritage. Hiking is of course the main activity in these natural areas, but there are also opportunities for mountain biking, canoeing, wildlife sightseeing, fishing, climbing and caving, which could further develop.
Despite the difficulties it faced in the 90s, the Romanian wine industry has been reborn from the ashes and produces many quality products around the country, some of which are internationally recognized.
The hilly regions of Dobrogea and Moldova are among the most well-known for winemaking, but Muntenia (Wallachia), Oltenia, Transylvania and Banat shouldn’t be ignored. These areas have made Romania the 9th largest country in terms of wine production, thanks to its domestic and foreign grape varieties.
The history of Romanian wine production began during the Roman era (106 A.D.), in order to meet the needs of the Empire’s garrisons. In a time when Romania was under the occupation of eastern powers, the nation once again adopted the Saxon system of wine making, and planting German strains of grapes. The communist period led to the collectivization of land, which eventually were bought in 1990 by foreign investors with the capabilities to continue production.
White and gray varieties of grapes are grown (feteasca regala, feteasca alba), as well as red varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Babeaska Neagra. The main production areas are located near the southern Carpathians, the areas of Valcea, Prahova, Vrancea, and especially the eastern regions of Maramures and Dobrogea bear the Macin Mountains, the oldest mountains in Romania.
No matter what the region, you will always find that the wine producers in the villages tend to be especially generous when it comes to experiencing a taste of their favorite products!
Romania holds many sporting achievements, from its national handball team ( 4-time World Champions) to the victories of gymnasts such as Nadia Comaneci and tennis like Ilie Nastase, Ion Tiriac and more recently Simona Halep.