Winter is coming…but unlike the story from Game of Thrones, it brings holidays instead of monsters from the north. A winter holiday in Romania can have many faces. Which one will you choose for your journey? The powerful Queen or the medieval Enchantress? The protective Mother of Traditions, the fierce Mountain Goddess or the seductive Ice Princess? Pick your favorite for a trip where past and present dance together…
1. White cloaked fairytale castles lit up for the upcoming balls
There are 3 epic winter castles and 1 powerful Queen to rule them all…
In the distance, Bran Castle punctures the sky with its towers – a frozen giant starring at you from atop a rocky cliff. You see an old inn nearby, so you step inside for a mulled wine. Shortly, you hear a faded scream. Oh, it’s just the House of Horrors, located upstairs. After all, this is the “land of Dracula”. Later on, as you leave Hollywood fictions behind and head towards the castle, the eerie surroundings slowly take over you…
Only 170 miles away, Corvin Castle is preparing for the winter ball. Resembling Hogwarts, the massive structure is one of the greatest castles in Europe. Dazzled by the stunning architecture, you cross the drawbridge and head for the main hall. Dozens of candles, arched columns, people dressed up in medieval outfits, local cuisine and a band playing traditional music. Time to grab your costume – the feast is about to start!
Peles Castle is different. You’re on a carriage tour of the royal grounds when, suddenly, the majestic Palace reveals itself. Built as the private retreat for the royal family of Romania, it’s the first European castle entirely lit by electrical current. Once inside, you clearly see that everything spells luxury: golden chandeliers, walnut tree carvings, marble fountains, Venetian mirrors, secret chambers, the royal armory and many more.
2. Transylvania and its enchanted medieval cities during the winter holidays
During winter, Transylvania’s under the spell of a medieval Enchantress. You have the Romanians – crazy for traditions & festivals. You have 3 months of snow. Can you handle it? Winter is coming…
It’s 4 PM and it’s snowing. You’re standing atop the White Tower, admiring the entire citadel of Brasov – a medieval jewel at the feet of Mount Tampa: 4 gatehouses, 8 fortified bastions, cobblestoned narrow streets, craft guilds, charming street lamps or gothic churches. The cold air stirs the appetite so you head for a tavern.
Night falls just as you finish eating. Outside, you walk into a different world where blazing lights enchant everything, including the Black Church. A large Christmas tree shines in the middle of the Council Square and a huge web of lights rests above the Christmas Market. Children in colorful costumes walk the streets singing local carols and merchants with medieval outfits offer hot Kurtos cakes, inviting you to boheme cafes…
That was just a bit of Brasov… Each medieval city has its own winter decorations, based on their unique flavor: majestic Alba Iulia and its star shaped citadel, Sibiu with its glorious architecture, Cluj-Napoca and its passion for arts or Sighisoara – the best preserved fortress of its kind in Europe. Visiting the Transylvanian cities during winter is like stepping back to medieval times of fairytales, legends and knighthood.
3. Living traditions frozen in time – winter in unique UNESCO villages
In the snowy highlands, The Mother of Traditions protects the ancient legacy of the Dacians, bringing to life customs and celebrations that look as if they were locked in time.
The cities may have their glamorous winter festivals but Romania’s real treasure lies with its traditions, surviving in the Carpathians for millennia. This isn’t about reenactments or fancy parades. It’s about eerie places where incredibly hospitable people actually live & thrive off the land. Places where celebrations & costumes are passed down from father to son. Places where past and present dance together…
Admiring the Maramures countryside from the comfort of your balcony, you notice a young boy on a black horse, galloping over the thin layer of snow. With that in mind, you head downstairs for lunch. The manor has the comfort and appliances of modern day, but all the decorations are handcrafted. A girl, dressed up in the local folk costume, brings the traditional “sarmale” and other goods on handmade ceramic plates.
After a good meal, you hop in a horse drawn sleigh and the host takes you to Sapanta, the tallest wooden church in the world, or to the closest of its 8 UNESCO sisters. Traditions? You’ll encounter many. There’s a regional carol contest in mid-January, each village being represented by a group of young men carrying a distinctive flag. Until then, each band will be busy rehearsing, caroling unmarried girls from house to house or organizing “Hore” – village round dances where you can easily jump in!
Maramures isn’t the only place where “Romania never dies”. The Stone Land of Apuseni Mountains or the regions of Bucovina and Fagaras are just as beautiful and have their own stories. Traditions include “Plugusorul”, Masked Dances of the Bear, Stag & Goat or “The Dragobete” – local version of Valentine’s Day.
4. Balea – one of a kind alpine experience
The seductive Ice Princess walks on the rooftops of Fagaras, covering the alpine crests in shining diamonds. Her beauty is reflected over the glacier lake of Balea, enthralling the Ice Hotel’s tourists.
You just woke up and everything’s frozen: the table, the chairs and even the bed beneath you. Despite this, you feel warm & fuzzy. You head outside and the view leaves you breathless. You’re standing on an icy plateau, surrounded by steep mountains. Close by, there’s an ice church, ice restaurant & bar and several igloos.
That’s right – you’re at the one of a kind Balea Ice Hotel, one of the largest in Eastern Europe. The hotel is being rebuilt each year based on a different theme. Aside from its magnificent locations and excellent facilities, the hotel has its own winter park: snowmobiles, tubing, ski, snow zorbing, ice sculpting or skating over Balea Lake.
5. Mountain duality – adrenaline vs relaxation
The fierce Mountain Goddess is a tough breed, offering lots of adrenaline & excitement. Regardless, she has her ways of rewarding those with an active spirit, comforting them with her thermal waters.
Adrenaline. You need it. Medieval cities or ancient traditions may have their charm, but the wild Carpathians can also offer unforgettable thrills: heli ski, paragliding, ice climbing, hang gliding or bungee jumping.
Not everybody likes the extremes, but we all love having fun at the winter parks. For ski & snowboard, your best bets are Poiana Brasov (most complex ski resort in Romania), Transalpina Ski Resort (stunning views over Vidra Lake) or the Maramures resorts of Calnic, Borsa or Mogosa.
If you had enough snow for the day there’s another way to warm up, aside from mulled wine. At Baile Herculane, you’ll find outdoor baths with hot waters. Don’t worry about snowing – the steam will chase off the snowflakes. Sources of thermal waters & spa can also be found in resorts like Baile Tusnad, Felix or Sovata.
Which faces of the winter you’d like to see during your holiday in Romania?
If you’re reading this, then you’ve surely considered planning a trip to Romania. Still, which places would you choose? Can you have a bit of all? A tailor-made itinerary could be the best choice, so, hurry up and design your own holiday in Romania!
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