Lonely Planet announced their “Best in travel 2016” and the award for world’s No. 1 region to see went to Transylvania, Romania: fairy tale castles, enchanting medieval cities, natural wonders & forgotten traditions. Visit Transylvania today and live the legends of yesterday. Embark on a journey to a land where time stands still…
Often, Transylvania is associated with the name of Dracula – Bram Stoker’s fictional character who overshadows the existing jewels of this land. Therefore, “put the crucifix away and discard that bulb of garlic – you won’t be needing them in today’s Transylvania, which blows away stereotypes faster than the flapping wings of a bat out of hell” (Lonely Planet).
The man behind Dracula is Vlad Dracul the 3rd – Romanian prince of Wallachia. The name Dracul (Draco) comes from his father, a man invited in the Order of the Dragon by the Holy-Roman emperor to protect Christianity against the Ottomans. Vlad Dracul, known as “Son of Dragon” to his friends and “The Impaler” to his enemies, won several brilliant victories against the Ottoman Empire through grisly tactics. Today, you can visit his strategic Poenari Citadel, the famous Bran Castle or the house where he was born, located in the well preserved medieval town of Sighisoara.
When past & present dance together, time stands still
When was the last time you saw a real blacksmith, a woman weaving, wild horses or wood crafting? No, don’t speak of reenactments. Transylvania is an ancient land and, by leaving aside the modern thrills or medieval marvels, you’ll reach flourishing villages high in the mountains where people actually live & thrive off the land.
♦ It all started in ancient times, with the Dacians & Romans…
The Dacians, the ancestors of Romanians, ruled over a vast kingdom and established their capital at Sarmizegetusa, in Transylvania. Build over 2000 years ago and currently UNESCO site, the citadel’s ruins can still be admired today. Dacia fought Rome for almost 2 centuries, winning several key battles and even forcing the Romans into paying tribute. After 2 major campaigns, Rome finally seized Sarmizegetusa and partially conquered today’s Transylvania. Although Roman reign was brief, it left behind cities that stand proud up to this very day, with Alba Iulia or Cluj Napoca being the most important.
Today, certain traditions, costume decorations and celebrations still resemble those of the Dacians, while mouthwatering dishes can be cooked only with what the land has to offer. Even though horses and carts still rumble through the wooded countryside, they are currently sharing the roads with Uber cabs ferrying visitors to chic Airbnb lodgings.
♦ The Cities – modern meets medieval
Alba Iulia – capital of Roman Dacia and seat of the XIII Gemina Legion. Capital of medieval Transylvania. The place where the modern state of Romania was born. Today, the city’s reconditioned Vauban Citadel hosts international festivals and reenactments of legendary battles.
Cluj Napoca – a city founded by Romans and currently considered an “art city of the future” (Phaidon). It’s also the youth capital of Romania, hosting major universities along with innovative pubs & clubs.
Brasov: founded by the Teutonic Knights in 1211 on top of a Dacian site, it was later on settled by Saxons. Laying at the feet of Mount Tampa, its medieval core is very well preserved and comprises bastions, fortifications, a myriad of cobbled streets and the famous Gothic Black Church. The numerous restaurants, bohemian cafes or clubs attract nightlife lovers rather than vampire hunters.
Sighisoara – UNESCO protected Saxon citadel and the best preserved of its kind in Europe. The moment you step in, it burns into your memory and makes you wonder whether it’s all just a dream: narrow streets, colorful 16th century houses, craft guilds, the Clock Tower and many more. The city hosts the International Sighisoara Medieval Festival – a display of battle reenactments, craftsmanship or concerts. Two words: time travel.
♦ Villages – tales from the past
In Transylvania there are 150 fortified Saxon churches & villages, usually around 800 years old. Currently, 7 villages are listed as UNESCO sites. By visiting them, you’ll feel like a kid entering a fairy-tale land. A few good hints: Biertan, Saschiz, Prejmer, Valea Viilor or Viscri. The latter is famous for being promoted by Prince Charles of Wales, who even bought a traditional house in this timeless place.
♦ Castles – gatekeepers of Transylvania
The Carpathian Mountains have blessed Transylvania by surrounding it with their might and acting as natural protectors. Regardless, the passageways represent the only weak spots and those are the places for some of the greatest castles you’ve seen: Bran Castle (Dracula), Corvin (Huniade), Bethlen-Haller, Fagaras or Rasnov.
♦ Wildlife – “the last corner of Europe where you find complete resilience” (Prince Charles)
Outside towns & villages, all eyes are on Transylvania’s endless meadows, forests and fang-toothed predators: wolves, lynx and brown bears. There are more brown bears in the Carpathians than in the whole Europe altogether. Several projects are underway, doing their best to protect them. With the recent reintroduction of bison in the land, opportunities for wildlife watching are sure to become even richer.
Plan a trip to Transylvania!
Prepare for a journey back in time to discover both the hidden gems and the most popular attractions, all in a tailor-made holiday to Transylvania! Whether you prefer a self-driven trip or a guided tour, plan your trip with us and explore wonderful Romania.
You can also book a predefined day-trip from Bucharest and explore a king’s palace (Peles), a vampire’s castle (Bran) and a Teutonic city (Brasov). Make the most out of your day and pick a quick getaway!
Visit Transylvania today and live the legends of yesterday!