For most people, Romania is associated with one of the most popular dark characters in the world – Count Dracula. And in fact, there is a good reason for that! If you plan to visit this European country, you definitely should add the Transfagarasan road trip along with visiting one of Dracula’s castles to your bucket list.
You can easily reach Bran Castle which is widely known as the residence of the mysterious Count. But in fact, this place mostly benefits the fame of such movies as Nosferatu and other Hollywood productions.
If you desire to know the true story behind the vampire’s tale, I advise you to take a Transylvania road trip through the Transfăgărășan route and visit the Poenari Castle – the majestic place where the real history took place.
Quick history fact: the Poenari Castle was the fortress of Vlad the Impaler, the Medieval ruler of a part of today’s Romania. For centuries, he was known as a person who didn’t have any mercy for his enemies. One of his favourite way to execute captives was to impale them. The local legends say that he also enjoyed drinking human blood. Vlad was the inspiration for Bram Stoker to create the character of Count Dracula and write a novel about him. Now, Dracula is probably the most popular evil creature in the world. And visiting the ruins of his archetype’s home is a really exciting activity, definitely worth adding to your Romania bucket list.
Taking the Transfăgărășan Road Trip, Romania
Why should you take the Transfăgărășan road trip?
Now let’s jump into the Transfăgărășan road itself! The ruins of Poenari Castle are located in Transylvania, Romania. They are one of the best attractions of the Transfăgărășan road. Next to Transalpina, this is the second most exciting road in the country. Going from South to North, the road starts near the city of Pitești and ends in Cârțișoara. The road goes through the picturesque Făgăraș Mountains and it was called one of the best roads in the world by Jeremy Clarkson in Top Gear in 2009.
The road was built on the commission of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu in the late 20th century. At first, its purpose was to support the military movements in the mountains. But today, it is mostly a tourist attraction, thanks to 830 bridges, 27 viaducts, marvellous landscapes, and some local attractions like Poenari Castle.
The main reason why this road trip should land on your personal bucket list is that the Transfăgărășan road offers amazing landscape views and a dose of adrenaline while climbing the mountains on the road. When you enter the valley at the foot of the mountains, the narrow route starts to climb in a form of crazy serpentines. The higher you drive, the more excited you feel.
This trip requires you, pretty experienced driving skills since you will have to defeat almost 180° turns and pass by the tourist buses which try to do the same. But when you eventually reach one of the safe viewpoints where you can stop the car, you will know that the journey was worth it.
The attractions on the way
The view of the valley in the Făgăraș Mountains is incredible. Green grass smoothly retreats the place for the rocky peaks. Sheep herds peacefully migrate on the mountainsides. And the mysterious fog flows with grace through this amazing landscape. After all the adrenaline you get while driving the steep route, magically you start to feel calmness and the majesty of nature.
But this view isn’t the last attraction that you will see when you take a Transylvania road trip. You will also see the Bâlea Waterfall, the dam on the Vidraru Lake, and the famous Poenari Castle of course.
The Vidraru dam makes an incredible impression on tourists since it’s the ninth biggest manmade dam in the world. While walking on it, you almost can feel the huge forces of the water that push on the concrete walls on one side, and the distressing void on the other one. In this place, you get the second adrenaline shot.
The road continues to lead you through the mountains covered with dense green forest. Sometimes you even cannot see the chasms that surround you. But eventually, just behind one of the numerous route turns, your eyes notice the castle ruins located on the green mountain cliff. This was extremely hard to reach in Medieval times. Now only imagine some impaled corpses, and you can almost feel the hopeless situation of enemies trying to attack the fortress of Vlad the Impaler.
Luckily, nowadays, the castle is a bit easier to reach. To make the attraction achievable for tourists, special stairs were built on the mountainside. They are not dangerous but prepare yourself for a pretty decent cardio workout because you have to defeat almost 1500 steps to get to the top. But trying out your condition will be worth it.
The ruins of the castle don’t cover a big area. The location was not easy to build upon. Yet the ruler felt safe in such an inaccessible place. In fact, only some incomplete walls still exist and you can hardly recognize the meaning of the particular compartments. Yet, the landscapes that you can enjoy from the ruins are unforgettable. You can see the whole environment, partially wild and covered with dense forests. It’s nothing weird that for a long time this fortress was unconquered.
Tips on organizing the Transfăgărășan road trip
Taking a Transfagarasan road trip is a fantastic adventure. To visit Romania and not enjoy the beauty of the Transylvanian mountains would be a shame. And the realization of this bucket-list activity isn’t that difficult or expensive. You only have to remember the following tips.
First of all, you need to know that the Transfăgărășan road is closed for most of the year. In the wintertime, it’s too dangerous because of the snow, ice, and unpredictable weather. The road is open for tourists and local people in the summertime, usually from June to September. But it depends on the weather, so you should check if it’s accessible before you arrive at this place.
Secondly, even if the summer in Romania is nice and hot, remember to take some warm clothes with you. In some places, the road goes higher than 2000 meters above sea level. So it can be pretty cool up there. But a lightweight sweater and a jacket should be enough in the summer.
You don’t need any guide to drive through the Transfăgărășan road. All you need is a car and some good driving skills. The road might be a challenge for less experienced drivers. It’s very hard to reach the road with public transport and it’s not suited for pedestrian tourists. However, there are organized bus trips from different Romanian cities or even a private guided tour which are both good alternatives for a typical car trip.
Accessing the road is free of charge. The only fees are for the attraction entrances, which are not expensive: the Poenari Castle entrance is only around ~5 LEI (approximately $1.20)
Taking the Transfăgărășan road trip is a memorable adventure. And if you plan to visit Romania, you should definitely add it to your bucket list!
About the Author
Dominika is based in Gdynia, Poland, and she runs a travel blog Sunday In Wonderland. She loves to visit unobvious places and look for wonderful adventures in less popular locations. On her blog, she teaches how to take out the most even from short vacations but she also admires longer journeys. She especially loves to write about places known for their legends and interesting historical facts.
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