Ultimate Road Trip Romania Guide Part Two
Click the following link if you missed part one of this Romania Road Trip Guide.
Road Trip Romania Day 11 and 12 – Transfagarasan to Sibiu (Transylvania)
Distance: 112km or 70 miles – about 2.5 hours of driving with no stops
From Curtea de Arges (where Transfagarasan road starts) to Sibiu, passing through Cozia National Park, the beautiful road follows the river Olt (which gives the name of the county Miha is from).
Caciulata looks like a charming little town to explore, but we did not have time on this trip.
On the way to Sibiu we stopped by Biserica Manastrii Cozia, a monastery that was established in1386 along the banks of the River Olt. It’s also the place where a former Romanian Domnitor (ruler) who fought against the Ottoman Empire is buried.
It was another wacky weather day, for 3-4 hours it seemed we went through three different seasons.
We arrived into Sibiu around 4 in the afternoon. After checking into our hotel we quickly went out to explore. We stayed right at one of the entrances to the old city, which I found utterly charming.
Sibiu ended up being one of my favorite cities on this trip, it’s full of old-world charm that has an “It factor” that is difficult to describe. The pedestrian-friendly cobblestone streets wind through old town where restaurants and outdoor cafés line the streets with plenty of vendors, shops and photo ops.
A great day trip from Sibiu is to Castelul de Lut Valea Zanelor (aka the Clay Castle). This is a fascinating place that looks like a set from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The fairy tale setting is quite remarkable and provides endless photo opportunities. Escape the frequent crowds by sitting along the Porumbacu River that runs right past the property.
While in Sibiu we stayed at the Hotel Continental Forum, a fantastic location with easy access parking. It’s right on the edge of the historic part of the city where everything is accessible by foot. The hotel has a modern flair and is quite comfortable.
Another place to stay while in Sibiu might be Hotel Imparatul Romanilor, which looks to be newly renovated and was the very first hotel in Romania.
- Syndicat Gourmet
- Tango Restaurant & Pub
- Kombinat Gastro Brewery
Click the following link for more information on Sibiu.
Romania Road Trip Days 13 & 14 – Sibiu to Sighișoara (Mures County, Transylvania)
Distance: 100km or 63 miles – about 1.5 hours driving with no stops
En route to Sighisoara we drove to, and up, the north (other) side of the Fagaras Mountain range. If Transfagarasan was not closed toward the top, we would have come down this way a few days earlier. The weather was fantastic, the roads were dry and there was little traffic. Perfect conditions to really put the Mercedes-Benz B-Class to the test. The road conditions of the north side of Transfagarasan is in much better condition and well-suited to test the handling of a vehicle. I couldn’t not believe how well the B-Class handled this curvy road, it was like being on a roller coaster or amusement ride. Just as the fun was getting good, we once again came across a barricade that prevented us from going further.
The fun did not end however. On the North side of Transfagarasan, at the barricade, there is a gondola that you can take to the top of the mountain. This was an extraordinary chance to see the world-famous road from above, and to see why it is closed due to excessive snow. We learned that the road often does not open until July.
Once atop Fagaras, we discovered there is a hotel next to a mostly frozen lake. We walked around a bit and took in the extraordinary views. The entire area was covered in snow and we were not dressed appropriately, so we didn’t stay long before heading back down the mountain in the gondola.
I was enamored by Sibiu, but Sighisoara stole my heart. This enchanting little town is a fairy-tale-like fortified city in the heart of Romania that dates back to Roman times, although much of the city dates to the 11th Century. With colorful houses, cobblestone streets and a pedestrian-friendly Old Town, it was easy to fall in love with Sighisoara.
While in Sighisoara, we stayed at a fantastic inn/guest house right in the heart of old town at the Taschler Haus Boutique Inn. When we arrived into the courtyard we were offered a traditional welcome drink, a popular Romanian spirit made from plums (which is quite customary when staying at a guest house in this region). There were actually two varieties of drinks to try, one was made from sour cherries and was a bit sweeter and had lower alcohol content (about 40%) and it was called “visinata”, the other was clear in color and was about 60% (120 proof), which warmed the cockles of my heart. This latter one was the popular drink called “tuica.” This was likely the strongest spirit I have ever tried.
We were shown to our room which was on the first floor. It was quite large with a living area, bedroom and a lovely bathroom. There were two windows on opposite sides of the suite in which we had incredible views of the historic city. One evening we enjoyed a bottle of wine in the courtyard which has an unobstructed view of the Clock Tower. Guests can also enjoy a bottle of wine in the cellar, which has several tables and is quite cozy place when it’s not comfortable to be on the patio.
In addition to strolling the streets of Sighisoara we really enjoyed going up in the Clock Tower, the views are amazing and the museum is pretty interesting. (Note: try and do it later in the afternoon, say between 4pm-5:30pm as it will be much less crowded. FYI, they close at 6pm).
Places for Dinning:
We didn’t have the best of luck with dining, the few places we tried were very average.
- Al Forno – It’s a cute place, but our meal was pretty average.
- Martini Café – Pretty popular place, had a nice breakfast there one day.
- Gasthous Alte Post – Another average dining experience.
Romania Road Trip Days 15 & 16 – Sighisoara to Viseu de Sus (Maramures County)
Distance: 236km or 147 miles – about 4 hours of driving with no stops
On the way to Viseu de Sus, we stopped in Bistrița for lunch. We ate at a fantastic restaurant called Taverna Dogarilor. It was a perfect afternoon to dine outside where we had a steak cooked on a heated stone that was served at the table. Apparently our road trip and social media mentions caught the attention of a local newspaper who sent a couple of reporters over to interview us.
Our next stop took us to Miss Virginia Linul, a traditional Romanian costumes manufacturer. We were received here with tea and cookies and lots of stories told by Virginia and this is where we got our first taste of Romanian traditions that are so alive and well in Viișoara, the northern part of Romania.
From Bistrita, we drove further north to Viseul de Sus, where we stayed at La Cassa, a fantastic Inn. The service was incredible and the room was quite lovely. The restaurant setting is also quite nice with a great outdoor garden. The food however was pretty average, but the breakfast was quite a robust authentic Romanian style morning meal. Each table starts with an array of cured meats, cheeses and other typical Romanian dishes, along with a plate of fresh baked goods, and then your choice of an egg entrée.
We had planned to go on Mocanita, one of the famous steam powered trains and experience a special slow ride through the mountains, but it was both raining a lot, and, once aboard, it didn’t seem like it would be worth our limited time. The train is a classic with not much room for passengers. They really need a first class service to give passengers a more comfortable choice.
We ended up going back to our inn to get some work done. A few hours , the sun appeared and we decided to go for a drive to Telescaun Borsa. We took a chair lift up the mountain to go on a hike to Horses Waterfall, which ironically, we saw horses on the ride up the chair lift. We were so glad we went on this excursion as it was not only a great hike, but an incredible waterfall. We got back on the chairlift just in time. Five minutes after leaving the mountain, back in the car, it started raining again.
Road Trip Romania Days 17 & 18 Viseu de Sus to Breb (Maramures County)
Distance: 65km or 40 miles – about 1.5 hours of driving without stops
We stopped in Sapanta to visit with Dumitru Pop Tincu who is the last surviving person to carry on the traditions of crafting blue crosses with humors epitaphs for the Merry Cemetery. Mr. Pop Tincu has become so well known for this tradition that celebrities, dignitaries and others have commissioned him to create crosses in advance of their death.
We then went to Sighetu Marmatiei to visit the Communist Museum, but before doing so we had lunch at the nearby Bistro Urban Tand&Co. It was a really good meal on the outdoor patio.
The Communist Museum on the other hand was a bit of a let down. It has so much potential, and the idea is fantastic to educate people on the horrors of communism, but the execution of the museum is poorly done. While some of the audio is in English, much of the museum is just in Romanian text. There were far too many photos and text. More interactive displays for example would make it more enjoyable. For example, as you enter a room, it would be nice to press a button and get a quick overview. Then, if interested, you could read more about the display.
We arrived into Breb, a small village in Maramures, and checked into Casa Maramureseana Larisa, a small B&B/Guest House. The area has no hotels, but rather a number of guest houses that provide breakfast and dinner (upon request for a fee). This guest house immersed us into the the local cultures, which are rich in tradition and were untouched by the Communism era.
Our host family was very nice and welcoming and this kind of interaction truly enables tourists to immerse themselves into the local culture.
It had been a long day, so after dinner we retired for the evening. The next day we set off to explore the region, starting with Bârsana Monastery, a series of all-wooden structures that are not only unique, but quite extraordinary. The grounds are maintained by the nuns who reside there. The gardens are vibrant and the views are stupendous.
After the monastery we headed to Păstrăvăria Alex (a trout farm and inn) for lunch. This was yet another remarkable place. A series of tables and little huts surround the property along the banks of the trout ponds. We had a great lunch, unfortunately the service was really lacking.
After lunch we continued driving around this unique region of the country where we saw waterfalls, farm houses, country roads and rich traditions blanket this northern part of Romania known as Maramures.
Romania Road Trip Day 19 – Breb to Alba Iulia (Alba County)
Distance: 250km or 155 miles – about 4 hours of driving with no stops
Traveling from Breb to Alba we stopped in Turda to visit Salina Turda (the Salt Mine). This old salt mine is now a veritable history museum of salt mining. It’s not just a museum, there is a health center and amusement area within the shafts of the old mine.
After the salt mine we just drove through Turda, which looks like a wonderful place to explore further on a future trip.
We also drove on the outskirts of Cluj, which is the second largest city in Romania. We traveled along N1, one of the few National stretches of highway in the country. It was pretty refreshing driving on this road as it was so wide, smooth and divided, like a proper freeway should be. The road system in Romania still has a long way to go, but they are making progress.
Driving along N1 past Cluj is almost like traveling across (or through) a green Grand Canyon. The landscape is dramatic and vast with silhouettes of clouds casting a shadows across the beautiful terrain. The landscape is like a lush green carpet draped over of the rolling hillside.
We made our way to Alba and stayed at a really nice place called Vila Ana Boutique, not really a hotel, but more of a B&B, yet the property is self check-in via digital access for the building and individual rooms. I rented this place on Airbnb and it totally exceeded my expectations. The rooms were stunning and quite comfortable. The location was in a quiet part of town, but walking distance to the Citadel, the main attraction in town.
The Alba Citadel is the largest fortress in Romania and we were thrilled to explore it. This is a place where history goes back 2000 years to Roman occupation. The Citadel is also the place where Transylvania decided to unite with Romania. On December 1st, 1918, Romania became a united nation and is celebrated as National Day.
That evening we dinned at La Conac, which was a nice place and a good meal.
Road Trip Romania Day 20 – Alba back to Bucharest
Distance: 355km or 220miles – 5 hours of driving with no stops
The next day would conclude our nearly 3-week long Romania road trip. We drove along A1 merging onto E81 which followed the River Olt for a while. We stopped once to take in the awe-inspiring beauty of the Romanian countryside one last time before getting back to the hustle and bustle of Bucharest.
Mercedes-Benz B-Class Romania Road Trip by the Numbers
- Drove approximately 2600km or 1600 miles.
- Stayed in 10 different hotels, inns or guest houses.
- Road Trip Romania duration was 20 days.
Romania Road Trip Tips
- Fuel Stations – Believe it or not, you can get some really good food and snacks at the fuel stations. The very best ones are: OMV, Petrom and Rompetrol.
- Rest Stops – Unlike the U.S. where there are rest areas along the highways, in Romania the gas stations are the best places and they are actually quite nice and clean.
- Fuel Prices – About 6 Lei per liter or about $6 per gallon
- Recommended Vehicle – While on this road trip we drove a Mercedes-Benz B-Class, in hindsight we would have preferred a higher clearance SUV. The roads in Romania are often unpaved and uneven, which makes it difficult for lower profile vehicles.
- Roads – There are a few 2-lane divided highways in Romania, but they don’t go very far. Most roads are single lane, some not in very good condition. The scenery however makes up for it, but be prepared for slower and rugged roads.
- Caution, Obstacles Ahead – The roads in Romania are often narrow with few places to pull over, so many people will literally park in the road as they offload things, so you have to drive around them. On many of the country roads you will find people traveling with a horse and cart, so you will have to drive around them. Just be cautions that road travel is more lenient than in other parts of Europe or North America.
If you have any questions about doing a Romania road trip, please leave a comment below. This road trip of Romania was driven in the new Mercedes-Benz B-Class. Special thanks to Mercedes-Benz Romania.