Landlocked and bounded by Romania and Ukraine, with the ethnic divisions to prove it, Moldova has come a long way in a short time and is arguably more advanced than EU-friendly Romania in many respects. The tourism focus is indisputably the country’s wine industry, which produces staggeringly superb varietals and offers winery tours that will vanquish the stoutest of constitutions – try Cricova, not far from Chişinău. Less celebrated are the attractions between the vineyards: sunflower fields, enormous watermelons, bucolic pastoral lands and the amazingly friendly people. Soberer diversions include remote monasteries cut into limestone cliffs and a rural backdrop inhabited by welcoming villagers.
But it goes deeper. What could have been a fascinating ethnic mix went horribly wrong in the early 1990s. The Turkic Gagauzia and the Soviet-bent Transdniestr areas recognised the opportunity and declared their respective independences almost simultaneously, which culminated in a bloody civil war. Today, Gagauz maintains a calm truce with Moldova, while the alluringly bizarre Transdniestr region is on the brink of reopening old wounds.
While still in contention for the title of Poorest Country in Europe, Moldova’s prices (particularly for accommodation) are unexpectedly high. Coming from Romania, expect to pay about the same for almost everything.
Best places to stay in Moldova
Eastern Europe travel guide
Head to Eastern Europe for guaranteed adventure: from hidden gems in Russia, Ukraine and Montenegro to the classic charms of the Czech Republic, Croatia and Hungary, you’ll find a region that’s surreal, exciting and endlessly surprising.
Top 10 Eastern European getaways
For years Eastern Europe was the undiscovered half of the continent - but things have changed. The diverse highlights of Eastern Europe are now drawing travellers by the trainload. Here are our top 10 Eastern European getaways. 1. Julian Alps, Slovenia The Julian Alps form Slovenia's dramatic northwest frontier with Italy.
Eastern Europe Phrasebook
One of the most rewarding things about travelling through Eastern Europe is the rich variety of cuisine, customs, architecture and history. The flipside of course is that you’ll encounter a number of very different languages. Most languages spoken in Eastern Europe belong to what’s known as the Indo-European language family, believed to have originally developed from one language spoken thousands of years ago. Luckily for English speakers, most of these languages also use Roman script.
Table for one, please. Yes, just one.
Please indulge me for a moment while I throw out a few stats from my current Lonely Planet research trip through Romania and Moldova: Number of meals eaten: ~60 Number of hours driven: roughly 75 Impulse gelatos/coffees consumed: 27 Number of truly special, unique moments: 12 Sounds like a fun, little adventure, doesn't it? Unf.
Eastern Europe - Moldova (Chapter)
Moldova gets a tiny number of tourists and isn’t much set up for travellers, but this is one of its greatest charms. Sights may be few and far between, but they are generally impressive, such as the dramatic and beautiful cave monasteries, Transdniestr’s Soviet time-capsule feel, and the country’s sophisticated and fascinating viniculture.