Transylvania conjures a vivid landscape of mountains, castles, fortified churches and superstitious old crones. The Carpathian Mountains are truly spectacular and outdoor enthusiasts can choose from caving in the Apuseni range, rock climbing at Piatra Craiului National Park, biking atop the flat Bucegi plateau, or hiking the Făgăraş. The skiing scene, particularly in the Bucegi Mountains, is a great draw, while well-beaten paths up to Bran and Peleş Castles are also worth the crowds.
A melange of architecture and chic sidewalk cafes punctuate the towns of Braşov, Sighişoara and Sibiu, while the vibrant student town Cluj-Napoca has the country’s most vigorous nightlife. Many of southern Transylvania’s Saxon villages are dotted with fortified churches that date back half a millennium. An hour north, in Székely Land, ethnic Hungarian communities are the majority. Throughout you’re likely to spot many Roma villagers – look out for black cowboy hats and rich red dresses.
Legend has it the Pied Piper reemerged from Hamelin in Braşov, and indeed there's something whimsically enchanting about it, with its fairy-tale turrets and cobbled streets. Dramatically overlooked by Mt Tâmpa, with trees sporting a russet-gold coat (and cocky Hollywood-style sign), this is a remarkably relaxed city.
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So pretty it should be arrested; from the moment you enter its fortified walls, wending your way along cobblestones to its centrepiece square, Sighişoara burns itself into your memory. It's like stepping into a kid's fairy tale, the narrow streets aglow with lustrously coloured 16th-century houses, their gingerbread roofs tumbling down to pretty cafes.