Locals sometimes shake their heads over the ‘Dracula connection’, but there’s no denying a sense of spookiness about this broad, mountainous, culturally rich region, which fills the bulk of Romania’s centre. But really the Dracula thing is such a small part of a visit here, and you’re likely to forget about it along the way. Saxon towns such as Sighişoara, Sibiu, Cluj-Napoca and Braşov evoke medieval life; all make fine hubs, with hikes, ski runs, horse markets and cute villages within an hour or two. Much of the fun comes from hikes through the interlocking Carpathians (sometimes called the Transylvanian Alps), which create a U-shape on all of Transylvania’s sides but the north. Skiing is best in the Bucegi Mountains’ Prahova Valley, but outdoors enthusiasts debate what’s best for summer fun –hiking to underground rivers of the Apuseni, rock climbing at Piatra Craiului National Park, biking atop the flat Bucegi plateau, exploring the largely unknown Retezat or hiking the knee-torturing Făgăraş.
Transylvania, part of Romania only since 1918, benefits from its diverse ancestors. Saxons occupied southern Transylvanian towns, and most villages you pass are dotted with fortified churches that date back half a millennium. Going an hour north into Székely Land and towns like Târgu Mureş (Marosvásárhely) with sizeable ethnic Hungarian communities, feels like going into a different country. Throughout you’re likely to spot many Roma villagers – identifiable by black cowboy hats on the men and extravagant red dresses on the women – who sometimes usher passers-by in for meals.
So much is in Transylvania – it’s no surprise that it’s often the only part of Romania experienced by tourists.
‘We are in Transylvania; and Transylvania is not England. Our ways are not your ways, and there shall be to you many strange things.’
Best places to stay in Transylvania
Romania & Bulgaria - Transylvania (Chapter)
Transylvania – a vivid landscape of mountains, castles and fortified churches. Go caving, rock climbing, cycling or hiking in the spectacular Carpathian Mountains. The skiing scene is also a great draw, while Bran and Peles Castles are worth...
Ten things you need to know before visiting Transylvania
Transylvania is best known as the mysterious land of bloodthirsty vampires and howling wolves. Some may think it’s fictional, but the central Romanian region is a real place. And it’s pretty special, too. Bordered to the east by the Carpathian Mountains, ‘the land beyond the forest’ still feels undiscovered...
Need to know
Transylvania destination guides
Travel literature review: Along the Enchanted Way
Along the Enchanted Way by William Blacker Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Reviewed by Will Gourlay 'Enchanting' isn’t a word usually associated with Romania. Think 'Romania' and most people will conjure images of Communist-era architecture in Bucharest or hair-raising tales of Dracula...
Trekking in Transylvania
Enter the world of legend and embrace the myth of Count Dracula as you trek through the rugged wilderness of Romania. Ancient border roads and shepherds’ trails will reward active adventurers willing to break a sweat with stunning mountain scenery populated with bears, wolves and lynx.
Budapest to Istanbul
From pastoral countryside to forbidding forests and magnificent mountain ranges, experience the romance of the east on your way from Budapest to Istanbul. In two well-paced weeks, explore the weathered architecture of Budapest, grand Ottoman palaces and mosques in Istanbul for an introduction to the artistic and cultural heights of two very different empires.
Europe's most unusual hotels
Forget keycards, how about an iPhone to access your suite? From electronic art hotels to igloos and wine barrels, these places will guarantee you a memorable, and affordable, trip. We look at a selection of Europe's most unusual places to stay, chosen by Lonely Planet magazine...