Lonely Planet Writer

Vine adventures: debunking the myths of Transylvania

Bran Castle, Transylvania

Nellie Huang, Lonely Planet Pathfinder and the adventurer behind WildJunket, recently took a trip with Skyscanner to our number one region in Europe to travel to in 2016, Transylvania. Here she gives us a glimpse of the real Romania through her latest Vines.

‘Entrenched in the centre of Romania, Transylvania isn’t your typical tourist destination but it’s definitely a special place for curious travelers. It’s known to the world as a land of myths and legends, bloodthirsty vampires, howling wolves and wild bears; but as I find out on my recent trip, there’s a lot more to this region than just fabled tales.’


‘With over 100 castles in the region, how do you know which ones are best to visit? According to local experts and friends, the fairytale Peleş Castle is the most beautiful castle in the region. The Neo-Renaissance castle was built for the first king of Romania in 1875 as his summer retreat and it cost approximately US$ 120 million to build. With over 170 rooms, the castle is lavishly furnished with some of the finest works of art in Europe, as well as a generous collection of armour, gold, stained glass, ivory, tapestries and oriental rugs.’


‘To follow the trail of Dracula, head to the famous Bran Castle, just a few kilometres outside Braşov. This 14th-century castle is the legendary home of the protagonist in Bram Stoker's Dracula, although it’s said the real Vlad Dracula never lived here and and never even set foot on the premises. Once here though, you can easily see why Bram Stoker chose this as the backdrop of his novel: the castle is dramatically perched on a massive rock overlooking a winding river and gorge.’


‘Easily the most popular city in Transylvania, Braşov is a small but vibrant town sprinkled with multicoloured baroque buildings and enchanting cobbled streets. I spent a day wandering around the city’s Old Town, finding surprises at every corner in the historical quarters. The city’s palpitating heart is Piaţa Sfatului, a massive square lined with al fresco diners, museums and art galleries, and dramatically backdropped by Mount Tâmpa.’


'For the best view of Braşov, make your way to the top of Mount Tâmpa via the funicular. Once at the top, take a short hike along the muddy trails to reach the lookout point at the Braşov Hollywood-style sign. From this vantage point, you’ll see the terracotta-roofed buildings of the Old Town sprawled beneath your feet. All alone on the ledge, I stood in silence, drinking in the view and feeling as though I was on top of the world.’


‘Beyond the cities, Transylvania puts on quite a show with its sweeping landscapes of ice mountains and jagged peaks. The Făgăraș mountain range is home to the highest peaks in Romania and is easily accessible by cable car in winter. A 12-minute cable car ride will bring you to Bâlea Lake, a glacial river at 2,035m above sea level. Each November, the lake freezes completely and the area becomes a fun-filled winter park with activities ranging from snowmobiling to tubing and snow rafting (think banana boat, but on ice).’


‘Bâlea Lake is also home to the Hotel of Ice, one of the most unique places to stay in Romania. Each winter season, blocks of ice are taken from the glacier lake and transformed into beautiful igloos (all by hand!). Everything in the hotel is made of ice: from the tables to the chairs, the bed to the bar counter and even the piano at the entrance.’

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