Southwest Transylvania’s history was built on ancient gold and medieval might. Stretching between the Retezat and Apuseni Mountain ranges, west of the Cluj-Napoca–Sibiu highway, the region is littered with citadels. Corvin Castle has doomy towers and drawbridges to inspire envy in even the most dastardly of Counts. Câlnic's fortification and crumbled Deva fortress whisper of the medieval past. Alba Iulia’s citadel encloses monuments, churches and the hall where the union between Romania and Transylvania was signed in 1918.

But on southwest Transylvania’s timeline, these castles are youngsters. The gold-rich hills have been mined for nearly 2000 years (you can admire glistening remnants at the gold museum in Brad), and ancient Dacian civilisation has left traces at mysterious Sarmizegetusa Regia. Contemplate this vast history among southwest Transylvania’s most enduring features, the Retezat Mountains, where hiking trails climb to lofty glacial lakes.