A fairly young state within its actual borders, Romania is a melting pot, a meeting point where some of the most inspiring traditions of both West and East meet in an enchanting manner. A background formed in the 2nd century A.D. by the marriage of the native Dacian and incoming Roman population saw the arrival or at least influence of a plethora of ethnic groups that shaped today’s country. Travel South and you will meet the loud, inquisitive and fast pace life of the plains, the Balkan beat in one your ears. Travel within the Carpathian circle and you will find the both imposing and mysterious legacy of the Saxon (ethnic German) and Szekely (early Hungarian branch) settlers.

Travel farther North or East, and find a rich pastoral culture, with a complex population, where Romanians, Jews and Poles, among others, have lived together for centuries. Travel West for a touch of Serbia or Hungary. And there is always place for more, such as for the ethnic Russians in the Danube Delta, the Turks and Tartars in Dobrudja or the Armenians that once thrived in selected Transylvanians towns.

It therefore does not come as a surprise to anyone that it is hard, if at all possible, to take in all these sometimes totally different cultures in one single trip. For that particular reason, we encourage you to leave something for the next trip as well, while going into brief presentations about what each other main region in the country is about…

ROMANIA

Regions and Getting There

Link to: Wallachia Tours

Wallachia

With its long history of political and economical relations with the Ottoman Empire, but also with a late 19th century national revival movement that brought around a preference for everything French, Wallachia is the proud land of Balkan music, sweet and spicy meals, good wines and, not least, no frill, easy-going people. It is here that heterogeneous Bucharest lies, with its Byzantine, Neoclassical or Modernist architecture,
and this is the land Vlad the Impaler ruled over. Other notable cities include Târgu Jiu (home of Constantin Brâncuși’s sculptures), Târgoviște and Câmpulung (former capitals of Wallachia, with fairly interesting old towns) or Curtea de Argeș (home of the grand
monastery that has been nicknamed ‘the Romanian Taj Mahal’), while the richly decorated pottery of Horezu and the royal castles in Sinaia definitely add to the local attractions. The country’s highest point lies on Moldoveanu Peak in Făgăraș Mountains on the Wallachian – Transylvanian border, at 2544 m.a.s.l.

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Getting there:

Bucharest OTP Airport is served by straight flights from all over Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Canada. Craiova CRA Airport is served by flights to a few European destinations.

Transylvania

Settled by ethnic Hungarians and Germans that lived alongside the autohtone population, this is arguably the most legendary region of the country. Set on a landscape of rolling hills and forests surrounded by impressive mountains, Transylvania is dotted with many peasant fortresses, fortified churches and even towns, as well as with interesting castles and picturesque, colorful villages. While its burgs and tall churches remind one of Germany, the extensive pastures with many flocks of sheep make cheeses an appropriate matter to look into, a glass of fruit brandy aside. Notable towns include Sibiu (possibly the nicest medieval town in Transylvania), Brașov (with its impressive Black
Church and the nearby Bran Castle), Târgu Mureș and Oradea (both with their exquisite Transylvanian Secession style, grand properties) or Cluj (the proud host of Romania’s largest university), while the local charm can be best found in smaller communities such as the still inhabited fortress-town of Sighișoara, the many Saxon or Szekely villages with their fortified churches and, yes, up in the mountains with their plethora of mineral springs, caves and gorges.

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Getting there:

Cluj Napoca CLJ Airport is served by many flights to European destinations.
Târgu Mureș TGM Airport and Sibiu SBZ Airport are smaller, but are helpful with a few European destination flights.
Certain places in Western Transylvania can be easily reached from the airports of Oradea OMR, Satu Mare SUJ and Timișoara TSR, the last of which is larger.

Link to: Transylvania Tours
Link to: Moldavia Tours

Moldavia

With a rich history where the constant warfare of the Middle Ages was followed by an exuberant development mainly led by the influx of Jewish population, the region has an interesting array of fortresses, culturally rich towns, well preserved countryside and, well, vineyards. The most notable city is that of Iași, the cultural heart of the whole region with its imposing Neo-gothic Palace of Culture, but it is in smaller communities that Moldavia is at its best, with aristocratic residences such as the Sturdza Castle in Miclauseni. And then, yes, just North-West of Moldavia proper there is Bukovina, the land of the painted monasteries and of some of Romania’s most picturesque mountains. A trip to Moldavia can easily be combined with an extension to the Republic of Moldova (the two approximately belonged to the same state in the Middle Ages) or South-Western Ukraine.

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Getting there:

The largest regional airport is that of Iași IAS, closely followed by Bacău BAC, conveniently located for the Eastern Carpathians and the painted monasteries.
Suceava SCV, while it sees less flights, is very handful for getting to the painted monasteries.

Dobrudja

The seaside is the first thing one notices when looking where Dobrudja is located on a map of Romania. Yet there is more to it than that, whether we are talking about the rich Oriental flavor in places like Babadag or even Constanta (where notable Turkish communities are still present), the myriad of waterways and the plethora of birds in the neighboring Danube Delta, or the moon-like scenery in Măcin Mountains.

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Getting there:

Dobrudja and the coast can be easily reached from Constanța CND, while Bucharest OTP is not that far. Seasonal charters go to Tulcea TCE.

Link to: Dobrudja Tours
Link to: Maramureș Tours

Maramureș

It was once the land of the free Dacians, the place the Romans never got to, and it has got famous for its tough and equally cheerful inhabitants, long winters, timber architecture and unique life and death approach. For it is not very often that one walks into a place called the Merry Cemetery (and which does not lie within a theme park). And attractions are anything but scarce here, as, among others, the tallest wooden church in the world and Elie Wiesel’s hometown both lie in Maramureș. Remote as it is, a trip to Maramureș can be nicely completed by an extension to Bukovina.

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Getting there:

Still closed for renovation, Baia Mare BAY used to be the most commonly used airport when heading to the Maramures. For the time being, the Satu Mare SUJ and the Cluj Napoca CLJ airports are the closest ones to the region.

Banat

While scanning the places above, one frequently overlooks an apparently tiny stretch of land in South-Western Romania. The Banat is yet another ethnic mix, with Serbian, Croatian or Hungarian communities standing next to Romanian ones and also next to places reminding one of the once significant German or Jewish population. The region is uniquely and totally unexpectedly diverse, from the impressive Danube Gorges stretching for over
130 km., to the natural highlights of Anina Mountains (such as Nera Gorges and Ochiul Beu Lake), respectively all the way to the man-made heritage where the Austro-Hungarian rule made history. The main city in the region, Timișoara (once coined Little Vienna), boasts a fine, laid back atmosphere, given its mixture of Austrian, Serbian and Hungarian heritage, and could easily have one walking and walking for days on end through its fine museums and squares.

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Getting there:

Timișoara TSR sees quite a lot of flights to European destinations. Otherwise, the vicinity of Belgrade BEG in Serbia provides many other destinations on direct flight, and a ground transfer is easily arranged.

Link to: Banat Tours

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