Sarmizegetusa Regia: The Legendary Capital of the Dacians
Hidden in the dense forests of the Carpathians, Sarmizegetusa Regia is one of the oldest, most surprising and mysterious historical attractions in Romania. The capital of ancient Dacia more than two millenniums ago, this site was the core of the Dacian defensive system before the Roman conquest from the 2nd century AD. Today, it’s one of the six Dacian fortification systems included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a must-see for history enthusiasts.
Where it all begins
Sarmizegetusa Regia was not only the capital of the ancient Dacian Empire, but is also the greatest of all Dacian sites discovered until now. Its geographic position – in an area with difficult access even today – increased its strategic, political, military, economic, but also spiritual importance. Founded in the second half of the 1st century BC, the capital was from the start an urban space, strongly fortified and with direct access to vast iron resources.
Three distinct structures were discovered during the archaeological works that started in the 20th century: the sacred area, the fortifications and the civil housing area on the eastern and western terraces. While the artefacts brought to light – water supply systems, ceramics, thousands of iron objects – indicate the life of a flourishing ancient city – few ruins remain today from the ancient Dacian capital.
Sarmizegetusa Regia reached its maximum development under the rule of the mythical king Decebalus, before the Dacian-Roman Wars from the first decade of the 2nd century AD when the city was partially destroyed. After the wars, the Romans extended the fortifications that surrounded a surface three time larger than before, before building their new capital at Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa.
You can still see fragments of the fortification walls from the Roman time, a 200 meters segment from the paved road that linked this part to the sacred area where the ruins of seven temples – two circular and five rectangular –, and one monumental altar for sacrifices create an unparalleled view of the rich spiritual life of the Dacians that translated here through monumental religious architecture.
Isolated, enigmatic and for some rich in healing energies, the Dacian site from Sarmizegetusa Regia is one of those unique places you’ll remember long after your visit. Take your time and enjoy the postcard-perfect image in front of you. For now, the site is one of the major off the beaten track attractions in Romania.
Sarmizegetusa Regia is located in Sureanu Mountains, in Gradistea Muncelului-Cioclovina Nature Park. This is one of the most isolated and spectacular wilderness areas in the Carpathians, and the historical site offers several scenic hiking options. The most impressive is to Godeanu Peak (1,656 meters), the holly mountain of the Dacians. However, be sure to have a map as the first part of the trail has only a few hiking signs.
Don’t miss the fortification systems from Costesti and Blidaru, also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
For the complete experience, visit the History Museum from Deva where you can see the artifacts discovered at Sarmizegetusa Regia.
Visit also the ruins of the ancient Roman capital Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa.