Transylvania: Mountains and Medieval Towns
Location: Central Romania
Surrounded and enclosed by the Carpathians, Transylvania or ‘the Land Beyond the Forests’ is perhaps the best known travel destination of Romania. The magic of its traditional villages where people and nature coexist in harmony charmed Prince Charles and many other foreign guests who became true ambassadors of authentic Transylvania. No wonder that Lonely Planet considers Transylvania to be the number 1 region to visit in 2016.
While the Dracula myth is still connected in the mind of many visitors to this land, this is just pure nonsense with no historical evidence or support. Transylvania is neither scary nor dark, but an open space of multiculturalism and inestimable cultural heritage.
One of the historical provinces of modern day Romania, Transylvania has a tumultuous history that influenced considerably its development. Inhabited during the Antiquity by the Dacians, together with Southern Romania, ancient Transylvania was conquered by the Roman Empire who settled its colonists here almost two millenniums ago. Until medieval times, Transylvania witnessed various waves of migratory invasions, and starting with the 11th century its occupation by the neighboring Magyar tribes accentuated. In the following two centuries, the Magyar kings brought German colonists to the region to defend its borders, and their legacy is still visible today in the culture and architecture of Southern Transylvania. Transylvania was under the rule of the Hungarian Kingdom until the middle of the 18th century, and afterwards was a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918. Following the battles of the First World War, Transylvania reunited with Romania on December 1st, 1918.
Given its history, Transylvania is today a multicultural space. If the Hungarian influences are notable in cities like Cluj-Napoca, the Saxon heritage is dominant in the southern part of the region where the German colonists settled centuries ago, in Brasov, Sibiu, Sighisoara, Medias or Sebes.
In fact, some of Transylvania’s best conserved medieval landscapes are found in the areas once occupied by the Saxon communities. However, few members of this ethnic group still live in Transylvania, most of them migrating after the fall of the communist regime. Their heritage is, nonetheless, unmissable and exploring it can be a wonderful vacation option.
Tourism in Transylvania
Visitors have so many options in Transylvania that one vacation just won’t be enough. You can choose from hiking on the highest peaks of the Romanian Carpathians, in Fagaras Mountains, or in the wild Retezat National Park to walking tours in the mild and pastoral Apuseni Mountains with their scattered villages and scenic views. The cultural side is also impressive, and you can explore castles, fortress, ruins, UNESCO Heritage Sites, medieval towns and small traditional villages like Viscri or Malancrav.
Transylvania is an all seasons destination especially if you enjoy winter sports, but May to October is perhaps the best time to discover it.
Nature attractions: Retezat Mountains, Piatra Craiului Mountains, Fagaras Mountains, Parang Mountains, Apuseni Mountains, hundreds of caves and Europe’s second largest underground glacier, rich wildlife, the Dinosaurs Geopark from Hateg
Sports: hiking, horseback riding, extreme sports, cycling