Transylvania: Wilderness and Medieval History
Location: Central Romania
Enclosed by the Carpathians, Transylvania or ‘the land beyond the forests’ is the best-known travel destination of the country. The magic of its traditional villages enchanted Prince Charles and many more travelers who became true ambassadors of authentic Transylvania, the must-see region of Romania for its inestimable cultural heritage and breathtaking nature landscapes.
One of the historical provinces of modern day Romania, Transylvania has a tumultuous history that influenced considerably its development. Inhabited thousands of years ago by the Dacians, ancient Transylvania was conquered by the Roman Empire who colonized partially the region. After the Romans abandoned the land, Transylvania witnessed various waves of migratory invasions. Starting with the 11th century its territory was gradually conquered by the neighboring Magyar tribes.
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 cultural legacy from the counties of Sibiu and Brasov. The province was under the rule of the Hungarian Kingdom until the 16th century when it became an independent state under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire, one of the main threats of the time and the reason for the many fortifications built here.
In the late 18th century, the region was incorporated into the Habsburg Empire and became afterward a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. During the First World War, Transylvania, inhabited mainly by Romanian people, reunited with Romania on December 1st, 1918, event celebrated as the National Day of Romania.
Given its history, Transylvania is today a multicultural space. If the Hungarian influence is 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 the best preserved medieval landscapes are found in the areas once occupied by the Saxon communities. However, few members of this ethnic group still live here, most of them migrating after the fall of the communist regime. Their heritage is, nonetheless, unmissable and exploring it is one of the best vacation options in Romania.
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 pastoral Apuseni Mountains with their scattered villages and scenic views. Not to mention the castles, fortress, ruins, UNESCO World 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.
Sports: hiking, horseback riding, extreme sports, cycling