Visit Transylvania with one of our private tours
‘The land beyond the forests’ is the best-known vacation destination in Romania, and you will probably find it difficult to choose only a few places to visit in Transylvania. The magic of its traditional villages enchanted Prince Charles and many travelers who became travel ambassadors of authentic Transylvania, while its labyrinth of history, old cities, and terrific nature create countless options for your travels.
A short history of Transylvania
Transylvania has an eventful history. Inhabited by the Dacians, ancient Transylvania was conquered by the Roman Empire nearly two millennia ago. After the Romans abandoned the land, Transylvania witnessed various waves of migratory invasions, and starting with the 11th century, its territory was conquered by the neighboring Hungarian Kingdom.
In the following two centuries, the Magyar kings brought German colonists to defend the borders and build new towns. Their important heritage is still visible in the counties of Sibiu and Brasov. The province remained under Hungarian rule until the 16th century when it entered under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire.
In the late 18th century, the region became a part of the Habsburg Empire and later a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. At the end of WW1, Transylvania reunited with Romania on December 1st, 1918, an event celebrated as the National Day of Romania.
The most beautiful places to visit in Transylvania
If you’re still figuring out your plan to visit Transylvania, we have a detailed list of the best sites. Don’t worry if you can also see a few. Slow travel is the best way to uncover this destination.
Alba Iulia is the symbolic capital of Romania and the site of the historical unification from 1918. One full day is enough to discover the citadel of Alba Iulia and its ancient, medieval, and Baroque sites.
Just a three-hour drive from Bucharest, even less by train, Brasov deserves at least one full day of your vacation. Medieval fortifications, old streets, and the imposing Black Church are just some of the attractions that make it one of the most beautiful cities in Romania.
The Black Church, Brasov
Cluj-Napoca is a multi-cultural space, influenced by the heritage of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. Occupying a privileged location since ancient times, Cluj is now a dynamic city, powered up by its young population.
Many events, including the world-scale festival Untold, transform it into a favored place to visit in Transylvania. Plus, Cluj has great museums and historical monuments for travelers looking for more cultural fun.
The old capital of the German colonists, Sibiu was for hundreds of years the most important center of their heritage. Its well-conserved Upper Town, impressive churches, and medieval fortifications are the main attractions. Like Brasov, Sibiu is a great option if you want to visit Transylvania taking day trips to nearby sites. One of the closest destinations is next on our list.
Sighisoara is a must for travelers looking to visit the UNESCO Heritage Sites from Romania. Hundreds of old houses, surrounded by medieval fortifications, walls, and towers, occupy the narrow streets where once the richest members of the community lived.
Located at the end of a bumpy road that takes you to the middle of nowhere, Alma Vii is one of the loveliest places to visit in Transylvania. You can book a room for the night and visit the fortified church, walk around the village, and get to know the hard-working locals.
The small village of Malancrav is just a half an hour drive from Sighisoara but seems to be ages away from the real world. Its isolation influenced its past and even its present. As you’ll soon discover after your arrival, you have no cell coverage and few cars drive by. All for the best, you’ll have more time to enjoy the peace, visit the 14th-century church and admire its unique pre-Reformation frescoes, walk or cycle around the village.
Pestera and Magura
Threatened by modern development, the villages of Pestera and Magura are the panoramic gateway to Piatra Craiului Mountains. Hurry up, and visit while the herds of cows, goats, and sheep still graze freely on the alpine pastures.
Ramet is one of the most beautiful mountain villages in Romania. The nearby abrupt Rametului Gorges and the monastery of Ramet, one of the oldest in Transylvania, are among the popular destinations from Trascaului Mountains. After the tourists leave, it becomes a place of almost complete tranquility. Only a few families live in Cheia and Bradesti and less than 600 people in the 13 villages of Ramet commune.
A must if you’re driving from Alba Iulia to Cluj, Rimetea is one of the best-conserved villages in the country. A medieval mining center, Rimetea enjoys a panoramic location, at the foothills of Piatra Secuiului cliff, in one of the many valleys of the Trascaului Mountains.
The most famous village in Transylvania, Viscri is the absolute star of heritage conservation. Founded by the German colonists in the 13th century, Viscri succeeded in keeping its typical architecture and promoting local and sustainable programs. Don’t miss its white fortified church, listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Recently listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site for its ancient Roman mining system, Rosia Montana is at the heart of the biggest environmental campaign from Romania. Its nature and historical sites came under serious threat after plans for cyanuric-based exploitation of its underground gold were approved years ago. The new UNESCO status offers much-needed protection against new mining campaigns.
Mining galleries, Rosia Montana
Photo source: www.facebook.com/adoptaocasa
The ancient fortresses of the Dacians
Spread across Orastiei Mountains, the ruins of the ancient Dacian fortresses are in most cases hard to find. But it’s an experience that’s more than worth the effort considering the age of the ruins, more than two millenniums. The easiest to reach is the capital of the Dacians, Sarmizegetusa Regia. The other sites are Banita, Blidaru, Capalna, Costesti, and Piatra Rosie.
For a complete tour of ancient sites, visit also the ruins of the Roman capital, Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa.
Check the visiting schedule on www.sarmizegetusa.mcdr.ro
The fortified churches and their villages
Seven fortified churches from Transylvania are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The core of the Saxon heritage, these monuments best represent the original architectural solutions used to protect the villagers against enemy invasions. You’ll find them in Biertan, Calnic, Darjiu, Prejmer, Saschiz, Valea Viilor, and Viscri.
History & Culture Landmarks
Corvin Castle is an impressive Gothic-style construction and a popular attraction. It’s one of the most important historical landmarks in the region which can only mean you should plan an early morning visit. The same goes for the most visited place in Romania, Bran Castle.
Check the visiting schedule on www.castelulcorvinilor.ro
This 14th-century medieval fortress became world-famous after being labeled as Dracula’s Castle. Far from vampire stories, Bran Castle has a fascinating story of its own, one that involves Queen Maria saving it after WW1.
Check the visiting schedule on www.bran-castle.com
Banffy Castle was known in the past as the Versailles of Transylvania. An overstatement when it comes to size, but nonetheless a beautiful place with over 600 years of history. Almost destroyed during WW2, used as an agricultural cooperative by the communists, the castle is undergoing restoration. It hosts every year the Electric Castle Festival.
The stone churches from Hateg
Mysterious and original, the stone churches from the old Country of Hateg share an unusual construction technique. The best-known, Densus Church, was partially built with stone from the nearby ancient Roman capital Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa. Visit also the stone churches Sanpetru, Santamaria-Orlea, Ostrovul Mare, and Colt.
Transylvania wouldn’t be the same without its many medieval fortifications, built on cliffs or abrupt hills, for defensive purposes. Dating from the 14th century, the fortress of Rupea is one of the best examples of the evolution of military architecture in Transylvania.
Check the visiting schedule on www.rupeaturistica.ro
We head back to the gorgeous Trascaului Mountains for the 13th-century Coltesti Fortress. Although only the walls and partially the donjon tower survived, its dramatic look and mountainous backdrop make it a great destination any time of the year.
Discover more fortresses to visit in Transylvania
Dating from the early 13th century, the Abbey of Carta is the only monument of this powerful medieval order that exists today in Romania.
Zarnesti Bear Sanctuary
The Bear Sanctuary from Zarnesti is the largest brown bear wildlife reserve in the world and one of the must-visit places in Transylvania for animal lovers. The sanctuary hosts over 100 bears saved from horrible captivity conditions. This is a unique and bold wildlife conservation project in Romania, the country with the highest number of brown bears in Europe.
Photo source: www.facebook.com/Bear.Sanctuary
Check the visiting schedule on https://www.ampbears.ro
The highest group of the Carpathians, the Fagaras Mountains are the top destination for hikers in search of challenging experiences. Always double-check the weather forecast before planning a hike here. With an annual medium temperature of -2 Celsius on its ridge and a high risk of avalanches in wintertime, Fagaras can turn into a dangerous destination if you go unprepared.
Hasmas Mountain is one of the spectacular corners of the Eastern Carpathians, a perfect place for hikes any time of the year. You can take day trips from the small town of Balan to Piatra Singuratica or Hasmasu Mare, or you can embark on a longer hike until Bicaz Gorges and Red Lake.
Piatra Craiului National Park
Piatra Craiului Mountains are one of the most easily accessible hiking destinations in the Carpathians. This national park has great options for both enthusiasts and experienced hikers.
Retezat National Park
The oldest national park in Romania, this is the ultimate hiking destination if you’re ready for multi-day long trails. With altitudes varying from 800 meters to 2,509 meters, Retezat National Park has 80 glacial lakes and tarns, half of the country’s bird species, almost 1,200 plant species, and 55 species of mammals. It’s biodiversity heaven.
Gradistea Muncelului-Cioclovina Nature Park
Caves, gorges, karst formations, and many legends attract nature enthusiasts to this protected area. Over 400 caves, potholes, and mining galleries exist here, but you can visit only Bolii Cave without special equipment. Sureanu Mountains are the main hiking destination of the park.
Lower in altitude than most of the other Carpathian groups, Apuseni Mountains are, nonetheless, a lost world of traditional hamlets, impressive karst formation, and fascinating landscapes. This is maybe the best place in Romania if you want to discover the highest altitude villages in Romania, close to 1,600 meters, and imagine what daily life was like in the heart of nature.
More off the beaten track than Fagaras and Retezat, Parang Mountains are the best alternative if you’re looking for a more solitary hiking experience. Glacial lakes, impressive gorges, caves, peaks over 2,500 meters, isolated camping sites are all part of the experience.
One of the most famous images of Transylvania, the Transfagarasan road is a major infrastructure project of the communist regime. While its initial military purpose was never achieved, the road remained since its opening the most panoramic drive across the Carpathians.
The highest altitude mountain road in Romania (2,145 meters), Transalpina crosses Parang Mountains, offering one of the most beautiful drives in Romania.
Discover more attractions in Transylvania.
Visit Transylvania with one of our private tours