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Must-see Transylvania 2023: The ultimate guide


Yes, Transylvania….

If you’re reading this blog post, it means that the name Transylvania is not completely new to your ears.

Ssshhh, before moving on, let’s get something straight. This is the name of one of the largest regions in Romania (this explains the music to your ears), but also the most visited one.

You want to know why? It is by far the most famous one among foreigners who have heard about Dracula and come looking for him, but Transylvania is so much more…

Click here to find about about Romania’s main attractions and here for a rapid crash course!

Rupea fortress; photo credit Emilia Morariu

Show contents

Transylvania, in a nutshell
Cheat sheet
Saxon fortified churches
Corvin Castle
Relaxation in Brasov
Sibiu the charming
Marginimea Sibiului, area of excellence
Bran Castle
The Cistercian Abbey of Carta
Rucar-Bran area
Cluj Napoca, the bubbly
Buggy ride in Apuseni mountains
Sighisoara the idyllic
Apuseni mountains
Turda salt mine
Sarmizegetusa Regia
Rosu Lake and Bicaz Gorges
Genuine accommodation in a traditional guesthouse
Must try dishes
Sports lovers: some useful hints
Zarnesti Libearty Bear Sanctuary

Transylvania, in a nutshell

This post opens the gates to Transylvania, land of bucolic landscapes, idyllic villages, charming cities, and medieval fortresses. Transylvania’s past embraces Roman conquest, Austrian-Hungarian invasion, or Saxon influences, all of which shaped this piece of land into what it is.

It is the land of myths and legends, traditions, and tasty food, of cosy family time spent together in winter at the fireplace or in summer at haymaking. Yes, that’s right. Transylvania is also a land of traditions preserved in the countryside. For the best of Transylvania, I recommend genuine accommodation in a traditional household for one night at least.

A charming street of Sighisoara; photo credit Isabela Stancu

Cheat sheet

  • Geographical position – Transylvania is placed in the middle of Romania. It ranges within the arc of the Carpathian Mountains which makes it rich in plateaus, lakes, and gorges (especially alongside Apuseni mountains).
  • The best moment to visit – Transylvania has the real-deal four seasons. Summer is a great time to visit. Late spring or early autumn months are perfect. Winter as well if you enjoy winter sports and scenery.
  • How many days you need to visit – Usually, from a few days (minimum 4) to a week for the hurried traveller. Of course, the more you stay, the more you’ll grow fond of it.
  • Base yourself somewhere, but make sure you move around – you could fly into Cluj Napoca and start from there. Other ideas to base your trip: Brasov, Sibiu or Sighisoara.
  • Rent a car – Not only is it at your disposal day and night to take you to a spot, but it also avoids buses and trains (rather slow) that do not have all the connections you will want.
  • Travel insurance – an important accessory when travelling abroad.
  • Check your visa needs – right here.
  • For more info related to visiting Transylvania, check my ultra-complete guide.
Man and horse, the perfect communion man and nature

So, with no further ado, here they are, ladies and gentlemen, in no particular order.

Saxon fortified churches

The big number of fortified churches is unique in the world in Saxon Transylvania. Initially built as churches placed strategically on top of a hill (in many cases), they were later added fortifications to protect from the invaders. The size of the walls was in strict relation with the economic and financial power of the village.

Placed mainly in southeast Transylvania, some churches are part of the UNESCO World Heritage. My very favourite ones are in Biertan (30 km from Sighisoara), Harman (close to Brasov) and Viscri (42 km from Sighisoara). There are other ones worth visiting: Prejmer, Cristian, Cisnadioara, Valea Viilor, Crit, Cincsor or Saschiz.

View over Biertan; photo credit fb discover romania
Cincsor fortified church is beautiful and in good shape

Corvin Castle

Surrounded by myths and legends, Corvin Castle is a large stronghold dating back to medieval times. Comprising bastions, towers, several rooms and an inner courtyard, the castle was initially designed as a fortress and a prison. It was erected by a very strong family, the Hunyadi, and it changed gradually the aspect and purpose. The Torture Museum is in line with the dark and Gothic side of the castle.

Corvin (Hunyadi) Castle
Inner yard image

Relaxation in Brasov

Situated at the bottom of Tampa hill, Brasov (brashov) welcomes the visitor with a pleasant atmosphere that is a mixture between Saxons, Hungarians and Romanians. Surrounded by lush green vegetation, Brasov has some fascinating attributes: the cable car that offers you a bird’s eye view, the famous Gothic Black Church, the third narrowest street in Europe, and yes… the famous Hollywood sign. Moreover, Brasov is very close to many mountain resorts of the Carpathians.

Black Church is a symbol of Brasov

Sibiu the charming

One of the most beautiful Romanian cities, Sibiu (seebiw) attracts visitors that fall in love instantly with this idyllic place. Former European Capital of Culture, Sibiu is a destination that combines the Saxon roots with the tumultuous cultural life. Surrounded by fortifications, the downtown surprises by the narrow-cobbled streets, the several pleasant squares or the beautiful Baroque here and there. A city of numerous premieres, Sibiu is also a good chilling spot compact enough for a one-day visit.

View over Sibiu; photo: @magictransylvania
The Bridge of Lies

Marginimea Sibiului

A region made up of 18 pretty localities, Marginimea Sibiului (close to Sibiu) won the title of European Destination of Excellence. If you want to find out what made this place a top destination, the answer is simple: tradition. Here, transhumance is part of the people’s and seasons’ activities, the folk costume is preserved, and the houses are kept like before. If you go, dairy products are a must in the area, as well as local gastronomy is a main attraction that you won’t find anywhere else.

Marginimea Sibiului; pfoto credit :

Bran Castle, the famous landmark

Bran Castle is a Romanian landmark mistakenly connected to Dracula. It rejoices huge popularity thanks to Bram Stoker’s novel (originally) and acclaim from movies with vampires.  The mystical landscape that presents a castle surrounded frequently by fog atop an irregular cliff is perfectly in line with the story. However, the castle has nothing to do with Dracula.

Instead, the castle displays its tumultuous past. It pays mainly tribute to Queen Marie of Romania who reigned in the early 20th century, and to whom it belonged. But of course, there are some rooms with spooky and eerie Romanian traditions and characters.

Bran Castle stands proud; photo credit: @magictransylvania
Tribute brought to Queen Marie

The Cistercian Abbey of Carta

Pretty close to Sibiu lies this fascinating monastery that showcases the first Gothic elements in Romania. Carta (kirtsa) presents the only remaining ruins built by the religious order of the Cistercians in Romania. The abbey attracts lots of tourists for its Gothic side: the legend that the church would be haunted by the monks who lived there and for serving as set for a horror movie.

The site has a church, a small museum, a cemetery, as well as the first inhabited house in Transylvania. All these in a breath-taking scenery, not far from the mountains covered with snow.

Fabulous place
The road leading to the church is paved with monuments

Rucar-Bran area

After I saw pictures that fascinated me of the Rucar Bran area, I decided to go myself and see the truth. Well, truth is things are much better in reality than in pics…. The area has a hallucinating beauty that comprises lots of pristine nature, isolated mountain villages and breath-taking sunsets.

There is also a passage with the same name, but it isn’t the only worth mentioning attraction. The two ranges of mountains (Bucegi and Piatra Craiului) surround the area and lure even the pickiest tourist into dreaming with the eyes open.

The area is champion in stunning landscape
Rucar Bran area is really beautiful; it will help recharge your batteries

Cluj Napoca, the bubbly

The biggest city in Transylvania, Cluj is not only the heart of the region geographically, but economically as well. Contemporary Cluj is a mixture between Romanian and Hungarian influences, as well as tradition meets the new.

One of the most active cities in Romania, Cluj managed to create a special identity by putting an emphasis on creativity and freshness. Besides being a cultural hub for the young generation (and famous for UNTOLD Festival), Cluj takes pride to make you experience lots of interesting activities besides the classic ones, of course.

Central Park in Cluj: instagram: @anna_discovers_romania

Buggy ride in Apuseni mountains

This is a highly recommended activity I experienced by chance. During the accommodation in Alba county, we had a buggy ride in Trascau (Apuseni mountains). It proved to be the perfect combo between amazing nature, pinches of adrenalin, fascinating stories and peasant food.

The ride can be adjusted according to weather or gang, but one thing is sure: it always ends well and makes you create wonderful memories.

A buggy in the wilderness…

Sighisoara the idyllic

No one can argue with me and say that Sighisoara  (sigishwara) is not an idyllic town. Furthermore, it is medieval, romantic, and absolutely charming…. Famous for the Clock Tower, the alleged Vlad the Impaler’s birth house or the medieval festival, Sighisoara’s got everything a tourist might be fascinated about.

Small, but enchanting, Sighisoara captivates by the colours, narrow-cobbled streets, and mostly, vacay vibes that surround it all.

Sighisoara and the Tower
Colourful street of Sighisoara: photo credit: @veronicassights


This spectacular winding road crosses Transylvania and the Carpathians to get to Wallachia. Built by Ceausescu with the goal of stopping a possible invasion, Transfagarasan has become not just a Romanian attraction, but much more than that.

The complete 151 km road is not just an austere road trip with fabulous landscape. It is after all a road trip with lots to explore further by sportspeople and amateurs, in summer or winter alike. 

Lake Balea
This majestic highway…

Apuseni mountains

You must have heard that strong essences are kept in small bottles. The saying goes for Apuseni mountains also, which, despite not being the tallest, are reputed to be one of Eastern Europe’s finest places, its best kept secret. The range of mountains will spoil you with pristine forests, beautiful plateaus where time stood still, lots of caves, waterfalls, and winding gorges.

A glimpse of Apuseni; photo credit: Sorin Onisor

Turda salt mine

This is one of the biggest salt mines in the country and surprising beyond compare. It contains 38 million tonnes of salt, enough to cover the necessary amount of salt for 60 years on the entire planet. It doesn’t impress only by size and numbers. This salt mine also works as an enormous playground, a boating sector or health and relaxation areas.

If you need to spend an entire day underground, there’s plenty to choose from. Should you need to increase your immunity (and who wouldn’t?), the salt mine is a suitable destination.

Turda salt mine

Sarmizegetusa Regia

Placed in a dense Carpathian forest, the Romanian Stonehenge is a place filled with history, and lots of mystery. Former site of the Dacian princes, this area is the core of an entire culture whose remains are in Hunedoara county.

The wood and stone circles testify the ancient presence of the Dacians in this remote sector. The distinct areas together with the artifacts discovered stand as testimony for the flourishing community that used to populate the land. Today, it is part of the UNESCO Heritage site where you can explore (or even better, imagine!) a complete city.

Sarmizegetusa in autumn; facebook: enjoy hunedoara
and in summer; photo credit:

Rosu Lake and Bicaz Gorges

Like all nature splendours in Romania, the Rosu (roshu)(Red) Lake couldn’t lack its own legend. Stories aside, the truth is that the logs that populate the surface of the lake are the remains of a forest that got flooded and give the lake an unusual aspect. The area benefits from a microclimate helpful in treating insomnia. Just a little further, nature sculpted the majestic Bicaz Gorges that are at the boundary between Transylvania and Moldova.  

The magnificent winding Bicaz gorges; photo credit instagram: Alex S Husariu

Genuine accommodation in a traditional guesthouse

If your intentions about Transylvania are serious and you’ve decided to take the most of it, follow your guts (or my suggestion) and pick a traditional guesthouse for 1-2 nights at least. There is no better place to feel, taste and live the traditional lifestyle, the one that will crawl into your veins.

Your memories will be more than just beautiful places; your nostrils will be filled with the flavour of homemade bread, and your heart will pound with joy just by reliving the moment.

Here are some ideas: Casa Glod is situated 50 km west from Alba Iulia, Casa Kraus in Crit, Mesendorf Gasthaus or Saschiz 130 in the vicinity; in the latter you can bake bread in their 80 year-old oven. La Mama Anica is not far from Sibiu, Casuta Bunicii close to Bran or Iara Guesthouse in the Apuseni mountains offers delicious homemade food. Make sure to book ahead as these guesthouses are a magnet for tourists!

Casa Krauss: tradition meets comfort
Casa glod is a successful example of traditional: photo:

Must try dishes

Transylvania’s heritage is to be looked for on the plate too, not just in history. The numerous influences enriched the classic dishes with flavours and spices, not to mention their diversity. A visit to this region makes you richer if you don’t stick to the well-trodden path and are bold enough to pamper your palate. The goulash, cabbage in Cluj style (varza a la Cluj), eggplant dip, paprikash, plum dumplings, or chimney cake (Kurtos) are just some tips. And yes, in the country, you’ll eat organic.

Varza a la Cluj (cabbage made in Cluj style); photo credit:

Sports lovers: some useful hints

Besides the traditional visiting type, Transylvania opens up to the sports amateurs by enabling them to do what they love the most in a spectacular and new environment.

If you and your bike are best friends, Transylvania Bike Trails offers the chance of exploring the area on bike (3 hiking trails: from 24 to 78 km). If enduro is your thing, go for Transylvania Enduro Tours. Should you be a four-wheel passionate, you have the option of a buggy tour in Apuseni mountains or the Carpathians.

If you love water and adrenaline, try rafting or kayaking on Aries river. If you love the power of the wind and are around Cluj, consider paragliding, while, you also have the option to explore caves.

Biking is for the bold ones; photo credit: facebook: transylvania bike trails network

Zarnesti Libearty Bear Sanctuary

Ambitious project in itself, Zarnesti Libearty Bear Sanctuary (close to Brasov) is not only a praiseworthy community initiative. It is a pleasure to the eye and senses that hosts in 69 hectares the largest population of brown bears in the world.

The bears were rescued from captivity and harsh living conditions and are now offered a large, forested area designed for their needs to make them feel home again. Made with the heart by true animal love. The bonus is that you can be part of it and observe the animals as they really are. Majestic and proud.

Nicole bear cub is watching from above; photo credit: AMP Libearty – Bear Sanctuary
A swimming pool is perfect in summer; photo credit: AMP Libearty – Bear Sanctuary

So, the land among the forests, Transylvania really is a magic place where nature meets hiking trails, castles or vast population of brown bears (yes, it is !). It is also an exploration opportunity for beautiful cities, tasting marvellous dishes and meeting friendly people. Land of history, multiethnicity, and well-preserved traditions, Transylvania is itself an invitation to visiting this amazing region famous worldwide!!!

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