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Poenari Fortress, Vlad the Impaler’s Secondary Residence

I’ll be honest with you: until recently the name of Poenari (or Poienari) fortress sounded completely unknown to my ears. I was looking forward to a complete road trip on Transfagarasan, and during my research (ooh, very elaborate term), I came across this ancient fortress.

So, let’s do it, I thought to myself!

Said and done, here I am sharing with you the main info I have on Poenari fortress, aka the fortress of Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler).

Half wall, half landscape… Poenari citadel, the Eagles’ Nest


How to get to Poenari fortress?
Fees and visiting hours
Vlad the Impaler and Poenari Citadel
The fortification: rise and fall
Legends of Poenari citadel

How to get to Poenari fortress?

Situated 26 km north from Curtea de Arges, and just a few km before Vidraru Dam, Poenari is in Arefu commune. By car, you follow DN7C, Transfăgărășan road, from Curtea de Argeș until the foot of the mountain where the fortification is.

Then you have to climb your way up. But the scenery is totally worth it.

The 1480 stairs to climb show the strategic position of the citadel. And explains why it was so hard to conquer back then. And not so easy to conquer even now. Don’t worry, you can rest on the benches scattered in the forest.

Climbing to the citadel is made on concrete stairs
Bird’s eye view from the top; the citadel is undoubtedly well positioned; photo:

The altitude is around 850 m, and in average it takes around one hour, and yeah, maybe some muscular fever. Recently, barbed wire fencing has been added to protect the visitors from inquisitive bears that might also be roaming the area.

Fees and visiting hours

The citadel can be visited Mon-Fri 10.00-18.00, last entrance at 4.30 p.m.

The fee is 10 lei (2 euro) /adult and 5 lei (1 euro) for children, students, and pensioners.

From the top you can see both Transfagarasan and Arges river, calmly winding one next to the other

Vlad the Impaler and Poenari Citadel

Today we visit Poenari citadel due to the connection with Vlad Tepes (the Impaler). Placed atop Cetățuia mountain (850 m), Poenari Citadel was the final shelter of Vlad the Impaler before leaving for Transylvania. Famous for his merciless and bloody ruling style, Vlad was famous for his brave fight against the Ottomans, but also for his unjust association with Dracula.

Most people looking for Vlad and Dracula, visit Bran Castle, although most likely, Vlad never set foot there. Instead, this is the true legacy of Vlad, his secondary residence.

Vlad and his merciless habit of impaling; there’s a re-enactment waiting for you upstairs

The fortification: rise and fall

In fact, it all started before Vlad, in the 13th century when the fortress was designed to ensure protection for the back-then ruler and shelter a small garrison. The second construction stage happened during the reign of Vlad the Impaler in the 15th century when the walls and semi-circular towers were built.

It seems that in its moment of glory, Poenari was a large fortress with strong walls and four towers. The square one, also the largest, protected the entrance and served as donjon. The round towers sheltered rooms, and the entire fortress had a communication system with the outside through galleries. On the northern side, it had a water tank to ensure the vital liquid for the people and animals inside.

Reconstruction of how the castle looked like long ago; photo:

The castle had a defensive role; it protected from the Ottoman invasion. Poenari citadel was abandoned when it lost military importance, while, the passing of time and earthquakes destroyed it even more. The actual stairs are the work of the 1972 restoration.

The citadel served as shelter for the ruler, treasury of the country, but also prison for the boyars found guilty of betrayal. The fortification played a double role: observation and refuge at the same time. Considering its strategic position, people took advantage of the citadel to convey messages to the neighboring villages, or even the Danube.  The times taught them to use smoke during the day, and fire, during the night to announce the invader.

Me …under the guillotine
Roaming between the rooms

Legends of Poenari citadel

I’ve mentioned several times that Romanians are avid consumers of legends and stories, and Poenari is no exception.

This fortress hides a bloody past. One legend speaks about the torture Vlad the Impaler inflicted upon the boyars who betrayed him and killed his brother. Faithful to his nickname, Vlad impaled the old boyars and paraded with them throughout the town, while the young and powerful ones didn’t have a better life either. On Easter day, Vlad grabbed the boyars and carried them to Poenari where they worked their fingers to the bone and most of them faced death.

Another legend talks about Vlad the Impaler’s first wife who’d rather jump from a cliff than being prisoner to the Ottomans and while falling, the rocks turned red.

A rather dark and spooky place, the citadel was also featured as a haunted location in Ghost Hunters International.

Red walls


You can easily find a room on the spot in almost every house in Capataneni-Ungureni village, for very decent prices, most of them with shared bathroom and access to the kitchen.

Pensiunea Denisa from the village is rustic and offers accommodation next to Arges river. If you go a few km further, to Vidraru Dam, there’s Hotel Posada Vidraru, or you can also find accommodation in Arefu at Hatasul Bunicului.

Recommended by TTF:

  • Vlad the Impaler’s legacy, being his secondary residence in the 15th century;
  • Beautifully placed on top of a small mountain with beautiful view over Arges river;
  • The ruins of an old historical monument.

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