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Transfagarasan road trip – all you need to know

Need to know

Reachable: from Bascov near Curtea de Arges (km 0), and Cartisoara (at the crossroad with DN1),
Total length: 151 km, out of which 92 km cross Fagaras Mountains
County/Area: Arges County, Wallachia and Sibiu County, Transylvania
Entrance fee: free of charge
Open: July to November.

I have long waited to go see Transfagarasan for myself. But somehow the odds were against me. Until this summer when I got to see this epic road I knew only from pictures and videos. It was love at first sight…

Typical Transfagarasan

Have you ever been in a place that offered you so much? More than expected?

Much in terms of everything: (hi)story, landscape, adrenalin, nature, hiking and even more…

Cause I have. And this place is called Transfagarasan (officially DN7C), one of the most picturesque roads in Romania, and yes, the greatest driving road in the world, according to Top Gear magazine. And one of Romania’s top destinations. It is the road that crosses the highest mountains in Romania, Fagaras, and reaches 2,042 m around Lake Balea.

Driving on Transfagarasan is a bit of a challenge. You can feel the adrenalin. The road is narrow and winding, and it contains several hairpins. Anyway, it only requires attention, not Formula 1 skills. Still, be cautious if the visibility is low, as it is quite common in the mountains because of dense fog.

Fog comes when you least expect it


A bit of history/good to know
Must-see on and around Transfagarasan
Some hiking trails

A bit of history/good to know

The history of this epic road that crosses the southern Carpathians started in 1970 at the orders of Ceausescu. The communist dictator decided to build a road after Russia’s invasion to Czechoslovakia. Fearing a possible occupation and preoccupied to connect Wallachia to Transylvania, Ceausescu signs the papers for the ambitious project.

Like all ventures started by Ceausescu, this one also involved huge workforce, short time and extreme working conditions. It was built mainly by young soldiers, but also peasants or intellectuals in under 5 years. Officially, 40 people lost their lives. Unofficially, some witnesses declared hundreds of dead. The working conditions were hard to imagine, work in shifts and tough weather conditions.

Transfagarasan has 27 tunnels, and building it required 6,520 tonnes of dynamite altogether. The most famous and difficult section is between Balea Lake and Balea waterfall, and it lasts 13 km. However, I can assure you Transfagarasan is spectacular all the way.

Must-see on and around Transfagarasan

Although the highway comprises altogether 151 km that can be covered in a day, Transfagarasan spoils the visitor with lots to do and see. I won’t hide the fact that it is one of my favourite places in Romania.

We started our journey on Transfagarasan from Wallachia, Curtea de Arges, and headed north to Cartisoara.

Poenari fortress is the first stop on the way. Erected on top of a mountain (to be found at the end of 1480 stairs), it is the fortress of a legendary prince, Vlad the Impaler.

The next stop is Vidraru Dam and Storage Lake. Built in the 1960s to produce electricity, it ranked top 10 in Europe at the time. Another communist landmark, Vidraru has impressive measurements: it is 166 m high, and it can store 465 million cubic metres of water. The area offers opportunities for leisure activities. The dam has the highest bungee jumping gantry if you are thirsty for a thrill. If you prefer the lake, you can rent a boat and spend some time enjoying the landscape.

We did enjoy the landscape, but also some of the mountains’ fauna, as soon after that we encountered bears and cubs roaming around freely. They looked really used to cars and people, sometimes even bored to see so many humans…

Bear and cubs roaming on Transfagarasan

Transfagarasan Treehouse Village was the next spot that caught our eyes. Its construction was ongoing at the time, and I am positive it would be a trendy destination on the highway. Equipped with many fancy things, among which an outdoor tub or a special barbecue oven, the idea of feeling the communion with nature is more and more present. It is opening soon, make sure to book ahead.

The road to Balea Lake continues in the same manner that shows nature’s majesty. It is sometimes dotted with bigger or smaller waterfalls or a cottage here and there.

Work in progress – Transfagarasan Treehouse Village

Balea Lake is a landmark of Transfagarasan. In fact, this glacial lake is like the cherry on top.

When you reach it, you feel yourself in the middle of the action. And you are indeed. As (almost) everything on this highway starts from this lake.

This is the starting point for hiking trails, but this is the place to try something sweet or salty from the numerous stalls. And why not the famous burduf cheese in fir-tree shell, typical only in the area?

If you want to accommodate in one of the two Balea hotels that are near the lake, make sure you book ahead, especially in summer and at weekends! Winter and landscape lovers can find shelter at Balea Ice Hotel, rebuilt every year. Its remote location, at over 2,000m is reachable only by cable car, but despite not visiting it, most of the reviews call it a must.

Some hiking trails

  • The most classic trail starts from Balea Lake to Saua Caprei, you can make a small detour to see another glacial lake, Capra Lake (Goat lake) to reach Vanatarea Buteanu peak, 2,507. It takes around 3-4 hours, depending on training. Easy to medium trail.
  • Balea Lake – Balea waterfall. 21/2 -3 hours, easy to medium.
  • Balea Lake – Moldoveanu peak, the highest in Romania, 2,544. It is a difficult trail, especially if you want to do it in a day. It takes 6-7 hours.
  • Balea Lake – Negoiu Peak, 2,535. Medium to difficult trail, 5-6 hours.

For more info on hiking trails, check here.

On the way to Saua Caprei
Lake Capra

When you leave Balea lake heading towards Cartisoara, you will encounter the hairpins that made Transfagarasan famous. Here, you will definitely wanna stop to take pictures and charge your batteries with the view nature pampers with. There are lots of snacks possibilities, but this time we chose to drive straight to Albota Trout Farm. You have to make a small detour.

This place offers more than just eating; you can accommodate both in a hotel or bungalows, but I particularly liked their approach to fishing. It encourages people of all ages to fish. The summer terrace offers lots of dishes based on fish from their farms, and the trout fillet in corn flakes together with elderberry lemonade in a hot summer day are a must.

Cartisoara is a peaceful Transylvanian village, which serves as starting point for a road trip or hike on Transfagarasan. You can switch register and drive to Carta, the only Cistercian abbey in Romania, a few kilometers away. In the other direction is Sibiu, one of Romania’s most charming cities, 45 km from Cartisoara.

Accommodation tips

Even if there are some accommodation possibilities along the road, everybody is anxious to have a room in the front row. That is, Cabana Balea Lake. It is usually crowded during the summer and weekends. Other options include Complex Vila Balea, a few km down, but they provide good conditions. Piscul Negru Hotel is another good choice, rather close to Lake Balea.

Recommended by TTF:

  • The most fabulous road in Romania and not only;
  • Famous landmark of the communist regime;
  • Several must-see attractions along the road;
  • You can pick one of the many hiking trails;
  • Good for many sports: climbing, jogging, cycling, motorcycling.

3 Responses

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