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Best of Romania

Duration
10 Days
Prices From:
US$ 3,249

Discover the very best of Romania on this private-guided adventure taking you through Bucharest, Brasov and Cluj. Along the way you'll tour the winding Transfagarasan road, dine privately in Bran Castle, visit the Turda Salt Mine and so much more.


Experience a truly fascinating corner of Europe on this 10-day Romania tour from Bucharest. Travel back to the sobering communist years, visit some of the country’s most picturesque villages, see some of Transylvania’s most incredible castles, and shiver at a few ghoulish legends of folklore.

Your adventure begins in Bucharest, where one of Europe’s least understood capitals boasts one of its most astonishing architectural icons. The Palace of Parliament, a holdover from the turbulent communist era, seems almost too grand to be real. Learn about the times that surrounded its creation, and the revolution that brought that regime to an end before visiting the Spring Palace, the last residence of the dictator Nicolae Ceasescu.

Take a privately guided road trip along the Transfagarasan, including historic Curtea de Arges, and a drive by Poenari Castle. Currently under renovation, Poenari’s claim to ‘Dracula’ lineage has more credibility than the more famous Bran Castle, which you’ll visit later in the trip. A major highlight of this day however is the road itself, which showcases the immense beauty of the Carpathians.

The following day, transfer to Brasov, your base for exploring the Transylvania region. Much more than a cradle of spooky legends, this beautiful part of the world is dotted with Saxon villages including UNESCO-listed Sighisoara, the birthplace of Vlad Tepes, the infamous ‘Impaler.’ You’ll learn a lot more about the truths and myths that surround this legendary figure as you explore the region.

Ready for some of Transylvania’s hidden treasures? Uncover the history of Brasov itself, including one of Europe’s oldest working water mills. Then dive into the mysterious caves of Sinca Veche, thought to be 7,000 years old, with many exciting stories spanning its history. Visit the magnificently preserved Fagaras Fortress, before returning to your hotel.

Then, a very special experience awaits as you enjoy a lantern-led private tour of Bran Castle. As we already mentioned, Bran’s links to Vlad Tepes are tenuous at best. Bran’s claim to being ‘Dracula’s Castle’ can be traced to Bram Stoker having drawn inspiration from it while describing the vampire’s imposing home in his novel. It remains an atmospheric experience, sure to spook and delight! Afterwards, sit down for a (non-sanguine) dinner composed of delicious traditional dishes made with local ingredients.

There are options if you never drink… wine.

A private tour takes you to Corvin Castle, Romania’s largest castle, and a site fought over by numerous powers in the region including the Ottomans and the Hungarians. On your last full day in the country, visit Alba Iulia, where the Romans and the Habsburgs both left their mark. In Roman times it was known as Apulum, and was an important military and commercial centre.

In the afternoon, visit the little known but spectacular Salina Turda. This 2000-year-old salt mine was finally closed in 1932, and today contains unique attractions and activities that allow visitors to experience its beautiful salt formations and geology. It has more than its share of legends to offer as well!


 

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Duration
10 Days
Prices From:
US$ 3,249

Itinerary View Trip Map

Day 1

Bucharest Airport to Bucharest Hotels

Duration3 Hours

Boutique Hotel Moxa

A boutique hotel, located within walking distance from several cultural attractions on Calea Victoriei, about a 5-minutes' drive away from Bucharest's Old Town with all its entertainment, cafes, bars and restaurants. The hotel is a laid-back place mixing modern and somewhat more eclectic styles and a cozy patio is among its lovely public spaces. The rooms are comfortable and well-appointed, offering all the amenities today's travelers expect from a first-class hotel. A very good choice of accommodation for travelers of all ages.

Meal Plan Buffet Breakfast
Duration3 Nights
Accommodation

Boutique Hotel Moxa

More Info

Location View map
  • starstarstarstar

    Boutique Hotel Moxa



    A boutique hotel, located within walking distance from several cultural attractions on Calea Victoriei, about a 5-minutes' drive away from Bucharest's Old Town with all its entertainment, cafes, bars and restaurants. The hotel is a laid-back place mixing modern and somewhat more eclectic styles and …

    A boutique hotel, located within walking distance from several cultural attractions on Calea Victoriei, about a 5-minutes' drive away from Bucharest's Old Town with all its entertainment, cafes, bars and restaurants. The hotel is a laid-back place mixing modern and somewhat more eclectic styles and a cozy patio is among its lovely public spaces. The rooms are comfortable and well-appointed, offering all the amenities today's travelers expect from a first-class hotel. A very good choice of accommodation for travelers of all ages.

    Facilities

    • Concierge Service
    • Conference Facilities
    • Express Check In/Out
    • Garden Terrace
    • Laundry/Dry Cleaning Service
    • Luggage Room
    • Parking
    • Room Service
    • Spa and Wellness Centre
    • WiFi

    More Details

Day 2

Private Bucharest Communist Era Tour

Former communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu led Romania through some of its darkest times in history. Marks of his cruel regime are still visible in Romania's capital, Bucharest, today and this privately guided tour is a step back in time, offering an interesting, yet stark reminder of how dreams of glory are sometimes built on oppression and manipulation. Your tour begins with a trip to some of the metro stations built under the Ceausescu Regime. What's interesting is that the network was designed totally different from other Eastern European systems. The stations were simple, clean-cut and modern, avoiding fanciful additions such as mosaics, and other excessive decorations. The main objective was speed of transit and practicality, each station and line being assigned a color theme and laid-out in an open plan. Ignoring typical communist-style uniformity, no station was made to look exactly like any other. Despite all this, the city's energy economy in the late 1980s kept many stations quite dark and system modernization has still not managed to totally fix the problem.

To better understand a communist neighbourhood, you'll see places such as Berceni and Bucharest's western district of Drumul Taberei, the latter filled with monotonous slabs of concrete and the deafening sound of drills and car horns in the air. This was Ceausescu's idea of a centrally planned housing project, built especially for the working class. Yet this neighborhood grew initially from a genuine concept centered on the needs of citizens until the regime took over the duties of urban planning and constructed taller and bigger blocks throughout the city. You will have a chance to walk around some of these areas and get a glimpse of some quite amazing street art, rather than mindless graffiti, something that was strictly prohibited during communist rule.

Your next stop and visit could be described as the 'World's ultimate white elephant' and it certainly suggests the pinnacle of megalomania. Ceausescu had 9,000 homes demolished to make way for the Palace of Parliament, originally called the 'House of the Republic'. It was, finally, completed eight year's after his execution in 1989 and became the world's second-largest administrative building after the Pentagon. Because of its weight, it apparently sinks almost a quarter of an inch every year.

After your tour around the 'Palace' a short drive takes you to the Revolution Square where you can enjoy a brief walk around a place that was the starting point of the anti-communist revolution. It was here, on December 21, 1989, that a crowd of over 100,000 people, brought in as was the fashion to cheer Ceausescu, turned the tables by jeering him on live television. It was to be his last public speech and he fled by helicopter from the roof of the building the following morning.

The final stop of your tour visits the Spring Palace, the opulent residence of Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena and since 2016, a museum. The 80-room residence, designed in the mid-1960s to the specifications of the former dictator and his wife, who reportedly personally picked the chandeliers and mosaics, is a Bucharest landmark not to be missed. Upon completing the tour of the residential palace, your communist tour comes to an end and you will be dropped back at your hotel.

Duration8 Hours
Day 3

Private Transfagarasan Road Trip

This privately guided tour introduces you to an interesting piece of Romanian history by visiting Cuerta de Arges, one of its most magnificent cultural highlights, before taking you on a breathtaking journey along one of the country's most exhilarating roads, the Transfagarasan. You'll leave your hotel early in the morning and your first stop is about two hours away. Looking more like a mosque than a typical Orthodox church, the monastery of Curtea de Arges is a historical site and a wonderful example of how art and cultural influences can happily mix to represent the architectural grace of different religious faiths. Built by Wallachian Prince Neagoe Basarab, the consecration ceremony in 1517 was attended by the Patriarch of Constantinople, a testament to its religious importance. Sadly, earthquakes and fires wreaked much destruction on the edifice, and it was not until 1875 that serious reconstruction work commenced. Today it is a necropolis not only for its medieval founders, but also Romania's royal family, with both King Carol I and King Ferdinand I, as well as Queens Elisabeta and Maria buried here. The legend of Master Manole adds a tale of woe associated with the building. Prince Radu the Black hired Manolo and nine of his men to build the most beautiful monastery in the country. Curiously, the newly built walls crumbled every night and the prince threatened to kill the entire crew. One night, clearly desperate, Manolo had a dream suggesting that for the monastery to be built, a person loved by him or his masons would need to be entombed inside the walls. Manolo told his men and they agreed that the first of their wives coming to the castle bringing their lunch would be the human sacrifice. It was Manolo's wife.

Leaving Curtea de Arges behind, your journey takes you up the first part of the splendid highway up the Carpathian Mountains until you pass Poenari Castle, sitting on top of an isolated and eerie cliff, 2,800 feet above ground. Unlike Bran Castle, Poenari can lay claim to being one of the key residences of Vlad Tepes, who repaired and consolidated the original structure back in the 15th century. The fortress is, currently, under renovation and cannot be visited for some time to come.

Shortly afterwards, you'll reach the truly riveting part of the trip. The Transfagarasan, also known as Ceausescu's Folly, is one of the most spectacular roads in the world. It is roughly 90 km (56 miles) long and has more tunnels and viaducts than any other road in Romania. It's been written up in numerous magazines and the well-known British Television motor show Top Gear filmed here in 2009. They were, apparently, highly impressed. It was built between 1970 and 1974 by the military on orders from Nicolae Ceausescu. 6,000 tons of dynamite were used to clear a path for the road on the northern side of the mountains and 40 soldiers, apparently, lost their lives during construction. Many people claim that the loss of life was, actually, in the hundreds. The drive is spectacular, featuring numerous curves and switchbacks that provide brilliant views back from where you started your ascent and you should ask your driver to stop whenever a magic photo opportunity presents itself, which is virtually every two minutes.

You have a chance for lunch (not included) around an area called Valea cu Pesti and from there it's approximately an hour before you reach Balea Lake, a natural wonder in its own right with crystal-clear, icy water surrounded by gorgeous mountain peaks. This is the northernmost point of the trip and you can enjoy some time by the lake or going for a short hike, before you return to Bucharest.

Duration12 Hours
Day 4

Bucharest Hotels to Brasov

Duration3 Hours

Kronwell Brasov Hotel

The hotel is a lifestyle premium hotel in Brasov, located a little farther away from the city center but offering premium services such as a wellness center and spa and top dining facilities. The city's Council Square, the Black Church, entertainment and nightlife are an approximately 12-minute drive away. The public spaces are well-designed in a very contemporary style and all the rooms are spacious and tastefully furnished with all the modern conveniences and amenities travelers would expect from a premium hotel.

This is a good choice for travelers looking for premium facilities and services.

Meal Plan Buffet Breakfast
Duration3 Nights
Accommodation

Kronwell Brasov Hotel

More Info

Location View map
  • starstarstarstar

    Kronwell Brasov Hotel



    The hotel is a lifestyle premium hotel in Brasov, located a little farther away from the city center but offering premium services such as a wellness center and spa and top dining facilities. The city's Council Square, the Black Church, entertainment and nightlife are an …

    The hotel is a lifestyle premium hotel in Brasov, located a little farther away from the city center but offering premium services such as a wellness center and spa and top dining facilities. The city's Council Square, the Black Church, entertainment and nightlife are an approximately 12-minute drive away. The public spaces are well-designed in a very contemporary style and all the rooms are spacious and tastefully furnished with all the modern conveniences and amenities travelers would expect from a premium hotel.

    This is a good choice for travelers looking for premium facilities and services.

    Facilities

    • Accessible Facilities
    • Air Conditioning
    • Free breakfast
    • Free WiFi
    • Indoor Pool
    • Parking

    More Details

Day 5

Private Day Trip from Brasov to Sighisoara and Viscri

The highlights of the Saxon villages of Transylvania are yours to discover today. The introduction of Saxon culture to Transylvania dates to 1153 when Hungarian King Geza II recruited mercenaries and craftsmen from what is today's Moselle area, to guard his borders against attacks from foreign invaders. In exchange, they received permanent rights of settlement. During their time, they built almost 200 fortified churches, scattered throughout the southern part Transylvania, Sighişoara, UNESCO-listed for its Historic Centre, and quaint Viscri, which is UNESCO-listed for its fortified church are the two stand-out features on this trip.

After meeting your driver-guide at your hotel, you'll first visit the citadel at Rupea, the focus of a major renovation project and opened to the public in 2013. Historians believe that the fortress was built on old Dacian ruins since archeologist have found pottery, urns and tools from that period. As you approach, you see that it is almost shaped like a snail shell, consisting of three smaller fortresses each one of them built in a different time.

Leaving the citadel, you are now an hour's drive away from a very special place. Does it simply have the best-preserved medieval citadel in Europe, or is it one of the last genuinely medieval towns on the planet? Undoubtedly, Sighişoara is the pearl of Transylvania. The location of its magnificent historic center is on a hill, surrounded by thick, fortified walls and towered over by a gorgeous, bewitching-looking 14th century clock tower. Steps away, on the citadel square, Tin Street No. 1 is an address of serious significance. It is the house where Vlad Dracul and his pregnant wife stayed between 1431-35 and thus the birthplace of another Vlad, namely Vlad Tepes, the Impaler. Today, the ground floor opens to a medieval-style restaurant, while the first floor houses a small weapon museum. The citadel square is a busy place during the summer season with lots of al-fresco restaurants, and here your guide can help you find a suitable place for lunch (not included).

After lunch, head to Viscri is to walk the unpaved roads of a village where time appears to have stood still. Virtually all were built several hundred years ago, the faded colors of window shutters adding their own peculiar charm. Meanwhile, Viscri's famous church continues to keep a protective look down upon the village rooftops.

Duration11 Hours
Day 6

Private Dracula Castle Tour by Night from Brasov

The idea of having dinner at a dimly lit Bran Castle, well after dark, with no other visitors around, sounds like an intriguing proposition. The atmosphere on this privately guided program will be further enhanced by the castle's 'night-shift', dressed in capes and holding aloft lanterns as they lead you up spiral staircases and along narrow corridors to ensure that you are fully immersed in a medieval experience. This is a great 'behind-the-scenes' tour of the castle, followed by a special dinner in the original Old Tea House of Maria, Queen of Romania. Importantly, though, you should imagine the evening as if you are temporarily on a movie set, playing out scenes for a Count Dracula story. The reason for this is simple: Bran Castle, despite its suggestive looks, is not Dracula's Castle. Although many a myth connect the real Vlad Dracula, more widely known as Vlad Tepes or Vlad the Impaler with Bran, virtually all historians agree that he never set foot in the place. Knowledge of this should, of course, not deter you from enjoying a potentially spooky, vampiric evening.

After the lantern-led tour around the castle, your local guide takes you to Queen Maria's Old Tea House, at the foot of the castle, for a special dinner. Regional cuisine can reveal more about local culture and traditions than a museum and tonight you will enjoy a special dinner and taste some local wine served with some carefully selected dishes. The menu is composed of local products found only in this region and because you are in a legendary place, some unique dessert should remind you of a terrific, but not terrifying, experience. History buffs might be interested to know that the partially ruined castle was offered as a gift to Romania's Queen Maria who restored and modernized the old fortress, transforming it into one of her favorite royal residences. After her death in 1938, the castle was inherited by her favorite daughter, Princess Ileana. She lived here with her family until the end of 1947 when the communists forced her to leave the country. Fast-tracking to 2009, possession of the castle was given to its legal heir, Archduke Dominic von Habsburg, who opened the refurbished castle to the public as the first private museum of the country.

After dinner, and before midnight, you'll return to your hotel in Brasov.

Duration5 Hours
Day 7

Brasov to Bucharest Airport

Duration3 Hours

Cluj Airport to Cluj Hotels

Duration0 Minutes

Hotel Platinia

Hotel Platinia is Cluj-Napoca's most recent 5-star hotel, offering travelers an excellent location near many of the city's key tourist attractions. The lovely Botanical Garden, the National History Museum of Transylvania, St. Michael's Church and Matthias Corvinus House, birthplace of a famous 15th century Hungarian king are all within an easy 10-minute drive from the hotel. The public spaces of the hotel recreate luxury and elegance in a contemporary setting, while the well-appointed rooms are designed to provide an almost home-like comfort.

This is a good choice for travelers looking for premium accommodation and services.

Meal Plan Buffet Breakfast
Duration3 Nights
Accommodation

Hotel Platinia

More Info

Location View map
  • starstarstarstarstar

    Hotel Platinia



    Hotel Platinia is Cluj-Napoca's most recent 5-star hotel, offering travelers an excellent location near many of the city's key tourist attractions. The lovely Botanical Garden, the National History Museum of Transylvania, St. Michael's Church and Matthias Corvinus House, birthplace of a famous 15th century Hungarian …

    Hotel Platinia is Cluj-Napoca's most recent 5-star hotel, offering travelers an excellent location near many of the city's key tourist attractions. The lovely Botanical Garden, the National History Museum of Transylvania, St. Michael's Church and Matthias Corvinus House, birthplace of a famous 15th century Hungarian king are all within an easy 10-minute drive from the hotel. The public spaces of the hotel recreate luxury and elegance in a contemporary setting, while the well-appointed rooms are designed to provide an almost home-like comfort.

    This is a good choice for travelers looking for premium accommodation and services.

    Facilities

    • Business Centre
    • Concierge
    • Fitness Centre
    • Free WiFi
    • Laundry Service
    • Restaurant

    More Details

Day 8

Private Day Tour to Corvin Castle

When it first comes into view, you might well think that you have found the quintessential Transylvanian experience. Some consider it an impressive Gothic masterpiece, while others think of it simply as a brilliantly haunted-looking edifice out of a dark fairy tale. It goes by three names, Corvin, Hunedoara or Hunyadi Castle and is, certainly, one of the most fascinating places to see in Romania. On this privately guided visit you are going to discover much about its history, once your driver-guide has picked you up at your hotel in Cluj. The history of the place requires that you negotiate the convoluted maze of medieval kingdoms, fought-over territories, endless alliances and betrayals plus the full array of relevant royalty and political notables that played a role over the centuries. The very short version is that John Hunyadi, the first governor of the Kingdom of Hungary and presumed to be of Romanian ancestry, built the castle in the mid-15th century. A brilliant military leader with serious political ambitions, he was instrumental in holding off the Ottoman Empire's advances into Central Europe for a few decades. He died in 1456, just a few days after his most crucial victory over the Turks at Belgrade. His son, Matthias Corvinus, who in time became Hungary's most admired and, perhaps, greatest king continued the expansion of the castle. One legend associated with the castle alleges that Vlad Tepes, otherwise known as Vlad the Impaler, was imprisoned in its dungeons as a prisoner of Matthias Corvinus, but there is nothing to substantiate the story although, according to other reports, Vlad spent a decade under house arrest in Visegrad at the summer palace of the king. After falling into disrepair, it was not until the 17th century that serious interest to restore the castle started to develop. It is commonly thought that today's somewhat fanciful look reflects what the workers, redesigning the edifice, felt a Gothic castle should look like. In fact, an old photo shows that the original complex did not feature any of the soaring spires you can see today. Transylvania's largest castle is a big place and you want to take your time to fully embrace this genuinely medieval experience. As you approach the castle, you are opposite a green moat and small river, spanned by an awesome-looking wooden bridge. Walking across you are entering the main courtyard, which is bordered by two-tiered terraces and a quite elegant staircase. The main hallway lining the courtyard is very likely the most cheerful looking spot in an otherwise brooding castle, but that is precisely what makes it so special. While no longer displaying their full original splendor, the large Diet Hall and Knight's Hall remain beautifully decorated with marble. While these were the focal point for festive occasions and parties the areas below the halls were used for less happy events. You can inspect the creepy dungeon, complete with fake rubber or wax prisoners, to get an idea about those other 'events' that were part of daily life. Just past Knight's Hall, you can climb a circular stairway to the upper floors of the castle with its many turrets, including the Capistrano Tower, from which you have great views over the town of Hunedoara. Allow your imagination to conjure up a view of deep, mysterious forests because today's town looks very industrial. After a leisurely few hours of touring the castle, you'll return to Cluj.

Duration10 Hours
Day 9

Private Day Tour to Turda Salt Mine and Alba Carolina Fortress

This privately guided tour takes you to Alba Iulia, a culturally diverse town where Roman and Habsburg empires have left their mark over the centuries. In more recent history, the union of Transylvania with the rest of modern Romania in 1918, was declared right here in Alba Iulia. Your second visit of the day is to the famed Turda salt mine. One of the oldest settlements in Romania, known in ancient times as Apulum, Alba Iulia served as the largest military and economic center during the Roman occupation and was home to the Roman Castle of Legio XIII Gemina. An important political, military and cultural center, Alba Iulia reached its peak between 1542-1690, serving as the capital of the independent Principality of Transylvania. After touring the town, you can enjoy lunch (not included) before continuing to the famous salt mine. Salina Turda is one of the most spectacular tourist attractions in the world that few people have heard of. Located in the town of Turda, salt extraction on the site's surface started in antiquity and was expanded underground during Roman times, going back 2000 years. After a rise in production during World War I, it steadily declined and closed in 1932. It was briefly re-opened during WWII as an anti-aircraft shelter and later, partially, as a warehouse to store cheese. In 1992 it opened its doors as a touristic site and has since welcome 2 million visitors into its fascinating underground world where history, legends, and modern theme park attractions mix and mingle. Deep in the depths of the mine, you'll find a little lake with paddles and rowboats to enjoy a boat ride in the salty environment. But don't forget to pay attention to the geology of the place. Growing to almost ten feet in length, salt stalactites dangle from the ceilings and the darkly shaded walls indicate that layers of evaporated salt collected here over the eons. Temperatures down here stay between 10 and 12 degrees Celsius throughout the year, and the salty air coupled with an almost complete lack of allergens, have a proven curative effect on people with respiratory problems, especially children. One reason for the amusement park down below was to encourage kids to spend a few hours underground, breathing excellent air. You might well feel the positive effect too as your driver-guide takes you back to Cluj.

Duration10 Hours
Day 10

Cluj Hotels to Cluj Airport

Duration0 Minutes

Other Information

DEPARTURES:

Daily

PRICE INCLUDES:

  • Private airport transfers
  • 9 nights' accommodation
  • Private guided Bucharest Communism Era day tour
  • Private guided Transfagarasan Road day trip
  • Private guided Sighisoara & Viscri day tour
  • Private guided tour of Bran Castle by Night with Dinner and Wine
  • Private guided tour of Corvin Castle
  • Private guided tour of Turda Salt Mine and visit to Alba Carolina Fortress
  • Private transfer from Bucharest to Brasov

PRICE EXCLUDES:

  • Travel insurance
  • International and domestic airfare & airfare taxes
  • Visa fees if applicable
  • Meals and beverages not mentioned
  • Gratuities
  • Items of a personal nature

TERMS AND CONDITIONS:

Prices are "from" per person based on twin/double share accommodation and for travel in low season. Seasonal surcharges and blackout dates may apply. Limited seat/spaces and all pricing is subject to change and availability. Rates for single or triple travellers are available on request - please inquire.

DP BUCTPKCLJ10DRO
18 Oct 2021
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