Things to see and do in Romania
Attractions in Romania
Berca mud volcanoes
This awe-inspiring landscape of bubbling mud is like nothing else you'll see in Romania. Located near Buzau, the Mud Volcanoes have been designated a geological and botanical reserve and are fuelled by natural gas eruptions 3km (2 miles) below the surface. Some of the mud craters have reached more than 6m (20ft) in height, but are perfectly safe to view.
See Transylvania's numerous Saxon fortified churches, including the Biertan Church, which stands on top of a hill overlooking the village of Biertan and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The village itself still preserves a large Saxon community and boasts some world-class examples of Saxon architecture from the medieval period.
Black Sea Coast
Allegedly the place where Jason and the Argonauts landed after finding the Golden Fleece, Romania's Black Sea Coast is fast becoming a tourism hotspot. It's dotted with small resort towns such as Eforie, Jupiter, Neptun, Saturn, Venus and Mangalia, where you can swim, try watersports or simply relax on the beach and soak up the sun.
Let imagination run wild at Bran Castle, the legendary abode of the medieval king known as Vlad the Impaler, who helped inspire Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula (www.draculascastle.com).
This beautiful old capital was decimated by Nicolae Ceauşescu's programme of systemisation between the 1960s and 1990s, but the historic centre is still a bastion of old world charm. Wander around some of the most important streets in Bucharest: Calea Victoriei (Victory Road) which holds the The Vernescu House and Boulevards Gh. Magheru, Carol I, Calea Mosilor, Calea Dorobantilor and Soseaua Kiseleff.
Ceausescu's Palace of Parliament
In Bucharest, admire the colossal size and exceptional facilities of Ceausescu's Palace of Parliament, which rises out of the city like a giant wedding cake. It is the second largest building in the world, after the Pentagon and one of Romania’s premier tourist attractions. It also houses the National Museum of Contemporary Art (www.mnac.ro).
Visit the Greek/Byzantine port of Constanta, founded in the sixth century BC and veer inland to interesting archaeological sites including the ancient Greek city ruins of Histria, Tomis and Callatis (www.constanta.ro). In the city itself, you'll find enough museums, ancient churches and historical monuments to satisfy even the most ardent culture vulture.
The terrain in Romania is perfect for mountain biking, in fact there are numerous outfitters which cater specifically to cycling holidays. Trails range from novice to advanced, however most are geared towards cycling enthusiasts.
Fagaras mountain range
A magnet for walkers and adrenaline junkies, this superb mountain range has fourteen peaks over 2,500m (8,200 ft) and a succession of spectacular alpine lakes. If trekking or mountaineering sound like too much hard work, you can take in the scenery through a drive along the Transfagaras Road – Romania's highest asphalt road, and undoubtedly one of the most scenic routes in the country.
Check out the traditional villages such as Budesti, Sirbi and Calinesti nestled in the picturesque rural idyll of Maramures (www.visitmaramures.ro). Nature lovers will love the volcanic mountains, waterfalls and glacier lakes around Creasta Cocosului reserve, while culture junkies can admire the UNESCO-designated wooden churches and the unique ‘Merry Cemetery’ at Sapanta.
Museum of History of the Jewish Community
Housed in an old Bucharest synagogue, this museum is dedicated to the history of Jews in Romania as well as in memory of the Holocaust. On display are artifacts such as a collection of books written and illustrated by Romanian Jews, important paintings, ritual objects as well as anti-Semitic propaganda.
It's worth the trek to the Painted Monasteries of Bucovina (Voronet, Sucevita, Moldovita and Humor) in Northern Moldavia. These UNESCO World Heritage Sites are painted with frescoes both inside and outside and have been preserved in excellent condition since medieval times.
With its curative thermal springs, salt waters and healing mud, Lake Techirghiol is one of Romania's premier spa destinations. Bathing in the waters of the lake is said to heal everything from rheumatism and arthritis to peripheral nervous system diseases, and there is a huge range of spa treatments available in the nearby town.
Visit Sibiu (www.sibiu.ro), the chief city of the Transylvanian Saxons. Much of the four walls and 40 towers remain, and among its pretty blue, red, apricot and green painted houses are some of Romania's best museums. Don’t miss the Brukenthal National Museum (www.brukenthalmuseum.ro), which houses an impressive range of traditional and contemporary art.
The exquisite medieval town of Sighisoara is a perfectly intact 15th century gem with nine towers, narrow passageways and cobbled streets, burgher houses and ornate churches. Sighisoara is also the birthplace of Vlad Draculea, nicknamed Vlad the Impaler. One of the best-preserved inhabited citadels in Europe, it's no surprise that the town has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
This remote commune is a nature reservation and history buff’s paradise, with the main attraction being the Snagov Monastery (www.snagov.ro) – allegedly one of the burial sites of Vlad the Impaler. The monastery sits on an island in Snagov Lake and is linked to the village itself by bridge and boat.
Catch some traditional folk music and dancing; shows can be seen in many hotels and restaurants.
Visit a market
The piatas or markets are farmers' markets where fresh produce can be bought. Pick up some home made cheeses and breads, find a scenic spot and have yourself a picnic afterwards.
Visit the Carpathian Mountains
TheThe Carpathian Mountains, a densely forested mountainous area, is ideal for hiking. In winter, resorts such as Poiana Brasov and Predeal offer some of the best skiing in Eastern Europe - or go bob-sleighing at Semenic and Sinaia. Recently, the mountains have also garnered a reputation among cyclists and there's a huge network of upland tracks to explore.
Wildlife on the Danube
Cruise along the Danube Delta, to see over 300 species of birds and foxes, otters, wildcats and boars in a vast expanse of watery wilderness. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and biosphere reservation and altogether 3,460 species of animal can be spotted here – not to mention 1,700 plant species. Most Danube River cruises leave from Tulcea, which also has a museum dedicated to the Danube Delta. See Romania Tourism (www.romaniatourism.com/tulcea.html) for more information.
Romanian National Tourist Office in the UKAddress: 12 Harley Street, London, W1G 9PG
Telephone: (020) 7224 3692.
Romanian National Tourist Office in the USAAddress: 355 Lexington Avenue, 8th Floor, New York City, NY 10017
Telephone: (212) 545 8484.