Who has not heard about Dracula, the vampire? His legend was born in Romania and has spread all over the world. The stories created around the Count Dracula have been the source of inspiration for many storytellers and movie producers. However, apart from the legendary Dracula, Romania is a country that possesses an amazing cultural and natural heritage that is still not very much known by many people. Even though the story of Dracula might be terrifying, those who visit Romania can actually have a wonderful time as long as they carry some garlic with them to keep vampires and dark spirits away. Leaving jokes aside, this is a country able to compete with many touristic destinations from Europe and still has many mysteries yet to be discovered.
1. Bigar Waterfall
If we were to talk about the hidden places in Romania, this waterfall is one of those recently discovered wonders. Not even the Romanian tourists knew very much about its existence until some years ago. It is located in the southwest part of the country, in Caras-Severin County. If you go to see this unique wonder of nature, you should better ask the locals about the “miracle from the Minis gorge”.
Ever since it has been discovered, the Bigar Waterfall was awarded the title of one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country and it was soon included in the 8 Unique Waterfalls Around the World guide. What is so unique about this waterfall? First of all, the water is falling in tiny spreads right over the cliffs covered in moss. The image is breathtaking, but this is not actually the only thing that makes the Bigar Waterfall so unique. The water is falling exactly on the 45th Parallel which represents a unique phenomenon for the curious tourists passionate about geography and inexplicable things.
2. Romanescu Park
If you think that we finished with the wonders from the south part of the country, then wait to see the next one. Romanescu Park is one of the largest parks in Eastern Europe and Romania. When you are coming back from the Bigar Waterfall, you cannot miss Craiova city and stop for a walk in Romanescu Park. It was inaugurated in February 1903 and the design idea that laid behind its concept was romanticism and elegance. The grand opening was made in the presence of King Carol I, Prince Ferdinand and the country’s Prime Minister, Dimitrie Sturdza.
The French landscape architect Eduard Redont was in charge of the entire concept. His project was spectacular, and this brought him a gold medal in 1900 in the Fifth Paris International Exposition. Apart from the romantic design including lakes, a suspension bridge still functional, and a castle, the Romanescu Park has a very special value given by the trees and plants that still exist here. The plants were brought from various continents and have been acclimatized to resist in this part of the country. As Craiova is a city in the south part of the country, the summers tend to be very hot. Now, after more than 100 years, these plants and trees represent some of the rarest vegetation in Romania and Eastern Europe.
3. Transalpina Road
While Transfagarasan Highway has impressed the world with its serpentines and turns, being even the subject of one edition from the Fifth Gear’s show, there is still another road that overpasses Transfagarasan’s beauty and risks. The Transalpina Road is the highest road in Romania. It has a long history, being known also as the King’s road. It was built while King Carol II was governing the country but its history is way more complicated. The German troops contributed also to rebuilding this amazing road during the World War II and used it for military purposes.
However, during the communist period, it remained inaccessible for cars and the situation persisted even after the regime disappeared. Considering its huge touristic potential, it has been a great loss for the country to keep it inaccessible. In 2007, the authorities decided to reward the tourists with this incredible road and they started the works to transform it into one of Romania’s wonders. Therefore, in 2012, the tourists were able to use it to cross the Southern Carpathians. Its highest point goes up to 2,145 meters above the sea level and even if you are driving it in one of the hottest summer months, you can still find snow here. This is why, due to its height, the road is closed during the winter because it may become too dangerous even for the most professional drivers.
4. Danube Delta
If you are not convinced so far that Romania is a country full of wonderful places, then a place included on UNESCO’s World Heritage list will definitely win your admiration. The Danube Delta represents the heaven for more than 300 species of birds and 160 species of fish. Three or four days are often not enough for a tourist to explore all the beauties that the Danube Delta has to offer. Leaving aside the impressive collection of birds and fish, the Danube Delta is a region filled with culture, history and culinary art that please even the most exquisite tastes.
You will be mesmerized by the canals that offer you the privilege to see the highest concentration of bird colonies in all Europe. The Danube is split into three main channels that form the Delta: Chilia, Sulina and Sfantu Gheorghe. They create one of the largest biodiversity in the world, surpassed so far only by the Great Barrier Reef from Australia and the Galapagos Archipelago. The Danube is also one of the few places that have more than half of its surface untouched by mankind.
5. Merry Cemetery
Have you ever heard of a Merry Cemetery? We were surprised to see how in the country where the terrifying legend of Dracula was born, there also exists a Merry Cemetery. Located in the Northern part of Romania, this cemetery is the true expression of the Romanians’ imagination and capacity to create unique wood art. The Merry Cemetery is in the Maramures county, where culture and history make a perfect combination. However, in this space full of traditions, there is one person that managed to stand out from the crowd and leave behind an immense treasure for the Romanian people.
His name is Ioan Stan Patras who decided to see death not as a sad event, but as part of the life. Therefore, he created a different look for the death and started to create joyful poems inspired by the deceased people’s lives. He then carved the poems on wooden crosses personalized for the deceased ones and so helped their relatives to accept death more easily. For example, if you would go and visit the Merry Cemetery from Sapanta, once you will see the paintings on the wooden crosses, you will understand immediately if the deceased person was a forester, farmer or hunter. Why is it called the Merry Cemetery? Ioan did not stop to just writing epitaphs. His lyrics have a touch of irony and humor that reflect specifically what the deceased person was known for. Even though the creator of this entire idea died, this craft was continued by the villagers who still use their imagination to expand the wonderful Merry Cemetery.
Did you think that Romania has only one touristic objective recognized by UNESCO? The list continues with the Voronet Church which is known as one of the most picturesque treasures of Romania. Most probably you ask yourself why this monastery is included in UNESCO’s Heritage List. It is unique thanks to its exterior painted in an uncommon blue, known as “the Voronet blue”. This monastery is in Bucovina, a region from the Northeastern Romania, where apart from the Voronet Monastery, you can visit many other churches and monasteries, each with its amazing story. The Voronet Monastery was built by Stephen the Great in 1487. He wanted to celebrate a victory over the Turks and so he decided to build a monument that was going to resist over time and become a valuable heritage.
This monastery, known throughout Europe as “the Sistine Chapel of the East”, offers an abundance of frescoes painted in the intense Voronet blue. Even after more than 500 years since it was created, the color used by the painter continues to be a mystery and so far no painter has succeeded in reproducing it. One other aspect that talks about the Romanian culture and intelligence are given by the Tree of Jesus fresco where tourists can see famous Greek philosophers like Aristotle and Plato.
7. Historic Center of Sighisoara
Sighisoara is not only Dracula’s birthplace. If you want to see what Transylvania is all about you have to visit the Historic Center of Sighisoara town. It was built by the Saxon colonists in the 12th century. In 1999 it was included in UNESCO World Heritage Site as being an 850-year-old still existing proof of the Saxons’ history and culture from Transylvania. It can easily compete with the streets of Vienna and Prague with its nine towers, Saxon churches, and cobbled streets. As anticipated above, Sighisoara is the birthplace of Vlad Dracula, his house being one of the main attractions in the city.
Other attractions of the city include the Church of the Dominican Monastery and the Venetian House built in the 13th century. The list of attractions includes the Church on the Hill where tourists can still admire some incredible 500-year-old frescoes. The 14th and 15th centuries brought an economic growth to Sighisoara’s inhabitants who developed and built a remarkable defense system consisting of 14 towers and numerous bastions that helped the army to direct their gunnery to all cardinal points and so increase the city’s defense capacity.
8. Viscri Village
If you think that you already know enough about Transylvania, you have not yet heard about the Viscri village. And yes, if you think that this is included on UNESCO’s list, then you are right. However, this is not everything that makes this place unique. The Viscri village amazed Prince Charles from the first visit and made him decide to invest here. He tries to preserve its heritage and transform it into an impressive touristic attraction.
In 2002, Prince Charles bought the first property in the village being amazed by the cultural heritage that he found here, by the people’s simplicity, and yet their power to move things forward. Viscri was included in UNESCO’s World Heritage list thanks to its fortified churches that still keep the traces of the Saxon civilization from the 13th century. The traditional homes and the people still preserving their agricultural activities represent some of the biggest attractions of this village that impresses with its candor and history.
9. Peles Castle
Not very far from Dracula’s Castle, the Bran Castle, you can find one of Romania’s architectural masterpieces. This is the Peles Castle also known as the kings’ residence. King Carol, I was the one who wanted to build this castle and hired the architects Shultz and Liman for this purpose. Peles is a place full of history. Carol II, the future king, was born here. His son, Mihai I, Romania’s last king, opened his eyes here for the first time. This is one of the main reasons this castle gathers 300,000 visitors per year who.
If you are curious to discover the mysteries of the royalties, then you can explore the 160 rooms of the castle. You will find the finest examples of Murano crystal chandeliers, walls covered in Cordoba leather or fine pieces of European art. The Peles Castle was also a pioneer in Europe in terms of technology. It was the first castle that used electrical current produced by the castle’s plant. Not only the interior is amazing, but also the surroundings augment its grandiose image.
10. The Muddy Volcanoes
Hidden in the Buzau Mountains, the muddy volcanoes have nothing from the terrifying real volcanoes with hot lava threatening people’s lives. These volcanoes were discovered by H. Cognard in 1867 when he was trying to find petroleum in these mountains. This area of the muddy volcanoes represents one of the fascinating natural reservations in Europe, now protected by the law. Furthermore, it is the place of attraction for thousands of tourists every year.
How did these muddy volcanoes appear? They are created by the gas that lies 30,000 meters underground. It pushes the mix of clay and water to the surface. Even though there are approximately 1,100 such volcanoes in the world, only a few are present in Europe. Most of them can be found underneath the sea. This is why Romania is unique as here you can find the biggest muddy volcanoes in the country and Europe.
About the Author
Hello! My name is Anda. I am a freelance writer and travel enthusiast. I still didn’t win the lottery to travel all around the World, but this doesn’t stop my imagination. I am passionate about discovering new places and cultures and I just have to close my eyes and I am already there. Take a look on my Twitter profile (@writertohire) to find more about my adventures! See you there!