Romania is a country still steeped in tradition. Even on the streets of the capital, Bucharest, new cars travel beside horse and carts. On this highlights trip get back to nature in Apuseni National Park, explore medieval towns and discover fairytale castles. Apuseni - Take lakeside walks, explore by bike or just relax and enjoy the mountain scenery Medieval architecture - Wander through the cobbled lanes of Sighisoara, discover the Alba Iulia Citadel and explore the old town of Cluj-Napoca Transylvania - Delve beneath the Dracula myths at Castle Bran and marvel at the exquisite Peles Castle
This trip begins in Romania's second largest city, Cluj-Napoca. You will be met on arrival at Avram Iancu Cluj Interational Airport (CLJ) by a local guide, and driven to your centrally located hotel, around 10km away. There are no planned activities today so you are free to arrive in Cluj at any time. For those booking their own flights, you will just need to let us know your flight details no later than three weeks prior to departure, in order to be met on arrival. Your guide will be with you throughout the trip, so you have the opportunity today to ask any questions you wish about the itinerary. The luxury of having the same guide throughout is that you can make this itinerary flexible if you want to - if you want more time at a particular site, for example, or conversely if you want to skip a city tour and do some solo exploration that's fine too. This evening, go out for dinner in Cluj and have your first taste of hearty Romanian food.
This morning, explore the city on a guided walking tour. Blending a rich cultural infusion of Saxon, Hungarian and Roma influences, stroll through the Baroque city centre stopping to view landmarks like Taylor's Bastion, the Banffy Palace and the Gothic Cathedral of Saint Michael, which has changed its religious denomination a total of five times since its initial construction and still dominates the downtown market area. There will be plenty of time to explore on your own and have lunch before leaving the city and travel to Apuseni National Park. Stop en route to visit the Bride's Veil waterfalls, named because the water fans out as it cascades over the edge, giving the impression of a bridal veil! The accommodation for the next two nights is a small guesthouse set in the heart of the Apuseni Natural Park. It's the ideal place to relax and get away from it all, with a outdoor terrace ideal for soaking up the backdrop of the western Carpathians.
After breakfast, take a gentle walk along the side of the Warm Somes River. The gravel path is undulating, and hilly in places but we take our time and enjoy the surrounding as we walk. The route ends a small village where there is time to relax for a while before returning to the guesthouse for lunch. This afternoon is free to relax as you choose. There are plenty of easy walking routes and bikes are available to hire with routes following quiet gravel roads. The guide will be on hand to give advice on the options. There are tennis courts close to the guesthouse if you are feeling active, or for a chilled out afternoon there is a lovely terrace and a jacuzzi to really relax.
Visit Sighisoara, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which feels like you are stepping back in time. Walk through the town with the guide and discover its winding alleys and pretty pastel buildings, as well as the old town fortifications and the Church on the Hill. Vlad the Impaler was born in Sighisoara and you'll pass the house he grew up in. This afternoon is left free to explore this pretty town further. Tonight is a chance to sample the regions tasty cuisine such as beef goulash with dumplings, tarragon chicken or warming spicy soups washed down with craft beer. For dessert you could try one of the delicious cakes, which the town is known for.
The day begins with a visit to Viscri, one of the many Saxon villages found in Transylvania. This well preserved village and fortified church is UNESCO-listed. Take a walk through the village or take the option of a horse and cart ride to visit the church, the local baker, and the blacksmith that still ply their trade as they have for generations. A visit to the bakers means is the perfect opportunity to sample delicious freshly made bread, along with a coffee, before leaving the village and making our way to Brasov. Brasov is a treasure trove of centuries-old buildings and churches, cobbled streets, all clustered within medieval city walls and overlooked by a magnificent 15th century Gothic cathedral. Stroll through the City Square and down the extremely narrow Rope Street before visiting the Black Church. Take some time for solo exploring here, and then in the later afternoon, continue to Bran Castle, the apparent haunt of Count Dracula. Perched on a crag in a valley between two high mountain ranges, it dominates the surrounding scenery. Learn the truth behind 'Dracula's castle' - which in fact is even more fascinating than the myths. It was the home of the remarkable British born Queen Marie of Romania, grand daughter of Queen Victoria, whereas Vlad the Impaler, the heroic 15th century ruler of Wallachia who Dracula is based on, never lived here. In fact, the author of the much-loved Dracula novel, Bram Stoker never even came to Transylvania. This evening, stay in a quaint local guesthouse in the Transylvanian village of Moieciu, and have a delicious home cooked meal this evening. Romanian cuisine is hearty and usually served with locally produced red wine. A typical meal is rich beef stew, freshly baked bread, pearl barley, cabbage and roasted root vegetables all served with sour cream. Before a meal the locals tend to sip the aperitif, tzuica, a strong plum brandy.
Leaving Moieciu, take a short drive to Sinaia, which was once used as a summer resort for the country's royal family. Head straight for the beautiful Peles castle. Built in the 17th century for a for the reigning monarch, it resembles a Bavarian chateau and is richly decorated with stained glass, Persian carpets, Renaissance weapons, ebony and mother of pearl. Leaving the fairytale castle behind us, there is some time in Sinaia town to explore and have lunch before travelling to Bucharest. The city has gone through a period of urban renewal and modernisation, and it is now the centre of Romanian culture, art and media.
Bucharest is situated on the Danube Plain and set amid a series of lakes and spacious gardens, which showcase a remarkable blend of turn of the century elegance and communist excess. With a guided tour, discover the architecture that earned it the reputation as the 'Paris of Eastern Europe', including the beautiful columned facade of the Romanian Atheneum concert hall and the Royal Palace of Bucharest. Make a visit to the fascinating Village Museum where you can see a collection of old wooden churches, windmills and peasant dwellings from different regions of the country. This afternoon is free for you to relax and explore the city at your own pace. There's plenty to discover in the city's Old Town or there's a multitude of museums available to choose from including the National Museum of Romanian History, the Military Museum and the Folk Art Museum. Alternatively visit the Palace of Parliament, which is an incredible construction, the second largest building in the world and one of Bucharest's most photographed sights. Inside you'll find marble columns, grand halls and glittering crystal chandeliers. Many homes were destroyed to make way for this massive structure and it took 13 years to build at an alleged cost of over three billion Euros, so it's of little surprise that it was and still is a very controversial building.
Your trip ends today, and you will be taken to the airport to meet your international flight. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Bucharest's Henir Coanda International Airport (OTP), approximately a 30 minute drive from the city centre, at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel.
7 Break Fast(s) 1 Dinner(s)
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