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. There are no planned activities today so you are free to arrive at any time. If you wish to receive a complimentary transfer you need to fly in to Avram Iancu Cluj Interational Airport (CLJ), which is located less than 10km from the city centre. Your leader will meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm this evening and following a welcome meeting there is the chance to go out to dinner and have a first taste of hearty Romanian food.
This morning we will explore the city on a walking tour. Blending a rich cultural infusion of Saxon, Hungarian and Roma influences, we 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 we leave the city and travel to Apuseni National Park. On the way we'll stop off and 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! Our 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 we'll 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 takes us to a small village where we can relax for a while before returning to our 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. Our leader 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.
Today we visit Sighisoara, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which feels like we are stepping back in time. We'll walk through the town 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 we'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.
Our 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. We'll 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 we can sample the 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. We will stroll through the City Square and down the extremely narrow Rope Street before visiting the Black Church. We'll have free time here as there is plenty to explore, and then in the later afternoon we'll make our way 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. We'll learn that the truth behind 'Dracula's castle' 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 we will stay in a quaint local guesthouse in the Transylvanian village of Moieciu, where we 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 we take a short drive to Sinaia, which was once used as a summer resort for the country's royal family. We 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. We'll leave the fairytale castle behind us and have 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.
Today we'll explore Romania's capital. Bucharest is situated on the Danube Plain and set amid a series of lakes and spacious gardens and here we will see a remarkable blend of turn of the century elegance and communist excess. We'll 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. We also make a visit to the fascinating Village Museum where we 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.
The trip ends after breakfast in Bucharest. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Bucharest Henri Coanda International Airport (OTP), which is about 30 minutes' drive from the city centre.
7 Break Fast(s) 1 Lunch(es)
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