This is winter adventure to discover Romania's highlights including the legendary Bran Castle, colourful Sighisoara and the capital city, Bucharest. Spend a night at the wonderful Ice Hotel, which is a once in a lifetime experience. Ice Hotel - Spend the night above Lake Balea at Romania's only ice hotel and go snow shoeing Transylvania - Visit Bran Castle, Brasov and a fortified Saxon church and try wildlife tracking Bucharest - Explore the Palace of Parliament with its grand marble interiors and controversial history
Arrive in Bucharest, Romania's largest city that became its capital in 1832. It has gone through a period of urban renewal and modernisation and it is now a bustling city, at the centre of Romanian culture, art and media. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Bucharest at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today you need to arrive into Bucharest Henri Coanda International Airport (OTP), which is about 30 minutes' drive from the city centre. For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 6pm and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. Due to a number of flights arriving into Bucharest later in the evening, our welcome meeting will take place on the morning of day two. If you have free time on arrival then 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, to name but a few.
After our Leader does an initial welcome meeting, we will go out to explore Bucharest, Romania's capital city, to see the Revolution Square, Metropolitan Church and the Old Town. The Revolution Square is deemed not only to be the landmark of the history of the city, but also of the entire country - it's a site not to be missed. We'll also visit the opulent Palace of Parliament. We'll get to see the huge marble halls, crystal chandeliers and towering pillars in this controversial government building. It was created at great expenses and at great cost to the locals that were forcefully evicted from their homes to make way for its construction. You'll then have a couple hours to explore the city further and you may wish to visit one of its many museums, such as the Museum of Romanian Art, Museum of Romanian History or the Military Museum. You could also go to see street art in Garajul Ciclop or visit one of the few remaining caravanserais in Europe, Hanul lui Manuc. This afternoon we will drive to the town of Sinaia in the Bucegi Mountains and whilst here you'll have the opportunity to visit Pelisor Palace or take a walk in the palace grounds. Later this afternoon we'll drive on to our guesthouse in Moieciu where we enjoy a home cooked meal this evening. Romanian cuisine is hearty and their red wine is surprisingly good. A typical meal can consist of stewed beef, freshly baked bread, pearl barley, cabbage, roasted root vegetables and sour cream. Before a meal, the locals tend to sip the aperitif, tzuica, a strong plum brandy. Please note that since the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest is still an active government building that it might not always be open to visitors or possible for us to go inside. If this is the case then instead we will visit the opulent Peles Castle. Built for the Hohenzollern monarch Carol I, it resembles a Bavarian chateau and is richly decorated with stained glass, Persian carpets, Renaissance weapons, ebony and mother of pearl.
We start today by visiting a wildlife tracking centre where accompanied by an expert guide we get the chance to go on a walk in the countryside to try and spot the tracks left by wild boar, roe and red deer, wolves and bear. We drive on to nearby Brasov, where we visit the Black Church, city square, the First Romanian School Museum and the city walls. The school museum is hidden in the gardens of one of the oldest churches in Brasov. This afternoon we visit the legendary Bran Castle, built in the 14th century to protect the mountain pass from the invading Turks. In the 20th century it was the favourite residence of Queen Maria of Romania. She restored and arranged for the castle to be used as a residence for the royal family. Bran is of course best known as the setting for Bran Stoker's Dracula and was once the home of Vlad the Impaler, who the Dracula legend was born from. This evening is free for you to have dinner in Brasov before we return to Moieciu for the night. Please note that the order of activities today may vary due to weather conditions.
This morning we drive to Viscri, which is one of the many Saxon villages in Transylvania, but it's wonderfully preserved and the fortified church here is listed by UNESCO. It's a small village, with a population of no more than 500, from which only about 27 are now of Saxon descent. We'll take a walk through the village, visit the church and have free time to explore. You may choose to visit a traditional local bakery or blacksmith. Alternatively, if the snow is thick you may want to take a sledge ride through the picturesque surroundings. Next we drive to the colourful town of Sighisoara which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler. We discover the town on foot including the old town fortifications, the Church on the Hill, covered stairs and the clock tower. After this, there is free time for you to continue exploring or you may want to try the delicious cakes and coffees that the local cafes have to offer and that the town is known for. Lastly we drive to Bunesti where we spend the night. We'll take advantage of the excellent home cooking for our dinner this evening.
This morning we drive to the fortified Church of Biertan, which was built in the 15th-16th centuries in the late Gothic style. It is placed high on a hilltop right in the centre of the village, in a valley surrounded by vineyards, forests and fields, so it provides us with quite the view over this rural backdrop. We'll make a brief lunch stop in Agnita town before driving on to Lake Balea where we take a cable car up to 2,034 metres and to the Ice Hotel where we spend the night. The actual journey takes around 20 minutes although the total time taken to transfer the whole group may be longer as the cable car only holds 10 people at a time. Built with ice carved from Lake Balea, the hotel has an ice restaurant, an ice bar and even an ice church, which is created each year and then blessed by a local priest. It's the only ice hotel in Romania and there's also a winter activity park here. The bedrooms are entirely made of ice including the beds, but you'll be provided with clean polar sleeping bags that will be warmed up just before bed, a soft mattress and blankets will be on hand too. In the Ice Bar you can purchase beverages served in ice glasses and enjoy a hot wine punch to warm up. This afternoon we'll make the most of the wintery surroundings and go snow shoeing. Depending on the snow conditions we may also get the chance to go on a 'tunnel walk'. This is a road tunnel on the Transfagarasan Highway (this 90km road is one of the most spectacular in the world and has more tunnels and viaducts than any other road in Romania). Although the road will be closed in the winter, we can still see part of it as we walk through one of the tunnels to see the ice stalactites and stalagmites inside. Tonight we'll have a traditional Romanian dinner in the chalet beside the hotel. Please note that the tunnel walk is dependent upon gaining entrance to the tunnel which may not be possible if there is a snow drift.
Before we leave the Ice Hotel there is the chance for us to have fun in the snow and perhaps go snow shoeing again or to try tubing. Tubing is where you walk up or get a lift to the top of a hill and then slide down on an inflatable ring. This afternoon we'll take the cable car back to Lake Balea and then drive to Sibiu. This was the largest and wealthiest of the seven walled citadels built in the 12th century. Our tour leader will take us beneath the ramparts and through the backstreets, past the first hospital and pharmacy in Romania and to Liar's Bridge. Here it is said that if you told a lie whilst on the bridge it would collapse, but it's also a known place where lovers would meet to declare their love and in recent times to attach padlocks to it as a symbol of their affections. You then have the rest of the evening free. Sibiu is a good spot for food lovers with a range of restaurants and some of the best, which are frequented by the locals, can be found around the Small Square. A speciality is 'Ciorba' which is a sour soup that comes in various varieties with vegetables or meatballs. Many local establishments in the town serve their beer by the metre. Our hotel tonight is a modern hotel in a quiet area just outside the old city walls, within walking distance to the city centre.
This morning we'll drive back to Bucharest, which takes us around five hours and we'll arrive at about 3pm. You have the rest of the day free to explore the city and to visit some of its many historic buildings or museums such as the fascinating Village Museum, which has assembled wooden churches, windmills and peasant dwellings from different regions of the country. If you fancy a change of pace, there is always the possibility of some shopping. Since the 1990s brand names and high-end stores have been pushing their way into the Romanian market. From high fashion boutiques to art galleries, shopping in Bucharest can fit any taste or budget. Stroll down Boulevard Magheru from Piata Romana to Piata Universitatii for a shopping extravaganza or go to one of the many shopping malls favoured by the local rich and famous.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Bucharest. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Bucharest 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).
7 Break Fast(s) 3 Dinner(s)
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