A One-Month Romania Itinerary – Exploring Beyond Transylvania

See Bran Castle on a Romania Itinerary Beyond Transylvania

Romania is one of my favorite countries, and it’s a destination I’ve always recommended to backpackers and other budget travelers.  In fact, I’ve been recommending it so much lately that I thought it was finally time to share my own Romania itinerary.

When I visited Romania I knew I wanted to see the famous highlights of Transylvania, but I also wanted to travel off the beaten track to see other parts of the country as well.  Traveling by bus and train, I spent one month in Romania, getting to know its culture, cuisine, landscapes, people and even a bit of the language!

If you’ve always considered Romania as a travel destination but hadn’t got around to booking a trip, I hope this itinerary serves as inspiration and motivation!  And of course, if you have any questions about traveling in Romania, let me know in the comments and I’ll reply as soon as possible!

One-Month Romania Itinerary Overview

This is the actual itinerary that I followed on my own trip to Romania.  You’ll start in Iași, which is well-connected to many cities in Europe thanks to the budget airline WizzAir.  From there, you’ll make a large, counter-clockwise loop of the country, ending on the Black Sea Coast before doubling back to Bucharest to explore the capital city and fly home.

This Romania itinerary doesn’t require a car, as Romania has excellent bus and train service.  I didn’t have a car when I followed this route.  If you are driving, it just means you’ll have an extra hour or two in each of the destinations that I mention, as driving can be a bit faster than going by bus or train.

This Romania itinerary takes four weeks, but if you have less time you can always a do a small section of it.  For example, with just one week you might want to fly in and out of Sibiu, and just visit what I call the “Transylvania Triangle”.  Or, if you have ten days, you could fly into Iași and out of Cluj-Napoca, exploring the country’s mountainous north.

In this Romania itinerary I have also included two optional extensions.  From Iași, you might want to take a bus across the border to Moldova. There, you can explore the shockingly inexpensive capital city, tour some of the region’s wineries or even cross into the unrecognized state of Transnistria (I did all of the above!).  Alternately, from Cluj-Napoca, you can take an overnight bus or train to Budapest, and spend a few days soaking in the city’s thermal baths and admiring its iconic bridges (again, I did both!).

As a “fearless female traveler”, I did this entire trip solo, on a backpacker budget.  Romania is very safe for solo female travelers and I have no hesitations recommending it as a destination for inexperienced travelers, solo travelers and/or female travelers.

Day 1: Arrive Iași

Day 1 of Romania Itinerary in Iasi

You’re going to start your tour de Romania in Iași, which was briefly the capital of Romania (from 1916 to 1918) and still has a reputation as being the country’s cultural capital.  The airport here is only about 15 minutes from the city center, and it is connected to both the city center and the train station by Bus #50 (or you can take a taxi!).

To see how far your dollar (or euro) can go in Romania, start your stay at one of the affordable four-star hotels right on central Piața Unirii in Iași. I stayed at Unirea Hotel & Spa because I wanted to use the complimentary sauna and swimming pool, but across the street you can also find Grand Hotel Traian, which was designed by Gustave Eiffel (yes, of the Eiffel Tower!).

Once you’ve dropped off your bags at your hotel and had a quick shower (or sauna session!), spend the rest of the day strolling down Bulevardul Stefan cel Mare towards the monumental Palace of Culture (shown above).  For dinner, head to Carciuma Veche to sample traditional Romanian dishes and enjoy some live music.

(The rest of this itinerary will include a mix of affordable hotels, charming guesthouse and even some recommendations for hostels. Feel free to mix and match accommodation styles to suit your budget.)

Day 2: One Day in Iași

Iasi Metropolitan Cathedral on a Romania Itinerary

You’re going to spend your first full day in Romania exploring Iași properly.  The historic city center is fairly small and easily walkable, so feel free to amble at your leisure.  Here are a few spots I enjoyed visiting:

  • The Metropolitan Cathedral – Romania’s largest Orthodox cathedral is home to the relics of Saint Parascheva. I happened to visit on a day when those relics were on display for public viewing, so I queued for about half an hour (why not?) with the crowds who were there to pay their respects.
  • Iași Botanical Gardens – The first and largest botanical gardens in Romania are about two kilometers outside the city center.  If you have time, it’s worth a stroll through the pretty gardens.
  • Palace of Culture – Inside this huge building there are four museums: the Art Museum, the Moldavian History Museum, the Ethnographic Museum of Moldavia, and a Science and Technology Museum.
  • Central Hall Food Market – Underneath a big glass dome, this subterranean market sells fruits, vegetables, meats, cheese and prepared foods.
  • Trei Ierarhi Monastery – On the list of potential UNESCO World Heritage Sites, this stone church is famous for the intricate carvings on its facade.
  • Saint Nicholas Church – I liked the colorful paintings on the exterior of this “princely” church, which was founded by Stefan cel Mare.

Extension Option A: Visit Moldova

House of Soviets in Tiraspol, Transnistria via Moldova

If you have more than one month, you might want to add a few days in Moldova to your Romania itinerary.  It takes about four hours to travel from Iași to Chisinau, and I recommend going by bus as the train schedule is not convenient.  I recommend spending about three full days in Moldova:

  • Day One – Explore the capital city, Chisinau.
  • Day Two – Spend the day in nearby Cricova or Mileștii Mici (the latter is home to the world’s largest underground wine cellar).
  • Day Three – Feeling adventurous? Take the bus to Tiraspol, the capital of the unrecognized breakaway state of Transnistria (shown in the photo above). I did this day trip solo when I was in Moldova, but as the security situation in the region is constantly changing, seek local insight before making this journey yourself.

Day 3: Travel to Suceava

Medieval Seat Fortress of Suceava on a Romania Itinerary

From Iași, it takes about two and a half hours to travel by train to Suceava, the largest city in the Bucovina region.  The clean, comfortable and affordable Villa Alice is a great guesthouse option.  They can help guests organize trips to Bucovina’s famous Painted Monasteries (see below), so if you haven’t booked through another tour operator, ask the staff here if they can assist you in organizing a tour.

The most famous attraction in Suceava is the Medieval Seat Fortress of Suceava, a fortified medieval castle that dates back to the 1300s.  As you approach the fortress you’ll notice the equestrian statue of Ştefan cel Mare – now is a good time to start counting how many times you see the name of this historical figure in your travels!

Day 4:  Painted Monasteries Tour

Painted Monasteries of Bucovina Romania

The real reason that most foreign tourists come to Suceava is to venture out of the city, to explore the Painted Monasteries of Bucovina. These eight churches of Moldavia were designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1993, and are an absolute must-visit on any Romania itinerary.

Because the painted monasteries are located in rural areas of Bucovina, it’s not possible to visit more than one using public transportation in a single day. So, most travelers (myself included) sign up for a private or small-group tour that includes the four most famous monasteries in one day: Humor, Voronet, Moldovita and Sucevita.

To make the most of your tour be sure to dress modestly and follow the posted rules about entry and photography restrictions. Your tour will likely include a stop in a local village for lunch, so make sure to let your guide know in advance if you have any dietary restrictions.

Sidenote: I have been a vegetarian for almost twenty years and was a vegetarian when I visited Romania. I found that Romania had some of the best vegetarian food that I’d ever eaten, and that it was widely available by asking for “mancare de post”.  This translates to “food for fasting”, and is eaten during periods of religious fasting (which could be around the holidays, or it could be a particular day of the week, as each individual prefers).  It’s been several years since I was last in Romania but I still remember the delicious “mancare de post” I had on my tour of the painted monasteries – it was a vibrant bean, tomato and herb salad served with fresh bread. Yum! 

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Day 5: Spend One Day in Suceava

One day in Suceava, Romania

Most visitors to Suceava head straight to the painted monasteries and don’t spend much time in the city. That means that if you’re like me and enjoy exploring places with few tourists, it’s worth spending a full day in Suceava. A few things you’ll want to check out in town include:

  • The Medieval Seat Fortress – Read above for details.
  • Bucovinian Village Museum – Romania has several village museums, where traditional village buildings were either relocated or reconstructed to preserve the country’s architectural history.  This one, shown in the photo above, is worth a visit.
  • Saint Dimitrios Church – Perhaps once as colorful as the painted monasteries you saw yesterday, the interior of this church has been restored beautifully.

And on a random note, I used to live in Italy and have traveled across that country extensively.  Easily one of the best pizzas I’ve ever eaten outside Italy was from Latino, a restaurant in the center of Suceava.  🍕

Day 6: Take the Train to Vișeu de Sus

Travel by Train in Romania

From Suceava, you are now going to travel west. Leaving Bucovina, you will travel deep into the Maramureș mountains in the northwest corner of Romania.

Your first stop in the Maramures will be Vișeu de Sus. Getting to this small town takes some time. The trip takes 7.5 hours by train, including one connection in Salva, or 5 hours by bus, with one connection in Gura Humorului.  The travel time will be worth it… I promise!

The reason you’re in Vișeu de Sus is to ride the iconic CFF Vișeu de Sus, also known as the Mocănița. This narrow-gauge, steam-powered train takes visitors on a one-day excursion along the river’s edge and then deep into the mountains.

When you arrive at the main Vișeu de Sus train station, the first thing to do is find some accommodation.  Rather than stay in the city center, I recommend that you stay across the street from the CFF Vișeu de Sus train station, so you’ll be ready for an early-morning departure. I stayed in this guesthouse, but depending on your risk tolerance you might just want to show up in town and look for any house with a “Room for Rent” sign.

Day 7: Ride the CFF Viseu de Sus (aka Mocănița)

Ride the CFF Viseu de Sus Train in Romania

Day Seven of your Romania itinerary is sure to be a memorable one – today you’re riding the classic train up, up and away… into the Maramureș Mountains!

I recommend buying your tickets online in advance, as this Romanian attraction is oddly popular with train buffs from across the continent.  Seriously, you’ll be amazed by all the different national license plates you’ll see in the parking lot!

During the high season, the train departs daily at 9:00 am.  In the off season, it runs Thursday through Sunday.  The trip takes about six hours, and includes a short lunch stop in the mountains where you’ll be served a barbecue lunch (it wasn’t vegetarian-friendly when I went, but things might have changed).

In both directions you can expect spectacular views of the river, of traditional Romanian villages, and of the mountain landscape.  You may see local farmers traveling into town in their horse-drawn carriages, or you might spot wild animals such as deer or wild boars. The best part?  You experience it all to a scentscape of brisk mountain air, fresh-cut wood and the steam from the locomotive engine. It’s been years since I took the trip and I still remember that smell like it was yesterday!

When you get back from your train journey, head right back to the main station and catch a train or bus west to Sighetu Marmației, one of the most interesting cities in Romania. The trip should take two hours or less. Upon arrival, check into a cozy guesthouse like Pension Casa Iurca and ask your host for a restaurant recommendation for dinner.

Day 8: One Day in Sighetu Marmației

Elie Wiesel's House in Sighetu Marmației Romania

Sighetu Marmației is close to the border of both Ukraine and Hungary, and its history includes many years of Austro-Hungarian rule. During World War 2, nearly 10,000 Jews were deported from Sighetu Marmației and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp, including Elie Wiesel, whose childhood home is shown above.

During my visit to Sighetu Marmației it rained every day, which made my visits to the city’s historic sites weigh even more heavily on me.  Why?

Well, the most important attraction in Sighetu Marmației is the Memorial of the Victims of Communism and of the Resistance, a museum housed in the former Sighet prison. For almost 50 years, Romania’s communist government held politicans, academics, journalists and other important thinkers here, to prevent them from leading citizens away from Communism. Today, the museum’s exhibits tell the stories of those who were held here and those who fought to end the Communist regime. I also visited Elie Wiesel’s house, which is now also a Museum of the Jewish Culture in the Maramureș. Nearby, there is a Holocaust Memorial.

One more positive memory that I have of my time in Sighetu Marmației is my attempt to follow in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain by visiting the local food market and finding the vegetable soup of my dreams. The Romania episode of Bourdain’s “No Reservations” TV show aired in 2008 and is famous for being possibly his most disastrous trip, but you can’t deny that there is some darn good vegetable soup in the market in Sighetu Marmației (even if the market is flooded up to your ankles, like it was when I visited).

Day 9: Walk to Ukraine

Walk to Solotvyno Ukraine from Sighetu Marmatiei

(See what I mean about the rain?)

From the train station in Sighetu Marmației it takes less than ten minutes to walk to the Ukrainian border.  Coming from Canada, the idea that you can walk from one country to another was quite foreign to me at the time of my visit to Sighetu Marmației, so I jumped on the opportunity to walk over to Ukraine for the day.

To be fully transparent, there really isn’t much to see or do in Solotvyno, the town on the opposite side of the Ukrainian border.  Half the town is right by the border crossing, and locals told me that it mostly exists to sell cheap cigarettes and alcohol to Romanians, who take it back across the border.

About two kilometers up the road there are also some Soviet-style holiday resorts built along the river and at the edge of the saltwater lakes.  If you really wanted I’m sure you could book in for a salt or mud therapy treatment, but I would have serious doubts about the cleanliness and safety of any procedures at these places.

Obviously, please consider your safety and the wellbeing of the Ukrainian people before visiting the country at the moment. Please also join me in donating to Ukrainian charities such as the Ukrainian Red Cross.

Day 10: Visit the Merry Cemetery

Merry Cemetery In Sapanta, Near Sighetu Marmatiei Romania

There is some merriment to be had while you’re in Sighetu Marmației, and it’s mostly in the nearby village called Săpânța. Here, you’ll find the world-famous Merry Cemetery, where artisan Stan Ion Pătraș carefully carved and painted hundreds of wooden tombstones that joyfully tell the stories of the lives and deaths of the village’s residents.

I have a separate guide to visiting The Merry Cemetery, so click through if you’re considering including this region on your Romania itinerary.

Day 11: Take the Train to Cluj-Napoca

Morning Train Ride in Maramures Romania

Traveling from Sighetu Marmației to Cluj-Napoca takes the better part of a day, but it’s worth it for the scenery alone. I happily took the eight-hour train journey for the slow-moving show outside the window, but you can also go by bus in about six hours.

In Cluj-Napoca, you might want to consider renting an apartment for a few days. Alternately, Cluj-Napoca is a university town with lots of students visiting, so the hostel scene here is pretty good too.  Check out Retro Hostel if you’re looking to connect with other backpackers.  Both properties are centrally located, so once you’ve dropped off your bags you can go out for dinner and drinks in the city center.

You’ll probably arrive in Cluj-Napoca in the late afternoon or early evening, so just drop off you bags and head out for dinner. Roata is a popular choice for traditional Romanian dishes with live music.

Day 12: Spend One Day in Cluj-Napoca

Cluj-Napoca Romania Itinerary

Welcome to Transylvania!  Cluj-Napoca doesn’t have the dark, mysterious vibe that you might think of when you imagine Transylvania. Instead, this is an energetic university town with lots of young people and lots of opportunities to see day-to-day Romanian life.

With one day in Cluj-Napoca, I recommend you check out the following things to do:

  • Alexandru Borza Botanical Gardens – Shown above, these pretty gardens near the university district include a Japanese Garden, a Rose Garden, and an observation tower.
  • St. Michael’s Church – The focal point of the central Piața Unirii, this church dates back to the 1300s and is known for being the second-largest church in Transylvania, as well as for its Gothic clocktower.
  • Pharmacy Museum – I’m not sure if this is still open, but if it is, you have to visit!  A very enthusiastic guide took me and my new friends (from the hostel) on a tour of the best of the worst pharmaceuticals from the 1700s and 1800s.
  • Cluj-Napoca Walking Tour – It’s definitely worth doing a walking tour to better understand the history and culture of Cluj-Napoca. At press time, this 2.5-hour tour has a rating of 4.8 stars out of 5!
  • The Birthplace of Mathias Corvinus – Hopefully you’ll visit this landmark on a walking tour of the city, so that a guide can explain to you exactly why this spot is so controversial. 🤔

Day 13: Take a Day Trip to the Turda Salt Mine

I’m not including a photo for Day 13 of your Romania itinerary because I think the Turda Salt Mine is so much more fun to experience without knowing what you’re getting into!  I was completely surprised by what I discovered when I visited, and it would have been so much less special if I’d known the secrets of this ancient salt mine.

To get to Turda, take one of the frequent ALIS buses. The trip should take about 40 minutes. When you arrive, ask any local for directions to the salt mine entrance. There are two entrances to the salt mine – one is six kilometers outside town, but the other is a fifteen-minute walk from the bus stop. To find the closer entrance, search on Google Maps for “Salina Turda Intrarea Veche”.  I can’t explain more without spoiling the surprise, so I’ll leave it at that!

After you visit the Turda Salt Mine, come back and watch this iconic Romanian music video to see if you recognize any of the filming locations!

Extension Option B: Travel to Budapest, Hungary

Optional Excursion to Budapest from a Romania Itinerary

Here is your second, optional, itinerary extension. Regular overnight buses travel from Cluj-Napoca to Budapest, Hungary, making it easy to visit another new country on your Romania trip.

Unfortunately when I did this trip I hadn’t realized that the overnight bus will drop you off early in the morning and far from the center.  Everyone from my bus had to wait a while for the metro system to start… and I immediately discovered that I didn’t have any Hungarian currency to use in the metro ticket machine.

A kind stranger bought me a metro ticket (he had no interest in being paid back in Romanian currency!) and I took the subway to the center.  I still have my Lonely Planet Romania guidebook (it’s old – buy a cheap used one!) from that trip, where I’d sketched a map on the inside back cover of how to get from the subway station to my hostel (that was smart of me, as my Romanian SIM card didn’t work in Hungary!) but once again, a kind local approached me and offered to help me find my way.  Arriving in Budapest will always be one of my favorite travel memories, just because of how kind and helpful everyone was.

I can’t recommend the hostel that I stayed at (sorry, but 12-bed dorms just aren’t it anymore). If you’re looking for a hostel in Budapest, check out Netizen or Zen Hostel. Alternately, check out some of Budapest’s affordable four-star hotels, like the H2 Hotel Budapest or Leo Boutique Rooms.

I’m working on a separate post about the best things to do in Budapest, so until I get that published I recommend that you plan to spend three full days here, hitting up some of the top attractions on Rick Steves’ “Budapest at a Glance” list.

Day 14: Travel to Sibiu

Romania Itinerary - Sibiu Transylvania

If you’ve done my recommended Budapest extension, you can return to the heart of Transylvania by night train (11 hours).  Otherwise, if you’re coming from Cluj-Napoca, you’ll need four hours on the train to reach picturesque Sibiu.

Sibiu, Sighișoara and Brasov make up what I call the “Transylvania Triangle” and can be a good stand-alone trip for travelers who don’t have a full month to explore Romania.  With even just five or seven days you can get a good overview of this iconic region.

After you arrive in Sibiu, check into a highly-rated guesthouse or hostel and head out for lunch. Crama Sibiana serves up traditional Romanian cuisine, including lots of hearty meat dishes but also mushroom stew, grilled vegetables and polenta.

On your first day, you may want to do a Sibiu walking tour to get orientated to the town and learn more about its history and culture.

If you’d prefer to explore the city independently, spend the rest of your first afternoon in the city strolling around the Lower Town:

  • Passage of the Stairs – Follow this route along the fortifications and under the supporting arches to reach the Lower Town
  • Piața Aurarilor – There are major medieval vibes in this historic plaza
  • Orthodox Cathedral – If you can’t get all the way to Istanbul, this church is a miniature replica of the Hagia Sophia!

Day 15. Explore Sibiu

Sibiu Transylvania Romania Itinerary

On your first full day in Sibiu, you’ll explore the city’s main attractions (most of which are located in the Upper Town).  You’ll notice the city looks relatively fresh despite its historic age; that’s because it was named the European Capital of Culture in 2007.  Along with that designation came extensive restoration and renovation, creating the pretty Transylvanian town you see today.

While you’re exploring Sibiu’s Lower Town, make sure to check out these spots:

  • Piața Mare and Piața Mica – Or, Big Square and Little Square. By the 1400s these had become the main gathering points in the city (overshadowing nearby Piața Huet).
  • Iron Bridge – Stop to admire the view from this pretty pedestrian bridge, or follow the road underneath to reach the Lower Town
  • Council Tower – Climb up for beautiful views of the historic city centre.
  • Brukenthal National Museum – Romania isn’t really thought of as a destination for art-lovers, but this museum does have an impression collection of European paintings dating back to the 15th century.
  • Pharmaceutical Museum – Romania likes its pharmacy museums, and if you missed the one in Cluj-Napoca, you can pop into the one here
  • City Walls – South of the Lower Town you can still find large sections of the medieval city fortifications
  • The Eyes of Sibiu – As you explore all of the attractions in Sibiu that I’ve mentioned above, keep your own eyes peeled for some other very famous eyes. In Sibiu, many of the historic buildings have eye-shaped dormers on their roof that seem to be watching the city life below.  These dormers were originally built to aid ventilation in attic spaces, but over the years have become their own urban legends!

Day 16: Visit the ASTRA Museum Complex Near Sibiu

ASTRA National Museum Complex Sibiu Romania

Just outside the center of Sibiu you’ll find the ASTRA Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization. I spent the better part of a full day here, and I recommend that you do the same.

Similar to the Bucovinian Village Museum in Suceava, ASTRA is a huge, open-air museum dedicated to preserving the traditional architecture, arts and cultures of rural Romania.

There are more than ten kilometers of walking paths here, connecting more than 120 traditional buildings to the surrounding lake and forests.  The 96-hectare museum is a welcome escape from Romania’s cities (and train stations!), and since there’s lots of signage in English, you’ll really come to understand the Romanian countryside

At press time, you can take Bus #13 from the city center to the museum entrance.  Let the driver know where you’re going and he’ll indicate the correct stop.  I ate lunch on the terrace at one of the on-site restaurants (Cârciuma din Bătrâni) and it was great.

Day 17: Take the Train to Sighișoara

Sighisoara Transylvania Romania Itinerary

Although it’s been a few years since I visited Romania, the colorful streets of Sighișoara have had a permanent place in my heart… and on my phone, where they serve as the wallpaper image!

The best way to travel from Sibiu to Sighișoara is by train, as the trip takes only two hours.  You can walk from the train station into the historic citadel, but taxis are so cheap that you might want to take one and avoid having to drag your luggage over the cobblestones, up the hill.

There are lots of good hotels in Sighișoara, including several welcoming guesthouses.  The guesthouse where I stayed has since closed, so if I was visiting today I’d start by checking out these Sighișoara hotels:

  • Pensiune Citadela Sighisoara – Extremely affordable, this gem of a guesthouse is located right beside the famous clocktower.
  • Panorama Guesthouse – You’ll have breathing room at this spacious guesthouse, which is located in the hills on the edge of town (it’s a ten-minute walk into the citadel, and worth it for the tranquility!).
  • Hotel Korona – By this time in my month-long trip I just wanted to stay in a hotel with a pool, and this popular country-style hotel delivers! It’s midway between the train station and the citadel, making it an easy walk to either.

After you’ve dropped off your bags, spend the rest of the afternoon wandering around the citadel, exploring the narrow medieval passageways and brightly-colored streets. See if you can find “Dracula’s House”, where Vlad the Impaler was born in 1428.

Day 18: Explore Medieval Sighișoara

Clocktower in Sighisoara Romania

It’s now time to spend a full day sightseeing in Sighișoara.  Even though the town is small (the citadel itself is only about one square kilometer) there is lots to see and do with one day in Sighișoara:

  • The Clock Tower – The tower itself dates back to the 1200s and the walls are more than two meters thick. The clock we can see today dates back to the late 1600s, and features a rotating assortment of figurines.
  • Torture Room Museum – I didn’t go to this museum because it seemed like a bit of a tourist trap, but if you’re in Transylvania on a kitschy Dracula-themed trip you might want to go inside. It’s by the Clock Tower.
  • Piața Cetății – When somebody needed to be executed, this central meeting point is where the action would happen.
  • Food Market – If you want to stock up on fruits, vegetables, bread and cheese for a picnic lunch (or for tomorrow’s train trip), stop by the food market by the river.
  • Covered Staircase & The Church on the Hill – This dark wooden staircase was built in the 1600s to connect the town center with the Lutheran church at the top of the hill (the highest point in the citadel). There’s also a former schoolhouse up here, and I could only imagine being a student in the 1600s or 1700s and traveling to school through this spooky staircase every day!
  • Candlelight Tour of Dracula’s Hometown – Speaking of spooky, I can see how Sighișoara could be considered spooky even without its connection to Dracula. This evening guided tour explains the history of the city, Transylvania and Vlad himself.
  • Two-Hour City Tour – If that sounds too scary for you, this two-hour walking tour follows a similar route, but during the daylight hours!

Day 19: Travel to Brasov

Brasov Romania

The final point on your Transylvania Triangle is Brasov, which is about two hours by train from Sighișoara.

If you’re backpacking, Brasov is a popular destination for budget travelers and has several good hostels. I recommend Secret Boutique Hostel – it has 500+ reviews and an average rating of 9.6/10, which is one of the highest hostel ratings I’ve ever seen!

If you’d prefer a hotel, Hotel Bella Muzica also has a “superb” rating. It’s located right across the street from the Black Church in a historic 16th-century building. #mood

On your first day, I recommend ascending Mount Tampa to the iconic “BRASOV” sign.  You can travel up by cable car (my recommendation!) or via a one-hour hike from the cable car station.  This will give you an overview of the town below and help you plan your explorations for the next day.

For dinner, head to another traditional Romanian restaurant. I liked La Ceaun, where they served soup in bread bowls along with lots of other typical Romanian dishes.

Day 20: Spend One Day in Brasov

Brasov Town Center Romania

On your first full day in Brasov it’s time to explore from street level what you saw from above yesterday!  If you ever get lost just ask for directions to Strada Republicii, the main pedestrian-only street that crosses the historic city center. From here, it’s an easy walk to the following Brasov attractions:

  • The Black Church – This church is huge (apparently it’s the largest Gothic church in between Istanbul and Vienna?).  It wasn’t always black, but a fire in the 1600s charred the church and gave it its name.
  • Piața Sfatului – The last European witch burning took place in this medieval gathering place, which also saw its fair share of executions and festive market days.
  • Europe’s Narrowest Street? – Apparently this title is hotly contested, but ask anyone in Romania where Europe’s narrowest street is and they’ll tell you it’s Strada Sforii, or “Rope Street”.
  • City Walls & Towers – Brasov has about three kilometers of fortified walls around its Old Town.  Nearby, the White Tower and Black Tower have great views of the city.

I also took a bear-watching tour in Brasov. The tour I’ve linked to here isn’t the tour that I did, but I wish I had!  It only takes three hours and you head from central Brasov out to the nearby mountains, to a hidden bear-watching spot where you may catch a glimpse of one of the region’s 5000+ brown bears.

Day 21: Take a Tour to Peles Castle and Bran Castle

See Bran Castle on a Romania Itinerary Beyond Transylvania

In my opinion, no Romania itinerary is complete without a visit to some of the country’s evocative castles and fortresses.  The most popular way to see some of these places is by taking an organized day trip from Brasov.

There are many different day trips from Brasov that include two or three different historic sites, so shop around and find the trip that seems most interesting to you.  The day trip that I took included Rasnov Fortress, Bran Castle (shown above) and Peleș Castle.  That was a nice itinerary because it really did show three different eras of Romanian history, but I’d also recommend that you check out these Brasov day trip options:

  • Three Castle Tour – This tour includes Bran Castle (“Dracula’s Castle”), Peleș Castle and Cantacuzino Castle. The latter has recently gained international notoriety as one of the filming locations for the Netflix series Wednesday.
  • Castles & Fortified Churches – This tour includes Bran Castle, Rasnov Fortress and two of Romania’s unique fortified churches – Prejmer and Harman.
  • Tour of Castles & the Surrounding Areas – This trip follows the same itinerary that I did, including Rasnov Fortress, Bran Castle and Peleș Castle.

No matter which tour you take, be prepared for serious tourist crowds at Bran Castle. Visitors from around the country and around the world are bussed into town and shuffled past souvenir stalls before being herded through the castle. This is a bit ironic, as historians can confirm that Vlad never lived here (though there’s a small chance he may have stayed for a night or two between impalings).

Day 22: Travel to Romania’s Black Sea Coast

Train Station in Romania

You’ve finished the Transylvania Triangle!  It’s now time to head east, to Romania’s Black Sea Coast.  I always like to end my long trips with a day (or two!) of relaxation by the beach, and that’s what you’re going to do on this Romania itinerary.

Constanța is about five hours by train from Brasov, hence the rather rainy photo of a Romanian train station (I promise, Constanța is prettier!).

Choose your accommodation based on your interests.  If you are more of a city explorer, stay right in Constanța’s city center. I’m kind of obsessed with the bathtubs at this hotel, but if you’d prefer something a bit more low-key in a heritage building, this hotel is a good option too.

If you’re more into suntanning, swimming and living a life of leisure, choose a beachfront hotel in the nearby resort of area of Mamaia (about five kilometers north of Constanța’s city center).  Vega Hotel is a good option in this area (avoid any nearby properties offering full-board, as Romanian resort food is abysmal compared to what you can find at even the most average local restaurant).

Day 23: Explore Constanța

Constanta Romania Itinerary

Constanța is compact and easy to explore in just one day.  I actually saw the highlights (from outside – I didn’t go into any of the attractions) in just half a day, but I left the city wishing I’d had more time.  Here are some highlights:

  • Piața Ovidiu – You may have heard of Roman poet Ovid, but you may not have known that he was exiled to Constanța (back then it was called Tomis). Here, a statue of Ovid stands in front of the city’s notable Museum of History and Archeology.
  • Constanța Casino – One of the most beautiful Art Nouveau buildings in Romania is on Constanța’s waterfront. It has been closed for years (since at least 1990) but is currently being restored in hopes of reopening in 2024.
  • Great Mahmudiye Mosque – The Grand Mosque of Constanța was built in 1913. Visitors can enter and ascend the minaret (about 150 stairs) for views of the surrounding rooftops.
  • Romania’s Second-Narrowest Street – When it comes to the domestic rankings for narrow streets, Romanians are in agreement that Strada Vantului is the country’s second-narrowest street (after its counterpart in Brasov).

🐬 Please do not visit Constanța’s “Dolphinarium”, which is cloaked behind the misleading name of “Natural History Museum”. The dolphins held in captivity here are forced to put on up to three shows a day inside their small enclosures.  Recently, dolphins from the Kharkiv Aquarium in Ukraine have been added to the enclosures and forced to join in the spectacles. 🐬

Day 24: Have a Black Sea Beach Day

Romania Itinerary Black Sea Beach Day

It’s time for a little R&R before you head to your last stop on your Romania itinerary: the bustling capital of Bucharest.

If you’re staying at a Mamaia hotel (like Vega Hotel, which I recommended above) then today’s the day to relax by the pool with a good book and a cocktail or two. Take your cues from the locals as to whether the water in the Black Sea is warm enough (and clean enough!) to go swimming that day.

If you’re staying in Constanța, you can still enjoy a day at the beach in Mamaia. There are lots of beach clubs along the waterfront that offer poolside drinks and dining, beach chair and umbrella rentals, live music performances and more.  These clubs are busy all summer long, but they really pick up during NEVERSEA and other summer festivals.

For a truly bizarre experience, you can head to the nearby town of Eforie Nord to partake in the town’s famous mud therapy.  Legend has it that in the 8th century a donkey (yes, you heard me!) was miraculously cured of his ailments by the highly-salty waters here, and ever since people have been following in the donkey’s footsteps (hoof-steps?) in hopes of curing aches, pains and fatigue.

You’ll find lots of medi-spas in Eforie Nord, but the real adventure is in visiting the public mud baths behind the train station (cross the tracks and go down the hill, or search for “Baile Reci Eforie Nord-Namol terapeutic” on Google Maps).

Your visit to the public mud baths with start by stripping naked in a changing cabin, and carrying your possessions with you to the beach (don’t expect lockers).  Then, you’ll coat your body in mud from Lake Techirghiol (not the Black Sea) and allow it to dry before rinsing it off in the lake’s water.  A wooden fence separated the men’s side from the women’s side when I visited, but since it ended at the water’s edge it didn’t actually serve much of a purpose.

Day 25: Travel to Bucharest

Palace of Parliament Bucharest

You’re in the home stretch!  The end of a long trip is always bittersweet, as it feels good to know you’ll soon be home in your own bed, but there’s also the sadness that comes with knowing your explorations are almost over and you’ll soon be back at work or school.

From Constanța, it’s an easy 2.5-hour train ride to Bucharest, the capital city of Romania. If you want to end your trip in a great-value boutique hotel, check out La Boheme. If you’d rather check into a hostel to share stories of your trip with other backpackers, T5 Social Hostel is a great option.

⭐ For most travelers (myself included), the first day in Bucharest is all about heading directly to the famous Palace of Parliament.  Don’t attempt to navigate the largest building in Europe on your own – book a skip-the-line guided tour. Make sure to arrive about 30 minutes early so you’ll have time to walk to the meeting point – it is really hard to explain just how big this building really is! ⭐

Day 26: See the Highlights of Bucharest

Covered Gallery in Bucharest, Romania

With the elephant in the city out of the way, you’ll now have time to explore more of the charming and historical sides of Bucharest over two full days in the city.

Many years ago, Bucharest was nicknamed “Paris of the East” and “Little Paris”.  I think the comparison is apt, and when you spend today exploring Bucharest’s Old Town I think you’ll come to agree with me!  You’ll find the Old Town area on either side of Bulevardul Ion C. Brătianu, between Piața Unirii and Piața Universității. The highlights of this district include:

  • Pasajul Macca-Vilacrosse – Shown above, this covered shopping arcade rivals those of Paris and Turin. Underneath its yellow-glass roof you’ll find some of the city’s trendiest shops, cafes and restaurants.
  • Old Princely Court – This was built as a residence for Vlad the Impaler in the 1400s. There’s not much left save for a statue of Vlad that you can see through the fence.
  • Strada Lipscani – This street on the west side of the Old Town is lined with cute shops and boutiques. Again, big Paris vibes here.
  • Hanul lui Manuc – You might be surprised to find a caravansarai, or Silk Road-style guesthouse, in Bucharest, but one has been operating here for more than 200 years.

If you have more time, you can walk a few blocks north of the Old Town to find the National Museum of Arts, the neoclassical Romanian Athenaeum and the Jardin Tuileries-esque park at Gradina Cișmigiu. Wrap up your “Parisian” experience by stopping by Industry Wine Bar where you can sample local Romanian whites and reds, to see how they compare to their French counterparts. 🍷

Day 27:  Explore More of Bucharest

Archul de Triumf Bucharest Romania Itinerary

Today, you’re going to explore beyond the Old Town.  I have a few options that you might want to consider.

The Lonely Planet Romania hasn’t been updated in years. However, it does have a good self-guided walking tour of Ceausescu’s Bucharest, which will explain the dictator’s vision for, and impact on, the city.  Buy a cheap used copy of the guidebook and cut out the relevant pages to guide yourself on this tour.

Similarly, this highly-rated guided walking tour focuses on Romania’s Communist history.  Learning about this time period from the perspective of a local is extremely valuable.

Either way, you should also squeeze in time to visit one of my favorite museums on the planet: The National Museum of the Romanian Peasant. Dedicated to preserving folk arts, traditions, religious icons and anything else related to life for Romania’s rural peasants, the museum outdoes itself through unintentionally-hilarious English signage.  I can still remembers several of the signs that had me doing a double-take (but I won’t spoil them for you).

From the museum here, it’s a pleasant 30-minute walk to the Arcul de Triumf, which leads into a large, lakefront park.  You can also visit the nearby Primaverii Palace, where Ceausescu lived an opulent life in an 80-room mansion surrounded by manicured gardens.

For your last dinner in Romania, I recommend heading to the lively Caru’ cu bere restaurant. They had the most energetic live music performances that I saw at any traditional Romanian restaurant, and all these years later I’m still thinking about the papanași, or fried cheese donuts, that I had for dessert here.

Day 28: Depart from Bucharest

Wizz Air Romania Airport

Bucharest’s main airport is the Henri Coandă International Airport, located in the northern suburb of Otopeni.  Typically, a taxi from the city center to the airport costs about €15. The 783 Express bus also connects the airport to the city center.

It’s easy enough to get from the city center to the airport that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend an airport hotel for your last night in Romania. However, if you have mobility limitations, tired children or other barriers to making an early flight, there is a Hilton Garden Inn within easy walking distance of the terminal.

As your flight lifts off and you see Romania disappearing into the distance behind you, I hope you’ll leave the country with memories as positive as the ones I have of my own visit. As I said at the beginning of this Romania itinerary, I was blown away by everything about my trip to Romania, from the food to the culture to the people to the language to the landscape.  Even just writing this guide has got me searching Google Flights to see if I can sneak in a return trip in the near future!

Have you been to Romania?  Are you actively planning a trip to Romania?  Let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments below! 

Want to see more of Eastern Europe?  I also wrote an epic two-month Eastern Europe itinerary that crosses the continent from south to north – it’s based on the exact route I followed on my own solo summer vacation!

Planning a trip to Romania?  Pin this post for later!

A one-month Romania itinerary includes Transylvania, Dracula's Castle, Bucharest, the Painted Monasteries of Bucovina and more! A four-week Romania itinerary takes you across the country and includes optional extensions into Moldova and Hungary.


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