A Stunning Transylvania Road Trip from Bucharest

See the best of beautiful Transylvania, Romania in one week

There is a poetic beauty to Transylvania that few places in the world can surpass. Shrouded in mystery and vampire-driven legends, yet full of fairytale-like medieval villages, Gothic castles, fortified churches and the stunning snow-capped Carpathian Mountains.

The historic region of Transylvania occupies much of central Romania. You would literally need a couple of weeks to cover all that Transylvania has to offer comprehensively – and much longer to see all of Romania, from the painted monasteries in the north to the Black Sea beach resorts.

Our road trip itinerary will take you on a circular trip from Bucharest, around many of Transylvania’s most famous landmarks in one week.

This is by far a comprehensive guide to Romania. I was only there for one week but have included in the footnotes extra itinerary items and resources that you might find helpful in planning your own more extensive Romanian adventure. 

This post is part of our European Destinations series

Romanian Athenaeum
Spring flowers blooming at the Romanian Athenaeum

Things to know before visiting Transylvania, Romania

Language in Romania

The main language is Romanian – a Latin root route language used in Romania and Moldova making it relatively easy to interpret if you are familiar with other western European languages.  English is quite widely spoken or at least understood, especially in tourist establishments.

Currency in Romania

The currency is Romanian Lei – written RON.  Despite EUR often being quoted, only Lei is accepted.  You can readily find ATM’s and all but the smallest of shops, cafes or tourist sites will also accept credit card. As a rough conversion guide:

  • 5 RON = 1 GBP
  • 4.5 RON = 1 EUR
  • 4 RON =  1USD
  • 1 RON = 1AED (Note no currency exchanges in the UAE seem to readily stock it, you’ll be relying on ATMs)

It is not a commonly stocked currency in many countries so you may need to order in. Don’t pay exorbitant airport currency exchange fees, the ATMs are just after you collect your bags at the airport.

Power and adaptors in Romania

You will need European Type C 2 round-pin plugs or international adaptors.

Car Hire

If you are hiring a car in Bucharest, there are plentiful options only a short shuttle from OTP (but be mindful that parking in the city centre might be tight). It’s quite easy to pick up a budget car rental in Europe. Alternatively, you can pick up at a city depot such as Avis at the Intercon. Check available car hire locations here:

Note driving is on the right side of the road (steering wheel on the left). If you hold a license from outside the EU or are from a non-Vienna Convention on Road Traffic Signatory country, you might need an International Driving Permit. (On this occasion, I thankfully took my UAE driver’s license, which was allowed. However, I was informed had I taken my usual Australian driver’s license, I would not have been permitted to hire – the same applies to US and Canadian license holders. This is the first time I had ever been referred to the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, so be warned, it’s applied!) 

Opening Hours

Many places are shut on Monday or have modified hours.  If your visit is planned over a long weekend, just be careful how exactly you plan out your days. (Click the links under each attraction to confirm timings, most variable by season). 

Castle Pelisor

Accommodation in Romania

You can really pick your budget when it comes to accommodation.  5-star luxury is far cheaper than many other European countries, but equally, hostel and 2/3 star accommodation is cheaper too, and you’ll get what you pay for. Expect some accommodation to look a little dated, but far from the communist-era feel, I may have feared!

Public Holidays in Romania

The majority religion is Orthodox Christian, so big public holidays around Christmas and Easter are celebrated 2 weeks later than in Western Europe.

Is there a best time to visit Transylvania?

Like much of Europe, you can have a starkly contrasting trip in different seasons.  I can see why the winter months might be seen as a bit cold and bleak, but equally some of the mountainous villages are at there best during the snowy season. Spring felt perfect for the greenery and flowers before the crowds and often sweltering mid-summer temperatures. Autumn brings with it amazing colours and much cooler temperatures.

Food & Drink in Romania

I’ll say at the outset I probably chose the wrong dishes and wrong establishments to try the local cuisine! I was not a fan. But for setting expectations (it’s not all bad, I promise!) think soups, lots of meaty casserole-style dishes, sausages, a penchant for cabbage and polenta.  You will find a wide variety of international cuisines though; Italian is popular as well as Greek.

Where they do excel beyond expectation is with their wines. You will almost exclusively find Romanian wine on menus so do try and experiment. Local varietals include Feteasca Neagra and Feteasca Alba.  Most vineyards are located in the warmer climates of Wallachia but there are many in Transylvania to try too.

Romanian Wine

Distances in Transylvania

Distances can be slightly deceptive as there are a mixture of roadways and very windy hills, though we found Google Maps to be pretty accurate in its timings. Getting caught behind slow trucks is definitely a pain and there are not always handy overtaking opportunities. Here are some approximations, dependent on traffic.

  • Bucharest to Peles – 142km (2hrs)
  • Bucharest to Brasov – 184km (2hrs 50 mins)
  • Brasov to Sighisoara – 116 km (1hr 40mins)
  • Brasov to Sibiu – 144 km (2hrs 20mins)
  • Sibiu to Sighisoara – 93 km (1hr 40 mins)
  • Sibiu to Bucharest – 277kms 4hrs 30 mins (via the Transfăgărășan add 2 to 3 hours)
  • Sibiu to Cluj-Napoca – 174kms (2hrs 30mins)

Bucharest & Transylvania with kids

There are very few places you cannot travel with your kids, and Transylvania is no exception.  The castles and fortified villages are bound to set their imaginations alight. That said, I should point out that I actually undertook this particular trip with a friend, rather than with The Globetrotters.

Due to the large amount of walking involved, and many places with steep hills or cobbled streets, there are a few things I would do differently visiting Bucharest with kids. Many places are not stroller-friendly, and you’ll want to work in plentiful play parks in amongst the sightseeing.

I’ve included several adaptions to the itinerary and points of interest I would add when travelling to Transylvania with kids.

A 7-day Transylvania Road Trip

Whilst anything less than a week, you are unlikely to do the region and the capital Bucharest much justice, if time is limited, you can certainly fit many highlights into a 7 day/6-night itinerary as we did – a Transylvanian Taster Tour!

Transylvania Road Trips map

(You can download our interactive Google Map here)

Transylvania Road Trip Day 1 & 2 – Bucharest

Most will start their journey into Transylvania in the Romanian capital of Bucharest, home to Henri Coandã International Airport – OTP (Otopeni is the small town the airport is located in, about a 30-minute drive outside of Bucharest).

It is a fairly small airport so easy to navigate yourself past passport control and bag collection to the ATMs and taxi service.  The taxi system could be a little clearer, but basically, from inside the terminal, you need to choose from a machine one of several companies offered that have differing rates per km.

Your first choice may not be available so it’s a bit hit and miss keep pressing buttons until a taxi shows up! The taxi then pulls up and waits for you in the taxi stand immediately outside.

Bucharest aeriel photo

A taxi to town should cost you no more than 50 RON. I had been advised cash only but the couple of cabs I took in Bucharest DID have credit card options.   Another alternative although we did not try it is to use Taxify – similar to Uber. 

Despite rumours of grumpy and rude drivers, my friend and I must have both struck the jackpot with extremely friendly and knowledgable drivers, well versed in English and ready to share their travel tips. After unloading the bags, get yourself into the Old Town for the evening and enjoy exploring the laneways and colourful nightlife.

Rest up as Day 2 you will be doing a considerable amount of walking between the city’s famous sites.  The good news is the city is pretty flat and easy to navigate and if you are mostly on a photo tour and happy to wander more than explore inside, can be tackled in a day.

Old Town in Bucharest with vibrant coloured restaurants and bars
Bucharest showing it’s vibrant colours in “Europes Newest Old Town”

The city was so different from my expectations. I had heard the expression “Little Paris” used to describe the city, but with a post-communist feel.  The Old Town has had considerable work put in over the last decade to make it the pleasant cobbled lined streets that we experienced (We understand this certainly hasn’t always been the case; Jokingly it is referred to as the newest old town in Europe!)

Abandoned Buildings in Bucharest
Very few buildings left in the Old Town Bucharest are in disrepair. Those that are considered an earthquake risk are marked with these red circles

Top things to see and do in Bucharest

This list is far from exhaustive but the main sites you could see within two days include:

Palace of Parliament (Palatul Parlamentului)

It is hard to miss the world’s second largest administrative building (behind only the Pentagon in Washington DC) with its commanding position over the city.  Conceived by communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu “The House of the Parliament”  or “Ceausescu’s House” was a show of his political power during his reign. Many Romanians still detest the building, not only its symbolism but the homes that were destroyed in order to build it and what it meant to the people.  I will let you decide on its architectural beauty, but it is indeed impressive on size and scale!

Palace of Parliament

Can you see inside?  Yes, tours do operate, advance bookings essential and you will need to bring with you a photo ID and passport.  However, at the time of our visit they were on a reduced program due to the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union occupying the building – tickets sold out 2 months in advance.

If you can’t get inside, you can walk the entire block around the Palace, it takes about half an hour. At the time of our visit in 2019, much of the other buildings to see were also being renovated, you may just want to view from the front and from Parcul Izvor (plenty of playparks here is kids are getting a bit bored by this stage).

Parcul Cişmigiu

A truly stunning central city park that we were fortunate to visit coming into full bloom. You can hire small paddle boats, or enjoy the views from one of the lakeside cafes.

Beautiful Tulips in Parcul Cismgiu
Beautiful spring flowers were coming into bloom in Parul Cişmigiu at the time of our visit, Spring 2019
Cafe in Parcul Cismigiu
Gorgeous Cafe in Parcul Cişmigiu

Revolution Square (Piața Revoluției)

Much of the country’s recent history revolves around this famous corner of the city.  This was the site of the famous Ceauşescu regime overthrow in 1989 in front of the Central Committee of the Communist Party Building. A controversial monument to the revolution Calea Victoriei (aka, the Skewered potato) can also be found here.

To really learn more about the city though, I’d recommend a walking tour.  There’s only so much our quick Googling on the spot could cover and we felt we’d glossed over far too much of this aspect of Romania’s very recent history. Some suggested walking tours of Bucharest: 

Caru’ cu Bere – Romanian Beer Hall

Hidden in amongst the Old Town laneways, Bucharest’s legendary beer house is likely to be a must on your list! Based on traditional Bavarian beer houses, it has been famous for good food and good beer since the late 19th century. Caru’cu Bere remains as popular as ever, renowned for their “mititei” (sausage-shaped, spiced ground meat grilled over charcoals). 

To say it is packed is an understatement. Advanced booking IS required, especially over weekends, or you could try popping in out of peak meal times for only a drink at the bar. It is one of the Old Towns most historic buildings so take a peek inside even if you don’t have a table, only the facade is currently being renovated. Alternatively, if you would like to discover more of the city’s characterful hidden gems without the crowds, take on a Bucharest food tour.

Romanian Atheneum

Romanian Athenauem

One of the city’s most beautiful buildings is the main concert hall. Classical music lovers will want to line up their trip with an evening performance, considered amongst Europes best. Details of upcoming performances here

Carturesti Carusel

I’ll admit I am a sucker for a big bookshop, and this is definitely one of the most beautiful I have seen. The lower floor is packed with handicrafts, gifts and gadgetry before ascending to multiple floors of books in multiple languages. Maybe not one of the most extensive book collections but won’t stop you getting lost there for a good hour or two! There is a cafe and refreshments for sale on the top floor with views of the Old Town. See Carturesti Carusel opening times here.

Carturesti Carusel - Bucharest stunning book shop

The Old Town laneways

It is honestly the perfect city to get lost in and self-explore, but make sure you stumble upon Passajul Macca – Vilacrosse. These two intertwined cafe-lined passages with a strong emphasis on shisha smoking perhaps gave off more of a Middle Eastern vibe but there is an undoubted Parissiene feel too.

Passajul Macca cafes in the old town bucharest

Nearby you will find Pasajul Victoria – another quaint cafe alleyway lined with brightly coloured umbrellas (pictured above) and an underground bar. It looked decidedly derelict other than this pop of colour during the day but sprung to life at night – all undeniably photographable even if you don’t stop for a drink!

Umbrella lane way old town Bucharest

Pura Vida Sky Bar

Although it’s a very flat city, this is about as much as a rooftop view as you can get! If the legs still have any energy left, it’s worth the 5-floor climb above this central city hostel to enjoy the rooftop vibes and cocktails. Probably more uh, street beats than my normal taste in music (and most of the clientele looked young enough I could be their mother, an increasingly worrying trend wherever I go these days) but nonetheless, a chance to rest up and soak in those views pretending I was a rocking 19-year-old backpacker again.

Churches of Bucharest

The city has an abundance of beautiful churches to stumble upon. Some favourites include St Nicholas Orthodox ChurchStrada Ion Ghica and Stravropoleos Monastery ChurchStrada Stravropleos. There are so many though, all with their unique architectural styling, you will find a favourite hidden somewhere in the city!

 Stravropoleos Monastery Church Bucharest
Stravropoleos Monastery Church in the centre of the Old Town

Antiques and Handy Crafts Market

Not well signed, but on the corner of Strada Ion Ghica and Strada Doamnei is a small antique and handicraft market.  We picked up several of our souvenirs here (you may find this way more to taste than some of the touristy souvenir shops around the castles and other attractions).

Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum

One we didn’t get time to hit in but came highly recommended by Mr Taxi driver is this traditional 200-year-old Romanian village – also called Muzeul Satului.  Open-air so best visited when the weather is fine and can be combined with nearby Herăstrău Park. These extensive gardens stretch as far as the Arcul de Triumf, which you no doubt passed by taxi arriving from the airport. If there’s one thing the city of Bucharest excels in, it’s parks! There are so many to chose from so if you are travelling with kids and the notion of simply exploring the beautiful streets and laneways gets too much, you are sure to find some big open spaces.

Parcul Cismgiu in Bucharest


The city also has many noteworthy museums which we didn’t have time to explore inside including The National Museum of Modern Art, Grigore Antipa National Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Art Collections. You can find a comprehensive Bucharest museum listing here.

Where to stay in Bucharest

We stayed at and really enjoyed the Grand Hotel Continental; Large spacious rooms, luxurious touches everywhere and a beautiful basement spa.

Nearby there are many others to choose from in this very central area include Radisson Blu, Hilton Garden Inn and Athene Palace Hilton Bucharest all very highly rated and offering pretty reasonably prized 5-star treatment.

If you are going on to hire a car, you may like to stay at the Intercontinental Hotel Bucharest as this is where we found the closest city-based car hire depot with Avis. You can find a great neighbourhood guide with more ideas on where to stay in Bucharest here.

Transylvania Road Trip Day 3 – Bucharest to Braşov

If you only have a long weekend you can base yourself just in Bucharest and visit many of the sites closer to Braşov on a day trip. Otherwise, I’d recommend hiring yourself a car and getting out to truly see the sites. 

You can join an organised tour too but self-driving you can set your own pace. If you are only day tripping I can strongly suggest setting off early before long queues form at the popular sites.

We visited over Catholic Easter weekend and these top attractions were pretty rammed. One of our guides advised us during summer peak the queues and crowds are INSANE! I wouldn’t necessarily say skip these popular castles off your itinerary as you’d really be missing out, but expect longer queues than Disney.   All good travellers know early in the day is key!

Castle Peles Romania
A tour of Castle Peleş is close to Bucharest so can have lengthy queues

Peleş Castle & Pelişor Castle

Arguably the most beautiful of Transylvania’s castles, Peleş is found 2-hours north of Bucharest, much of the second half of the journey taking you deep into the Carpathian Mountains and through several incredibly picturesque towns.

Peleş is the former summer home to the Romanian Royal Family King Carol I and his wife Elisabeth. (The Romanian Royal family existed from 1881 until 1947, when Romania became a Republic – there is a long story as to why the Royal family is in fact, from Germany can be found here).

Now a museum, a relatively rushed compulsory group tour runs in rotating different languages takes you through the ground floor of the Palace. An extension ticket will take you to the much less crowded upper floors and concert hall.

Neighbouring Pelişor Castle is only a few hundred metres away and can also be explored on a separate ticket. Learn more about current ticketing and opening times here.  To get into the castle grounds, there is a 15 RON parking fee, and still a steep climb to the castle (bear in mind if trekking small legs with you).

Alternatively there appeared to be street parking immediately adjacent to the main gateway for free if you don’t mind an extra few hundred meters.  After the castle tours, there are several restaurants with international menus on the castle grounds.

Fortified Churches

There are many in Transylvania but one of the most impressive with its 4.5-meter walls that can be walked around is in the small village of Prejmer.

Premjer Fortified Church
Inside the fortified walls of Prejmer fortified church

Nearby if timing permits there is also Hãrmon with another beautiful example from the Saxons era.

Braşov Old Town

Make sure you get to Brașov before nightfall to take in the famous sites of Brașov old town.  Walk the historic city walls of Transylvania’s second largest city and enjoy dinner in the town square. There are plenty of small laneways to get lost in, but it’s easy to find your way back to the town square and history museum.

Brasov Old Town
Brasov Town Square at dusk.

If time permits, take the cable car up to the BRASOV sign on the hill for amazing views over the city. There’s also the impressive “Black Church” (though this appeared to be closed for renovations at the time of our visit in 2019).

Where to stay in Braşov

Stay centrally in the Old Town for the best experience. We chose Hotel Aro Palace –  a bit of an ugly duckling outside looking more like an office block but delivers on the quality you need inside and beautiful park or mountain views. Includes a huge indoor underground pool and spa. Other central choices to consider include Arina Apartments or Arce Boutique Hotel.

Aro Hotel Brasov
Aro Hotel Brasov and Parcul Nicolae Titulesco

Transylvania Road Trip Day 4 – Braşov via Bran & Raşnov to Sighişoara

Bran Castle

Arguably the country’s most famous landmark, though how much is the truth and what has been adapted from fiction over the centuries is in the eye of the beholder!  None the less this is considered vampire country. You will definitely get your fair share of 15th century “Drac” stories – not, in fact, Bram Stokers fictitious Dracula but Prince of Wallachia Vlad the Impaler. 

However, much of the story of Bran Castle in Bran is dedicated to modern times, Queen Marie of Romania and her children from the 20th century.

Bran Castle, Bran village in Transylvania
It is believed the castle described in “Dracula” is Bran Castle, however, Bram Stoker had never visited Romania!

Normally not one to be plucked out of a line to join a tour group, we were so glad we decided spur of the moment to join an English tour run by Transylvanian Wonders (we since worked out you can advance book one of these tours here! They work in English, Italian & Romanian).

Inside the castle is manically busy, there’s really not much can be done about it as the country’s most popular attraction.  If you just join the crowd you will drift through without having the castles stories and interesting features brought to life.

Our guide spoke amazing English and put some fabulous context and drama behind the story of the castle – I would thoroughly recommend taking their tour.

If you are travelling with young children, I am not sure they will have the patience for a guided tour as it did go nearly 2 hours. You may be able to pick up an audio guide with your tickets but expect the castle to be crowded and rushed. Definitely no strollers and no disabled access.

Bran Castle queues to get in
Expect inevitable queuing and crowds at Bran castle with its narrow entrances, hallways and steep staircases

Open hours and on the day ticket information for Bran Castle can be found here – there is, unfortunately, no advance booking process.  You simply need to join the ticket queue down a roadway of street side sellers with your typical tourist tat, then join another queue to actually get in the castle.  Note Bran Castle is closed Monday mornings.

Other tour options if you are coming as a day trip from Bucarest

There is a very touristic lead up to the castle, but you may find better shopping opportunities further along your trip. Easy bites and pub-style meals can be found here too, as well as around the village of Bran.  Parking nearby we were suckered into the expensive but convenient paid parking for 10 RON an hour.

Râşnov Fortress (Cetatea Râşnov or Râşnov Citadel)

Rasnov Fortress

Nearby, another Transylvania highlight was visiting Râşnov. Perched on the hillside with a commanding view this Medieval Citadel was built by the Teutonic Knights to guard against Tartar and Turkish invasion. It is a mixture between ancient ruins and a recreated medieval village inside. A small entry fee applies.

There’s a brisk hillside walk to the top from the free car park, but you could also catch the small tractor-train up the hill for a nominal fee.  Views from the top are stunning and well worth the climb. Audio guides were apparently available but could not be seen. 

Another place you might prefer to take with a group to learn more about the history (many Bucharest day tours pair Râşnov and Bran). Those with kids may be able to make a full day or afternoon trip of Râşnov and pop into the Dino Park Rasnov too.

Rasnov Dino Park
The Rasnov Dino Park is on the hillside as you climb to the Citadel

Allow a further 1.5-hour drive to finish your day in Sighişoara or you could spend a further night in Brașov and tackle the drive the following day, taking in further small village stops along the way.

Where to stay in Sighisoara

We stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton Sighişoara Cavaler, a really short walk (flat!) to the many attractions of the Old Town and included a heated indoor pool. Another option to try is Hotel Central Park Sighisoara which had an excellent restaurant serving Romanian and international dishes, as well as an excellent selection of local wine and knowledgable staff.

The old town of Sighisoara, the steep hill and stairs leading to St Nicolae Lutheran Church
The old town of Sighisoara, the steep hill and stairs leading to St Nicolae Lutheran Church

Transylvania Road Trip Day 5 – Sighişoara to Sibiu

Sighişoara medieval town centre

Get your walking legs on because there are lots of steep hills and steps – but most importantly just get yourself lost in the maze of laneways and beautifully restored candy-coloured buildings. 

The entire old town is UNESCO listed, which I understand has helped with much-needed funding and restoration works over the past decade to bring these glorious streets back to their former glory.

A walled Saxon era-village, the highlight at the peak of the city is St Nicolea Lutheran Church. Accessed from beneath by a very long enclosed staircase (Scholars’ Stairway), it was designed to protect parishioners from the elements in the winter to climb to the church at the top of the hill.

Scholars Stairway
The 176 steps of Scholars’ Stairway leading to St Nicolea Lutheran Church

From the adjoining churchyard, you can admire the township and valleys below.  Filled with the sounds of dogs barking and chickens clucking in the otherwise fabulous, still and crisp air; it was a fabulous reminder, you are in Dracula country here! (And as one house claims, the birthplace of Dracula. You can go see his bedroom in Casa Vlad Dracul, for a small fee).

Sighisoara clock tower and Casa Vlad Dracul
Sighisoara clock tower and Casa Vlad Dracul

Warm yourselves up again heading back to the town square, take in coffee at one of the many small centuries-old cafes and climb the Bootmakers Tower.

There are plenty of tourist tat-purchasing opportunities too, but if you are looking for “the real thing” we found the lovely traditional art and crafts museum and shop in the basement of House on the Rock the best place to make your genuine purchases. in the absence of a live guide, if you have mobile data you can use the QR codes placed on many of the towns historic buildings to learn more.

Sighisoara Town Centre

Biertan Fortified Saxon Village

There are again many fortified churches and quaint villages on the drive between Sighisoara and Sibiu, only 1.5 hours if you drive direct.   I’d strongly suggest you do take the time to make a diversion and drive through some of the Transylvania plateau countryside.

Not so mountainous but plenty of rolling hills and small villages where you will still encounter horse and cart action and many a stray dog running along the street – some more intent to catch your car than others!

We chose Biertan to stop at as it was the easiest diversion and it did not disappoint. Biertan’s gothic-styled church is ringed by a protective wall and watchtowers, and the church itself has gained UNESCO listing status with its well-preserved Renaissance artworks as well as it’s intricately carved door.

Fortifed Church Biertan
Fortified Church Biertan

Sibiu Old Town

Sibiu is a much larger city than Sighişoara with the Old Town making up only a small part of the current city.  It is also a slightly flatter city so perhaps a little easier to navigate (but I would argue a little less interesting!)

We visited on a very chilly day (did I mention I don’t do cold), so a lot of the outdoor street cafes and vibrancy from throngs of tourists that we were expecting was lacking. There were still plenty of wonderful restaurants in Sibiu to pop inside for a drink which helped us through the day!

Sibiu from above Romania
Sibiu from above on a much sunnier day! (stock image)

Your tour on foot will most likely start with Piața Mare (Grand Square), then under the Turnul Sfaului (Council Tower) to Piata Mica (Small Square) surrounded by colourful buildings and the city’s watchful eyes – the unique slit windows in the rooftops that mysteriously follow you wherever you go!

You can climb Council Tower for a bird’s eye view of the city, as well as the Evangelical Church Tower (we managed neither but understand the better views are from the church)>

Next head to the stunning Lutheran Cathedral in Piata Huet, one of the greatest and largest Gothic churches in Transylvania.  Again our luck was out on opening times and it appeared inaccessible at the time of our visit in 2019, I believe due to Easter preparations rather than renovations.

The best part of Sibiu, as with so much of Romania, was simply wandering the streets and discovering its laneways and staircases that divide the upper and lower town, admiring the candy-coloured facades and ornate details hidden around every corner.

Sibiu staircase

Our time in Sibiu was all too short. Had we had longer then a side trip to either Tudra Salt Mine to the north or Corvin Castle to the east (see more below) would have been great additions whilst based in Sibiu.

Where to Stay in Sibiu

We stayed at the Hotel Continental Forum which although has a very grand exterior and commanding position over the city, was probably more suited to your business traveller than a cosy stay.

For something more boutique and in keeping with the atmosphere of the town you may want to try YellowBoot ApartHotel or Noblesse Boutique Resort (not parking can be tight near the Old Town, check the fine print staying in Sibiu if your parking will be included).

Transylvania Road Trip Day 6 – Sibiu to Bucharest


The absolute highlight of a journey through Transylvania – and the best experienced we actually had to miss out on – was driving the Transfăgărășan. The DN7C snakes its way for 90kms through the Carpathian Mountains.  Once voted by BBC’s Top Gear as the best drive in the world, it takes between 6 to 7 hours to get back to Bucharest taking the scenic route.

Aerial view of the Transfăgărășan
Aerial view of the Transfăgărășan. One of the most scenic drives in the world that takes you through the heart of Transylvania

With its hairpin bends and dramatic views, it’s easy to imagine why.  Due to the extreme mountainous conditions, the road is subject to closures between October and May.

We missed out on this occasion and had to take the “main route” E81 back to Bucharest, still a long drive of nearly 5 hours.  It’s pretty for the first hour and a half as the road winds its way alongside the river Olt and you climb through the picturesque Cozia National Park, ending in the pretty village of Caciulata.  

After this section is over, it’s a fairly plain, and a slightly painful drive back as you work mostly with single lanes a variety of trucks and small towns until you hit the motorway about an hour away from Bucharest.

If you are lucky enough to enjoy a leisurely drive through the Transfăgărășan from Sibiu, stop on the way at Poenari Fortress, as the legend goes this is the REAL Dracula’s castle where Vlad spent most of his time (One of our guides advised, however, that access is currently not possible because of issues with wild bears!).

Check current information before planning the 1462 stair climb, only possible with a guide and the right gear due to safety.

Poenari Citadel photo by Rachel Bickley CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Flickr
Poenari Citadel. Photo by Rachel Bickley CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via Flickr

The other popular stop is Vidraru Dam with dramatic views over Lake Vidraru and the picturesque valleys and mountains to either side.

Where to stay

As we were unable to take this route, no personal recommendations but check here for overnight accommodation options if stopping along the Transfăgărășan.

Transylvania Road Trip Day 7 – Depart Bucharest

Depending on whether you have taken the longer scenic route home – possibly even staying overnight at one of the mountain chalets (eg Hotel Posada Vidraru), you will head back to Bucharest overnight ready for your final day departure.

What does our 7-day Transylvania itinerary miss?

As mentioned at the outset, this is really a taster-itinerary. Romania is a huge country and Transylvania is just one part of it.  Even this itinerary you will not catch all the major sites of Transylvania due to driving distances. You could expand this itinerary just within Transylvania by including further day trips or overnight stops to:

  • Cluj-Napoca – the largest regional city in north-west Transylvania
  • Corvin Castle in Hunedoara (east of Sibiu). Arguably Romania’s most spectacular Gothic-style castle
  • Tudra Salt Mine – historic salt mine now a museum and wellness spa (parts under construction at the time of writing) – halfway between Sibiu and Cluj-Napoca
  • Poiana Brașov – Romania’s favourite winter ski resort near Brașov
  • Castelul de Lut Valea Zanelor – a fairytale-like village of clay houses in Porumbacu de Sus, east of Sibiu (partly under construction still to become overnight accommodation)
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You can also alternatively start your journey further north in Transylvania’s largest city Cluj-Napoca by flying into CLJ and heading one-way to Bucharest.

Further resources for planning your Bucharest & Transylvania Trip

Lonely Planet Romania

Where would we all be without the Lonely Planet, right? The Romania & Bulgaria Lonely Planet is essential reading, we found it to be really up to date and accurate (April 2019). Pssstt.. use code GLOBETROTTERS10 to get a further 10% off any purchase you make from the Lonely Planet online store.

Blogs to read

  • Sophia Adventure – A blog entirely focussed on the East Balkans, great if you want to take a deep-dive into the region.
  • Romanian Friend – They run small group tours but also have loads of very useful and informative local guides on their site to assist with dining and getting around.
  • Romania Tourism – Official tourism website packed full of helpful guides and maps.

Flights, tickets & tours

Use Skyscanner to work out your flights:

Don’t forget your travel insurance – we recommend World Nomads


Save our Google map for a quick reference to top spots to visit and stay in Transylvania.

Check out more guided tour options on Get Your Guide, they have some excellent European partnerships and may be your preferred option if you would like to base yourself in Bucharest and take day trips instead without the hassle of self-driving.

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A beautiful Transylvanian Village, road tripping in Romania

Have you visited Romania – with or without the kids? What were your favourite highlights? Any small villages or absolute hidden gems we missed?

Disclosures: This was a fully-self funded trip, I was not paid to mention any of the businesses or services discussed but may earn a small commission on some of the recommendations we have made if you make a purchase through our links. You can read our full disclosures and terms of use here

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6 thoughts on “A Stunning Transylvania Road Trip from Bucharest

  1. themigrantyogi says:

    I enjoyed reading about your experience in Romania! I got ‘stuck’ in Sibiu during the pandemic in March, and never left the country – I wound up moving to Cluj, but I waaayyyyy prefer Sibiu. Cluj is a little big for my liking! Thanks for sharing this itinerary!

    • Globetrotters Admin says:

      Oh how interesting! Are you working or studying out there? There’s still plenty more I need to explore around Sibiu. We have direct flights into Cluj now with WizzAir so when it’s safe to travel again I look forward to exploring deeper into Romania.

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  3. Pingback: Best Things to Do in Sibiu, Romania, for First Time Visitors

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