When you visit Transylvania, a travel guide can help you solve the details you need for a perfect trip. Every time the moment to plan a new trip comes, things can get both exciting and annoying at the same time. Of course, getting to explore a new place out there is perhaps one of the best experiences someone can have, but there are also a few expected events that might occur.
These can be caused by many reasons such as the lack of free time, not having enough information, and too many or too few options to pick from. However, this Transylvania travel guide is going to present in a very detailed form why you should explore Transylvania, as well as what should not be missing from your ‘must-see’ list while you are roaming this part of Romania. So grab a pen and let’s get started!
Along with the extensive list of when is the best time to visit Transylvania, accommodation, travel methods, and recommendations in terms of sightseeing attractions, you will also get to know why visiting Transylvania is worth your time.
I bet you already heard about the famous legends of vampires that are surrounding this region, but keep in mind that it has a lot more to offer than that!
Reasons to visit Transylvania
Some other reasons you should take into account when you ask yourself “Why should I consider a Transylvania trip?”, are that you will get to see some of the richest places in history that are standing still even after millions of years that passed, but also medieval cities and lots of outdoor wonders.
When you say “Transylvania” you can suddenly associate it with the central region of Romania that until 1918 was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Transylvania occupies a third of the whole country’s surface which is larger than Austria, so there is no doubt you will have plenty of places to see before returning home.
Depending on whether you enjoy hiking the mountains more than visiting cities and urban tourist attractions, you will be able to spend your time exploring what you love the most even if you will focus just on one of the two categories mentioned above.
Though, being such a big region with plenty of options, starting to plan your next trip here is not that simple. So hopefully, this guide will help you figure everything out. You can also opt for a guided tour that will make everything easier for you.
Best time to visit Transylvania
While most of the places out there have a recommended season when to visit them for the best experience you can have, Transylvania is waiting for new tourists any time of the year. Each season has its own interests and recommendations.
Spring is the season when not only nature awakens and blooms again. The traditional villages, different from the rest of the country, come to life. Long story short, Romania is split into 4 regions that have their own culture, fold costumes, touristic attractions, and local celebrations.
However, most of the locals managed to preserve their traditions and legends which will transpose every tourist into a time bubble far from the modern life and daily routines.
If you want to visit Romania just for Transylvania tourism, then summer is the right season for that. The weather is going to be just right for most of the landmarks in Transylvania, especially since some of the outdoor ones are usually closed.
Autumn is also another season that shouldn’t be neglected because when you want to check out Transylvania tourist attractions, there is no chance to stay away from mountains and forests which are pretty dominant in this part of the globe. And what better way to enjoy the stunning landscapes other than being completed by the colorful trees?
And last but not least, perhaps you are aware that winter is one of the favorite seasons for kids. It’s also fun if you love snow, winter sports, or even traditions. You can spend a white Christmas in Transylvania or come on a ski holiday in one of the many mountain resorts in the region.
However, if you are looking for the best month to visit Transylvania, we would suggest April or October.
Read also: Best time to visit Transylvania
Where to stay in Transylvania
When it comes to where you can stay while exploring Transylvania, there are quite a lot of options you can consider depending on whether you are looking for an urban or rural experience. Even though Transylvania is home to the whole area inside of the Carpathians, the most popular cities create a triangle between Sibiu, Sighisoara, and Brasov.
Sibiu is known as the heart of Transylvania due to all the festivals, traditions, and culture that are shared as being at home, but it’s also one of the cities from where you can plan day trips to any of the other cities mentioned before or to other places to see in Transylvania.
Brasov is the closest one to the famous Bran Castle and the legends of vampires but it also represents the most visited city in Romania. This one is very known for the Saxon culture which was very dominant in this region, but also for the villages and fortified churches.
However, when it comes to a genuine medieval experience, without any doubt, Sighisoara is the right city for that. Plus, it’s a quite tiny city that is very rich in history and traditions, and you will get to see rare and unique parts of history shared all over the place, no matter if we talk about museums, towers, castles, monuments, churches or even houses of the long-gone guilds.
If you enjoy spending more time with yourself far from the crowded cities and traffic noise, then do keep in mind that most of the villages in Transylvania have a few options in terms of guest houses where you can create lots of memories.
Romanians, but especially the locals from villages, are well known for having a good heart and always doing their best to help the tourists either with indications, sharing legends, or presenting some of the traditional cuisines, so it’s all up to your preferences.
How to get to Transylvania
Amongst some of the most important parts when planning a new trip, is transport. This plays a major role and it comes in many forms. That is why when you want to get to Transylvania you can do that:
- by plane: which is the safest, quickest, and easiest method, but not always affordable by everyone. Happily, both Sibiu and Cluj Napoca (which are some of the most important cities in Transylvania), do have airports with quite a lot of routes. There are even urban flights that should be considered.
- by train: which, unfortunately, is one of the slowest options you can consider due to the many hours spent on the road. Perhaps you are already aware that Romania is not very well prepared on this line so if you would still like to buy a train ticket, our recommendation is to use it on small routes such as Sibiu – Brasov, Sibiu – Sighisoara or Bucharest – Brasov.
- by car: this is amongst the mass used methods by most tourists due to being able to set up your own comfort and use it further when exploring the surroundings
Read also: Where is Transylvania? How to get there?
Unless you only travel to Transylvania for the urban sightseeing attractions which can be reached with all the other methods or even by bus, using a car is the quickest way to reach new realms and discover their stories. Especially if you think about villages or outdoor wonders.
Now that you already made an idea of the technical aspects before booking a trip to Transylvania, it’s time to get to the fun part of the guide which will present some of the must-see places, but also less known ones for the more adventurous spirits.
As you have already learned by reading so far, there are many sights in Transylvania that worth a visit. We can talk about both the urban & rural sides including fortified churches, castles, fortresses, towers, monuments, and medieval cities, but also about the outdoor life which will present waterfalls, caves, salt mines, forests, canyons, lakes, natural formations and many more!
Read also: 9 Fantastic things to do in Transylvania
Bran Castle is perhaps the first place everyone associates Transylvania with, especially when it comes to vampires. But the truth is that it’s a great opportunity to explore a different kind of museum as well as get through Vlad’s history.
The first mention of Dracula was found in Bram Stoker’s 1897 Gothic horror novel that created the fictional character. But not long after this event, people found out that there actually is a castle for Dracula open to the tourists.
However, the stories, legends, secret passages, and all the history this castle is soaked in make it one of the most visited attractions in Romania. Tourists coming from abroad especially prefer it.
Most beautiful castle in Transylvania: Corvin Castle
Corvin Castle is the Gothic masterpiece of Transylvania for over five centuries. It creates some of the most scenic landscapes you can see in Europe, saving its spot in the Top 10 with the most fairy places in Europe. That is why the Corvin Castle is considered to be the most beautiful castle in Transylvania.
Even though for over 400 years the castle has gone through a lot of tumultuous challenges, the usual love story that most likely every castle has didn’t manage to stay away from this one either.
That’s how, after the torch of love was kindled between Iancu de Hunedoara and Elisabeta, a gold ring has been offered. But not a long time after this event the ring was stolen by a raven who got attracted by its sparkle. Iancu proved both his courage and love for his chosen one by shooting with a bow the bird which became the main symbol to represent the castle. Also its name comes from this, because “Corvus” means “Raven” in Latin.
Turda Salt Mine
Turda Salt mine is one of the treasures from the depths of the ground which is revealed in all its beauty with a quick ride down to 120 meters. Once you make your way into the salt mine, you will get to breathe some of the purest air in the world.
There are also lots of activities to enjoy such as minigolf, bowling, boat paddling, pool, cinema, panoramic wheel and a lot more. Even though there are not many objects left behind to make you understand what it has gone through, the salt mine was everything from a cheese cave to a World War II bomb shelter and amusement park.
You can still see some of the tools used back in the 17th century in the small museum from the underground treasure. But some of the most important reasons why people are visiting the salt mine are the treatments offered to heal themselves from any breathing disease.
Scarisoara Ice Cave
Scarisoara ice cave represents one of the natural wonders of Romania. You can explore it while going to the Apuseni Mountains because the cave is well known for sheltering the biggest underground glacier from the Southeastern side of Europe.
The exact date when the cave was first discovered is still unknown. But there are at least 3,500 years since the glacier delights the eyes of many curious tourists who are seeing this kind of natural formation for the first time in their life.
The cave is located at an altitude of 1,150 meters above sea level. Its 720 meters length is split into several rooms, the most interesting one being entitled “The Church”. This one is formed from over 100 ice stalagmites of different shapes and sizes.
Along with the unique experience a tourist can have while exploring the ice cave, the whole journey feels like a deep breath of fresh air during a hot day of the summer. The temperature is maintained constant during the whole year to avoid melting down the ice blocks left.
The most haunted forest in the world: Hoia Baciu Forest
Hoia Baciu forest is the perfect pick if you are looking for a one-of-a-kind experience outdoors. Over time the forest became home to many paranormal phenomena.
That is why the Hoia Baciu forest is considered to be the most haunted forest in the world.
There are shared many ghost stories and urban legends that bring their contribute to its popularity.
Also, they make many tourists curious to see how much is reality and how much fiction. The sceptics are convinced that all the stories are shared just for the sake of entertainment and lack evidence. But the Hoia Baciu Forest has been featured on quite a few paranormal documentary TV shows already, such as “Ghost Adventures” and “Destination Truth.”
While it’s your mission to find the truth, the forest is also used as a recreation destination that comes with some biking trails and other spots dedicated to paintball, airsoft, and archery activities.
Alba Carolina Citadel
Alba Carolina is the biggest fortification in Romania still standing for over 300 years. It also represents the heart of the city with a similar name, Alba Iulia. The roman citadel was built between 1715 and 1738 in the middle of the country. It’s the main source of a unique historical and medieval ambience.
While Bucharest is known as the capital of Romania, Alba Iulia is still entitled as ‘the other capital’ of the country due to its connection with the Great Union from 1918. In 1918 Transylvania along with the rest of the country was linked together.
For this reason, Alba Carolina Citadel saved its spot on the must-see places in Romania, but also for being recognized as a great location for a long list of many important historical events that left their touch on the country.
Fagaras Citadel was born in the 16th century over the ruins of a castle that was destroyed by fire. The castle completed its mission with success while defending the Southeastern side of Transylvania against possible incursions.
Even though the fortress was very well prepared with thick walls and many shooting towers, this one didn’t manage to stay away from the Ottomans who attacked the building more times in a row.
After the events calmed down for a bit, Michael the Brave occupied Fagaras Citadel and sheltered there his family and his royal treasures.
It was only the beginning of a long timeline with many changes brought to the fortress depending on its owner. Over the years it was both a princely residence but also a prison used for those who opposed the communist regime. No less than 5,000 people were detained and became victims of the torture methods used back then.
Sarmizegetusa Regia fortress is hidden deep in the forests of the Carpathians. Here, not only that you will be welcomed by the marvelous nature but also by a better understanding of Romania’s origins following a 2 millennia-long journey before Romans conquered Dacia.
Back then, Sarmisegetuza Regia was the capital of the Dacian Kingdom. The water supply systems, ceramics, and several iron tools indicated the life of an ancient community that was there before.
All these aspects, along with many other important historical details, represent a genuine piece of history hidden in nature which still comes with many unanswered questions. But it stirs lots of curiosity from the tourists that are coming from all over the world to meet the few stones left.
There are quite a few fragments from the fortification walls but the most important ruins are the seven temples and the monumental altar used for sacrifices during the Dacian times.
Viscri Fortified Church
The Viscri fortified church is the most visited place in the village with the same name. It is tiny as it is, simple yet grand and majestic.
With a history of over 9 centuries, the church also played a defensive role on the west side of Transylvania. Sooner or later this region was attacked by the same Ottoman armies who’ve set themselves a goal of destroying as many churches from Transylvania as possible. Due to their placements the churches could protect the country too and not only serve with a religious purpose.
Happily, an ambitious community managed to save an important historical building being lost on the way with the passage of time and revived the traditions which were almost gone. Therefore, if you get to see Viscri these days, not only that you will discover a scenic and interesting church and fortress, but also local artisans and blacksmiths that will show you how they make horseshoes and other important objects from the past era.
Prejmer Fortified Church
Prejmer fortified church dates as the largest fortified church from the Southeastern side of Europe. It was built by Teutonic knights at the beginning of the 13th century.
Being such an imposing and interesting formation, catching the interest of the less well-meaning armies didn’t last to appear. Fortunately, the church showed incredible strength in front of many challenges and events that were knocking at the door.
Not for a few times, the church was on the front line in terms of invasions and enemy attacks which made the building endure more sieges than other similar buildings from the same region would normally go through. That’s how the religious place was conquered only once but went through more than 50 sieges along hundreds of years of existence.
Biertan Fortified Church
Similar to the previous one, but definitely not less interesting, the church from Biertan is placed on top of a hill. It also has faced many challenges that decided the future of Transylvania.
Along with the towers used for defensive purposes, there was also a special room that served as a punishment for the couples who wanted to break up after a failed marriage. Even if it might sound funny, the couple was locked in the room for a few days. Here, the most extreme challenge was to live with the one you weren’t even talking to anymore, in a very tiny room with a single bed, one plate, one mug and one cutlery that would push each other to start a conversation.
Happily, the whole situation proved a real success because all the couples locked inside (except one), managed to come to terms and learn how to live together again even with just very few things in their life.
Slimnic Citadel is amongst the less known fortresses of Transylvania. It doesn’t enjoy the same popularity as the others, but it comes with beautiful architecture left behind even if there are many ruins.
The citadel is a mighty medieval building that is still standing tall after almost 800 years since it was the first documentary mentioned. However, while you go to such places to find a little bit more of the past of Romania and especially Transylvania, this one will show that passion is over history sometimes. People are living inside the citadel taking care of the ruins. For many years they learned to live a simple, yet beautiful and full life.
Transfagarasan is one of the places that you can visit only during the hot seasons of the year. It is located at an altitude of 2,042 meters and lots of avalanches occur during the winter and spring.
This one is actually a road that crosses some of the highest mountain lands in Romania. Transfagarasan is 151 kilometers long and crosses the north-south side of the Fagaras Mountains.
The whole trail offers a unique driving experience while making your way through countless sceneries that will leave you speechless with their almost unreal beauty.
Not for a few times, Transfagarasan was entitled as the best road in the world, being mentioned also by Jeremy Clarkson in a Top Gear episode who along with his team, tested powerful cars on this side of Romania.
Balea Lake is one of the many sightseeing attractions you can observe while driving on the Transfagarasan road. It is also a great spot for hiking, ice climbing, skiing or even cycling on heights that exceed 2,000 meters altitude.
Plus, during the winter there is created a unique world of ice-crafted exclusives with the blocks of ice extracted from the lake. This world of ice follows a different theme every year and it can only be enjoyed during the winter when the access on the road is restricted. It can still be reached by cable car that will offer you a unique view over the mountains and nature.
This is just a short list of some of the many tourist attractions you can enjoy when you travel to Transylvania. So keep in mind that tourism in Transylvania is a real discovery. Exploring what it has to offer comes with no limits and meets not borders, but only the time which will be your own enemy.
You probably have noticed that there is no town included in the list. We have a special post about the main cities to visit in Transylvania and what do to there.
Read also: 10 cities in Transylvania you must visit
When you plan a trip to Transylvania, our recommendation is to not miss a chance to do it for a longer period in order to have enough time to explore all the areas that are part of this region. You will never be disappointed but only sorry that you couldn’t stay for more!
We hope that this Transylvania travel guide has offered you all the details you need about this beautiful region. If you want to make sure you will have a perfect holiday, try one of our tours in Transylvania: