Me and my friend had been talking about going to Romania for quite some time and eventually we settled on a weekend which worked for both of us and booked it. We knew we wanted to go to Transylvania including Bran Castle but weren’t sure about how to go about booking it all and sorting out the transport which is when I stumbled across Untravelled Paths. They’re a tour operator who do tours around a number of countries including a Dracula Experience for four nights in Romania. As it would be much easier than working out public transport for ourselves we paid the deposit and booked the trip.
I’ll be doing a full post on Untravelled Paths so keep your eyes open for that if you’re looking for a flexible tour operator in Europe. We arrived in Bucharest late afternoon on a Thursday and after long passport control queues and a few delays we eventually made it to our meeting point, although it was good we were late as our driver hadn’t even arrived to pick us up yet so it saved waiting around for too long.
Arriving in Bucharest (Day 1)
After a quick 35-40 minute drive we arrived in the heart of Old Town at the Hilton Garden Inn for our first night’s stay on the trip. We did have a few issues checking in as it was under our tour operators name as opposed to ours but the company were very responsive over the phone and sorted it out with the hotel reception for us. There was a period of a few minutes when I did start to panic wondering if we’d been duped and hadn’t actually got a hotel or a tour but our minds were put at ease when we were handed our room keys. Thankfully the room had very good air conditioning as Romania was just as warm and stuffy as it has been in London so that was a god send. That evening we met our rep, had a drink in the hotel and a nice dinner but then it was time to head to bed before starting our trip in the morning.
Castles and Brasov (Day 2)
On the first day we headed to Snagov Monastery where Vlad the Impaler was assassinated and where his tone lies. As the monastery wasn’t in the easiest tourist location it was very quiet and strangely peaceful both inside where we were the only visitors and outside in the grounds. Next up was a pretty long drive to Bran Castle where Vlad was thought to have stayed for periods but in fact is where Queen Mary resided. One thing I noticed about the area was how touristy it had become due to the whole Dracula appeal and inside the castle it was quite cramped to move around but that teaches us for booking a trip in August.
After a few more stops we arrived in the beautiful town of Brasov where we were due to spend our evening. We didn’t get as much free time as we’d hoped due to traffic but we did get to wander and explore the fairy tale village and have a lovely dinner before laying our heads to rest in the hotel room.
Sighisoara (Day 3)
After a breakfast of scrummy nutella pancakes we drove over to Rasnov Fortress to explore the crumbling ruins of a fortress once owned by Dracula’s grandfather, Mircea the Old. The setting was absolutely beautiful and the views after climbing to the top were so worth the trek. It’s the kind of place that I don’t think we’d have ever gone to had we planned the trip ourselves which shows how beneficial a tour can be.
Our next stop was the medieval citadel of Sighisoara which was the birthplace of Vlad himself where we had the whole afternoon to explore which is pretty much all you need in the area to be honest. We visited the house where Vlad was born and scared ourselves silly at the set up, we walked the 140(ish) stairs to the ancient Church on the Hill and it’s accompanying cemetery and we marvelled over the views from the old Clock Tower.
The best road in the world (Day 4)
Sunday morning was our last full day and we drove from Sighisoara on the acclaimed ‘best road in the road’ aka the Transfagarasan up to Balea Lake. Being a sunny Sunday in August the roads were really busy and eventually we decided to disbark our mini bus and walk up the remainder of the mountainous terrain to the lake as were all pretty hungry. The views from the road are incredible and I totally get why it’s called the best road in the world and once you reach the top the all natural Balea Lake waits for you. During the winter months the lake freezes and huge chunks are dug up and used to make the ice hotel which sits on the frozen lake every winter. It’s definitely a Winter bucket list trip to stay in an ice hotel so I might be back in Romania.
After our lunch we made a quick stop at Poenari Castle which is the real Dracula Castle but we opted out of the climb to the top as it was around 1,400 steps, something none of our legs could handle but we revelled in stories of Vlad and considering the traffic earlier it seemed like a good time to start the drive to Bucharest. As it was we didn’t get back to our hotel until 10pm but thankfully the hotel restaurant was still open so we managed to have dinner without having to venture out.
Leaving Bucharest behind (Day 5)
The following morning we had a few hours to kill before our transfer back to the airport but to be honest we were quite tired from all the travelling over the past few days so we just wandered around the old town marvelling at the architecture and ended in the beautiful Van Gogh Cafe.
Preparing for my trip
I know this post has dragged on for quite a while but I wanted to quickly mention a few things I took/ prepared for my trip for anyone else doing a similar type of trip.
I was sent a wonderful box of goodies from eShores before leaving for my trip and it was a godsend. Included was a straw hat which I’d been after for a while anyway but it was just what I needed on the trip when the heat was so intense so make sure you have something to cover your head. There was also some clear UV protection spray which I don’t really need to explain the importance of but clear sunscreen is always a plus for me as I can spritz it on when I’m in a hurry without having to think about rubbing it in.
Books are a huge part of travelling for me as I find it’s my time to properly get into a book and when you’re travelling for hours a day in a coach you need something to keep you occupied. I took three books on my five day trip and read them all before I even got on the plane to come home which is pretty standard for holidaying for me (who knows how many I’ll need for my 10 day sun holiday next year!)
Another important thing to prepare is travel insurance as you never know what’s going to happen while you’re away and it’s better to be prepared for the worst and never need it. I always get annual travel insurance as I find it works out the cheapest and you don’t have to worry about doing it before every trip you go on. With medical travel insurance even if you have a pre-existing condition you can still get yourself covered.