Nature lovers road trip through Romania

by Diana

Well, I assume for all of us that 2020 has been a hard year. Lockdowns, mask, a lot of isolation but most important no more travelling abroad. Being in this situation, the only option to travel safely was in my own country. Nature and spectacular views were our main target, and for this we chose to visit regions with mountains and wide hills. The below intinerary is a road trip through Romania dedicated to nature lovers and also urban explorers.

The road trip wasn’t planned in advance, we only knew that we want to visit the north region of Romania, nature side of Bucovina more exactly. Therefore, we picked our next destination in the same day (perks of traveling with a car) and also the bookings were made within 2-3 hours before arrival. So, in the end, our travel itinerary through Romania looks like this:

Bucharest -> Ceahlau (Durau) -via TransRarau> Paltinu (Suceava) -> Colibita -> Cluj Napoca -> Sibiu -> Transfagarasan -> Bucharest

map itinerary

This duration of this whole trip was 1 week. However, you can be spontaneous and deviate from the route or, you can go on this exact itinerary and I will assure you that you will see a lot of things and enjoy both, nature and cities in this beautiful country.

1. Ceahlau (Durau)

First stop: Durau, with an overnight stay in Ceahlau. Durau is a touristic location situated at 820 m altitude at 9 km distance from the Bicaz Lake. Here is the starting point of 2 main hiking roads into Ceahlau mountains:

  1. Durau – Fantanele cabin – Vf. Toaca
    • Distance: 13 km (round trip on the same route)
    • Time: aprox. 6 h and 30 minute
  2. Durau – Poiana Viezuri – Duruitoarea waterfall
    • Distance: 7,5 km (round trip on the same route)
    • Timeaprox. 4 h

Because we weren’t prepared, neither physically or mentally, for a 6 hours hike, we decided to go visit Duruitoarea waterfall. The difficulty of the route is an easy one, so our 2 hours climb was very pleasant. Once reached the waterfall, there is a picnic table where we enjoyed our sandwiched and hydrate properly. Here are some nice shots of Duruitoarea waterfall:

Duruitoarea waterfall

Things to know:

  • Entrance fee in Ceahlau National Park: 6 lei/adult. Payment has to be made at the Ceahlau National Park Administration, which is located right at the beginning of the hike.
  • Pack some sandwiches to enjoy at your destination.

2. Paltinu (Suceava)

Next stop: Paltinu, with an overnight stay in Sadova. One mention here is, from Ceahlau to Sadova to go via TransRarau. This route is spectacular, with stunning views over the mountains. A super peaceful ride.

Paltinu and Sadova are two villages located in Bucovina area. Bucovina is known as this magical place, with gorgeous sunrises over the wide hills covered in fog. The region is also known for it’s unique traditions and good food, but our goal was to cross the hills at sunrise. We booked one night in Sadova, and made a morning trip to picturesque Paltinu village.

sunrise in Paltinu
Sunrise in Paltinu

I can’t tell you how to find this exact place in Paltinu, I only suggest to explore the entire village. It took us some time to find this road up on the hill, with this amazing view, and I am sure there are many more like this. So, be spontaneous (everything in this post is about being spontaneous :)) ), and start exploring, by foot or by car.

In the villages that are well known for this unique views, like Paltinu, it is quite hard to find accommodation from day to day. I recommend to find a place to stay in villages that are not that popular. Moving from village to village, is easy, distances are not that long (20 minutes apart) and roads are good.

In Sadova, you may visit Iezer Lake, a small and quite lake. It was a bit difficult to find it, as there is another lake with the same name near, in Rodnei Mountains.

So, here you have the GPS coordinates for Iezerul Sadovei Lake: 47.60342816767478, 25.447963844476842.

Iezer Lake, Sadova
Iezer Lake, Sadova

Things to know:

  • Wake up to catch the sunrise.
  • Get lost on the road through the villages.
  • If in doubt where to eat, I recommend a restaurant nearby the area, in Campulung Moldovenesc city, named Q’usine.

3. Colibita

Lake Colibita

Colibita is an accumulation lake from Bistrița Năsăud County, situated at the foot of the Călimani Mountains. Colibita is the perfect spot situated in the mountains. Tourists can stay at the beach in places specially arranged by the owners of the boarding houses and can swim in the cool water while admiring the spectacular mountain landscapes from approximately 850 meters altitude.

We planned to stay one night here also, but, unfortunately all locations that fit into our budget, were fully booked. So, we just had lunch at a restaurant and enjoyed the view.

4. Cluj Napoca & Sibiu

It was not our first time in Cluj Napoca or Sibiu, so we didn’t visited much. There are a lot of places to visit and things to do, here are 2 very complex blog post about travelling in Cluj Napoca and Sibiu: https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-guides/romania-travel-tips/cluj-napoca/ https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-guides/romania-travel-tips/sibiu/ .

My only recommendation is to have breakfast and to drink a specialty coffee in Cluj Napoca. The city has plenty of restaurants where you can eat best breakfast and brunch. Below are some of the best restaurants:

  • Olivo Caffe & Bistro
  • Eggcetera
  • Narcoffee Rosters
  • Samsara
  • Zama

5. Transfagarasan & Balea Lake

Transfagarasan

GREATEST Driving Road in the WORLD“, quoting Top Gear team is one of the biggest attractions in Romania attracting tourists from all over the world. (here you can see the Top Gear episode about Transfagarasan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLAtcrB0GZg)

The road is closed for a section of 27 kilometers for 8 months of the year, in winter and spring, due to the danger of avalanches, falling rocks, landslides.

At the highest point of the road is Balea Lake, which is glaciar lake situated at 2,034 m of altitude in the Fagaras Mountains. Balea Lake is not only a place to do some sightseeing but also a great spot for hiking, ice climbing or cycling.

Balea Lake

Things to know:

  • Distance: aprox. 92 km
  • The road is generally open June through October. (depending on the weather)
  • You will probably feel dizzy and lightheaded once reached the top due to the strong air. Hydrate yourself.
  • At the top of the road, it might get crowded, but at least it will give you time to capture the view.
  • Enjoy a meal at the restaurants and food trucks near Balea Lake.

After this road trip I was pleasantly surprised that Romania can offer ultimate adventures for nature lovers and also incredible places to visit. If you will follow this full itinerary or only partially, share your thoughts in the comments and let me know how it was.

See you next time!

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