Romania and Moldova itineraries
10 Days – Bucharest to Sibiu and back
This is a well-worn route for travelers wanting to see the best of Transylvania. Starting at Bucharest, where most international flights land, hire a car at Bucharest airport or jump on the first train north toward the hills, stopping in Sinaia for a couple nights to check out Peles Castle and take the cable-car up into the Bucegi Mountains for hiking or biking. Continue north for a couple nights in Brasov, a surprisingly unjaded hub with a cobbled center, taking a day trip to the infamous “Dracula Castle” (not really) at Bran and the better one at Rasnov.
If you have a car, spend a night in the timeless Saxon town Viscri, before continuing on for a night in Sighisoara, where the cute citadel offers B&Bs, espresso and Dracula’s birthplace. Head southwest for a night or two in Sibiu, Transylvania’s most culturally rich town.
If you have a car (and it’s summer), drive south along the winding, stunning Transfagarasan road that tackles the biggest of the Carpathians. On the south side, sits the prize that is the “real Dracula castle” at Poienari outside Curtea de Arges before returning to Bucharest.
21-28 Days – Bucharest to Timisoara
This frenetic month-long trip around Romania skips the heart of Transylvania. Starting in Bucharest, head east to hit the party beach at Mamaia, the spas at Mangalia or the bohemian vibe in Vama Veche depending on your preferences. Go north to Tulcea, the launching point for bird-rich boat trips through the Danube Delta and spend a night or two in Sulina or Sfantu Gheorghe. Both, if you have the time.
Continue north to Suceava and tour the nearby cartoon-esque, colour-coded Bucovina Painted Monasteries. Cross into Transylvania’s Hungarian-rich Szekely Land via the stunning Bicaz Gorges, taking in a hike if time allows. Stop in at Szekely Land’s biggest town, Habsburg-influenced Targu Mures, then head to Cluj-Napoca, home to a lively student base, clubs, quirky museums and a Hungarian/Romanian population. Head west for hiking and caving in the Apuseni Mountains or head southwest to another great under-appreciated city, Timisoara, home to the 1989 revolution.
There is nothing in Moldova that you can’t see in a day-trip out of Chisinau, which is not to say a night in one of the villages isn’t a good idea. Once you’ve had a few days to wander Chisinau’s leafy back streets and parks taking in the surprisingly excellent restaurants and nightlife, take a one, two, three day (or more) wine tour with stops at Cricova, Purcari and Chateau Vartely. Take a full day to repent that indulgence at the awe inspiring cave monastery at Orheiul Vechi. If you’re into idiosyncratic wonders, you’ll love Transdniestr, the Soviet-licious country that doesn’t exist, and its “capital” Tiraspol. Otherwise a very long day trip can be done, visiting the fortress at Soroca and the monasteries at Tipova and Saharna.