Romania has a surprisingly rich history.
The country’s geographical position is one that was desired by all the great powers of the world, from the Roman and the Russian Empires to the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires.
More than once Romania has served as Europe’s defense line against invading nations, and this can be observed in its vast number of fortresses, castles and fortified churches. The regions of Moldavia and Transylvania are the most battle-scarred of them all, and the numerous castles and fortresses serve as proof for this statement.
Wandering around these historical regions will reveal some of the stories hidden inside the medieval cities and villages, and help you discover a small fraction of Romania.
But despite its troubling history, Romania managed to preserve the cultures and traditions that are specific to all of its areas.
From traditional crafts and outfits to customs that can be traced back to centuries ago, Romania’s cultural heritage remained unspoiled in most of its regions.
Maramures Washing Whirlpools.
If you want to catch a glimpse of Romania’s culture and traditions, make sure to take a trip to the ASTRA National Museum Complex in Sibiu. Located only 3 kilometers away from the city, the ASTRA Museum is the largest open-air museum in Romania and one of the largest in Central and Eastern Europe. The area is home to over 300 traditional buildings situated in a forest around two artificial lakes, including houses, public buildings, water mills, workshops, and more.
ASTRA National Museum Complex, Sibiu.
Another important destination that you shouldn't miss is the Village Museum in Bucharest. This open-air museum is located in Herestrău Park, and it is home to 272 authentic peasant farms and houses.
Wooden Church, Bucharest Village Museum.
But if you’re looking for a more authentic way of discovering the local culture and traditions, we encourage you to visit the regions of Transylvania and Maramures. The locals are very hospitable, and they can help you if you get lost or if you need indications. And if you’re traveling to the countryside, don’t be surprised if you get invited to into their homes for a warm meal and a traditional drink.
If you’re passionate about art, Romania should under no circumstances be missing from your list of travel destinations.
A visit to the famous painted monasteries of Bukovina will feel like a trip back in time and will reveal one of the many uses of art. During the 15th and 16th centuries, many people were illiterate and did not have access to proper education, so the teachings of the bible were spread using the paintings on the walls of the monasteries.
Voronet Monastery Mural
In Romania, you will also find what is perhaps one of the strangest expressions of art. Founded by Stan Ioan Pătraș in 1935, the Merry Cemetery became now an open-air museum and a national tourist attraction. The tombstones are colored in lively shades of blue and red, and they describe in a funny and poetic manner the life of the people buried there.
Tombstones in the Merry Cemetery.
Romania's has connecting flights with all of the major airports in the world, and it is especially easy to reach from most of Europe. It takes you between 2 to 4 hours to reach Bucharest from most of the major airports in Europe, and once there, you can relax in a city filled with parks, cafes, pubs, and historical landmarks.
Woman taking photos in the Herestrău Park. Photo by Rula Sibai on Unsplash.
And if you'd rather get out of the city, you don't need to worry. You can easily take a day trip from Bucharest to Dracula's Castle, to Bulgaria's Veliko Tarnovo site, or to numerous other landmarks across Transylvania.
With 50% of the Carpathian Mountains spreading over its surface, the country is filled with diverse ecosystems and a rich wildlife.
Romania is home to 50% of the brown bears in Europe (around 6000 individuals), as well as to the largest populations of wolves, lynxes, and chamois in Europe. If you want to get up close and personal with the wildlife, you can do so at one of the numerous reservations across the country, such as the Libearty Bear Sanctuary in Zarnesti, Brasov, the European Bison Reservation in Neamt, or the Danube Delta.
Bear at the Zarnesti Sanctuary
Travel tip: If you find yourself in Brasov, you can book a bear tracking session through the Tampa Mountain.
Romania also has one of the largest areas of virgin forests in Europe, covering over 25% of the territory. One-third of all European plant species can be found here, with 23 plants having been classified as natural monuments, 74 missing, 39 endangered, 171 vulnerable, and 1253 rare.
Danube Delta wildlife and vegetation
So whether you want to hike on one of the highest mountains in Romania or retreat to a village forgotten-by-time and break away from the daily routine, the possibilities are endless.