There is no better word to describe Romania than “fascinating” –its rich and diverse cultural background is complemented by the quaint way of life present in remote villages. This mix gives birth to an intriguing world that amazes everyone who tries to discover it.
Romania’s most authentic places are not, however, the most famous ones. The true image of the country is felt in the daily habits of local people, in the hidden stories of the communities and in the traditions kept alive.
So, apart from the legendary Bran Castle, the charming town of Sighisoara and the wonderful Danube Delta, here are the top 5 hidden gems of Romania that you can’t miss if you visit this country:
The Merry Cemetery of Sapanta
As you might have guessed from its name, this cemetery from Sapanta tries to give a positive meaning to death, by celebrating the life achievements of the people who died, rather than mourn their loss. All crosses are painted in a unique shade of blue, known as “Sapanta blue” and are lively decorated with beautiful paintings and witty poems.
Walking on the dusty roads of the cemetery you can discover the stories of the locals – for example you can read about a bickering mother-in-law, a farmer who died struck by lightning or the village’s drunkard. Not only will you get a deep insight into people’s way of life, but you will also be amused by the humorous writings.
Transylvania is perhaps Romania’s most visited region and it should come as no surprise, given the high number of beautiful attractions found here. Amongst them, the village of Viscri is a special place – located in close proximity to Brasov, this is where Romanian rural life is represented at its best.
Here you can still see animals leaving at dawn and coming back from grazing late into the afternoon, people milking their cows, mowing the hay or farming the land using old methods. The church from the village is also worth-admiring – it is one of the 7 fortified churches included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
The Apuseni Mountains
Still a secret to many, the Apuseni Mountains are a true paradise for all those who love nature, tradition and culture. The mild mountains allow for easy hikes, fit even for those that don’t usually exercise, whilst the abundant karst landforms (over 400 caves) are an attraction on their own.
The Apuseni Mountains are one of the few places in Romania to be populated even at high altitudes. Tiny villages and hamlets of the Motzi people are spread out across the region and a visit to one of them will allow you to uncover a mysterious world. Here, traditions are preserved as centuries ago and the skilled villagers carve musical instruments and houses from the local wood.
Another hidden gem of Romania that you can’t miss is Mocanita, the only fully functional narrow-gauge steam train in Europe. It crosses the Vaser Valley in the Maramures region and offers scenic views of deep forests, steep cliffs and running waters.
The ride feels as if, for a moment, you’ve stepped back in time, with the slow, rocking rhythm of the train and its noisy chug. The journey lasts for 6-7 hours, with a small break in the middle, at the top of a beautiful plateau.
The Retezat National Park
Unlike the Apuseni Mountains, which are mild and easy to climb, the Retezat Mountains offer more challenging routes. A wide range of activities is available for hike enthusiasts and wilderness lovers alike.
The Retezat National Park is home to over 20 peaks over 2000 meters in altitude, amongst which Romania’s third highest peak, and more than 80 glacial lakes. Any trail in the mountains is sure to greet you with splendid views and a spectacular range of wildlife. Numerous bird species are found here, as well as 55 species of mammals and over 1200 plant species. It is definitely the best flower-spotting place in the country!
Romania has a whole lot of attractions for all tastes and interests. Be it famous touristic spots or hidden gems, you are surely going to enjoy it. Don’t hesitate to experience the Romanian culture and discover its unique charm in a trip to Romania (http://true-romania.tours/ )!
Daria is a travel consultant with a high knowledge of everything that is authentic Romania: off-the-beaten-path places, interactions with locals and unique experiences. For more information visit http://true-romania.tours/ .