It’s no secret Romania is one of our favourite places and we’d gladly shout it from the rooftops. Having been an undiscovered treasure for so long, it’s become an emerging destination over the past couple of years, without losing its authentic charm. And with its versatility able to tick all checkboxes, it’s easy to see why.
Whether you’re looking for a quiet retreat, a family adventure, or a fun time with friends, Romania’s got you covered. You will easily find here a mix of welcoming locals, poetic landscapes, centuries-old traditions and medieval towns rich in history.
If Romania is on your radar for a future holiday (and if it’s not, that’s got to change!), we’ve shortlisted some of our favourite things to do.
1. Try sarmale
Sarmale (left) with sour cream (right)
These minced meat cabbage rolls are a staple of a hearty Romanian meal. Ever-present at any celebration or holiday, they’re a clear favourite among locals. They go best with polenta and sour cream, and, to simply put it, are insanely flavourful.
While the rest of Romania’s authentic cuisine is rich in pork, sarmale are easily turned into a veggie meal by simply replacing the meat with a mix of vegetables and rice, just as tasty.
2. Drive up on the Transfagarasan
The Transfagarasan (left) and Balea Lake (right)
Adrenaline-inducing and absolutely stunning, the Transfagarasan is a must-see. Zigzagging up to the Balea Lake plateau, and piercing through the mountain, it offers breathtaking views over the valleys below. Due to the high altitude – up to a little over 2,000 meters – the road is only accessible from June to October. In winter, you can take the cable car to a frozen Balea Lake. Looking down, you might just spot the outline of the road from above.
3. Get involved with the local crafts
Leather Tanning (left); Wood Spinning (right)
Romanians are still deeply connected to their roots, especially in the countryside. The trades have been kept alive, having been passed on from generation to generation. Depending on the region you’re visiting, you can witness the handiwork for yourself. From intricate wood cravings in Maramures, to blacksmithing in Transylvania or watching the old women spinning wool, it’s a spectacle worth showing up for.
4. Birdwatching in the Danube Delta
Kingfisher (left) and a flock of pelicans (right)
The Danube Delta is an oasis of peacefulness and serenity. While everyone will enjoy taking a boat out in the wilderness and floating lazily, a birdwatcher will be in absolute heaven in the Delta. The prime birdwatching months are in May and September when migration happens. You can spot colourful kingfishers, eagles, pelicans and even wild horses.
5. Get a traditional ie
patters on the ie (left) and Romanian traditional dancing (right)
As you venture deeper into the Romanian countryside, you will undoubtedly spot the traditional costume. Mostly used for Sunday church services or celebrations, the locals will proudly wear it. The traditional blouse, called ie, is a summer-y shirt adorned with colourful motifs such as flowers or shapes. The colours and patterns are specific to each region and in the past, the locals would customize their own attire to make it unique.
For your souvenir from Romania, we recommend getting this delicate clothing from the locals you will be visiting.
6. Sleep in the Ice Hotel
Igloos and the Ice Church (left) and an ice suite (right)
As winter creeps in, the Balea Lake freezes over, becoming a big, wintery playground. With blocks of ice carved from the lake, the local craftsmen build the Ice Hotel yearly. Sporting a new theme each year, the Ice Hotel displays artwork of ice sculptures decorating the suites. There is also an Ice Restaurant with tables and chairs made out of, you guessed it, ice. Complete with a bar and a three-course dinner, it’s an experience you’re unlikely to forget.
For the night, you will cozily tuck yourself into a heavy-duty sleeping bag. The additional blankets and sheepskin will keep you toasty for the night. One for the bucketlist.
7. Try palinka
Shots of palinka
This fiery drink can easily be paired with the Ice Hotel Experience above. The most popular ingredient is plums, though several other fruits such as apples or pears are used in brewing palinka. The locals easily down a shot before mealtime as it acts as a strong aperitif. We dare you to try – Noroc!
8. Bear Watching in Transylvania
Bears playing in the pool at the Libearty Bear Sanctuary (left) and a brown bear in the wild (right)
Romania is home to around 6,000 brown bears, roughly 60% of the population in Europe. The large forested areas represent the perfect habitat for them to live and thrive. A journey into the forests of Transylvania to a bear hide is an exhilarating experience. Waiting quietly for the bears to show up at dusk, you can get close to these mighty creatures from the safety of the hide.
Do pay a visit to the Libearty Bear Sanctuary as well, which is home to over 90 rescued bears.
9. Go back in time in Maramures
Farming the land (left) and a wooden church (right)
Maramures is the place where time stands still. Immerse yourself in the simple life unaware of the worries of modern times. Take a breather, get to know the locals, and get your hands dirty with the village activities. The customs are alive and well here in a fascinating display, from the Sunday church service to holidays and celebrations.
All of this rich cultural heritage is wrapped in a beautiful natural setting, with green pastures peppered with tall wooden churches. Take the time to explore and learn and you will surely walk back home with a different perspective.
10. Bar hopping in Bucharest
After a quiet time in the countryside or the Danube Delta, what better way to celebrate the end of the trip than Bucharest? One of Europe’s best nightlife spots, the Old Town comes alive at night. The bars and restaurants are busy with locals and tourists mingling happily. Wander around the cobbled streets, pick from the plethora of pubs and see where the night takes you!