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Romania is a country that captivates travelers and tourists with its breathtaking landscapes, ancient castles, and rich cultural heritage. And amidst the well-known tourist destinations, there are plenty of hidden gems in Romania which make it worth it venturing off the beaten path from time to time.
From picturesque villages tucked away in the Carpathian Mountains to off-the-grid historical sites, these places and attractions offer a glimpse into the country’s rich history and natural beauty. In this post, I will introduce to you 15 of the best hidden gems this beautiful country has to offer.
These hidden gems have been selected and recommended by locals and intrepid travelers who have shared their discoveries with Giving Getaway’s Hidden Gems Collector. Their insider knowledge has helped me create this guide and many others, allowing you to uncover the world’s hidden treasures.
So don’t settle for the typical tourist traps; embrace the unusual, the beautiful, and get ready to uncover the hidden wonders that await you in Romania, where ancient traditions meet breathtaking landscapes!
If you’re exploring Romania, you shouldn’t miss Viscri, a well-preserved Saxon village that’s off the beaten track. This hidden gem in Transylvania offers an authentic glimpse into Middle Ages life with its unpaved streets and herringbone-arranged houses. Its isolation has preserved its charm and allowed for unique traditions to blossom.
One such tradition is the creation of genuine sheep’s wool socks. Born out of necessity when agriculture collapsed, this craft has become a beloved symbol of the village. You’ll see locals selling these warm treasures along the street leading to the fortified church.
And speaking of churches, don’t miss your chance to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site at the heart of Viscri – The White Church. Built by the Saxons in the 12th century, it’s seen numerous transformations but still maintains its original allure.
Viscri’s peaceful atmosphere adds to its allure as well. Here, you can escape from bustling tourist areas and immerse yourself in tranquility. Lastly, consider staying at King Charles III’s authentically furnished blue Saxon-Transylvanian house for a truly royal experience!
2) Kigyei Kápolna
Don’t overlook the Kigyei kápolna, an ancient chapel that’s all that remains of the historic settlement of Kigye. This hidden gem, nestled amidst tranquil fields in Romania, stands as a testament to a bygone era. Once part of the prosperous Kydiy family estate from the early 14th century, it was deserted following the Rákóczi War of Independence.
Despite its tumultuous past, this charming chapel is still very much alive. Each year on a day close to its patron saint’s feast, it welcomes pilgrims who journey from far and wide to participate in the presentation of the most holy sacrifice. You can experience this unique spiritual event held annually at four o’clock in the afternoon on Sunday closest to September 6.
Imagine standing amid devout pilgrims under the aged timber beams of this quaint chapel during farewell mass; you’d be captivated by its special atmosphere!
Rimetea’s a charming village located in the Trascau Mountains, known for its unique white houses with green shutters. This storybook-like village is located in Alba County, Romania. As you explore the streets, you’ll be mesmerized by the ornate plaster details on each house and the red geranium window boxes adding splashes of color.
Rimetea offers beauty all year round, but depending on your preferred activities, shoulder season can be ideal for hiking while winter landscapes offer their own stunning beauty. Yet remember that hiking may be challenging during winter months.
For history buffs, Rimetea’s Ethnographic Museum provides insights into the region’s past. Don’t forget to take photos of the Unitarian Church and the Orthodox Church – they’re architectural gems adding charm to this quaint village.
In Rimetea, every corner you turn unveils another picturesque scene. It’s no wonder it’s one of Romania’s hidden gems that you shouldn’t miss!
4) Stone Ravens Monastery
The Stone Ravens Monastery is a place that’s deeply rooted in Romanian history and boasts an impressive rock formation and interior paintings. Situated in Corbi Village, it was founded in 1456 and carries the legacy of the prominent Corvin family. This monastery, one of Romania’s few rupestrian settlements, intrigues with its mysterious origins.
Also known as ‘The Stone Ravens,’ this monastic site is now a popular tourist attraction. It resembles the rupestrian churches of Matera, Italy, making it uniquely captivating. You can learn more about its fascinating history through their website available in Romanian, English, and French.
You’re encouraged to take a leisurely walk around the monastery – a tour that should only take you half an hour but will offer picturesque views of the village. Nearby stands ‘The Blue House’, a traditional Romanian abode over 150 years old. Its simplistic design reflects local life and adds depth to your exploration experience.
5) Berca Mud Volcanoes
The Berca Mud Volcanoes are a unique geological wonder in Europe that’ll capture your curiosity with its lunar-like landscapes. Nestled in Buzau County, these muddy marvels are formed by natural gas eruptions resulting in crater-shaped formations. Known as the Gates of Hell by locals, their intriguing and constant changes make every visit an adventure.
The two main locations: Little Mud Volcanoes and The Big Mud Volcanoes offer large mud bubbles made of thick clay-like mud. With no vegetation surrounding them, they give an otherworldly impression that’s rare to find anywhere else in Europe.
Walking around the Berca Mud Volcanoes feels like being on another planet. The mud makes exciting sounds as it bubbles, and the air has this mineral-like smell. When the mud dries, it leaves behind intricate patterns that look like they’re from an art project.
These mud volcanoes offer a glimpse into some fascinating Earth processes. So if you’re into a unique and intriguing experience, the Berca Mud Volcanoes are worth a visit!
If you’re seeking a road less traveled and a truly unforgettable adventure, then Transalpina Road in Romania is a hidden gem that you simply cannot miss. Known as the highest paved road in the country, it stretches an impressive 92 miles (148km) and reaches a breathtaking altitude of 7,037 feet (2,145 meters) above sea level. As you wind your way through the majestic Parâng Mountains, you’ll discover why Transalpina is also referred to as the Devil’s Pass and the King’s Road.
With a fascinating history dating back to the Roman legions in the 2nd century CE, Transalpina was officially inaugurated by King Carol II in 1938. This engineering marvel improved transportation and accessibility across the Carpathian Mountains and even served military purposes during World War II.
Embarking on a self-driving journey is the best way to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of Transalpina. Your adventure begins in Novaci, a picturesque town renowned for its natural scenery. As you make your way along the road, be sure to stop at Lone Mans Rock, the first viewpoint offering panoramic vistas of the mountains and the road itself. Popas and Rânca Viewpoints are also must-visit spots, providing majestic panoramas of the Parâng Mountains.
The best time to visit Transalpina is during the spring and summer months from May to September when the weather is mild and the roads are clear. And as you explore Transalpina, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the charming villages that dot the road!
7) Nicolae Romanescu Park
Nicolae Romanescu Park is the largest natural park in Eastern Europe. Spanning an impressive 90 hectares, it’s not only the greenest urban area in Romania but also a historical gem inaugurated back in 1903 by King Carol I himself.
This park is a romantic blend of architecture and landscape artistry that once won the Golden Medal at the Paris International Exhibition. Over time, new elements like a grand entrance portal, extended pier, modernized lighting, and greenhouse have been added without disturbing its original charm.
As you wander along its 27 km (17 mi) long alleys or paddle on the park’s water courses, you’ll come across several landmarks. There’s the monumental entrance leading to Bibescu House and the towering Romanescu monument. Don’t miss out on architectural marvels like the Iron Kiosk, medieval castle, and an impressive suspended bridge overseeing scenic waterfalls.
The park also boasts natural features galore – from a serene Great Lake to a lively zoo. You can even enjoy horse racing or cycle around its velodrome before ending your day at its summer theatre. So when in Romania don’t miss out on this verdant oasis!
8) Eagles’ Lake
Hidden deep within the picturesque Buzau County in Romania lies a true gem that shouldn’t be missed by any adventurous traveler. Eagles’ Lake is a stunning natural wonder nestled in the Siriu Mountains at an altitude of 1,420 meters (4,659 feet).
Legend has it that Eagle Lake got its name from the renowned writer Alexandru Vlahuta’s captivating story. Eagles were said to have once resided in this area, teaching their young to soar high above the Siriu Mountains. Interestingly, the lake’s second name, Bottomless Lake, has nothing to do with its depth. It is the extraordinary legends surrounding this tranquil oasis that have made it famous throughout the country.
What makes Eagle Lake even more extraordinary is the presence of the endangered chamois, the only area where these graceful creatures can be found. Recognizing the importance of conservation, efforts have been put in place to protect both the chamois and the lake itself.
While reaching Eagle Lake may require some effort, the rewards are undeniably worth it. The surrounding landscapes are simply breathtaking, offering opportunities for hiking, nature exploration, wildlife spotting, and birdwatching.
9) Cheia Pass
As you journey through Cheia Pass, you’ll be amazed by the scenic beauty of this high-altitude route in the Carpathian Mountains. The pass soars to 1,120 meters (3,675 feet) above sea level and offers breathtaking views of valleys and lush forests, making it a favorite among nature enthusiasts and photographers.
Traversed by the famous Trans-Bucegi Road, Cheia Pass links Prahova Valley to the Bucegi Mountains. You’ll find an array of outdoor activities at your disposal here. From hiking and trekking in summer to skiing or snowboarding in winter when the area transforms into a winter wonderland.
The region around Cheia Pass is known for its karst landscape dotted with caves like Cheia Cave – ready to be explored if you’re feeling adventurous. Wildlife lovers won’t be disappointed either; bears, deer, and wild boars all call these mountains home.
Cheia Pass also serves as a cultural bridge between Muntenia and historical Transylvania, offering a unique mix of influences. Don’t miss out on experiencing this hidden gem during your Romanian adventure!
10) Seven Ladders Canyon
Located in the heart of Romania, Seven Ladders Canyon, or Canionul 7 Scări, is a hidden gem that should not be missed. Composed of limestone-carved keys, the canyon sits at an altitude of 948 meters (3,110 feet). As you explore this magnificent canyon, you will be mesmerized by the stunning vistas it has to offer. The Pârâul 7 Scări, a charming stream, transforms the steps into impressive cascades, creating a truly magical atmosphere.
One of the highlights of Canionul 7 Scări is its highest cascade, standing tall at 35 meters (115 feet). This natural wonder is a sight to behold, leaving visitors in awe of its beauty. The best part is that exploring the Seven Ladders Canyon does not require any advanced equipment, making it accessible to all nature enthusiasts.
The renovated system of nine metal stairs and walkways allows you to cross the canyon effortlessly. The interior of Canionul 7 Scări features seven steps of varying heights, ranging from 2.5 meters (8 feet) to 15 meters (50 feet). When the volume of Pârâul 7 Scări increases, these steps transform into cascades, creating a mesmerizing spectacle!
11) Valea Doftanei
It’s in Valea Doftanei where you’ll find a tranquil escape, surrounded by picturesque landscapes and rich traditions. Nestled in the northern part of Prahova county, this serene haven boasts mountainous terrains with peaks like Orjogoaia and Radela. It’s a place where nature remains untouched, far from pollution or environmental degradation.
Here you can marvel at the beauty of Maple Lake, one of Valea Doftanei’s major attractions. You can spend your days hiking or backpacking on marked routes. If you’re an adventurer at heart, challenge yourself to conquer the Four Mountains Row: Steiasa, Bottoms, Clabucet. And if cycling is more your speed, there are plenty of trails for you to explore.
And if you’re looking to experience traditional Romanian hospitality, the Doftana Valley Village is the place to be. This charming village offers unforgettable moments and is known for its cheese production. Make sure to visit during the Cascavel Festival, a traditional event that showcases the region’s rich cultural heritage!
12) Breite Oak Tree Reserve
The Breite Oak Tree Reserve is Europe’s largest grassland plateau. Located atop Sighișoara, this reserve is a rare amalgamation of natural heritage and historical lineage.
The reserve has been beautifully shaped by the hands of culture over eight centuries. It’s not just an ecological haven but also a living testament to Transylvanian Saxon culture. From its attempted transformation into an airport during the communist era to a thwarted plan for a Dracula-themed park, it tells stories that are as resilient as its old oaks.
Imagine walking among over 500 trees aged up to 800 years old! You’ll encounter pedunculate oaks, sessile oaks, dalechamps oaks, and more; each providing sustenance and shelter for dozens of species. Hornbeam, wild pears, crab apple trees, hawthorns, blackthorn, and wild plums also grace the reserve with their presence.
Surrounding forests and the abandoned southern part are dominated by majestic beech trees. This diverse habitat supports a myriad of wildlife, including various amphibians, reptiles, nesting birds, and mammals, such as bears and wolves.
All this makes the Breite Reserve one of those hidden gems in Romania you shouldn’t miss!
13) Bucegi Sphinx
The mysterious Bucegi Sphinx is an enigmatic rock formation sparking endless theories and speculations. Some say it’s a portal to hidden knowledge or that it holds secrets about Atlantis or even Jesus. However, despite these thrilling conjectures, there’s no tangible evidence yet to support extraterrestrial involvement.
This peculiar rock formation is steeped in local legend and history. Formed during the Dacian era, it was considered a sacred site and served as a meeting place for offerings to Zalmoxis. Today, this fascinating landmark attracts thousands of visitors annually who are drawn by its cultural significance and unique energy.
While geologists assert that the Sphinx is merely a product of wind erosion through centuries, this hasn’t stopped enthusiasts from delving deeper into its mysteries. Despite scientific explanations attributing the Sphinx’s characteristics to natural geological processes, curiosity continues unabated.
Dotted with other megalithic formations like Stanisoara and Solomons Stones, Romania offers plenty of wonders for explorers. But none capture the imagination quite like Bucegi Plateau’s Sphinx; this is one gem you shouldn’t miss as you traverse Romania’s remarkable landscape!
14) Feldioara Citadel
Perched on a hill above Feldioara village, the same-named citadel overlooks a scenic valley at the foot of the Carpathians. Despite its compactness compared to other Transylvanian citadels, it brims with historical significance.
The interconnected buildings surrounding an oval-shaped inner courtyard culminate in two towering structures – the highest points in this fortress once known as Castrum Marie and Mergenburg. These towers now house museum rooms displaying objects that breathe life into the rich tapestry of the Barcaság region’s past.
You’ll enter through the impressive third tower, passing an age-old well central to the courtyard. The museum rooms showcase artifacts no older than a century yet they encapsulate centuries-old German-Saxon, Hungarian, and Romanian traditions. Decorative pieces, pillows, and tablecloths – many similar to those found in contemporary Transylvanian homes – offer snapshots of everyday life from bygone eras.
15) The Merry Cemetery
Another unique treasure in Romania is the Merry Cemetery. This isn’t your average solemn resting place. Home to over 800 vibrant wooden crosses, each one tells a vivid life story through cheeky epitaphs and colorful illustrations.
This intriguing graveyard was brought to life by Stan Ioan Pătraş, who began crafting these extraordinary markers at just 14 years old. His dark humor and brutally honest depictions of the deceased’s lives are what make this cemetery so unique and endearing.
Every cross is an open book with no detail too dirty or flaw too big to include. From soldiers’ beheadings to personal habits, it’s all there for you to discover. The bold use of colors and symbols further accentuates each tale, creating a visually captivating spectacle.
Unearthed only in the early ’70s by a French journalist, today it stands as a testament to Pătraş’s craftsmanship and his town’s unflinching honesty about life – warts and all. So take a detour from the traditional sites; visit Săpânţa for an unforgettable encounter with Romania’s most joyful cemetery!
So, you’ve uncovered Romania’s best-kept secrets. From the charming Viscri to the mysterious Bucegi Sphinx, these hidden gems are a must-visit!
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