Maybe you’ve heard of Nadia Comaneci or Gica Hagi, the Danube Delta or the Count Dracula, but Romania has a hundred times more to offer to the tourist craving for beauty and uniqueness.
This small country hides within, from the Black Sea shore to the highest picks of Carpathians, an amazing diversity of natural resources, a history full of legends and traditions, an abundance of religious architecture, medieval towns and castles impossible to match in Europe or even worldwide.
But Romania is no only a land of legends, beautiful edifices, but also of brilliant people who changed the world.
Today we’re taking a look at 10 Unique Experiences You Can Only Have in Romania:
1. The richness deep down: the healing power of “sacred” water
Your body is your temple and there’s no better place to take care of the temple than Romania.
From the bottom up, Romania hides inside the Carpathian Mountains the “sacred” water which, as legend tells, healed Hercules’ wounds made by Hydra.
Herculane is currently the most famous and oldest health resort in Romania, dating from Roman times, when it was named “The sacred waters of Hercules.”
The miracle is scientifically called balneotherapy and Romania has no less than 3,000 mineral and thermal springs, meaning more than one third of Europe’s miraculous waters.
2. Bacchus’ place of birth
You can drink & party like the gods did, no really, the god of parties was born here.
When history meets legend, the origins of Bacchus (or Dionysus), the god of wine, are here, in Romania, a country annually receiving important awards and countless gold medals in international contests for the wine made in these vineyards.
In fact, Romania viticulture is more than 6000 years old, so there is no wonder that legends say that Dionysus, the god of wine, was born in Thracia, on a sandy land in South-East of Romania, near the Black Sea, now called Dobrogea.
So raise your glass and enjoy!
3. Up in the mountains: a road to die for
Hey, Top Gear didn’t call the Transfagarasan the best road in the world for nothing.
Imagine the 93 miles of road literally built in the heart of the mountains, at 2034 meters of altitude. This means Transfagarasan.
Over 3 million of hard rocks exploded and over 20 tons of dynamite were used to make a dictator’s dream coming true.
It is said that over 40 people lost their lives between 1970 and 1974, during the construction process.
Still considered the most dramatic road in Romania, Transfagarasan is also the one providing the most spectacular landscapes within the Carpathians and the most challenging curves for bikers, hikers and drivers alike.
It has five tunnels, of which Balea Tunnel, near the highest point of the road, is the longest (884 m) and maybe the darkest tunnel in the country.
4. The world’s most haunted forest
If you’re into the paranormal, Romania already is high up on your radar.
Also called the Bermuda Triangle of Romania, Hoia-Baciu Forest located near Cluj-Napoca is a place famous worldwide for its paranormal activity.
Its name comes from a shepherd who disappeared deep down the forest, together with his 200 sheep.
Most local people don’t go there for fear that they will not come back and those who dared entering suffered inexplicable symptoms of physical sickness, loss of memories or anxiety.
The strange events reported include mysterious lights, female voices, apparitions, UFOs.
Scientists from around Europe and USA captured bizarre material structures on film, like apparitions and faces.
5. The Romanian (better) Stonehenge
If you do decide to come, you’ll be surprised that Romania and ancient Egypt developed the same kind of astronomical technology.
The great mysteries of Romania don’t stop near Cluj-Napoca.
A little further south, the Capital of ancient Dacia before the Roman Wars, Sarmizegetusa Regia doesn’t deserve its anonymity as it is considered by astronomers the most sensational astronomic monument in the world, even more amazing than Stonehenge.
Sarmizegetusa Regia is actually a megalithic computer meant to help with astronomic calculations and proves that the ancestors of Romanian had solid knowledge which amazingly coincides with the ones of ancient Egyptian and Mayan cultures.
6. Castles of legend – masterpieces of Romanian architecture
And speaking of great edifices, Romania is rich in castles that seem taken out of fairy tales. You could start with the Romanian landmark Peles, the first European castle entirely electrified and considered one of the most beautiful castles in Europe.
Built exactly a century ago in Sinaia, this architectural masterpiece reveals the most impressive Imperial Bedroom in the history of European aristocracy, illuminated by a unique chandelier made using Bohemian crystal.
There is also a legend saying that a huge golden thesaurus was discovered under the castle and remnants of this thesaurus may still exist in the surrounding woods.
You could also visit the People’s Palace in Bucharest (the Capital, also called the Little Paris), the second largest administrative building in the world after the Pentagon.
Also known as the Palace of the Parliament, this palace with 1000 rooms entered the World Records Academy three times: as the largest civilian administrative building use area in the world, the most expensive office building, also the heaviest in the world (actually 2% larger than the Pyramid of Keops).
From the 15th century, the Castle of Hunedoara comes with its own history: it houses the prison where the Count Dracula, the Impaler, was incarcerated before being taken to Hungary.
Beyond the historical truth, legends say that in that dark, small and cold cell, the famous count immortalized by Bram Stoker went crazy.
7. The medieval citadels: history and magic atmosphere
You can, literally, take a walk in the past.
And still speaking of Vlad the Impaler, his birthplace is equally special: Sighisoara stands as the best preserved medieval town in Europe, protected by UNESCO since 1999 as a World Heritage Site for its perfectly intact 16th century medieval fortress with 14 towers.
It is a medieval citadel still inhabited today which could easily rival with the old streets of Vienna or Prague in terms of magic atmosphere.
Another citadel very well preserved is Râsnov near the spectacular city of Brasov, a rustic fortresses built as an important part of a defending system of medieval Transylvania.
Its legend is related to the 146 meters well dug nearby between 1625 and 1640 and resembles the legend of the Castle of Hunedoara: the local people forced two Turkish prisoners to dig in exchange for their freedom. They stayed there for 17 years and filled the walls of the well with verses from the Koran.
8. The amazing tastes of traditional cuisine
Romania is undoubtedly a country of great culinary tradition, which is varied, unique and delicious.
If you enter a Romanian restaurant, you must start your feast with a small glass of tuica, a sort of strong plum brandy, and continue with a meatball soup (ciorba de perisoare) or tripe soup with sour cream (ciorba de burta). Or you can opt for a saramaura (grilled carp in brine) if you are in the Danube Delta or near the Black Sea.
Your main course could be sarmale (pickled cabbage leaves stuffed with a mix of minced meats, rice and spices), tochitura (a sort of stew with a lot of onion and different spices) or mici (the wee ones, kind of grilled sausages without skin). Add a Murfatlar wine of your choice.
For dessert, you should try papanasi, special cheese donuts with sour cream and fruit jam on top. Or, if Christmas is near, cozonac, the sweet bread filled with walnuts, raisins, cocoa cream or Turkish delight).
9. Living like hundreds years ago
Romania has thousands of amazing rural areas and no journey in Romania would be authentic and unforgettable without a village experience for a few days.
Pick a village with century-old manor houses and residences offering you a glimpse into the spectacular beauty of Romanian landscapes, where the whole community will welcome you and treat you like a royalty.
In such a Romania traditional village, you can live as your ancestors did hundreds of years ago: every day you can collect the eggs from the hens, milk the cows, feed the animals, make bread in the oven or fruit jam, crush grapes to make wine, gather wood to make fire and so on.
It’s like a time machine brought you back in the 18th century.
A while back we put together another article showcasing the most beautiful villages in Romania, we definitely recommend you check it out!
10. The “elixir of youth”
What could personalities like Indira Gandhi, Marlene Dietrich, J.F. Kennedy, Salvador Dali, Charles de Gaulle, Charlie Chaplin and Kirk Douglas possibly have in common? Their face cream made in Romania by the genius doctor Ana Aslan who discovered “the elixir of youth” and called it Gerovital, currently the most famous Romanian brand in the world.
The amazing doctor also founded The Institute of Gerontology and Geriatrics in 1952, the first institution of this kind in the world.
But Ana Aslan is not the only Romanian personality with impressive achievements. Petrache Poenaru invented the first cartridge fountain pen. Mircea Eliade was the first in the world who wrote a comprehensive History of Religions and also a famous fiction writer and philosopher. Nicolae Paulescu discovered the insulin; Carol Davila invented the Davila tincture used for the treatment of cholera and so forth…
And recently the Romanian actor Radu Beligan who turned 97 on last December set the new world record for the oldest active professional theater actor: 77 years of impressive career on the stage. Some say he knows Ana Aslan’s secrets very well.