I am spending the next year or so exploring more of Europe, and hope to be visiting Romania some time next year. I am fascinated by this country I know so little about – and until I can get there and see it for myself, I asked Marius from Romanian Friend to share his reasons to go to Romania. Are you thinking: why visit Romania? Here’s why:
You probably don’t know much about Romania, do you? Tucked away in Eastern Europe, many travellers associate our country with touristy Dracula stories and nothing else! Although it may be hard to find on the map or to go beyond some people’s misconceptions, there are many reasons why this lesser-known destination is worth putting on your travel bucket list.
We locals have made a list with 7 reasons to visit Romania so you get a taste of what our country is like, but rest assured there are many others we haven’t included. Why? Because one of the nicest things we Romanians love to hear is when people tell us they came with low or no expectations at all, and leave impressed with the beauty of our country and people, planning to return!
Reasons to Visit Romania: Utterly Beautiful and Wild Nature
If you’re a fan of nature and outdoor experiences, visiting Romania should definitely be on your list. Considered to be Europe’s last wilderness reserve, there are some places where you will feel like you’ve found a little piece of heaven.
The Carpathian Mountains occupy 55% of the country’s surface and offer spectacular views from peaks as high as 2,500m in the Fagaras Mountains. Numerous hiking trails will take you through virgin forests in the Apuseni Mountains, narrow valleys and gorges with crystal clear rivers in the Piatra Craiului Mountains and beautiful waterfalls such as Bigar Waterfall. But there’s also the magical canals of the Danube Delta, a UNESCO biodiversity reserve where birdwatching and water sports go hand in hand. And then there is the Black Sea with its fine-grained sandy beaches where playful waves will help you relax and recharge your batteries.
Romania is home to the largest brown bear population in Europe so there are plenty of opportunities to go on ethical and safe bear watching trips! Whatever you want to do on your holiday, Romania has it all!
Romanians are Among the Warmest and Kindest People You’ll Ever Meet
Romanians are friendly, kind and their hospitality will impress visitors. They will welcome you into their home and feed you till you drop. Literally.
If you travel outside of major cities into countryside areas you’ll be amazed by how polite and respectful locals are. People from different cultures might feel overburdened by so much hospitality, or even think it’s exaggerated, but in fact, this is something ingrained into our nation’s DNA. Embrace it!
Tasty, Hearty & Home-cooked Food!
Speaking of hospitality, one of the things you’ll immediately notice when visiting Romania is how important food is in our daily life. Romanians love to eat, there’s no secret in that, and you’ll soon have to join the table! Besides traditional Romanian dishes such as sarmale, mici, ciorbă, mămăligă or papanași there is more regional diversity than you might think. Romanian cuisine has been influenced over hundreds of years by neighbouring Austrian, Hungarian, Turkish, Greek and even Russian cuisine!
But the best thing about traditional Romanian food is its familiar, home-cooked taste. Made with organic, hand-to-mouth products, cooked with love and passion, Romanian dishes are usually a combination of grains or potatoes, a piece of meat (pork is king!) and fresh vegetables on the side. A true reflection of our agrarian heritage!
One last thing: recipes may be different from one place to another and the same dish can be prepared in a totally different way in Northern Romania than in the Eastern part of the country. This means you’ll never get bored of enjoying Romanian cuisine with so many mouth-watering dishes all over the country!
Home to Many People
Eastern Europe is a melting pot of cultures and nations sharing many pages of history, and Romania is no exception. The Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian (Habsburg) and Russian empires were competing for political influence over many territories in this region. For example, German Saxons were settled in Transylvania during the 14-15th centuries to build defences against the Tatar and Ottoman expansions. Other ethnic minorities such as Hungarians, Jews, Serbs, Ukrainians, Armenians or Turks also lived in various parts of our country.
This diversity of cultures, religions and traditions turned Romania into a fascinating place with lots of historical and cultural sights to visit. For example, there are Saxon villages with fortified churches included in UNESCO heritage for their historical heritage. One of them is Viscri, where HRH Prince of Wales bought two traditional houses and restored them into guesthouses where people can stay when he’s not visiting!
Reasons to Visit Romania: We Keep Traditions Alive
Fortunately for our cultural heritage, lots of Romanian traditions are kept alive even today. People value them greatly, especially in the countryside, and take great pleasure and pride in showing them to non-locals.
On St. Andrew’s Day (30 Nov) people eat garlic to keep bad spirits away, while on Bobotează (6 Jan) it’s said that unmarried women will dream about their future husbands. Each tradition is unique and has an original story behind it. Besides being religious, Romanians are also quite superstitions which is why you’ll be hearing lots of stories about fairies and mystical creatures – including vampires!
Romania’s History is like Game of Thrones Without the Fantasy Part
If you loved reading stories as a child, you will find Romanian history fascinating! From 2,000-year-old wars between the Roman Empire and the brave Dacians (our ancestors) hiding in the mountains, and numerous battles during medieval times against the Ottoman Empire led by daredevil Romanian rulers, to the anti-communist resistance fighters in modern times – all of these events shaped Romania and left behind numerous historic landmarks.
You can learn a lot about our past by visiting old castles and citadels such as Bran, Rasnov, Peles or Corvin Castle, the communist prison in Sighetu Marmatiei or Alba Iulia Citadel where the Great Union of 1918 took place.
Medieval, Renaissance, Art Nouveau, Communist & Western… Architecture!
Exploring different cities in Romania will you immediately notice how the styles of the days’ past were integrated in modern times. Elegant and superbly decorated Old World buildings contrast with coarse communist apartment towers or steel & glass Western skyscrapers. And you can bet that each building has a story to share with you. Bucharest was once known as Little Paris while the city of Oradea is the Art Nouveau capital of Eastern Europe.
Venture out of Romanian cities into the countryside to discover the true heart of Romanian people where villages seem stuck in time and people’s way of life is unchanged by modern civilisation. Old houses and haystacks dot picturesque hills and among them, you will find wooden churches in the region of Maramures or beautiful painted monasteries in the region of Bucovina. If you’ll go on a Sunday, villagers in traditional costumes will greet you!
About the Author
Marius Iliescu is the founder of Romanian Friend – a local initiative promoting handpicked tours with the best local guides so travellers can discover the authentic beauty of Romania while supporting responsible tourism. Plan your trip with help from a Romanian Friend and follow us on Facebook or Instagram to see what you can visit!
What do you think, would you like to visit Romania after reading that? I am certainly planning on visiting Romania as soon as I can!
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