Over the past two months, I’ve been living and working out of Transylvania and it’s been an amazing experience. I spent most of my time around Brasov and the Bucegi Mountains, but also dipped into the Transylvanian Highlands for a couple short excursions. This article will skim over some Transylvania hiking basics and you can click on the links below for more detailed trip reports.
1. The Royal Path To The Franz Joseph Cliffs (Sinaia, Romania)
2. The Valea Jepilor Canyon (Sinaia, Romania)
3. The Sinaia Ski Resort (Sinaia, Romania)
4. The Rasnov Fortress and The Pagan Temple (Rasnov, Romania)
5. The Grove of Ancient Oaks (Sighișoara, Romania)
6. The North Ridge of the Turda Gorge (Turda, Romania)
What’s the Romanian Trail System Like?
The Brasov area trails were well developed with decent signage and maintenance. I didn’t frequent very remote locations so saw anywhere from 5-12 fellow hikers on my expeditions. It’s definitely quieter in the autumn, so most hiking huts were closed for the season or had limited service.
It can be difficult to find trail information online (one of the reasons I started cataloging my hikes), but locals and hosts are very friendly with lots of regional hiking beta. The most difficulty I had was finding the actual trailheads which can a bit hidden.
The trails themselves are in decent conditions, although I would be wary about the steeper ones after a rainfall. Some of the sharper inclines tend to wash out. I was also a little skeptical about some of the safety chains and stepladders when heading up the Valea Jepilor Canyon.
Researching Your Trip
The best spot to pick up hiking maps ($5-$8 USD) is at any local bookstore. I prefer physical maps for planning routes and as backup in case there are issues with my phone. As always, Maps.Me is my preferred navigator when hiking as it works offline.
Where to Stay
Brasov is an ideal location for daytrips for nearly all of these hikes. It’s the seventh largest city in Romania so there’s plenty of options for lodging, cafes, and nightlife, as well as the scenic Old Town. In the fall, you’ll find some excellent off-season deals in the small ski town of Sinaia, which is right at the base of many hikes.
When To Visit
The high seasons for these areas are the summer and winter, so the more affordable times to visit are October/November and April/May. Bucharest, Romania’s largest city and capital, is only a couple hours away which can mean loads of tourists on the the weekends.
I’ve seen snowfall start in early November and it can begin even sooner in the taller peaks of the Carpathians. Just be aware if you’re planning late fall and early spring hikes that you may be dealing with some sizable snowfall.
How Much Can You Expect to Spend?
My nightly budget is $25 USD a night and I stay in a combination of apartments and hostels. You can typically find an entire apartment within close distance of the city center for under $30 USD per night and hostels are typically around $10-$15 USD a night. In Sinaia and Busteni, you’ll also find plenty of private rooms in guesthouses.
For food, I mainly pick up supplies at the grocery store and you can gather together a nice hiking picnic lunch for under $6-8 USD. For dinner, I usually treat myself to a pizza and a beer at a restaurant for anywhere from $8-$12 USD. As always, you can save quite a bit more money by taking advantage of the kitchen in your apartment/hostel.
Local bus transportation is usually quite cheap (under $1.25 USD for two trips).
How To Get Around
I mainly use a combination of trains and buses for local travel along with the occasional taxi, rideshare, and hitching. For longer trips, you may want to check out budget flights which can be quite cheap, especially if you’re flying to or from Bucharest.
The train from Bucharest to Brasov is an amazing trip, but overall, train service in Romania can be frustrating and slow. There are both private and public trains with different service windows, prices, and schedules. The one thing they share in common is that they’re almost always delayed.
You’ll find that buses service most areas in Transylvania. These are everywhere from a packed mini-bus to a proper sized vehicle. As someone who can professionally drive a bus, I have to sit in the back as the drivers ignore nearly every rule you can imagine for driving large vehicles.
Blablacar is also great for traveling longer distances between cities as it’s usually the same price as a bus, but much faster. Like riding the bus, you may find yourself gripping the edge of the door in a Romanian rideshare.
Renting a car is both cheap and easy in Romania. I have never done it, but many friends recommend this if you want to do a whirlwind roadtrip of the country.
Romania is the only country in eastern Europe that I feel comfortable taking a cab without getting ripped off. The prices for a cab are very reasonable as well, and you may consider it for reaching various hiking trails.
Hitching is common in Romania and used by nearly everyone (I once shared a ride with an old woman). It’s generally expected to give the driver a few lei in local currency, although most will waive the request if they see you are a foreigner.
This gets a special section because it’s a pain in the ass in the Romania to clean your clothes. Laundromats are not common here and I’ve never seen an apartment with a dryer, so you’ll have to plan ahead when traveling and washing. I typically will wash out a pair of underwear and socks per day in the sink just to put off the dreaded laundry day.
If your apartment or hostel does have a washing machine, you’ll typically need about 24 hours to get everything somewhat dry (not a guarantee). There are places where you can drop off your laundry, but keep in mind that they are expensive ($6-8 USD for a 5 kg load).
Romania is known for having some of the fastest Internet speeds in the world, so you should have little worries about getting online. I’ve found high-speed WiFi at gas stations, hostels, and kebab shops. You can pick up a SIM card from Vodafone for under $10 USD with nearly unlimited data. I rarely ran into a dead spot when hiking in the mountains.
Important: The emergency number in Romania is 112.
Beware of Bears
If you mention hiking to anyone in Romania, they will mention bears. The European brown bear is quite common here and as humans push into their territory, the bears are being pushed out of their natural habitats. Further exacerbating the issue is that Romania has almost no bear control or education in place. Make sure to make some noise while on forested paths and you shouldn’t run into any issues.
I haven’t been on a hike yet in Romania without running into wild or stray dogs. They run the range from gentle cuties looking for food to some downright mean mother fuckers. I always carry dog treats (or part of my lunch), which you can use to distract and sneak away.
Transylvania is a treasure trove of hiking trails and adventure. It’s easily connected with the rest of Europe so you shouldn’t have any issues finding your way to one of the most under-looked countries in Europe. And if you’re into winter sports, make sure to come back for some snowboarding!