Romania is widely recognized for famous people such as Nadia Comaneci (gymnast), George Enescu (compositor) or Giga Hagi (footballer). It is also recognized as the birth place of Dracula and known for the Carpathians Mountains. While many know its capital Bucharest is fast becoming a party hub in Eastern Europe, not so many know about a lot of other amazing places to visit.
For those who are interested to go a bit deeper, here are some things only locals known about Romania.
The Love Tunnel
To find this wonderful places you need to be on the railway between Caransebes and Boutar. The Love Tunnel is located between Obreja and Glimboca, at about 10km from Caransebes. Coming from Glimboca, there is a road which goes to the railway.
This railway is not in use anymore, so you can safely spend time here and take spectacular photos. You will need to rent a car or a bike to get to it though. And by the way: it was named after a similar tunnel which can be found in Ukraine.
Bucharest Bellu Cemetery
Work started in 1852 and it is one of the most well known cemeteries in Bucharest. Locals know that it is home to the Alley of the Artists, where personalities such as George Bacovia (writer), Nichita Stanescu (writer) , Toma Caragiu (actor) and Florin Pittis (singer) are buried.
The cemetery is home to some very intriguing monuments and tombs. One such monument is the statue of a woman with emerald eyes. The statue represents Katalina Boschott, a woman still shrouded in mystery. Her tomb stone reads: “That f*** doctor killed me!”. The circumstances of her death have never been discovered.
The (in)famous Vlad the Impaler, wrongly portrayed as Dracula by Bram Stoker, has not lived a single day at Bran Castle. However, he has used Poineri Castle as his base.
Located high in the Carpathian Mountains and accessible via Transfagarasan, one of Europe’s most scenic roads, Poenari is now in ruins. Access to the citadel is via 1,480 steps.
During the 14th century, Poenari was used as a castle by Basarab rules but was abandoned pretty fast. Seeing its potential, Vlad repaired and consolidated the structure in the 15th century. Though it was still in use after Vlad’s death in 1476, it was abandoned in the first half of the 16th century.
Focul Viu (The Live Fire) Natural Reservation
About 37 km from Focsani, in Vrancei Mountains, on Milcov river, there’s a unique area. In the center of Andreiasu de Jos , ridge by a forest’s edge, one can see the very rare natural phenomenon of live fires.
The unique geological structure of this area makes it possible for gases which are right under the earth, to go to the surface. The sun’s heat sets them alight. The rain, of course, will put the fire out.
The authorities have created access for the tourists. Follow the 100 steps to an area where you can see the live fire. Come here during the night for a spectacular view!
Vadu Crisului Cave
Romania is home to many caves but if you are looking for a spectacular one, which is easily accessible and not widely known , you need to go to Bihor County. Vadu Crisului Cave is located at the outskirts of the village with the same name.
The easy hike goes along Fast Cris (Crisul Repede) and gradually gains altitude, until you can see the entrance to the cave. Or you can take one of the slow trains and get off at Pestera (between Suncuius and Vadu Crisului stops) and just take a short hike up to the cave.
Opened since 1903 and electrified since 1969, the cave’s total length is 2.7km but only 680 m can be explored by tourists. Make sure to bring a waterproof jacket with you!
Bucharest Politehnica Metro Station
Feel like ‘visiting’ the Upper Cretaceous while you are in Romania’s capital. No worries, just go to Politehnica Metro Stop and take photos of the pavement. Make sure to have the flash light on. Turns out the station, which opened in 1983, was paved with marble and granite which happen to contain fossils dating back 180 million years.
Wonder why this happened? The construction was falling behind schedule and in an effort to be on time, they only cared about the color when they extracted material from the Apuseni Mountains. Only later, it was found that this material represents the remains of a petrified ocean.
Arad Botanical Garden
Located in Macea, a place 23 km from the county capital of Arad, the botanical garden spans over 21.5 hectares. Its primary use is as a research facility for students and faculty of Vasile Goldis University, but the garden is also open for the public. Entrance is almost free (0.50 USD for an adult) and you can easily spend an hour or two in the garden.
Show up here during the spring to see the nature come to life. Or plan your visit during late autumn for some amazing fall foliage. Since the garden is not on many people’s radar, you will have a very relaxing walk and likely not run info fellow travelers.
Mandruloc Rose Garden
Located just 10 km from Arad, Mandruloc is home to a fascinating rose garden, called Eutopia Gardens, which houses over 3000 species of roses. The owner has started the garden in 2002 and she wants to grow it to be the biggest dendrological and flower park in South-Eastern Europe.
The park can be visited for free. Here you can find roses from England, Belgium, Netherlands, France and, of course, Romania. The owner hopes to finish the park by 2017. Through all its activities the park will promote the “back to nature” concept.
National Ethnographic Park “Romulus Vuia” in Cluj-Napoca
It is the first open-air museum to open in Romania, back in 1929. Located near the in(famous) Hoia Forest in Cluj Napoca, the National Ethnographic Park “Romulus Vuia” in Cluj-Napoca offers an interesting glance into the life of the Transylvanian peasants over the centuries.
The museum has two sectors. The first one includes peasant technical installations and workshops dated between the 18th and 20th centuries. You can see how wool, gold or stone were processed. The second sector contains traditional peasant farmsteads from Transylvania , dating between 17th and 20th centuries.
Looking for a place to cool off and don’t want to head to the sea? Look no further than Ghioroc Lake, near Arad. Located just 20 km from Arad, it can easily by reached by car, tram or train. There are two main areas where you can go in for a swim. One is right opposite the train station. The other one is literally opposite the lake, where you can also find a restaurant.
By the end of August, the beach is also home to events, so you can soak up the sun during the day and then dance the night away.
Cris is the owner and blogger on Looknwalk.info, specializing in affordable European destinations. She is a budget traveler and travels with her husband.
Bellu Cemetery https://www.flickr.com/photos/84275777@N08/28320611610 by StefanJurcaRomania
Poenari Castle https://www.flickr.com/photos/30312936@N04/3443320422 by andreistroe
Vadu Crisului Cave, Ethnographic Park, Arad Botanical Garden by Cris P.