Driving the Transfagarasan Highway of the Transylvanian Alps

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
8
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
1
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
8
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
7
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
6
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
9
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
80 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
Europe
country
Romania
Length of time
1 day or less
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 20
Time of year visited
September
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
40th/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 20% SUMMARY RATING: World Class

Summary

Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear called this “The best road in the world” and you can see why.  Looking from above it looks like a child’s perfect Scalextric set as it impossibly winds up over the Transylvanian Alps and leaves you marvelling at the effort and engineering skill that have been put into making it.  Great fun to drive and a must if driving your way from Transylvania to Bucharest

highlights

#1 Driving along the famous racing-track-style curves of the final ascent to cross the Transylvanian Alps

#2 Seeing some of the local wildlife along the way!

#3 The northern route which is bizarrely less driven, yet equally superb as you wind through the forest

#4 Seeing the Poienari Citadel - the legitimate castle of Vlad the Impaler, aka Dracula

#5 The stunning Byzantine churches and monasteries in Curtea de Arges’ Princely Court

#6 Stopping in some of the pretty stopping places for food along the Northern section of the Highway

Travel Tips

  • Drive both sections – many people only do the famous drive from Sibiu to Lake Balea and then return, but the remainder of the road is equally stunning and is a no-brainer if making your way to Bucharest.  Plus, it is quite a lot quieter
  • Sites to stop – the Southern half of the road has two places in particular worth checking out.  Firstly, Poienari Citadel which is the legitimate castle of Vlad the Impaler, aka Dracula, and a far more menacing location compared to the more famous Bran Castle on the other side of the Alps.  Secondly, Curtea de Arges’ Princely Court has some fabulous interior paintings in its church and its stunning white marbled Monastery
  • Wildlife – perhaps this is pure luck, but we had two occasions seeing brown bears on the road.  Very chilled just watching the traffic go by and certainly added to the mountain vibe
  • Time to drive – the road itself is only 150km / 94miles long, but it will take around 3.5hours with all the wonderful twists and turns
  • Accommodation – there are various places to stay along the road, but bear in mind that most of these places are along the flatter parts at the start and finish.  Options look to be very limited near the highest points, but the Cabana Balea Lac in particular looked a good option
  • There is no public transport over the road, and it is closed from October to mid May
  • If you’re crossing the road, most likely its part of planned trip around Romania.  See this travel entry for a 6 day itinerary for Romania and the Transylvanian region.  Real highlights are in Transylvania and in particular the Fortified Saxon Towns around Sighisoara

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone