People travel for so many different reasons and in the end, it doesn’t even matter that much why as long as they do it. If you are now, one of those people who love to see the world from a car’s window, this article is right down your alley. Why? Because Romania has one of the most beautiful roads in the world and we can arrange accessible tours for our guests with a soft spot for spectacular roads.
Transfagarasan, a drivers’ paradise
`This is better than Stelvio! This is the best road in the world!” said James Clarkson years ago when the Top Gear team filmed their episode in Romania. In addition, he was not the only one to say it; if you browse on Google, there are several other mentions of Transfagarasan as being one of the most beautiful roads in the world. On Driving for pleasure ranks first Transfagarasan, while Popular Mechanics gives it the silver medal after the famous Italian road, Stelvio.
What makes Transfagarasan so special? Is it the road itself, its story, or the scenery of Fagaras Mountains?
Everything started in 1970, when our communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu had a grand plan – to cut a road across the mountains so the military could easily get from Bucharest to Transylvania in case of a military attack. What he did not care for was the amount of hard work and the human sacrifices the mountain would ask as a compensation for measuring up your forces with nature. Transfagarasan was built in 4 years with the help of the military and rumors has it that many men lost their lives while battling with the mountain. For your information, the highest point of the road is at 2,073 meters above sea level.
Clearly is an amazing drive with the windy road starting from Curtea de Arges to Balea Lake and down to Sibiu on the other side of the mountains. Seen from a drone, it looks like a giant snake that crawls slowly into the wilderness. The road dances you over the curves, while the amazing scenery of the Fagaras Mountains unfolds before your eyes culminating with the spectacular Balea waterfall, the clear blue waters of the glacier Balea Lake, or the impressive man made dam keeping the tumultuous Arges River away.
Transalpina, the `Devil’s Track`
The highest road in the country, Transalpina stretches out across the mountains not too far away from Transfagarasan and goes to an even higher altitude, 2,145 metres. Its history goes far back in time; some say all the way to the Roman Empire, while others claim it was built during World War One.
What we know for sure is that our third king, Carol the 2nd, commissioned the rebuilding of the precarious mountain road hence the name `King’s Road`. Reopen in 1939, Transalpina was a great engineering achievement of its time and had numerous economic and military benefits. To think only about one example, many villagers from Jina, in Sibiu county, were able to relocate and build new settlements across the mountains, in Arges county. Others refer to it as the `Devil’s Track` because of its hairpin curves and serpentines. However, the beautiful scenery makes up for the chills on your back while driving.
Least but not last, the pre-Transalpina experience has its own rewards as well. On your way to Rânca – where the road begins – you can stop in Horezu for a unique artisanship show of traditional pottery. By the way, the artistry of the locals got an international recognition when included on UNESCO Intangible Heritage list. If you have an interest on traditional architecture, a visit to a `cula` (medieval houses specific to southern Romania) is a must.
Transbucegi , the mystical road
Transbucegi is the best options for those who want to experience the thrills of a mountain road without going too far from Bucharest. It is only 120 km away and crosses Bucegi Natural Park hence its name. Built only a few years ago, the road ends close to a mystical place up in the mountains, not far from the Spynhx (an interesting natural rock formation thousands of years old) believed to be a sort of a paranormal site.
Since we got to this part of the Carpathians Mountains there is another road worth mentioning even though is not as high or dangerous as the others are. Bucharest – Cheia – Brasov drive. The landscape is stunning and quite often it is a viable alternative of the more crowded DN 1 for those who want to get to Sinaia and visit Peles and Pelisor Castles.