Day 1: Brasov
We’ll pick you up at 1:00 p.m. at the Bucharest (Henri Coanda) Airport and transfer by mini bus to Brasov, the beautiful Transylvanian medieval city set at the foot of ancient mountain passes across the Carpathian Mountain. Brasov is known for its carefully preserved Baroque architecture. The drive will take two to three hours. Time permitting, we’ll take a late afternoon stroll through the cobbled streets of this beautiful city. We’ll enjoy a welcome dinner with a folk spectacular. Overnight at Kolping Hotel in Brasov.
Day 2: Bran Castle, Magura Village and Zarnesti Gorges
Today will be a full day, combining walking and hiking with a visit to Bran Castle. We’ll leave Brasov for the day at around 8:00 a.m. for the half hour drive to Bran and the castle visit. This mysterious castle of Dracula fame is dramatically perched on a rocky bluff and is one of the best preserved examples of medieval architecture in Romania. It’s often referred to as Dracula’s Castle and was built as a fortress for the Knights of the Teutonic in 1212 and later re-built by the Saxons to protect the city of Brasov and the main trade routes between the cities of Transylvania (which means “beyond the forest”) and the plains of Wallachia. The castle tour will take about an hour after which we’ll enjoy a walk in the remote village of Magura and a three to four hour hike in the spectacular Zarnesti Gorges in the Piatra Craiului Mountains, where the movie Cold Mountain was filmed. We’ll have a picnic lunch today. After the day’s outing we’ll have an 1+ hour transfer back to Brasov followed by dinner in a Bella Muzica restaurant. Overnight at Kolping Hotel in Brasov.
Day 3: Viscri Fortified Church and Sighisoara
We depart from Brasov after breakfast and head toward Sighisoara. En route we’ll stop in the village of Bunesti and enjoy a five mile walk on a beautiful country road to Viscri, stopping along the way for a picnic lunch, followed by a visit to the Viscri Saxon fortified church. We’ll then travel back in time to the atmospheric medieval town of Sighisoara, the best preserved and only inhabited walled fortress in Europe. Sighisoara’s battlements and spires have brought it UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. Vlad Tepes (or Vlad the Impaler), the evil prince who was Bram Stoker’s model for the Dracula character, was born in Sighisoara, making it the focus of Romanian legends about the “undead”, or persons who have died but whose souls are unable to enter heaven or hell. The undead are called strigoi in Romanian and vampire in Hungarian. Overnight at Hotel Sighisoara, situated in Sighisoara Fortress. Dinner at the hotel restaurant.
Day 4: Biertan and Copsa Mare
After breakfast we have a short drive to the village of Biertan, which has one of the most spectacular Saxon fortified churches in the region. The Biertan church was completed in 1522 and is now on the UNESCO World Heritage list. We’ll walk from Biertan to Copsa Mare village. This area is the heartland of the ancient Saxons. In the 12th century the King of Hungary extended an invitation to Germans to colonize strategic regions of Transylvania. Most of these villages have fortified churches that provided refuge during Tatar and Turkish invasions. The majority of the Saxon population had left for Germany by the end of the Communist era but these picturesque Saxon farming villages with their distinctive architecture remain one of the attractions of southern Transylvania. Overnight at Hotel Sighisoara. Dinner at the hotel restaurant.
Day 5: Sibiu and the Fagaras Mountains
Today we travel a little over an hour to Sibiu for a short visit of Sibiu Old town, built around three central squares and featuring ancient Saxon homes, old churches and ancient city walls. We’ll visit the Village museum and enjoy lunch at the museum’s outdoor restaurant after which we’ll transfer to the Albota Pension in the Fagaras Mountains. The Fagaras Mountains are dramatic, craggy and spruce forested, filled with limestone outcrops and glacier lakes. An alternative if we prefer a hike today is to arrive early at the Albota pension and then travel to the Balea Lake, descending for two to three hours, from 2200 meters to 1400 meters. Overnight at the Albota Pension.
Day 6: Faragas Mountains, Farm Visit and Sinaia
After breakfast we travel one and a half hours to the Balea Lake area in the Fagaras Mountains. We’ll hike from Balea Lake to Capra Lake, on to Buteanu peak, and back to Balea Lake on a different trail. After this half day hike we transfer to Sinaia. We stop to visit a small sheep farm on Balea Valley, and to taste cheese. As time permits, we’ll also stop in the farm village of Uncea de Sus, the home of our guide’s grandmother. After our hike we have a three hour transfer to Sinai, which puts us within a short drive to the airport for tomorrow’s departure. Dinner at a Romanian restaurant with folk music. Overnight at the Palace Hotel.
Day 7: Peles Castle
This morning we’ll visit Peles Castle on a hill just behind the 17th century Sinaia Monastery, built in 1873 for Carol I of Romania and a showplace of antiques and richly decorated interiors, with a park-like setting in the style of an English manor house. Peles Castle is a masterpiece of German Renaissance architecture and was once the Romania royalty’s summer residence and retreat. After our castle visit we depart for the airport, arriving there by noon.