TREKKING THROUGH THE COUNTRY OF DRACULA
Those who are not familiar with Romania will not have too many visual references of this country. At most, some Transylvanian castle related to the famous Vlad “The Impaler” will come to mind, a historical character who was inspired by Bram Stoker to create the mythical “Dracula”. But Romania is much more than that. Romania is a land of castles, yes, but also of extraordinary churches, walled cities, villages with curious traditions, bucolic meadows, lush forests, eccentric buildings from the communist period, impossible roads, wild fauna and many mountains belonging to the Carpathian mountain range. . Our trip will focus on one of the three regions that historically formed Romania that we know today: Wallachia, Moldova and Transylvania. Transylvania, the largest of them, still preserves today a very special rural environment, where centuries-old customs are preserved and where medieval architectural jewels that could not be robbed by invasions or conquests are still preserved almost intact. Although the Carpathian Mountains are not as high (just over 2,500 meters) high as other European mountain ranges, their peaks and ridges rise haughty and prominent above the surrounding valleys. This fact, together with the almost total absence of mechanical lifts, high mountain roads and other facilities, make the Romanian mountains an excellent terrain for hiking and mountaineering in a wild and natural environment of the highest order. Its dense forests preserve a large amount of biodiversity and wild fauna, and it should be noted that some 6,000 bears, about 4,500 wolves and 2,000 boreal lynx live there.
June - September
DAY 1. FLIGHT TO BUCHAREST
Flight departure from to Bucharest. Reception and transfer to our hotel.
Hotel accommodation, Bucharest.
DÍA 2. BUCAREST – SINAIA – BRASOV
After breakfast, drive from the capital about 120 km north until you reach the town of Sinaia, located at the foot of the Bucegi mountains and in the green Prahova valley. Visit to Peles Castle. Peles Castle was built in the late 19th century under the auspices of King Carol I, as a royal summer residence. The salons and rooms (more than 160) are a succession of furniture to each one more rich in details, with gigantic Murano glass chandeliers, richly decorated stained glass windows, ivory balustrades, or porcelain tableware from Meissen and Sevres. The surroundings of the castle harmonize with the fir forests and the gardens and sculptures that Romanelli designed for the taste of the courtiers. After the visit to Peles, you can visit the Pelisor castle and the Sinaia monastery. Pelisor, is located next to the castle of Peles just over 200 meters away. It was the summer residence of the crown princes Ferdinand and Maria, and has 99 rooms and very appreciable German architecture at a glance. The Sinaia monastery was created in 1695 by Mihail Cantacuzino. This nobleman was impressed with Mount Sinai after a pilgrimage trip to Egypt. So, on his return, he ordered the construction of this monastery, which received precisely the name of the famous mountain. Its construction took 5 years. The masterful construction has different buildings that were annexed over time, including churches and the first religious museum in the country. Inside, numerous neo-Byzantine frescoes stand out, with images that portray the kings Carol and Elisabeta. In the afternoon, travel to Brasov.
Hotel accommodation, Brasov.
DAY 3. MOUNTAINS OF BUCEGI. ASCENT TO OMU PEAK (2.505 m)
Day to schedule an excursion in Bucegi. We recommend the following route. Departure from Brasov to the town of Busteni (38 km). From here the cable car is taken to the Babele refuge (2,200 m). From here we will take the path that leads to the Omu peak. We will pass next to the famous rocks of Babele and the Sphinx. After about 2 hours we will reach the summit of the Omu (2,505 m), the highest peak in the Bugeci Massif. Extraordinary 360º views. At its summit, the Omu refuge is installed. Up to this point about 4:30 – 5 hours of ascent. The descent of the mountain will be carried out in a journey through the Cerbului valley to the vicinity of the town of Busteni. A descent of about 6 km and 1,500 meters of unevenness, which takes just over 2 hours.
Distance: 15 km Height difference: +350 m / – 1,500 m
Tent accommodation, Busteni.
DAY 4. BRASOV – BRAN – RASNOV
Depart from Brasov towards the town of Bran (29 km). Here, one of its main attractions is visiting its famous castle. Built in the 14th century by Saxon merchants to protect trade routes, it is popularly known as Count Dracula’s castle. Vlad Tepes himself is thought to have been in his dungeons where he spent a few days confined on his way to prison in Budapest. However, its spectacular setting and imposing architecture inspired the Irish writer Bram Stoker to describe the settings of his famous novel. Situated in a magnificent setting, the castle is the prototype of the medieval fortress of Transilvania, with its haughty towers, chimneys, inner courtyard, balconies and a labyrinthine structure of rooms on different levels. Bran was the summer residence of Queen Mary between 1920 and 1957, right now it is a museum where you can see the art and furniture that surrounded the queen. After the visit and strolling through the area, here we find numerous craft stalls, vendors of homemade liqueurs, cheeses, cold cuts, delicious breads and sweets. About 15 minutes from Bran we find the Rasnov Fortress. Built on top of a hill in the 1300s by the Teutonic Knights to protect Transylvania from the Tatars and the Turks. Visit of its interior, patios, streets and viewpoint. In the afternoon return to Brasov. Sightseeing tour of the city.
Hotel accommodation, Brasov.
DAY 5. MOUNTAINS OF PIATRA CRAIULUI. ASCUTIT PEAK ASCENT (2.150 m)
Day to schedule an excursion in Piatra Craiului. Depart from Brasov towards the town of Zarnesti (30 km). In this town we will take the highway that goes to Magura and to the heart of the National Park. In the Fantana lui Botorog springs (860 m) we will start the walk on foot towards the Curmatura refuge. It will take us about 2 hours to get there through beautiful fir and beech forests. From the refuge we will head northwest to a pass on the main ridge of Piatra Craiului (Pass Saua Padinei Inchise, 1,936 m). From here the main ridge of the massif opens before our eyes, which we will have to follow for a little over 1 km until we reach the Vf. Ascutit (2,150 m). In the journey through the cordal another summit, the Vf. Padina Popii (2,062 m). The descent of the Ascutit will be carried out along a path that runs down the eastern slope, directly to the Curmatura Hut. Before arriving at the cabin we will take a detour, following blue marks, which descends towards the heart of the Zarnesti Gorges. At the bottom of the valley, we will walk through this beautiful gorge with vertical walls until we return to the Fantana lui Botorog fountain.
Distance: 18.5 km Difference in altitude: +/- 1,380 m
Accommodation in tents, Curmatura.
DAY 6. BRASOV – BALEA LAKE – FAGARAS MOUNTAINS. ASCENT TO BUTEANU PEAK (2.507 m)
In the morning, depart from Brasov in the direction of Cârțișoara, following highway 1. At this point we will take Highway 7B, which at its top is famously known as Transfagarasan Highway, a true jewel of civil engineering. Through it we will ascend, through an endless number of sharp curves, progressively gaining height until we reach the Balea Lake sector (2,050 m), the highest point on the road. After the last hard days of trekking, today’s will be somewhat more relaxed and will serve as a good introduction to the spectacular landscapes of the highest mountain range in Romania, the Fagaras mountains. We will leave the Balea Lake towards the high part of mountains that close the circus to the south. We will visit the cordal that rises from the Pico Paltinu (2,399 m) and rises towards the Pico Vanatoarea lui Buteanu (2,507 m), one of the most beautiful and slender peaks in the entire mountain range. From its summit we will be able to appreciate practically the entire axial ridge of the Fagaras mountains, and towards the east its highest mountain, the Moldoveanu peak (2,544 m). We will descend following our steps and leaving the beautiful Capra Lake on the right, and then abandon the path that descends again to Lake Balea and follow a spectacular trail that goes completely north towards the ridge known as “Muchia Buteanu”. During the descent we will climb a couple of secondary peaks, such as Vf.Netedu (2,351 m), Vf.Gavanului (2,120 m) and Vf. Buteanu (2,056 m). After having covered about 4 km of this ridge, the trail descends on the right-hand side until you find the road (1,480 m) and very close to the houses of Balea Cascada. Night at the Balea refuge (no sleeping bag necessary).
Distance: 9.1 km Vertical drop: +550 m / -1,100 m.
Accommodation in tents, Balea.
DAY 7. FAGARAS MOUNTAINS. ASCENT TO PICO NEGOIU (2.535 m).
Day to schedule a second excursion in the Fagaras Mountains. Ascent to Pico Negoiu (2,535 m), the second highest mountain in Romania. In today’s day (quite hard), our way will go to the summits located in the western sector of the Fagaras mountains, ascending to the second highest mountain in the massif and in the whole country. We will start the march going up to Pico Paltinu (2,399 m) and from here we will follow, almost entirely, the entire axial cordal of Fagaras in a SW direction. Firstly, our path passes through the base of Vf.Laita (2,397 m). Following the spectacular path that follows the high part of the mountain we will arrive at the striking Caltun refuge (2,150 m), located next to the lake of the same name. Then comes one of the most beautiful sections of the route, where the path runs under the walls of Pico Lespezi until it reaches a rocky hill (2,320 m) at the beginning of the edge that goes up to the Negoiu. The last 200 meters of unevenness we will carry out following the cordal and enjoying the alpine views of this sector of the mountain range. After resting at the summit for a while, you will descend along the same path to the Caltun Refuge. At this point we will abandon the previous path and take one of the blue markings that flanks the mid-slope and that leads directly to the south mouth of the highway tunnel. We will cross the tunnel and arrive again at Lake Balea. Return to Albota.
Distance: 18 km Height difference: +1,430 m / – 1,410 m
Accommodation in tents, Albota.
** NOTE: the day can be shortened only by ascending the Paltinu and Laita peaks and returning to Lake Balea along the same path.
DAY 8. SIBIU – SARMISEGETUSA REGIA – PETROSANI
After breakfast, and before leaving Sibiu, free time for a cultural visit of the city of Sibiu. Sibiu, (Hermannstadt in German) is the most important of the cities founded during the 12th century by the so-called Saxons of Transylvania. Sibiu was an economic and cultural center during the Middle Ages, with great influence from the merchant guilds that wove trade relations between the Baltic, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. The wealth of the merchant families allowed the city to build large buildings and fortifications, achieving a splendor that is still appreciated in its architecture. Our walk will take us to explore the nerve centers of the city: the Great Plaza, the Little Square, the Huet Square, the Bridge of Liars, the Orthodox cathedral and the walls of the old city, with its defensive towers that carry the names of the main offices of that time (of the Carpenters, of the Potters, of the Arquebusiers Soldiers, etc). At noon we will leave Sibiu and travel an hour and a half by road until we reach Sarmisegetusa Regia, the ancient capital of the Dacians. In the 1st century B.C. In the territory of present-day Romania, the Dacian culture inhabited. Little by little, the region began to feel the pressure of Roman expansion, producing a multitude of minor confrontations. This panorama changed when the troops of King Decébalo, considered a hero in Romanian history, defeated the legions imposing an annual tribute. The peace achieved was humiliating for Rome and after two wars (101-102 and 105-106) the Dacians knelt before the emperor Trajan who established a military detachment in the citadel that was so difficult to conquer. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 along with the other dacian fortresses of the Orastie Mountains. Located about 1,200 meters high, its structure is divided into three parts: the fortress, with a wall of stone and wood; the sacred area, with various rectangular and circular temples; and the civil settlement, with remains of houses and some Roman baths. In the afternoon, travel about 110 km to the city of Petrosani, where we will spend the night in a mountain hotel located at the foot of the Parang massif.
Hotel accommodation, Petrosani.
DAY 9. PARANG MOUNTAINS. ASCENT TO PARANGUL MARE PEAK (2.519 m).
We will leave on foot from the same hotel (Hotel Rusu, 1,168 m). The first third of the ascent route runs between the slopes and under the shadow of the lifts on the ski slope. Heading east we will gain altitude until we reach the top of the ski complex (elevation
1,770 m). From that point the path that first flanks under a small summit is born and then reaches a small hill (Saua Izvoul, 2,050 m). From here the tailpiece that turns south will be followed in its entirety. We will first cross the small summit of Vf. Scurtu (2,203 m) to start a short descent that will take us to a small refuge built next to some rocks. Then an ascent to Vf. Carja (2,405 m). Beyond the cordal there are numerous ups and downs, where some peaks (Vf. Stoienita and Vf. Gemanarea) are trodden until descending to the Saua Tecanu pass (2,410 m). From here we can see to our left the beautiful glacier circus with several lakes.
Following the red marks on the ridge we will reach the highest point of the massif, the Parangul Mare.
Hotel accommodation, Petrosani.
DAY 10. PETROSANI – HUNEDOARA – ALBA IULIA – SIGHISOARA
Transfer from Petrosani to the town of Hunedoara (75 km). To visit its famous castle. Hunyad Castle is also often called Corvino Castle since in 1409 the king of Hungary, Sigismund granted the property to Voyk Hunyadi (hence the name Hunyad) as a symbol of gratitude for the battles fought against his lord. The family dynasty continued by the King of Hungary Matías Corvino continued to occupy it, first as a fortress and then as a residence. In the 17th century and later in the 19th it was restored with the appearance we see today. In 1974 it became a museum, after years of neglect and ruin caused by a fire. Its location is not accidental, since previously the Romans established a fort. The exterior of the castle is a visual pleasure, with very different perspectives from all angles, ideal for photo lovers. Through a footbridge supported by thick pillars, the height of the gap that acts as a moat is saved, giving access to the castle, whose Renaissance and late Gothic elements are noticed and mixed. The interior of the castle is formed by a parade ground that is used for concerts and events. The tour takes us through the halls and rooms spread over three floors or levels such as the Hall of the Knights, the 15th century chapel, and the dungeons. The decoration is austere since the fires barely left the structure salvageable. And part of the charm is accompanied by the legends that surround the castle and the Turkish inmates who suffered the hardships in the dungeons. After the visit to the castle, we will travel another 75 km to the city of Alba Iulia, where we will make a pedestrian visit to its impressive Alba Carolina citadel. Built by the Hausburgs between 1715 and 1738 on a Roman fort and another citadel known as Balgrad; its twelve kilometers of stone and brick walls surprise, completed by the six monumental baroque doors and seven towers at the corners of the star floor. Inside the citadel are the main monuments of Alba Iulia, and can be considered as the historical heart of the city. The Evangelical Cathedral of San Miguel and the Orthodox Reunification Cathedral stand out, along with numerous other palatial buildings, gardens and squares. Also notable is the collection of wrought iron statues representing characters and scenes from the society of the time, which are scattered throughout the citadel. Half
afternoon we will travel about 2 h (115 km)
Hotel accommodation, Sighisoara.
DAY 11. SIGHISOARA – BUCAREST. FLIGHT BACK HOME
After breakfast visit the medieval city of Sighisoara. Sighisoara is another of the towns founded in the 12th century by the Saxons who came from Germany during the high Middle Ages. Today, thanks to its excellent conservation, it is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe, which led UNESCO to include the city in 1999 as a World Heritage Site. In addition to its old town, full of different colored houses, defense towers, remains of walls and medieval churches, Sighisoara is famous for being the birthplace of Vlad Dracula, (Vlad Tepes) ruler of Wallachia between 1456 and 1462, known for its terrible violence and for being the basis of the Dracula myth. His house, currently a restaurant, can be visited and offers the visitor a surprise. Next to it is the symbol of the city, the Clock Tower. The seventeenth-century clock is quite an attraction for its polychrome figures, characteristic of Central European clocks. Another artistic point of interest is the Church of the Hill (Biserica din Deal) located in Piata Cetatii. Gothic in the Transylvanian style, the Protestant church stood out for its now-lost wall paintings. To get to the Church of the Hill you have to climb the famous “Student Stairs”. It is located at the end of Calle de los Estudiantes and connects Plaza de la Ciudadela with the Church on the hill. It is a staircase that protected student access in winter. Of its 300 steps, only 175 remain today. It dates from 1642. After the visit to Sighisoara, we will start the trip to the capital (270 km, 4 hours). Arrival, check-in and boarding on the flight back home. Arrival in the evening.
- 6 nights hotel accommodation.
- 4 nights of accommodation in tents.
- Diet according to program.
- Local English-speaking X-plore guide.
- Private transportation throughout the itinerary
- All entrances to visiting sites
- International flight
- Meals and dinners
- Travel insurance
- Single room supplement
- Anything not specified in the “INCLUDED” section.
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