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Holiday Ideas in Transylvania & Surrounding Areas
 

There are various options for staying in Transylvania depending on which region you would like to explore the most. The accommodation ranges from quality modern hotels to homely guest-houses. There are also ski chalets, and for something really special, you can be the personal guest of a Hungarian Count in comfortable, beautifully-restored, traditional accommodation.


Hotel Concordia, Targu Mures
 
1: THE CITY-BASED HOLIDAY

There are several important Transylvanian cities in Romania, each with its own history, architectural style and atmosphere. Targu Mures is situation at the very heart of Transylvania. Here, the 4-Star Concordia Hotel (with swimming pool) offers comfortable yet relatively inexpensive accommodation.

The centre of Targu Mures is enclosed by a medieval fortress completed in 1652. There are many fine buildings here - including the amazing Hall of Mirrors. The town is home to many atmospheric bohemian-style bars - such as the Tatun Cafe, which is a favourite of city artists.

For those with a car, the hotel can be also be used as a base to explore Transylvania. The surrounding countryside is full of ancient castles in the baroque, gothic and renaissance styles - such as Bethlen, Tekeley, Dumbravioara, and Brancovenesti. Targu Mures also offers easy access to the Hungarian Szekely culture of Central Transylvania. The town of Targu Mures is called Marosvásárhely by the local Szekely people. From here it's only a short drive to experience the Saxon culture of Southern Transylvania, in particular the nearby medieval walled citadel of Sighisoara - home of Vlad Dracul, the model for Count Dracula. The entire region is famous for its wide range of traditional arts and crafts - including wood-carving, weaving, sculpture, and embroidery.


Guesthouse, Barsana Monastery, Maramures
 
2: THE TRADITIONAL ROMANIAN EXPERIENCE

Right in the north of Transylvania is the rural province of Maramures - which offers a unique and very special opportunity to step back into a pre-industrial era. In this Romanian rural environment everything is very traditional, from the wooden houses to the local costume. Here you can have the privileged opportunity of staying with local people in their own home.

You will normally eat in a communal dining-room or lounge, and enjoy lashings of delicious home-cooked food. The local hospitality is simple, generous and very genuine, and your hosts will help you to gain first-hand experience of everyday life in this region, which nestles against the Ukrainian border. For example, you can help collect hay in a horse-drawn wagon, help to milk the cow, or watch traditional carpet weaving - which is famous in Maramures. Most villages possess their own palinka distilleries, which produce a very palatable plum brandy.

There is so much culture everywhere that it's impossible to see everything on one visit. Maramures is home to a historic working steam railway which carries timber from the surrounding forests, and provides open-air passenger coaches which offer spectacular views of the mountains and rivers.


Kálnoky Castle, Miklósvár, Covasna County
 
3: THE HUNGARIAN-SZÉKELER EXPERIENCE

For something really special you can enjoy a unique holiday as the guest of Hungarian Count Tibor Kálnoky. Miklósvár Castle which was first mentioned in 1211AD lies at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, and there are several charming guesthouses belonging to the Count within the village which are furnished with original Transylvanian antiques. Comfort is a priority, and guest bedrooms have double beds with specially manufactured mattresses of pure wool, and duvet covers. The en-suite bathrooms are of the highest standards.

During their stay in Miklósvár all guests have their meals together in the candle-lit dining-room, which are served by staff in traditional Székeler costume. The cuisine is mainly based on products from their own gardens or produced in the village. The bread is always fresh from the oven, and there's an extensive wine cellar too.

Count Kálnoky is ideally located for those interested in exploring Hungarian Székeler history and culture, and the nearby Saxon towns and villages - such as Brasov and Sighisoara. There are plenty of local activities to experience - from traditonal dancing, to bird-watching. You might even ride in a horse-drawn cart, or watch shepherds making cheese.


Traditional Saxon Houses at Viscri and Malancrav
 
4: THE SAXON-GERMAN EXPERIENCE

The landscape and traditional way of life makes a visit to the Transylvanian Saxon-German villages a fascinating experience. The Saxons were originally invited here to help defend the region from Tartar invasions, and after they arrived the Germans made a significant contribution to Transylvanian culture. The Mihai Eminescu Trust has sought to introduce limited tourism to the Saxon-German area in a way that preserves the culture and brings direct benefit to the community.

The Trust has painstakingly restored many 18th Century homes as guest-houses with internal baths, showers and toilets. The houses sleep any number between 2 to 7 people. In Malancrav the Mihai Eminescu Trust has restored an entire Manor House with guest accommodation. The Trust provides guides for trekking and discovering Flora and Fauna. You can also hire horse-drawn carts or go roaming on horseback from village to village through the forests and valleys.

The Mihai Eminescu Trust is keenly involved in the preservation of the Saxon fortified churches of Transylvania, and their guest-houses offer the perfect base from which to explore these treasures. Built in the 12th century, probably by Teutonic knights, the fortress of Viscri was designed to protect a church from attack by Tartars. You can stay in a guest-house a few minutes walk from this fortress and gain a real sense of living in a bygone age. One of these guest-houses is owned by HRH The Prince of Wales. His Royal Highness said: "Ever since I first visited Romania in 1998, I have been doing my utmost to ensure a sustainable future for the Saxon villages of Transylvania and their people. Tourism clearly has a vital role to play in this."


Menedékház Cabin, Madarasi Mountain, Harghita
 
5: THE MOUNTAIN ACTIVITY HOLIDAY

For those who are seeking a more active holiday, then a simpler, more functional base is often preferred. This chalet-style accommodation is located in the Harghita Mountains of the Eastern Carpathians - not far from the town of Miercurea-Ciuc. In the summer months the cabin is ideal for trekking and caving excursions, whereas in winter-time there is a popular ski-run for beginners and advanced skiers which offers an average snow-depth of 60cm. The season lasts from November until May. Sledging is also possible.

During the summer you can ramble in fabulous pine forests, watch the abundant wildlife, and explore ancient volcanic peaks and craters. The accommodation consists of private rooms for 2-4 people and dormitories for larger groups. The bathrooms and showers are shared. The Mountain Cabin has its own restaurant with menus that change daily, and arranges barbecues in the summer.

The notorious Ceauşescus owned a villa nearby, and you can now go and take a peek. The Menedékház Mountain Cabin is only 45mins from the Hungarian-Székeler town of Székelyudvarhely (Odorheiu Secuiesc in Romanian), which is the principle town of the Transylvanian region of Székelerland, where many of Romania's hungarian-speakers live. In 1613 Székelyudvarhely received its present name from Gábor Bethlen, the Hungarian Prince of Transylvania.


Colin Shaw's "Roving Romania" Landrover
 
6: OFF THE BEATEN TRACK

With Colin Shaw of "Roving Romania" you can explore off-the-beaten-track in a Land Rover which has been specially adapted to carry up to 6 people in comfort. You can travel by country lane and forest or mountain track wherever possible, stopping frequently to talk to local people and photograph things of interest rarely seen by the foreign visitor.

As guide and translator, Colin has travelled, worked and photographed extensively in Transylvania, and speaks fluent Romanian. He can take you to meet farmers who still plough by hand, villagers who dress every day in traditional costume and foresters who are more used to meeting bears than tourists. His Land Rover, with its permanent 4 wheel drive and coil suspension makes light work of Transylvanian roads and rough tracks, and enables you to get to places other tour operators have never heard of.

In spring and summer you will see myriads of alpine flowers which adorn the upper slopes of Transylvania. High up on the green meadows you can meet shepherds and their flocks. "Roving Romania" tours can be tailor-made to your own requirements and specification.


Fejer Pension, Sovata, Mures County
 
7: THE HEALTH & FITNESS SPA

Transylvania is home to a large number of famous spa towns which have been offering therapeutic treatments since the 16th century. Set in the Eastern Carpathians, in the quiet suburb of the Transylvanian spa-town of Sovata, this comfortable guest-house accommodation offers double and triple rooms with use of a communal kitchen for those who would prefer to do their own self-catering. But there are plenty of nearby restaurants offering both local-traditional and international menus.

If you're in a large party, there's a self-contained house with it's own lounge and kitchen. The house can sleep 6 people, but extra beds can be provided. Alternatively, if you travelling around Transylvania by car, you could camp in the grounds which also provide plenty of space for outdoor activities like football, badminton and even fishing. There is secure car parking.

Apart from offering immediate access to the popular salt-lake health spa, this accommodation is an ideal launch-pad to explore the surrounding Transylvanian landscape, including the Bicaz Gorge, waterfalls, and the St Anne's volcanic crater-lake. You can also descend into a nearby salt mine. In winter the town becomes a thriving ski resort - with well-developed ski-slopes.


Count Kálnoky's Estate Riding Holidays
 
8: TRANSYLVANIA ON HORSEBACK

Count Kálnoky's Estate operate a professional equestrian centre in Transylvania, operating year-round with qualified guides and experienced staff. The centre offers high-quality trail-riding and carriage-driving tours through the beautiful Transylvanian landscape using locally-bred horses.

Horses are vital to everyday life in Transylvania and Count Kálnoky's Estate arrange Riding Holidays which uphold the highest standards of horsemanship and care. Small groups make for friendly and interesting riding, allowing the guide to provide individual attention to each rider. Larger groups are possible when booked as private tours. Their horses are mostly purebred Shagya Arabs.

The rides offer a varied pace, taking guests through forests, across pastures, and up the hills. The scenery is beautiful and diverse, the area largely untouched by tourism. The hilly terrain sometimes limits the speed of the ride, but there are opportunities for trots and canters each day where the terrain permits. In addition, Count Kálnoky's Estate is happy to host groups from riding schools, riding clubs, military units, and other groups interested in booking special activities. Custom itineraries can be arranged on request.


A Vampire Ball
 
9: IN SEARCH OF COUNT DRACULA

Large numbers of people from around the world instantly connect Transylvania with Bram Stoker's Count Dracula. Many of the locations in the famous novel actually exist, and there are various tours available which follow in the footsteps of Jonathan Harker on his way to Dracula's Castle. In particular, it is possible to travel from Cluj-Napoca to Bistrita and visit the Golden Krone Restaurant, where you can take the same meal as Harker's... "I dined on what they call 'robbers steak' - bits of bacon, onion, and beef, seasoned with red pepper and strung on sticks, and roasted over the fire. The wine was Golden Mediasch". The Castle Dracula Hotel is located in the nearby "Borgo Pass", and attracts large numbers of Dracula enthusiasts who seek fun and excitement.

However, there is a harsh reality behind the mythology. Vlad Dracul (the Dragon) was born in the Transylvanian citadel of Sighisoara in 1431, and his reputation for impaling his victims on stakes earned him the title of Vlad The Impaler. Today Sighisoara is an important World Heritage site, and offers unique insights into medieval Transylvania.


Reformatus - Reformed Church Hostels
 
10: THE FREEDOM OF TRANSYLVANIA

If you prefer the freedom to move around Transylvania at you own pace (by car or train) and experience the diverse landscapes and cultures enclosed by the Carpathians, then the Hungarian "Reformatus" Reformed Church offers a sophisticated network of hostels at very reasonable prices which are scattered around Transylvania. Apart from offering comfortable rooms and nourishing food, many of these lodgings are in spectacular buildings. You could even use these as a base to explore a particular region.

Most of these church-owned accommodations can be accessed by the Romanian Railway System (CFR), and we can suggest how to arrange a circular tour that will take you via the historic Austro-Hungarian and Saxon Transylvanian towns of Cluj, Sighisoara, Targu Mures, Brasov, and Sibiu. This option gives a real opportunity to meet local Transylvanians and relax on the train while watching the ever-changing landscapes with spectacular mountain scenery. In terms of volume, Romania has the 4th largest railway network in Europe, with good connections internationally.


Rail Adventure Tours of Transylvania
 
11: THE TRANSYLVANIA EXPRESS

Another option is to enjoy the landscape, history and culture of Transylvania from the comfort of your private train. The nostalgic luxury Transylvania Express leaves Bucharest or Budapest on various tours of Transylvania. Your overnight accomodation is mostly on the train itself. The sleeping-cars were designed and built for Royalty and Heads of State, and the daytime areas are very comprehensive - including a piano bar for late night singing and dancing.

Every day the train stops at a different location and the passengers take tours to the local sights, and visit traditional restaurants for lunch. Evening dinner is normally taken on the train. The catering staff provide haute cuisine and fine wines in the luxurious dining-cars. The Transylvania Express is an excellent way to get a relaxed in-depth feel of the rich countryside and the various cultures that exist there - while maintaining a comfortable lifestyle on board the train.

A typical tour starts from Bucharest and heads for Brasov and the Saxon cities of Sighisoara and Sibiu. Then, after a short stop in Cluj-Napoca, the train travels northwards towards Maramures and the painted-monasteries of Bucovina. Finally, the journey takes the train through Harghita and the Hungarian-Szekeler part of Transylvania, before returning to Bucharest. There's more information on the website: www.transylvania-express.com

 

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