Landscape image from Transylvania
Time stands still in this pittoresque Romanian village
Hilly Landscape in Transylvania
Attractions in Transylvania
Transylvania surprises the curious traveler with its mountains and hills that undulate quietly in the dreamy landscapes of the Arieș Valley, the Apuseni Mountains, or Țara Hațegului. History has left behind over 100 fortresses, castles, and mansions, and over 70 fortified churches; the authentic folklore and the spirit of the witty people you meet here, as well as the delicious gastronomy make the picture complete.
Nearly any place you visit in Transylvania is captivating. The relatively small distances between tourist destinations in the region favor an active holiday; this way, you can visit in one go several tourist attractions such as the Saxon villages, Sighișoara, Turda Salt Mine, Trascău Fortress, and many more.
Cultural influences in Transylvania
Transylvania is one of Romania's cultural melting pots, where Romanians, Hungarians, and Germans (Saxons) coexist. Dobrogea is another such region.
The Saxons of Transylvania had an important influence. From the 12th to the end of the 19th century, they even had a dedicated micro-region, the so-called Christian Land or Seven Seats, representing the units they administered. The seven “seats” (fortresses) were Sibiu, Brașov, Mediaș, Sighișoara, Sebeș, Rupea and Bistrița.
Especially during the communist period, the Saxon population emigrated en masse to Germany. Presently, the "last Saxons" - as they are often referred to - live in southern Transylvania, respectively in Țara Oltului or Țara Fagarașului. The defining detail of any Saxon settlement is the fortified church, Kirchenbürgen.
Although they live almost anywhere in Transylvania, larger groups of Hungarians live in the east of the region, in the Szeklerland micro-region. Most are bilingual. Their influence can be seen in the general aspect of their towns or villages and in gastronomy.
Photo: Kyle Kaupanger, CC0, Unsplash
Transylvania's historical capital
Alba Iulia has been and remains Transylvania's historical capital since the 16th century, from the time of Princes Báthory and Rákoczy. This is also the most flourishing period for this Transylvanian fortress. After the unification of the Principalities in 1600, Mihai Viteazu temporarily resided in Alba Iulia. During the Habsburg period (17th-18th centuries), Alba Iulia stayed the capital of the region. Symbolically, King Ferdinand and Queen Mary of Romania were also crowned in Alba Iulia, in 1922.
Do you feel at a loss about what to do in Transylvania in autumn or winter? The slopes from Harghita-Mădăraș, Mărișel, or Straja are waiting for skiers throughout the cold season. On the other hand, cold seasons or rainy seasons are only good for exploring all the castles, fortresses, and mansions in the area.
The Apuseni Mountains or the Cindrel Mountains have hiking trails accessible even to the inexperienced. Picturesque villages at the foot of the same mountains are delightful in autumn, when the fog slowly rises from the valleys or when cloud ceilings form over the seemingly sleepy landscape. And the resorts with thermal baths or mineral waters such as Borsec, Băile Tușnad, Băile Govora, or Toplița have a lot to offer.
Photo: Jorge Fernandez Salas, CC0, Unsplash
What's the best way to explore Transylvania?
Walking or cycling are the best ways to discover Transylvania.
Equestrian routes are limited and are located around specialized local centers. Instead, hiking or biking trails abound. Țara Bârsei, Țara Făgărașului (but not exclusively) have a well-developed network of cycling routes. In the Apuseni Mountains or Țara Hațegului, some MTB routes also overlap with hiking trails. For some adrenaline, book a bear observation session in the Szeklerland (Harghita Mountains), in specially arranged places.