Bran (Dracula's) Castle © Romanian National Tourist Office
Romania is slowly emerging from the effects of being one of the most repressed countries under communism and having suffered the megalomaniac dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu whose rule left the country in the depths of poverty. Travel in Romania is rewarding yet habitually challenging as much of its charisma lies in the more remote regions, and optimistic plans are often frustratingly slowed down by practical realities. Despite this, Romania is rapidly regaining its identity as a popular tourist destination and has plenty to offer the international traveller.
The charms of Transylvania lure people with the imagery of haunted forests, medieval towns, vampires, turreted cliff-top castles, and the legends of Dracula. In addition to its medieval castles and enchanting historic towns, the region also offers the dramatic alpine scenery of the Carpathian Mountains with spectacular skiing and undisturbed hiking opportunities.
The country's geography is diverse: from mountains, rolling hills and rural farmlands to white sandy beaches and resorts along the Black Sea Coast. Dotting the natural landscape are rustic villages where local people live as they have done for the past 100 years. There is an abundance of religious architecture - including the exquisitely painted monasteries of Bucovina - and there are ancient churches and cities bursting with historic architecture. The capital city, Bucharest, is re-inventing itself following decades of neglect by the ruling communists and its damaged architecture is slowly being restored to its original glory. It has elegant restaurants, a revitalised nightlife and cultural attractions that are becoming integral to this new image.
A visit to Romania will leave few impassive, offering a refreshingly different culture to elsewhere in Europe. The mix of quaint medieval towns and castles, drab cities striving for Western modernism, and the diverse rural landscape seemingly untouched by modern history, offers a fascinating kaleidoscope of opportunities to explore. Romania appeals to visitors because it is so different. It has one foot firmly placed in the past while the other one is stretching forward in an effort to keep up with the progress of the modern world.
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Planning a Romania holiday? Get off the beaten track with tour operator Intrepid Travel.