The really high Highway – Transfagarasan highway, Romania

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The most exciting mountain drive by the best road in the world

Romania is one very colourful and very interesting country although it may be little known for the rest of the world. With its stunning mountains, picturesque villages and beautiful cities, it is absolutely one of the must-visit places on and in Europe. Now we are going to climb its mountains by car, from Wallachia to Transylvania, from South to North. Of course, we are traveling by Transfagarasan – named The best road in the world by Top Gear. 

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ТРАНСФЪГЪРАШКО ШОСЕ 45.589357, 24.628859

Făgăraș Mountains (Munții Făgărașului)

Făgăraș Mountains are somewhere in the middle of Romania. They are a part of Transylvanian Alps (Southern Carpathians), a picturesque part of the world, as it was touched by the Lord. But not only divine touch we can see here, but also the ideas of a paranoid communist leader – Nicolae Ceaușescu. A great road left over from a mad regime.

Transylvanian Alps - Fagaras mountains - Transfagarasan highway
Transfagarasan highway, Romania

The Transfagarasan highway

Everything started because of Czechoslovakia and the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia of 21 august 1968. Among the countries that signed the Warsaw Pact, only Romania notably refused to participate. A few years later the Romanian leaders decided to build a military connection between Wallachia and Transylvania.

The Transfăgărășan road - The amazing curves of Transfagarasan highway in Romania
The amazing curves of Transfagarasan road
The Transfăgărășan road - Waterfalls are not an unusual view along the road
Waterfalls are not an unusual view along the road

The realization of the mad project started in 1970. The road had to climb the Transylvanian Alps – Făgăraș Mountains. The works of this project continued four years, more than 6000 tones of dynamite were used and 40 soldiers lost their lives in building accidents.

One of the best views along the Transfagarasan road in Romania
One of the best views along the Transfagarasan road

The madness of the Cold war provided the opportunity to build this really amazing and very beautiful way through the green slopes of Făgăraş Mountains. You will fall in love with this mountain, passing the “Ceaușescu’s Folly” and seeing the waterfalls and rivers in the mountain.

The Transfăgărășan road
Resort along the road
The Transfăgărășan road
Fountain on Transfagarasan highway

I don’t want to distract you from one of the most beautiful roads in the world but I should show you the most important places along the road from the very beginning of our journey from Wallachia to Transylvania…

The starting point – Curtea de Arges

DN7C – The Transfagarasan road starts from a commune near Pitesti city – Bascov. The first big city is one of the former capitals of Wallachia – Curtea de Argeș (The Court upon Argeș).  We didn’t see a court but it is a quiet and pretty city. We had a nice walk along the main street and a very good time spent in the “Old house pub” with nice and friendly staff. In Romania friendly staff is not very usual.

A commune (comună in Romanian) is the lowest level of administrative subdivision in Romania. In one commune often there are a few villages.
Curtea de Argeș
The town of Curtea de Arges is calm and beautiful

For the Middle age greatness of the city reminds the famous monastery and the oldest church in Walachia – St. Nicholas in Târg.

The Princely Church – St. Nicholas in Târg

It was built in 14th century. Today it is well preserved but not the most interesting place for us.

The Princely Church - St. Nicholas in Târg
The Princely Church – St. Nicholas in Târg

The monastery in Curtea de Arges

We arrived in the city on Sunday morning – the market day. There were people everywhere were selling… some things, we stopped somewhere close to the market. We took a quick look of the Princely church and continued to Bulevardul Basarabilor. We had lunch in „the Old House Pub” and on the end of boulevard we reached the beautiful gardens of the famous monastery of the city.

The monastery in Curtea de Arges
The monastery in Curtea de Arges
The monastery in Curtea de Arges
The monastery in Curtea de Arges

From the entrance we saw the beautiful white church rising in the centre of the park. It was Sunday so everywhere was full of people, slightly tanned Romanians sold blackberries at the entrance. On the doors of the Bishop’s palace was a queue of believers.

The church of the monastery in Curtea de Arges
The church of the monastery

This is the first Wallachian monastery and the main temple of the Wallachian rulers in 14th century. Neagoe Basarab (1512-1521) was the founder of the monastery. The place is amazing and very peaceful, you should visit it.

Curtea de Arges monastery
The monastery with its bautoful yard
Curtea de Arges monastery 2
And the beautiful white church again

Commune Corbeni

After Curtea de Argeș we decided to spend the night in a small village named Corbeni. We found a very good place to stay, a nice guest house with great hosts. It was not close to main road so we had a great night in this quiet area with a great view to the mountains.

Commune Corbeni - The cute village Corbeni in Romania
The cute village Corbeni in Romania

When we travel, we love staying in small villages. We love this escape from the big cities and attractions. And the views are stunning beautiful.

Pure serenity in Corbeni
Pure serenity in Corbeni

You have to know for Romanian villages, in most of them only the main street has asphalt so you have to be careful about your car when decided to stay not on the main street.

Commune Corbeni
The house we stayed at Corbeni

Poienari – The real Dracula

Cetatea Poienari was built in 13th century and rebuilt by the Vlad III Ţepeş – the Impaler. This is probably the real castle of Dracula, not the most famous center of the Dracula mania – the Castle of Bran. The Bran castle is more famous with Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, but this is another story.

Poenari Castle sketch-riv01
Poenari castle - the fortress that was actually used by Vlad Tsepes
Poenari castle on the top of the hill – the fortress that was actually used by Vlad Tsepes

Poenari Castle was erected around the beginning of the 13th century by Wallachians. In the next few decades, the name and the residents changed a few times but eventually the castle was abandoned and left in ruins. However, in the 15th century, realizing the potential for a castle perched high on a steep precipice of rock, Vlad III the Impaler repaired and consolidated the structure, making it one of his main . Although the castle was used for many years after Vlad’s death in 1476, it eventually was abandoned again in the first half of the 16th century and was in ruins by the 17th century.

The stairs to Poenari castle
The stairs to Poenari castle
Poenari castle
Poenari castle

The fortress is standing upon a hill above the Argeș River and its canyon. It once guarded the important pass in the mountains between Wallachia and Transylvania.

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Крепостта на Цепеш 45.353653, 24.634652
View from Poenari castle in Romania
The view from Poenari castle – Tsepes must have loved it

At the foot of the hill you can visit a nice restaurant with a nice view of the fortress. Close to the river.

View from Poenari fortress
View from Poenari fortress

Vidraru Dam

 In the weekends it is crowded and not the quietest place in the mountains. But you can see one of the monuments of Communistic works in Romania – the great Vidraru dam.

Vidraru dam, Romania
Virdaru dam, Romania

We stayed on the top of the wall, looking into the abyss between the rocks that support the huge wall. An amazing symbol of human abilities in 1960s.

Vidraru Dam
The clean waters of Vidraru dam
Vidraru dam in Romania
A small quay at Vidraru dam

Vidraru dam was built in 1965 on Arges River. This was the first valley arch dam in the country. It is 166.60 m high and 305m long. Its base thickness is 25m, the top is 6m thick. On the hill on one side of the wall is erected the monument of the electricity, a huge Prometheus.

The statue of Prometheus above Vidraru dam in Romania
The statue of Prometheus above Vidraru dam in Romania

The journey along the dam was longer than we expected, but after the big the road starts to wind like a snake on the green hills. And we were fascinated by the spectacular Alpine views. We traveled near rivers and waterfalls, the most famous waterfall is Kapra. Its waters are falling almost on the road. 

Transfagarasan highway in Romania
Something like a tunnel, something like a waterfall 
Kapra waterfall along Transfagarasan highway
Kapra waterfall on the Transfagarasan road
Spectators near Kapra waterfalls
Kapra waterfall – one of the most visited attractions along the road

On the very top of the mountain we found ourselves in front of a tunnel – the Transfăgărășan tunnel. We passed this tunnel and on other side …

Balea Glacier Lake

The highest point of the Transfagarasan highway. When we went out from the tunnel we found a place full of people, cars, and shops. We had to pay for the car parking. It was noisy and unexpected.  But the Glacier Lake is so beautiful that we forgot for a moment about the crowd.

Balea lake, one of the most beautiful places along the Transfagarasan road
Balea lake is extremely beautiful place
Hut near the Balea lake
A hut near the Balea lake

The Lake Bâlea Is situated at 2034m altitude in the Făgărăşan Alps. In the winter the Eastern Europe’s first ice hotel is built on the side of the lake, having a reception, a bar, and rooms with French beds. I hope one day I will see this amazing hotel.

Tip:There is a cable car leading to Balea Lake
Balea lake in Romania
Crystal clear – Balea lake
Clouds above the Balea lake
Clouds above the Balea lake
Mystic - Balea lake partly covered with fog
Mystic – Balea lake partly covered with fog
Pure beauty - Balea lake in Romania, Transfagarasan highway
Pure beauty – Balea lake

Through the fog to Sibiu

From this point to the end the road becomes even more amazing and curvy. But we got into a thick fog and we couldn’t enjoy its best.

Fog above the Transfagarasan higway
Fog above the Transfagarasan highway

Transfăgărășan road formally ends on the crossroad for Sibiu – one of my favourite cities.

Top Gear

It might sound as an advertisement, but actually I found out about this road from the BBC TV show Top Gear. In one of the episodes Jeremy Clarkson and company had to drive sports cars along Transfagarasan highway and they called it the best road in the world. I share this opinion and I’m really thankful to them for showing me this amazing place. I recommend you to watch Episode 1 from Season 14 of Top Gear.

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