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Chasing Dracula On A 4-Day Road Trip From Bucharest To Transfagarasan
Medieval castles, cobblestone alleys, and the world’s top road trip route – this is Romania. This Eastern European country has so much to offer, with most starting their journeys in Bucharest. At least the movie “Hotel Transylvania” should have introduced you to Dracula and Transylvania. So, what about chasing Dracula on a 4-day road trip from Bucharest to Transfagarasan?
Get pumped up on the Dracula myth in Bucharest!
Most people first come to Romania’s capital – Bucharest. Although there are many other things to do and explore, you shouldn’t miss out on two places that will get you started with Count Dracula (also known as Vlad the Impaler).
The Snagov Monastery supposedly holds the remains of Vlad the Impaler, which is better known as Count Dracula after Bram Stoker’s book from 1897. Check out the bust of Vlad III Dracula, which is the real name, at the Old Princely Court (Curtea Veche).
These places will pump you up on the topic and provide an excellent start to your 4-day road trip of chasing Dracula.
Day 1: Bucharest To Dracula’s Castle
Dracula’s Castle, or Bran Castle, is one of the main tourist attractions in Romania. Since this castle is remarkably similar to the one that Bram Stoker describes in his book, it is known everywhere as Dracula’s Castle.
Fun fact: Vlad III Dracula did not often reside here. Before you want to scratch it off your itinerary, I want to point out that it is still a beautiful medieval castle worth visiting. It has a lot of history to tell because it had a very strategic location back in the days. I can highly recommend taking a 1-hour tour to learn more about it and the Dracula myth.
Bran Castle is a 3-hour ride from Bucharest, on which you will pass two other incredible sights.
Make stopovers on the way to Bran.
It would be a shame if you didn’t stop at Peles Castle on the way to Bran. It is a beautiful castle right out of a fairytale. The Neo-Renaissance castle was the summer residence of the royal family and is now open for visitors.
Another great stop could be Rasnov Fortress, which is only one hour from Peles Castle. Rasnov is located very close to Bran, but if you like to take another break from driving, it is exceptional for a walk. Built on top of a hill, Rasnov Fortress overlooks the countryside for some miles. If you haven’t been to a fortress yet, you will love this one. It is simple but still has its inner and outer walls. Inside you will find a mix of ruins and rebuilt houses.
Where To Stay In Bran
The city of Bran has many guesthouses because they receive plenty of visitors, who are looking for Dracula and vampires. In peak season (summer months), I would highly recommend booking your room well in advance.
The prices of a private room are surprisingly low. However, every guesthouse jacks up the price in peak season. For less than 15 EUR (18 USD), you can stay in a private room with a beautiful view of the surrounding nature at Iulia’s Guesthouse. This one, however, is not right next to Bran Castle. If this is an essential criterion for you, I can recommend Pension Ana Bran or Pensiunea Transilvania Lodge. If you want to see Bran Castle from your balcony, you can reserve your room at Pension Muntele Rece. This one is a bit pricier, of course.
Day 2: Bran to Brasov
Brasov is one of Romania’s most visited places and is only a 30-40-min drive from Bran. This Saxon-German city is surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains and makes a great stop on your 4-day road trip from Bucharest, especially if you are an architecture nerd. Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance buildings will give you plenty of options to explore this historic place.
Back in the days, Saxon merchants mainly used this city for trade because of its strategic location between Western Europe and the Ottoman Empire. Vlad III Dracula had conflicts with the merchants, so he attacked them in Brasov.
Brasov is perfect for a walking expedition because the main points of interest are located close to each other. For example, start at the old Town Hall (Casa Sfatului) and walk over to the Black Church, which has its name from its black walls caused by the Great Fire in 1689. From here, it is not far to the narrowest street in Europe (Strada Sforii/Rope Street), which is only 1.3 m (4 ft) wide.
Where To Stay In Brasov
Bigger cities always have the disadvantage of a higher cost of accommodation. However, there are more options available. If you are a budget traveler, who likes to stay in a hostel, Hostel Mara or Boemia Hostel will be great places. They are in the heart of Brasov, which makes walking around super easy. If you are looking for a budget apartment with a central location, Studio Maniu would be perfect for you. People who aren’t on a tight budget and want to experience a little bit of luxury book an apartment at Casa Veche. The beautifully decorated apartments have an excellent location in the city center.
Day 3: Brasov To Sighisoara
Sighisoara is the fairytale town of your dreams and worth a little detour before you drive the best road in the world! It is about 2 hours North-West of Brasov.
This medieval town is home to Dracula. Well, Vlad III Dracula was born in this gorgeous town. You can even visit his birthplace, which is now a restaurant and museum for medieval weapons. It is located next to the old clock tower, which you will see when you enter the old town through the tunnel.
Today, Sighisoara is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Europe. Visiting Sighisoara may not take the whole day, but it is worth a visit. Wander through the cobblestone streets, take a look at all nine towers, and visit the churches.
Day 4: Transfagarasan Road To Bucharest
From my point of view, this is the most exciting part of the 4-day road trip from Bucharest. The Transfagarasan Road goes through the Carpathian Mountains. The curvy street offers spectacular views. It’s not a surprise that BBC’s show Top Gear rated it as the “best road in the world.”
Quick tips for the Transfagarasan Road:
- Have cash on you: ATM’s are rare (we’ve learned this the hard way)
- Rent a car with good power. Our little car had a hard time getting up the steep road. First and second gear were my best friends.
- It isn’t easy to find information about hiking trails online. Here is a good source though
- Go in the shoulder season (End of August/September) because it is a popular destination for Romanians and other tourists.
- The road closes between Piscu Negru and Bâlea Cascadă in winter (October 31st to July 1st)
Maybe you are still asking yourself why this is on my “Chasing Dracula Itinerary.” Vlad III Dracula actually resided in a castle that can be found on this road. Well, at least you can visit the remains. There is not much left of the once glorious castle. Poenari Fortress is the real Dracula’s Castle. If I compare it to Bran Castle, there isn’t much to see, though.
After driving down the Transfagarasan Road, you can keep going towards Bucharest. If you want to hike more and stay a night in this area, I can highly recommend the Casa Eden Guesthouse in Arefu. Our room was spacious and clean, and the family was amiable. They have a wonderful garden with a barbecue. It’s a small village that is very quiet. So, it’s the perfect getaway for couples and families. The guesthouse is only a few minutes’ ride from Lake Vidraru and Poenari Fortress. It’s basically at the end of the exciting road through the Carpathian Mountains.
Tips & alerts for your 4-day road trip from Bucharest
- Romanians somehow don’t care about speed limits. I felt rushed all the time because everyone was going 10-40 km/h faster.
- You will often see carriages with horses on the roads.
- Cattle can be on the road too. Our car almost got hit by the horns of a bull… It almost made me drive into the culvert on a very narrow street.
- Streets can get super narrow, especially with a cow or horse as oncoming traffic. If you are from the U.S., you may get claustrophobic.
- It’s not always smart to trust Google Maps. It told us we could drive a smaller road, and it ended up being a terrible dirt road. It was a fun detour, though.
- Because of all the above: I would recommend getting good coverage for your rental car or get a private driver (not as expensive as you may think)
- Car rentals are mostly manual. So, I hope you know how to drive it (for the sake of the car).
- Find out what to eat in Romania here.
- Find loads of facts about Romania here.