Romania is not such a popular touristic destination in Europe compared to well-known countries such as Greece, Spain, France or Italy. But after a short review of the tourist guides, one will see that Romania has a surprisingly varied and rich tourist offer.
Romania is located in Eastern Europe, north of the Balkans and west of the Black Sea. It is one of the largest countries in the region, with an area comparable to that of Poland or France. It has a varied relief, starting from the sandy beaches of the Black Sea, continuing with the rolling plains of the Danube, reaching over 2500 meters on the peaks of the Carpathians.
From a cultural point of view, Romania is a small Europe, an original mixture between the Balkan orientalism and the rigor of Central Europe. Moreover, the Romanian language is a Latin language, a legacy of the Roman occupation of 2000 years ago, when the territory of today’s Romania was a Roman Empire province. Surprisingly or not, Romania is the only Latin country in Eastern Europe, and the only Latin country whose name derived from Rome.
The country is a tourist destination open all year round, the peak of the tourist season being between May and September. Nevertheless, winter is the special season, where the snow and the spirit of the holidays create a fairytale atmosphere al over Romania.
So, if you decide to visit Romania in winter, here are the most important attractions not to be missed.
1. The Ice Hotel.
Yes, you heard right, a real hotel, with rooms where tourists can spend a night (I haven’t heard of anyone staying there for two nights. The hotel of ice is built every year, at 2000 meters altitude, on the shores of Lake Balea, the one that it also provides the construction material for the building the hotel (blocks of ice that are cut from the frozen surface of the lake).
Access is by cable car, because the road leading to the lake is closed since November, being hidden under a thick layer of snow. The road itself is a tourist attraction all summer long: Transfagarasan highway it is the most spectacular mountain road in Romania, 80 kilometers long, crossing the Carpathians from north to south, with endless hairpin curves, scary cliffs and breathtaking views.
2. The Christmas markets in Romania,
Especially those in Transylvania, are quite similar with those in Germany. In fact, the differences are imperceptible, especially as 7 main cities in Transylvania were founded by German settlers 8 centuries ago, and they still retaining a strong German touch.
The Christmas Market in Sibiu is one of the most beautiful in Romania, being organized every year in the Main Square of the old town. It is open all December and has all the classic elements of a dream Christmas market: dozens of stalls selling seasonal goodies and gifts, an ice rink, a huge Christmas tree, gingerbread workshops and a small train for the kids. The Christmas Market couldn’t find a better background than the baroque buildings surrounding the main square, which are enchantingly lit every night by thousands of lights and bright decorations.
3.The villages of Transylvania
Are having a special charm, given by the delay of the penetration of modernity and keeping alive of the traditions. There, there are still villagers practicing agriculture as they did a hundred years ago, using horse-drawn carts or manually mowing the hay. Although the pace of activity is significantly reduced in winter, the rural winter atmosphere is particularly beautiful, especially when everything is covered by snow.
4.Participation in winter traditions.
With a rural culture still well preserved, Romania is rich in events related to Christmas and the passing in the new year. Participation in such events should not be missed, being an unforgettable and equally profound learning experience. The list in long, and we are giving you just a few examples: Christmas carols, the bear’s dance, the goat’s dance, the song of the ploughman, sorcova (this is hard to translate, roughly is a good luck wish given by kids, in exchange of money or other goods).
Located in the northern hemisphere on the 45th parallel and benefiting from the presence of the Carpathian Mountains, Romania is a good destination for winter sports lovers. There are over 60 ski resorts throughout the country, with the largest concentration in the Prahova Valley, where there are 4 resorts in just a few kilometers. The most popular ski resorts are Poiana Brașov, near Brașov, with over 13 km of ski slopes, Sinaia, on Prahova Valley, with 17 kilometers of slopes and Straja in Hunedoara county, with 29 kilometers.
Plan to visit Romania in winter? You can hire a local travel agency, which is having the best insights and know-how regarding accommodation, transport and excursions. One of them is Romania Guided Tours, a Romanian tour operator specialized in organizing tailor-made tours, for small groups of foreign tourists, al year-round.