Transylvania, Romania

If you’re a Latin-boffin or ancient Roman, you’ll already know that Transylvania means ‘land beyond the forest’. No doubt the Romans were just being factual, but it’s an aptly intriguing description for such an imagination-stirring landscape. Unfenced fields dotted with mediaeval churches, Saxon houses painted in primary colours, sleepy villages, a culture rich in tradition and superstition – someone should write a gothic thriller about Transylvania. (Oh wait, Bram Stoker already did.) Lazy Dracula references aside, the real Romania is more compelling than any haemoglobin-hunting Count. Way before Vlad the Impaler was sharpening sticks, various tribes and nations squabbled over the territory, including the Hungarians and Saxons (they're to thank for the area’s hearty goulashes, sour soups and cabbage-y creations). More recently, the region’s seven fortress towns (Bistrita, Brasov, Cluj-Napoca, Medias, Sebes, Sighişoara and Sibiu) wobbled under Ceauşescu’s Communist regime. Unlike the disgraced leader, they emerged relatively unscathed, and were swiftly restored to former finery. Popular culture casts Transylvania as a nocturnal vamp, but its pleasures – skiing, walking and wine tasting – are designed for daytime.

Areas in Transylvania

Do Go/Don’t go

Spring and autumn are balmy and pretty; winters are bitterly cold; even in the warm summers, evenings are chilly.

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Getting there

  • Planes

    Tîrgu Mares airport is 60km from Copşa Mare village, with flights run by Malév Hungarian Airlines (www.malev.com). Sibiu’s airport is a 90-minute drive away, served by the budget airlines, Air France (www.airfrance.co.uk) and Lufthansa (www.lufthansa.com).
  • Trains

    You can catch fast trains from Bucharest and Cluj-Napoca to Sighişoara and Medias. Both stations are 25km from Copşa Mare; check Mersul Trenurilor from timetables (www.mersultrenurilor.ro).
  • Automobiles

    Driving is relatively easy here, and the area only really has one main road (expect to be overtaken a lot). It’s worth hiring a car from the airport, as the places you’ll want to visit are a drive away; Avis (www.avis.com) have a desk there. Drivers: you’re legally obliged to have your headlights on at all times, even in sunshine.
  • Taxis

    It’s easy to flag down taxis in the main towns, including Sibiu, Medias and Sighişoara; if you’re in a village, it’s best to book ahead. Try OK Taxis on +40 265 777 777 or +40 265 770 020. If you’re staying at Copsamare Guesthouses, staff will book your cars.

Boutique hotels in Transylvania