While traveling solo through Romania, I was fortunate to meet Ambrose and Trisha. Truthfully, we only made casual eye contact on the local train from Sibiu to Sighisoara. They were taking in the landscape and I was busy thanking the kind old woman next to me who kept insisting I eat the snacks she offered. So, it would seem unlikely that any interaction or connection would develop once we’d arrived at the station.
However, the UNESCO World Heritage Village of Sighisoara is tiny and we seemed to be the only travelers on the train. (Psst…A sign you should visit Romania before everyone else does!) Later, when they stumbled into the same restaurant where I was having dinner, there was easy instant recognition and friendly greetings, so I invited them to join me for dinner. Over the course of that night and sightseeing the next day, I learned about their Romanian travel plans which included a multi-day hiking excursion outside Brasov. They piqued my wanderlust for hiking in Romania so I asked them to pique yours, too!
TGT: Welcome to Ambrose and Trisha! Tell us a little about yourselves and what it was about Romania that made you want to visit.
We are a married couple in our early 40s. We live in Dublin, Ireland. I’m from Dublin and work for the Irish Government. Trisha is from Italy and works for a consultancy company. We love travelling and try to have a number of foreign vacations every year. We also enjoy culture, history, and food. We usually do a bit of research into the country’s history, culture, and food before we visit – we find that this gives us a deeper experience.
Why Romania? We didn’t really plan it too much. We decided to try an active holiday for the first time. Out of the blue, we came up with the idea of hiking. Somewhere we had heard Romania was a great place to hike. We did a little research and found that Transylvania, Romania has a number of beautiful (UNESCO listed) citadel cities. So we decided to do 7 days sightseeing around these cities and 7 days hiking. I would recommend looking at the official Romanian Tourism website for information.
TGT: I love that mix of sightseeing and hiking! What places did you visit in Romania and how did you get around?
We flew into Bucharest from Dublin and spent 2 days there. We then got the bus (5 hours) to Sibiu and spent 2 days there. Next, we got the train (3 hours) from Sibiu to Sighisoara and spent 2 days there. After that, we got the train (3.5 hours) from Sighisoara to Brasov and spent 2 days there. Our hiking guide met us in Brasov, and after a guided city tour of Brasov and a short hike up the mountain beside the city, he took us to our hiking base lodge in the small village of Moeciu de Sus.
Overall, we found the public transport very difficult in Romania and would recommend instead renting a car to get around. Secondly, we should have spent an extra day in Bucharest and only 1 day in Sighisoara. While Sighisoara is very beautiful, it’s also very small. If you were only going to visit 1 of these cities, we would recommend Brasov. While not as pretty as some of the others, it has more nightlife and restaurants and is closer to many of the main attractions such as Bran Castle, Peles Castle, Rasnov Castle, fortified churches, and national parks.
TGT: Yes, Brasov is a great base while visiting Transylvania. What kind of experiences were you hoping for by hiking in Romania?
We didn’t really know what to expect. We wanted to see some mountains and some unspoilt countryside. We decided to hike on this holiday to avoid returning from holiday overweight and bloated from eating and drinking too much. We also wanted to try something new.
TGT: Haha! 7 days of hiking solves that problem! How fantastic you decided to take a risk on something new. Tell us about your hiking itinerary.
We went with Adventure Transylvania. The guide (Emil) amended the trip for us because we had already seen Brasov. The guides in this company are also sightseeing guides so they are as at home guiding around the Black Church of Brasov as they are in the Carpathian Mountains. On the 3rd day, we were tired so the guide decided to bring us on a tour of the local castles rather than back up the mountains. All costs (entry to castles, meals, etc) were included in the original price. Our guide’s English was very good so he was able to give us insights into Romanian history, politics, and culture, which we loved.
TGT: How great the guide was so responsive to you needing a small break. Little things like this can really make the whole trip that much better. What were your favorite things about hiking in Romania?
Despite Transylvania being perfect hiking country, there are relatively few people doing it. We often walked for hours without seeing another soul. The nature is pristine. A highlight was one day finding ourselves in, what we would describe as, an enchanted forest. Giant thin trees, secret brooks, small waterfalls, and sunlight breaking through the canopy.
We saw meadows with beautiful flowers and butterflies. The views across the Carpathians with the odd castle or village dotted here or there was also amazing. Seeing local people farming in the old ways, using scythes to cut grass for hay, for example, demonstrated an unchanged link to the past which is very rare in Europe these days.
TGT: That sounds incredible! It’s so striking when you realize you’ve found a spot on the planet like this and it’s all yours. Were there any challenges along the way?
We had never done anything like this before. We wouldn’t consider ourselves particularly fit but we aren’t out of shape either. Hiking for six hours a day can be very tiring and sore on your muscles. The mountains are high (2,000 meters) so the ascents and particularly descents can be quite challenging. You’ll be out of breath and sweating sometimes. There is a lot of pressure on the knees – so be sure you don’t have knee problems before taking this on.
There wasn’t a lot to do in the evenings. You could sit in the lodge and watch television or read a book. This, of course, could be seen as a good thing. Quiet nights, along with the hiking, could be the de-stress and power-down that people are looking for. Towards the end of 6 days hiking, we went down to the bar/restaurant in the village for an evening glass of wine and bit of atmosphere.
The food provided in the lodge was quite simple, traditional Romanian food: potatoes, chicken, stuffed cabbage etc. We enjoyed it and thought it very tasty but others might look for variation or request vegan/vegetarian options. The woman preparing our meals always discussed with us at breakfast time what she was planning to cook for dinner.
TGT: That’s a really great point about the descents sometimes being physically harder than hiking uphill. How should someone planning to go hiking in Romania prepare for the experience?
You should be able to walk for 2.5 hours without muscle or fatigue problems. If you can, get used to walking up some hills.
You really should concentrate on dressing from the feet up. A good pair of hiking shoes is most important and the most important part of these shoes is the soles. The sole should be hard so you don’t feel stones under your feet. For example, if you wear a pair of regular sneakers, your feet will be so sore after one day of hiking that you won’t be able to continue.
I had a pair of Timberlands and Trisha had Kerrimor but we bought extra insoles from Scholz which have gel on the heel and ball of the foot to minimize the stress on the feet. Next, you need proper dual socks. The inner lining rubs off the outer lining, rather than your foot, and stops you getting blisters. Also, bring at least 1 spare set of shoelaces. Fortunately, we didn’t have any problems with our feet.
I think cargo shorts and tee-shirts are fine for clothing. Trisha bought hiking pants for €70 ($78) but she didn’t feel they were any better than ordinary pants. Don’t wear jeans, though.
Lastly, I would buy a hiking stick/trekking pole. This keeps you balanced, really helps with climbing hills, and crucially protects your knees on descents.
TGT: Such smart advice about taking care of your feet! Aches and blisters could ruin everything. All in all, it sounds like both of you were prepared and had an unforgettable time hiking in Romania. Would you recommend this experience to other travelers?
Yes. Definitely. If you want to see beautiful nature, breath clean air, get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, and want to zone out and chill, this is a perfect holiday. If you want to see some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe steeped in history and culture, then this is an amazing holiday. If you want to test your stamina and return from holiday fitter than you left, this is a great holiday.
Our guide made a short video of our last day hiking.
Video Credit: Adventure Transylvania
TGT: Spectacular! Thank you so much, Ambrose and Trisha for sharing your experience. It certainly has me thinking about going back to do some hiking in Romania!
Is your wanderlust piqued? Would you like to hike in Romania?
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