Romania is one of the last great underappreciated travel destinations in the world. But between culture and natural beauty, the country has so much to offer. As a lesser known destination, though, it can be difficult to know what to do and see when traveling in Romania.
Most likely your expedition will begin by flying into Bucharest, so we'll begin there. One of the city's greatest attractions is the Palace of the Parliament, the massive and ornate government building built by the country's former dictator. Since it's the second largest building in the world behind the Pentagon, the fascinating tour can cover only about 12% of the area of the building.
The other must-see part of the capital is the Lipscani district. Though the oldest part of the city, the area has seen a renaissance in the last several years, turning it into the hip, young portion of the city, full of the trendiest restaurants, bars, and clubs. Lipscani is also home to Bucharest's longest-operating and most famous restaurant, Caru cu Bere, a must for any visitor.
When leaving the capital, first head east to the Black Sea to the resort city of Constanta. Enjoy the beach and the unique feeling of the fine black sand that gives the sea its name between your toes. The city itself is worth visiting as well. As a tactically important port, it has been occupied by innumerable empires over the centuries, each of which has left its mark.
From the sea, head northwest to the Carpathian Mountains and Transylvania beyond. The mountains are awash in impressive, fascinating castles, both ancient and more recent. One of the most famous is Peles Castle near the town of Sinaia, which served as the mountain retreat of Romania's royal family over a century ago. Also of note is Bran Castle, also referred to as Dracula's Castle. Though its connection to Vlad Tepes, the inspiration for Bram Stoker's vampire, is somewhat tangential the castle is a fun and fascinating place to visit. The charming mountain city of Brasov is another must-see in the Carpathians.
Once you descend on the other side of the mountains into Transylvania proper, you'll quickly forget about the gothic gray of the Transylvania of myth and instead be amazed by the green beauty of the valley. Small farming villages dot the countryside, making you feel like you've been transported back into the feudal past. The largest city in Transylvania, Cluj-Napoca (or just Cluj), is considered by some to be the cultural capital of Romania - though I wouldn't recommend trying to tell that to anyone in Bucharest. Old-World European squares, cafes, and lovely architecture will keep you delighted and entertained for days.
The laidback beauty of rural Romania, particularly Transylvania, is wonderfully relaxing. Far from the bustle of Bucharest and the other great European capitals, the Romanian countryside will make you fall in love on your first visit.
Traveling in Romania is a deeply rewarding experience. Avoiding the press of the tourist crowds of the more popular destinations while discovering a new country is worth the little bit of imagination it takes to consider an off-the-beaten-path locale. Between the urban bustle of Bucharest, the warm beaches of Constanta, the mountainous beauty of the Carpathian mountains, and the laidback scenery and culture of Transylvania, there are few more diverse and rewarding places to visit.