Visit the cultural city of Sibiu, drive up the most spectacular mountain road in Romania and discover unknown hiking trails with panoramic views in the Fagaras Mountains, the highest mountains in Transylvania.
Sibiu (European Capital of Culture 2007)
Spend a couple of days exploring the historic city of Sibiu on foot; it was settled by the Saxons (Germans) in 1191. The old city has two parts, the Upper town has most of the city’s historic sites and the lower town has many cobbled streets with traditional red roof houses; many have eyes! Surrounded by imposing walls, Sibiu’s original fortifications included 39 defensive towers, five bulwarks, four gates and five artillery batteries. Around the old city are the remains of medieval walls and towers; a large part of the old town is pedestrianised so pack your walking shoes. There are many outdoor restaurants and squares with cafes and shops in Sibiu that will charm you with their traditional Germanic architecture.
With S-shaped curves that weave through the mountains, the Transfagaran Highway in central Romania takes you to Balea glacial lake. (2034 metres) It’s the highest point of the most spectacular highway in Romania and a popular panoramic tourist spot.
The government of Romania constructed the highway in Transylvania between 1970-1974 as a strategic military route. The conditions were so dangerous, forty soldiers lost their lives during construction. Top Gear called it the best road in the world, checkout the YouTube video. The road is only open in summer. It’s worth the drive to experience the twists and turns through the mountains.
Starting at Balea lake, it’s a steep rocky climb to the top of the first section; its graded medium to difficult. It’s worth it for the panoramic views of the surrounding Fagaras mountain peaks. There are blue signs on the rocks that mark the trail.
The trail flattens out after the first climb and is an easy walk to Capra Lake, a beautiful viewpoint of the walk. It took us about an hour to reach Capra Lake from the bottom.
Continue on a trail past Capra Lake where you get a view of the Transfagaran Highway below and 180 degrees views of the surrounding mountain peaks. Not many tourists know about the walk, so you’re unlikely to see many people.
The walk took about three hours with time to stop and enjoy the views. It’s worth stopping at the Balea mountain restaurant beside the lake for a traditional Romanian soup.
When to go
Sibiu is a year round destination, September is a good time for hiking the mountains when it’s sunny and dry. If you’re going to Transylvania in winter, checkout the Balea Ice Hotel. It’s rebuilt at Balea Lake each year. Access to the hotel in Winter is by cable car from a lower part of the road.
As Public transport is very limited in Romania, it’s a good idea to discover the area with a guide. Nicoleta, our mountain and tour guide, drove us in her car from Sibiu. She has a range of reasonably priced customized tours to discover this fascinating, traditional and beautiful part of Romania. We spent another day with Nicoleta exploring traditional villages where you feel like you’ve stepped back in time; farmers still use traditional horse and carts. A walking tour of the historic squares, the city walls and churches of Sibiu is also recommended. Visit sibiuguidenico.com
We used Booking.com throughout our trip and loved the boutique accommodation we found on the site with free cancellation. We stayed at the Council in Sibiu, a historic 14th century hotel that’s very centrally located. Check availability and prices.