What to see on the Transfagarasan Road
The Transfagarasan Road has been described by Jeremy Clarkson as the world’s best road trip. You’ll see these sites on this road trip;
- The famous curvy road
- Balea Lake
- Balea Waterfall
- Balea Tunnel
- Vidraru Dam
- Prometheus Statue
- Poenari Castle (The real Dracula’s castle)
You can easily fit a road trip into a day from either Brasov or Bucharest. There are several hotels located on the Transfagarasan route if you wish to spend more time there.
The famous curvy road
The Transfagarasan road was built in the early 70’s under the rule of former Romanian dictator, Ceausescu. It was built as a strategic route to be used if the Soviet Union were to invade Romania, which they never did. The road passes the Fagaras mountains in between the towns of Cartisoara and Bascov. The total length of the road is 90 kilometers.
The most picturesque part of the road are the curvy roads which ascend from Cartisoara to the mountains. I have written a more detailed visit to the Transfagarasan road.
After ascending the curvy roads from Cartisoara there is a beautiful lake and waterfall. Balea Lake is a glacier lake and at over 2000 meters in altitude it’s the highest lake in Romania. You can make some wonderful reflection photography here which makes for some Instagram-worthy shots. During the winter there is an ice hotel located next to the lake, the first of its kind in Eastern Europe. You will also find a couple of chalets if you want to stay over. These chalets are open year round but the road is not. During the winter months you must access Balea Lake by cable car.
There is free parking close to the lake and food stalls.
As you are driving from Cartisoara to Balea Lake you’ll pass by Balea Waterfall. These falls are at an altitude of 1234 meters and drop 65 meters. They are not the most beautiful falls in the world but definitely worth a photo as you are ascending the Transfagaras mountains along the curvy roads.
The Transfagarasan road has more tunnels than any other road in Romania, a total of 5. The Balea tunnel is the longest tunnel in Romania at 884 meters in length. These tunnels were built by the military under terrible conditions. Many junior personnel who had no experience with dynamite risked and lost their lives during construction of the road and tunnels.
The Vidradu Dam was built in the 60’s before the Transfagaran road. When it was first built it was one of the most significant dams in the world. Nowadays, it’s just another dam! Because the dam was built during the cold war there were some safety precautions put in place. If the dam were to be bombed or damaged then the water would flood the nearby cities. In the mountains further down the valley dynamite is placed to blow up the mountains and block the water in case of the dam being broken.
Overlooking the Vidraru Dam is a statue of Prometheus holding a lightning bolt. It was designed by Constantin Popovici and erected in 1965. It’s possible to climb the statue (via a staircase) for views of Vidraru Dam and lake.
Poenari Castle (The real Dracula’s castle)
Unlike Bran Castle, Poenari castle is the real Dracula’s Castle. Poenari Castle is now a ruin but still worth a visit. There a 2 good reasons to visit it, the first is to get some exercise by climbing the 1480 stairs to reach it. The second reason is to be able to say you visited the real Dracula’s Castle. Vlad the Impaler who lived in the castle is believed to have inspired the 1897 novel, Dracula written by Bram Stoker.
The Worlds Best Road Trip
According to Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear, the Transfagarasan road makes for the worlds best road trip , Enjoy!
You can easily hire a taxi or take a tour through the Transfagarasan route from Bucharest or Brasov. The route is open from June to September, during winter it is closed.