My dear blogger friend, Gin, gave me the honor of writing a guest post on her blog, and asked me to share something spectacular about my country.
Romania has a breathtaking landscape, but unfortunately, it’s not that well advertised, so most tourists have no idea about it. We have some of the most gorgeous mountains, and the roads crossing them, situated at very high altitudes, are absolutely spectacular.
That considered, I’ve decided to share a few things about my two favorite such roads, accessible only during summer (approximately from June, when the snow melts, to September), Transfăgărășan and Transalpina, both crossing two high groups of mountains, as suggested by the prefix ‘Trans‘, which means ‘Across‘.
Both roads are an attraction and a challenge for hikers, cyclists, drivers and motorcycle enthusiasts alike. If you think about taking some sort of train or bus to visit both locations, you can forget about it. There are no trains in the area, and buses can’t really cope with the intensive climb. Best way to get there, is by personal car, bike or motorcycle.
What do you need in order to drive through the mountains? Very good driving skills, as the roads are definitely not recommended for a beginner, and a car which can face the challenge. I only say this, because the first time I tried to cross Transalpina by car, I did it in a 1.0 L engine car, and we had to stop twice, to give the engine a break :)
If you think about biking or hiking, make sure you have trained intensively, as the climb is not very friendly, take enough food and water supplies, as there’s not much in the area except pure wilderness, and pack warm clothes, even if it’s summer, as the temperatures can drop down close to 0 degrees during the night, in the highest peaks.
Transalpina – The King’s Road
DN 67C is the highest road in Romania, crossing the Parâng Mountains, at 2.145 m altitude, from Novaci, Rânca, Obârșia Lotrului, Oașa Lake and Dam to Sebeș.
The origins of the road are unclear, but it seems like is dating all the way back to the Roman Empire times, built during the wars with the Dacians (the Romanian’s ancestors). Later on, the road was rebuilt under King Carol II (this is why the road is also referred to, by the locals, as the King’s Road – prior to this, the road was named the Devi’s Path) and again, during World War II, by the German troops from the area.
Best part about Transalpina? You can see how the clouds look like, on the other side, without getting on an airplane. It happens quite often, while you go higher and higher up the mountain, to see the clouds shifting underneath the road’s level, or gently hugging the mountain peaks. Quite a unique experience!
Because the number of tourists in the area went up in the past few years, especially after the beginning of the road construction, Rânca, a small resort located closer to the end of Transalpina road (at 1,600 m altitude), blossomed, and is a small paradise for winter sports fans. Also, every year in September, between Rânca and Novaci, a auto rally takes place.
As suggested by the name, DN7C is the road crossing Făgăraș Mountains, the second-highest paved road (2,034 metres altitude) in Romania, after Transalpina, starting at Curtea de Argeş, heading towards Vidraru Lake, Bâlea Lake, and ends on the crossroad between DN1 and Sibiu.
Built between 1970 and 1974 under the communist regime, by military forces, working in terrible conditions, the price of the road was paid at a high financial and human cost (officially, 40 soldiers lost their lives during the construction, but in reality, the numbers are much higher, but kept a secret, because of the political regime). The road, for whose construction six million kilograms of dynamite were used, was designed as a quick military access route across the mountains, together with other similar mountain passes, in case the Soviets attempted an invasion.
It is said that Nicolae Ceauşescu built the Transfăgărăşan Road, only to surpass the beauty of Transalpina. If he actually succeeded, that’s up to you to decide (Top Gear UK, voted the Transfăgărăşan as the most beautiful road in the world!).
It has more tunnels and viaducts than any other road in Romania, and is also home of the the longest road tunnel in Romania (884 m), near Bâlea Lake, where the road passes through Bâlea Tunnel.
Vidraru Lake and Dam
The lake was created in 1965 after the construction of the Vidraru Dam on the Argeș River, which took 5 years.
With a length of 10.3 km and a width of 2.2 km, Vidraru Lake accumulates 465 million cubic metres of water, on a total area of 870 hectares and maximum depth of 155 metres. Definitely something impressive to see!
Is a glacier lake situated at 2,034 m altitude, in the Făgăraș Mountains, accessible also by cable car, from Bâlea Waterfall. This is the highest point of the Transfăgărășan road, where you can also find a weather station, before the descent starts.
Every winter, since 2006, next to the lake is built an Ice Hotel, for those who aren’t friends with heated rooms :) .
Also, there are 2 chalets close by, which can provide accommodation. If you want to experience total darkness, when opening the door, in the middle of the night, you’ve found the perfect place to camp!
Both roads are breathtaking, especially when you cross the mountains for the first time. I drove down both roads and camped there a few times already, and with every new trip, the landscape has something new to offer. It’s never the same, but it’s stunning every single time!
Which one is your favorite?