Transfagarasan Road: a ride you will never forget

Balea Lake Transfagarasan

Transfagarasan is the most beautiful road in Romania, stretching over 90 km, from Sibiu to Brezoi (near Pitesti), but you should continue your way to Curtea de Arges from there. Transfagarasan is the second highest paved road in Romania after Transalpina and it crosses the Fagaras Mountains (part of the Carpathians), between the highest peaks of the Romanian mountains Moldoveanu and Negoi. The road reaches an altitude of 2042 meters and it became very famous also internationally due to a filming of a top Gear episode here.

The road was constructed between 1970 and 1974, during Ceasusescu’s rule. The constructions of the road lead to the loss of multiple lives. The official count puts the number at 40 lives, however some of the construction works which are still alive today, tell a different story. Some say that 400 lives were lost only during the construction of the Vidraru dam, which puts the loss of lives in the hundreds.  

In spite of the sad construction history, Trasfagarasan features the most scenic views along its winding roads and it is a beautiful car drive from Sibiu, very well suited for a one day trip.

Best time to visit

Transfagarasan Romania

Since part of the road (27 km) is closed for 8 months a year, in winter and spring, because of avalanches and landslides, the recommended time to visit it is summer and early autumn. But don’t be discouraged if you happen to visit during winter or spring! You can still drive up to the Balea Lake, which is an amazing destination for winter! However, do mind the weather conditions before you go, since his is the highest altitude point of the road and is prone to avalanches.

So what can you admire along this road, besides the beautiful mountain tops, which are anyhow worth the ride?

Balea Waterfall

Transfagarasan

If you start your journey from Sibiu, this is the first stop you reach. The waterfall has a 60 meter fall and is located between the Moldoveanu and Negoi peaks. In order to reach it, you have to hike for about 50 minutes from the Balea Cascada Hut, along a red marked path. This will give you a good opportunity to combine some easy hiking with your scenic drive.

Balea Lake

From Balea Waterfall you will pass the longest road tunnel in Romania (884 meters) to get to Balea Lake. Balea Lake is the highest altitude spot on the route. Because of its altitude you might find snow around it even in the middle of summer. The glacier lake has a depth of 11 meters and the area surrounding it has been declared a scientific reserve. Around the lake you will find some huts, where you can enjoy a hot chocolate and the beautiful view before you continue your trip. In the winter you can find here an ice hotel with a bar and even a church made of ice. These are constructed from huge ice blocks pulled out of the lake.

Iezerului Waterfall

On the south side of the Fagaras mountains, continuing you way on the Transfagarasan road, you can admire a lot of waterfalls. One of the most imposing one is the Iezerului waterfall, at an altitude of 1960 meters and a fall of 40 meters. The waterfall originates from the glacier lake Capra.

Vidraru Dam

Vidraru Dam is one of the most known attractions on the route. Constructed in 1965, it has a height of 160 meters. Make a stop here in order to fully admire the beautiful nature surrounding it, as well as the reservoir.

Poenari Fortress

The fortress is situated near the village of Arefu and was built in the 14th century. The castle was residence of Vlad the Impaler and the fortress was featured in the Ghost Hunters International in season 1. However, in order to reach it, you have to climb no less than 1400 stairs. But the view from above is breathtaking and definitely worth it!

The fortress is currently closed for reconstruction and will not be open to tourist for an unforeseeable time.

Curtea de Arges Monastery

Arges Monastery

Curtea de Arges was the first capital of Vallachia (Tara Romaneasca) and bears a significant historical importance in the heart of Romanians. It is the only city along the Transfagarasan route and your last destination on this road before returning to Sibiu. There are numerous attractions you can visit here:

  • Royal Court: this is an ensemble which encompasses, amongst the most important ones, the church Saint Nicolae, constructed in 13th century, the ruins of the royal houses of Basarab I (cca 1345), the ruins of the houses Neagoe Basarab (16th century)
  • Arges Monastery, which dates back to the 16th century and has many legends surrounding it. The most well-known one is about Master Manole (Mesterul Manole), who, in order to finish the construction of the church, had to sacrifice his loving wife Ana. It is said that her body is built in the church walls, otherwise they would collapse. A little bit macabre… but the folklore ballad is actually beautifully written and tells a story of love, duty and sacrifice beyond one’s self. The monetary is open for visiting between 09:00-17:00 in the winter and 08:00-20:00 in the summer time. 

Let me know what you thought about the Transfagarsan road in the comments below and I hope you enjoyed the ride! If you want to find out more about Sibiu and its surroundings, please read my other blog posts. It is a beautiful area worth discovering.

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