I will be doing a driving tour of Romania and Bulgaria in December with my family. We plan to start in Timisoara and then to Oradea, Baia Mare, Cluj-Napoca, Sighisoara, Sibiu, Brasov, Sinaia, Bucharest, Veliko Tarnovo, Plovdiv and ending at Sofia. Any advice or suggestions are most welcome.
I've only been to Bulgaria so can only comment on that but my advice in addition to what you've already said is:
- Visit the Buzludzha monument on the drive from Veliko Tarnovo to Plovdiv. It's an old soviet monument in the space of a spaceship up in the mountains; it's closed to the public but you can still climb inside and see the soviet stained glass mural inside.
- Visit the Rila Monastery on the way to Sofia.
- Visit Divaka restaurant in Sofia, it's a restaurant which serves great food, stylish interior, reasonable prices and stays open 24hr. The fanciest 24hr restaurant I've ever been to, don't think burger and chips but pork shank, veal, calamari, etc.
My suggestion is make the trip in the summer - some of the places on your itinerary are located in the mountains, and you don't want to drive to drive on snow or icy roads.
Thanks for your helpful comments robin99 and shadal34554. Unfortunately we can not change the dates of our trip so will still be going in December.
I visited Romania some years ago and thought it was a great destination. Certainly can recommend Timisoara, Sighisoara, Sibiu, Brasov, Sinaia and Bucharest. The Peles castle in Sinaia ranks as one of the best we have ever seen. I would also second the suggestion of the Rila Monastery.
I've just seen your post and there's a chance you have already started your tour. I took a quick look over your route and I have some advice, although it might be too late for that. In any case, here are my observations/suggestions:
- I would skip Timisoara if possible. It's a nice city with a lot of history behind it but there's not much to do right now (aside the Christmas Market in the center of the town). Timisoara is great only if you plan to visit its surroundings (Banat area).
- No need to stay overnight in Oradea. A 1-2 hour walk through the beautiful city center (crossed by a river) should be enough.
- Baia Mare – ok to head there if you want to see the Wooden Churches of Maramures (UNESCO). The area is a rural wonderland with great landscapes and it’s famous for traditions and folklore. It’s best to spend the night in one of the villages rather than the city. Breb is close to Baia Mare and can even offer 5 star pensions.
- Cluj and Sighisoara are great choices, the latter being a medieval UNESCO citadel. Close to Cluj there’s Salina Turda - a great salt mine with stunning views (google it and you’ll see why). From Sighisoara, take the country road towards Sibiu (not the European road). The road is ok and you can see some of Transylvania’s famous Saxon fortified churches (UNESCO). Examples: Biertan, Dealu Frumos.
- Sibiu – excellent choice. Spend at least 2 nights here. Medieval center is fully pedestrian and packed with cathedrals, fortifications, museums. There’s also the best Christmas Market here. This is a city of art & culture, with fabulous architecture (baroque/renaissance) and with many restaurants, cafes etc.
- Brasov – another medieval jewel. The Old Town is a fairy tale, being located right beneath Mount Tampa. Attractions: narrow streets, several bastions and gatehouses, medieval inns, The Black Church or the Town Square etc. Very close to Brasov there is Bran Castle (Dracula) and Rasnov Fortress. The city even has its own sky resort (Poiana Brasov) .Overall, you’ll wish to spend more than 2 nights in Brasov.
- Sinaia – visit Peles Castle (even if the interiors might be closed during December). A decent place for winter sports.
If you need more details (attractions, day-tours, places to eat) or need some help with bookings, I could gladly help.