There are many reasons to travel to a certain place, starting with cultural purpose, enjoying rural life, admiring incredible natural landscapes. When the road itself is a reason to travel, then you have a level of certainty that even the scenery around you is going to be delightful. Considering James Clarkson’s acclamation “this is better than Stelvio! This is the best road in the world!” as a conclusion of his “tournament” on Transfagarasan, looking for some Romanian roads to be in the top of the best to drive on is therefore justified. Most likely, the Top Gear team would have enjoyed Transalpina and Transbucegi as much as Transfagarasan if they rode on it. Until a new season of BBC’s driving show in Romania, we give you several reasons to enjoy the most beautiful Romanian roads at their most.
Transfagarasan – drivers’ paradise
In case you start browsing on the Internet, you will find that is official: Transfagarasan is one of the most beautiful roads in world. On Driving for pleasure Transfagarasan comes first, on Popular Mechanics, Transfagarasan is mentioned after Stelvio and list goes on, but Transfagarasan remains on top. Even Telegraph, in their travel publishing section, recommends this spectacular road as one of „The 10 best driving holidays in Europe”.
What makes Transfagarasan so special? Is it the road itself, it is the story behind its construction, the scenery or all these places the road crossing Fagaras mountains into best to drive on tops?
The road is absolutely amazing! Serpentine after serpentine, the road waves from Curtea de Arges up to Balea Lake and down on the road to Sibiu. It is like a giant snake that cuts through the mountains in a struggle to beat nature. And it did. Along 91 km, the road gauges out through the highest mountains of Romania, allowing the tourist to admire what nature offer at most: green mountains (Fagaras and its highest peak), a beautiful waterfall (Balea), Arges river kept within Barrier Lake at Vidraru, or glacial lake at Balea. The road dances you over the curves, along the natural spectacle of Fagaras Mountains.
It took four years to be built, starting with 1970. It was made during communism and people who lived those times say that many lost their life while the road was built. The mountain opposed human and the struggle of building it was crucial. Transfagarasan was one of those Ceausescu’s grandeur plans that should be implemented regardless the costs. In the end, the result is spectacular and as you reach the highest point on the road (Balea Lake) 2073 m, you realize that human and mountains together can complete one another into the most incredible combined landscape: created and natural.
Transalpina – the Devil’s Track
There are other roads where it is fun to drive on, but never mentioned in an atlas. Let’s start with Transalpina. It is the highest transalpine road in Romania, as it reaches an altitude of 2.145 m.
Mostly considered by brave locals who dared to cross it, the faith of Transalpina changed in 1938, when King Carol IInd considered rebuilding the old road. It was inaugurated in 1939 and the crossing road was seen as a great engineering achievement with economical and military implications. The significance of the road proved itself right away as villagers from Jina, Sibiu, relocated and established and new settlements over the mountains in Arges County. Transalpina has received the name of “King’s Road” since then.
The Top Gear hadn’t had the chance to try it as about at the time they came to Romania the road was being asphalted. Weird as it may sound, if the road was recently bituminized, it is loaded with acts of bravery, history and tradition. Some stories say that the road dates back on Roman times, other say that the road was built during World War I. The fact is the “Devil’s Track”, as it is named, was used by shepherds around Sibiu in their transhumance for a long time. As you pass by Parang and Papusa peak and then drive through Urdele pass, you will definitely understand the actual meaning behind the nickname.
Devilish or not, the road is the “other heaven” for people driving in Romania. Serpentine, tights curves, beautiful scenery, all these are ingredients for an allegoric driving. Some say it is better than Transfagarasan, others disagree… the fact is both of them are fun and challenging to drive on. It only depends on your driving style if “fun” means also safe.
The journey from Bucharest to Novaci – Ranca, where the road starts, can be exciting. Traveler can stop for a while in Horezu and take part in painting traditional pottery (which is part of UNESCO Intangible Heritage), or stop to local Wallachian kulas to capture the medieval life in Oltenia (South of Romania).
Transbucegi – mystical driving
Transbucegi, only around 120 km away from Bucharest, is the closest option to enjoy driving through the Mountains. Built few years ago, the road cuts the Bucegi Mountains through the natural park, which gives name of the road.
The nature and road combine into a mystical, almost unreal, landscape. And it is no wonder about this, as Transbucegi ends close to the Sphinx the place where it is believed that paranormal stuff happens. Across 20 km of serpents, Bucegi Mountains show their majestic look, with beautiful woods and you surely feel like one step closer to heaven.
Not as demanding or spectacular as the trans-mountains roads we mentioned, but still beautiful and appealing is Bucharest – Cheia – Brasov drive. There is a saying among motorcycle riders that you are not a rider unless you haven’t rode once on Cheia. Most likely to have this saying as it is the closest lovely road in proximity of Bucharest capital. Similar with the previous roads, the landscape is a trigger to enjoy driving, and it is a definitely good option for reaching Prahova Valley – Sinaia with her Peles and Pelisor Castles included – on a less crowded road. In fact, you are having a good time in your Romanian adventure, and not a speed contest!
Come to Romania to enjoy the roads and the scenery, while you will be driven on the most beautiful roads in the world!