Top 10 most unusual things to see in Romania
Travelling to Romania can turn out to be quite an experience as you get to explore a new culture, see new places and some are rare or unique for a specific part of the country. But even with the beautiful landscapes and diverse activities to keep tourists busy, there are also some “hidden gems” – unusual things to see not so popular that can turn out to be quite a sight. So next time you book a trip to Romania, make sure you have at least a couple of these on your to do list
Visit some of the strangest caves in Europe
Speleology might not be quite attractive at first sight but there’s more to it than rocks. In the Coliboaia Cave in Bihor Country, there are drawings proven to be the oldest on the continent, dating back almost 35.000 years. Pestera Muierii (Woman’s Cave) has some pretty interesting stories from folklore about women coming together to hide from foreign invaders and to confuse them to their death through the labyrinths of the cave. Pestera Scarisoara has the only underground glacier in entire Europe while Pestera Ursilor (Bear Cave) in Apuseni Mountains has bones of ancient bears, the ones that went extinct for more than 27.000 years. What’s particularly interesting is that in The Bones Gallery there are some of the most impressive remnants of bears which have died when the cave was flooded and their bodies were embedded into the stone, keeping their body shape until today.
A stroll through the haunted The Hoia – Baciu forest
If mysterious places and paranormal activities give you the thrills, you should definitely check out this dark haunted forest from Transylvania. Just 5km from Cluj, the forest became famous after being published a story in 1968 about a UFO appearance in the area. Since then there seems to be a strange magnetic field there where the moss and grass don’t grow. There have been many disappearances and stories about strange animals like red frogs living there. Some people claim in the forest there used to be peculiar rains for only a 300m square surface and also odd lights into the sky during the night. Pretty creepy, right?
See Mt Rushmore’s equivalent in Romanian culture
On the Danube Gorges, close to where the Danube enters the country, there is a mighty statue of Decebal, ruler of Dacia, an old region of nowadays southern Romania. 55m high and 25 wide and positioned there the Danube reaches its highest depth, the statue looks similar to the one on Mt Rushmore in the US. but that’s not all to it: strange energies have been reported in the area as well as unexplained theories about the statue being a portal to another key point in Romania of energetic value. True or not, the area is quite impressive, in the middle of calming nature, a perfect getaway from the cities.
Make your own wine or țuica
If you happen to visit Romania in autumn when season fruits are harvested, you can look into countryside destinations (and not necessarily far from Bucharest) where local people brew a wither wine, thanks to the vast vineyards or a specific traditional beverage, țuica (or palinka in Transylvania). Both drinks are being made when the grapes and plums are ripest and freshest. Whichever you choose to see in the making process, keep in mind that it’s usually an extended family event and it also involves dinner, storytelling and yes – drinks. Make sure you drink responsively as the beverages are quite strong, some reaching up to 75% alcohol. Tohani and Dealu Mare are the closest to Bucharest and perhaps, some of the most emblematic as they are located on the “Wine Road”.
Spend your night in a coffin
Yes, that’s a possibility. If you want to experience being Dracula for a night, then know that Airbnb and Bran Castle started a partnership for the Halloween night (perhaps will extend that to other days as well). Uninhabited since 1948, the castle can accommodate two guests who will be offered a hearty traditional Transylvanian dinner in one of the gothic rooms lit by candles before being escorted to their red velvet-lined coffins.
- Ride the underground ferris wheel in a salt mine
One of the most exciting attractions in the country, Turda Salt Mine is hidden deep down the ground, not far from Cluj at a depth of 120m. There it lies an amusement park featuring a ferris wheel, and an underground salt lake you can row on. Sports lovers can take advantage of the mini-golf course as well as the basketball and handball field. The salt mine also hosts an amphitheatre, where shows regularly take place. The air has a constant temperature and spending time in the salt mine is known to ease allergy symptoms, help with recovery when suffering from lung illnesses and has overall health benefits.
Visit the mud volcanoes
If you want to see something really unique and fascinating, a walk among the bubbling cones of the mud volcanoes in Buzau county will make you feel like you are on another planet. The volcanoes are active and the entire field is dotted with volcanic craters and active cones up to six meters high and constantly bubbling the grey, cold mud.
The 60ha geological and botanical reservation that includes the volcanoes is divided in two parts, Pâclele Mari and Pâclele Mici. Due to the specificity of the landscape, only two species of plants live in this area. During your visit, touching the cones is strictly forbidden as the substances are harmful to the skin. If you really want to know how touching the mud feels like, head to the shore of the Black Sea, to one of the many resorts around the Techirghiol Lake, and you’ll find deposits of mud with amazing health benefits you can smear yourself in, from head to toe.
The Mountain Sphinx in Bucegi
On the peak of Bucegi Mountains lies a rock formation shrouded in mystery and conspiracy theories. From a specific angle, its outline resembles that of Egypt’s Great Sphinx of Giza. Over millennia, the elements carved this rock until it resembled something like a woman’s face. Although included in the “Seven Wonders of Romania”, it is not the resemblance of the rock with a face alone that attracts the tourists. The Sphinx is origin or folklore and legends about conspiracy theories. Some say there’s a mysterious energy field there or a portal that connects several points on Earth. Others believe the rock is actually a sculpture of a god carved by an ancient civilization and that here are supposed to be some old crystals containing all the humankind knowledge at that point. Nonetheless, aliens are believed to have been involved here.
Visit Geamana, the remnants of the sunken village
What used to be a lively settlement in a picturesque valley until 1978, the village of Geamana was erased from the map during communism regime to make room for a toxic dumping lake of a quarry nearby, yet traces of the stubborn little town still dot the landscape. It was this same year that rich reserves of copper were found in the nearby area, the mining of which created huge amounts of toxic waste that had to be disposed of. Seeing the Geamana valley as the perfect bowl in which to pour his newly cooked toxic soup, communist dictator and Romanian supervillain Nicolae Ceausescu ordered the village to be abandoned and flooded the entire valley. Once flooded with water, Ceausescu began dumping unfathomable amounts of sterile toxic elements into the new lake turning the waters into a multi-coloured sludge and erasing almost all memory of Geamana from the land save for a few rooftops and a lonely steeple breaching the morass.
See The Merry Cemetery, Sapanta
If you pictured all cemeteries as cold and creepy places, then think again. That’s because in northern Romania there is what could be the happiest cemetery in the world. Situated in Sapanta, a village of 1,500 inhabitants in Maramures, Cimitirul Vesel (Merry Cemetery) is teeming with colourful gravestones decorated with good-humoured images, poems and satires that make fun of those buried there, especially about inlaws or drinking addictions. Make sure you bring a translator with you.
Whether you have a darker sense of humour or just on the look for something different when it comes to travelling, Romania has plenty of places to see and experiment. Grab your map and camera and go discover a different Romania.