Romania has some superb driving roads, but they are not always so easy to find. Below I have shared some of the more spectacular roads, and a link to google maps to show the specific route. As a biker myself of almost 40 years, I can tell you, biking in Romania can be more dangerous than most countries you have encountered until now. Examples of risks include potholes, slow trucks, random parking at dangerous black spots, drivers ignoring white lines, and so forth, so you might find yourself knee-down on a blind bend, well within your lane, confronted suddenly as you round a bend, by an oncoming car on the wrong side. On one of the routes below, I witnessed an accident at 3am & it was 90+ mins before an ambulance came, with a tailback of perhaps 8km on a mountain road between Sibiu and Arges. You almost need to re-learn your defensive measures when driving here. To be safe, follow some basic rules, including:
- do not ride when tired
- do not ride at night (it’s very common to come across an unlit horse and carriage on fast, twisty roads)
- if you cannot see 100% of the view in front of you, drop your speed to upright riding and just enjoy the scenery, rather than the adrenalin because if you are fully committed in a bend without clear sight, you will have nowhere to go when, not if, you find someone in your lane coming at you.
- assume roads are greasy or pot-holed and ride for the worst-case scenario.
- carry a proper medipack & your medical details including blood type. You never know.
- take the ride seriously, be fresh, take enough time for the trip,
- use good daylight,
- don’t show off to fellow bikers/ your pillion,
- use lights and visible clothing,
- maintain your tyres and brakes
If you do all this, then you should be fine to enjoy some of Europe’s oldest and most rewarding routes. Please do like and share this post if you enjoy it.
1/ Transalpina – 132km
The highest road in Romania, (2245 m), deriving its name from a Latin word meaning ‘the land beyond the mountains’. Nicknamed “King’s Road” because after it was inaugurated after re-construction in 1938 by King Charles II. The original road was built by the Roman armies en route to Sarmisegetusa paved with stone at the orders of King Charles II after 1930, later rehabilitated by Germans in World War II. For many years after the war, it was difficult to drive on and hence avoided, which helped preserve its beautiful wilderness. It is one of the few roads in Romania where you can drive above the clouds. Crossing the Parang Mountains, the travellers are offered unrivalled panoramic views and landscapes.
2/ Transfagarasan – 152km
Jeremy Clarkson of BBC TOP GEAR fame, dubbed this, “the best road in the world” in 2009, and has enjoyed great popularity among the most beautiful roads in the world since. It is the second-highest road in Romania (2124 m) and it is loved for its spectacular roads with amazing landscapes. The road links Sibiu to Pitesti via Arges and is adorned with many hairpin bends, stone bridges, large viaducts, tunnels and endless sights including the Balea Waterfall, Capra & Balea Lake, Capra Lake (Goat Lake), Vidraru Dam, Vidraru Lake, Poenari Castle and so on.
3/ Valea Oltului – 90km
I used to name this route as the “Valley of Death” because of the blind bends, and skill-less driving you can frequently experience here, so extra caution if you are on 2 wheels because the straights are fast, and the bends very sudden with obscured vision left & right, and your attention is easily taken by the stunning scenery. Located between Ramnicu Valcea and Vestem, Valea Oltului gives great scenic views, landmarks, a sense of legends, amid nature that you can only find them by such journeys. The road itself is around 90 kilometres long, flanked by the precarious Capitani Mountains and Lotru Mountains, on one side, and by Olt waterway, on the other side, subsequently shaping Olt River Gorge – one of the longest in Romania, with a length of 47 kilometres. In the region, you can stop at the many attractions, for example, Cozia and Turnu Monastery, Cozia National Park, Castrul Roman Arutela and numerous others.
4/ Bran – Rucar/ Cheile Gradistei, 55km
Cheile Gradistei is nestled between two major tourist mountain resorts: Bran and Fundata. The road is fantastic for bikers including the detour to Cheile Gradistei. Riding through Bucegi Mountains and Piatra Craiului Mountains and ascending from the valley floor, the road offers a view you will find hard to believe, a view going on for hundreds of kilometres into the distance. Petrol stations are perhaps 30-40km apart in this area though, so fill up in Bran. Piatra Craiului National Park, Bran Castle, Bear Sanctuary, Natural Reserve at Chisatoare, Pestera, Dambovicioara, Pestera cu Lilieci (Bats Cave) and Vidraru Lake are but a few of the attractions.
5/ Cheile Bicazului/ Bicaz Gorges, 57km
Bicaz Gorge is traversed by the road linking Harghita to Neamt counties, passing through the middle of the Hamas Mountains. This is a narrow pass linking Transylvania to Moldova, which was dug along Bicaz River and now outlines beautiful valleys and gorges. Probably the most spectacular part of this road is DN12C, the Transcarpathian road that links Gheorgheni and Bicaz. While in the area, you can visit the Red Lake (Lacul Rosu) and other natural wonders of the Cheile Bicazului-Hasmas National Park. The limestone walls of the rocks contain many ancient caves (such as Pestera Neagra and Pestera Cascada) and ravines.
6/ Trans-Rarau, 27km
This is the route from Moldova’s mountains, connecting Bistrita Valley (from Chiril) and Moldova (to Pojorâta), giving access to the lodge from Rarau, Pietrele Doamnei, and Rarau Monastery. The route is locally called the Treasure Road because it connects to Pietrele Doamnei. Legend says the ruler Petru Rares found a hiding place in the Rarau Mountains in 1541 where he could keep his wife Helen, son, and their fortune from the fearsome Tatar invaders. At the moment they were discovered by the invaders, huge rocks fell on the invaders and buried them along with the fortune. The 27 kilometres of the road has some speed restrictions in some areas, and heavy vehicles are prohibited. The road is classified as minor, meaning that removing winter snow is not a priority.
7/ Cazanele Dunarii, 155km
Cazanele Dunarii offers tremendous landscapes. Part of the Defileul Dunarii, otherwise known as Clisura Dunarii and crosses the Carpathian Mountains at the border with Serbia, close to the Iron Gates. The road that crosses this area is bordered by the Danube River on one side, and by stone cliffs, on the other. One of the most dramatic sights – the tallest stone statue in Europe – is the head of Decebal. One legend goes that this statue links Dacians to the Romanian Giants known as Jidovi. It is said there was an understanding between the Dacian ruler Burebista and all Jidovi giants that they were left to live in peace in the mountains on the condition they guard until death, the vast Dacian gold fortunes. So it is accepted that in the most profound caverns of the Carpathians Mountains still live some Jidovi, ensuring the fortunes for a long time into the future. In the area, you will find a vast amount of caves, including, for example, Pestera Gura Ponicovei and Pestera Veterani, and attractions like Mraconia Monastery, boat rides on the Danube, hiking, cycling, climbing and even paintball.
8/ Trans Semenic, 36km
Named Transalpina Banat, Trans – Semenic links Valiug to Slatina-Timis and happens to run through the 45th parallel. It was inaugurated in early December 2014 after his rehabilitation that lasted five years. Although not fully finished, it shortens the usual road to Semenic by 50 km, Trans – Semenic is considered to be amongst the most spectacular mountain roads in Romania. It has 36 kilometres of winding road through the forests of Caras-Severin. The main attraction is Semenic Moutain, but you can also have a quick trip to Cheile Nerei-Beușnița National Park where you can see the beautiful Cascada Bigar (Bigar Waterfall), Cheile Nerei-Beusnita, Cheile Susarei, Ducin, Izvorul Bigar, Izvoarele Nerei, Lisovacea, and Valea Ciclovei-Ildia.
9/ Pasul Tihuta, 211km
In the heart Bârgău Mountains, being crossed by DN17 and E58. The road connects Transylvania and Bucovina by this spectacular road at 1227m altitude. You should know, that this is one of the most difficult roads to travel, but the landscape makes it worth the trouble. Nearby you can visit the famous resort Piatra Fantanele, where you can find a replica Hotel Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel. Also worth a visit are Manastirea Nasterii Maicii Domnului, Izvorul-la-Borcut, Lacul Colibita, Tinovul Poiana Stampei and some forgotten traditional small villages in the wilderness.
Further reading, follow this link (thanks to Jim Herne for the tip):
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