This self-drive winter tour of Romania offers you the unique experiences of staying inside an ice hotel, going on horse or dog-pulled sledge rides and visiting Transylvania’s castles while covered in snow.
We have not included any skiing, winter hiking or snowshoeing but we can easily adjust the tour to include it if that interests you.
Welcome to Romania!
Let’s assume that your arrival to Romania for this tour will be in Bucharest. It is possible and actually better for this itinerary (if convenient for you) to arrive in other cities in Romania like Sibiu, Cluj-Napoca, Timisoara or Tirgu Mures.
You will pick up the rented car from the airport and transfer to the hotel. Later there will be an evening tour of the city.
You will spend your morning in Bucharest where you can visit the imposing House of Parliament, walk around the old town or visit museums like the Arts, History or Natural History.
In the afternoon you will drive for about 5 hours to your first destination in Transylvania region in central Romania. For two nights you will stay at a family run rural guesthouse.
You will have a home cooked dinner made by the family running the guesthouse.
Your winter tour of Romania will continue with a day trip to the most impressive gothic style castle in Transylvania, the Corvin Castle in Hunedoara.
Then you will be in Alba Iulia, a town with a major historic significance for Romania as it is here that Transylvania joined the other historic regions of Romania to form the country you now know. Here you will find the ruins of a Roman Castrum from 2000 years ago, a beautiful star shaped fortress from the 18th century built by Austrians, a 90 years old Orthodox church standing next to a 1000 years old Catholic church, all representative for the history of this place and of Romania.
In the evening you will be back at the guesthouse for dinner and ready enjoy another hearty meal.
After staying at a rural guesthouse, another exquisite experience awaits: staying one night at the only ice hotel in Romania.
The hotel is built every year around Christmas time at an altitude of 2000m from huge blocks of ice taken from a nearby frozen lake. The hotel has 12 rooms and for more privacy there are even igloos, all with double beds. All the furniture, inluding tables and beds, are made of ice and you will get good equipment and blankets to keep warm. There is also an ice bar, ice restaurant and even a church made of ice.
In the morning you will transfer for about 2 hours to Fagaras Mountains then you will take a cable car up to the ice hotel and spend the rest of the day there. You can have dinner at the Ice Restaurant where the food is partially served on ice plates.
You will come down from the mountains and arrive in Sibiu where you will spend the next 2 nights. It is a charming place, former European Cultural Capital in 2007.
Here you can enjoy a walk around the old town passing by its medieval squares, old buildings, defensive towers and walls. The museum of arts and history are also very interesting and there is also an outdoor village museum and ice-skating rink, so there are plenty of things to do in Sibiu.
From Sibiu you will have a guided day trip to get a good sense of the rural life around Sibiu. The guide will take you to a few villages nearby and you will see people practicing centuries old occupations like painting icons on glass, blacksmithing, making traditional clothes or horse harnesses. You will have lunch at a family run rural guesthouse.
If there is enough snow you will have a 1h30’ horse-drawn sledge ride in the countryside. Otherwise, you will have a ride with a horse-drawn cart, as this is what many locals use for transportation.
The next day you will continue your winter tour of Romania by exploring more of the heritage left behind by the German Saxons in Transylvania.
You will visit the most imposing fortified church from Transylvania in Biertan and the medieval citadel of Sighisoara, both UNESCO World Heritage sites.
In the evening you will arrive in Gheorgheni, a the region inhabited mainly by Hungarian speakers. This way you will be close to the place where you will have another exciting winter experience the next morning.
In the morning you will go for a dog sledge ride, an experience you can have in very few places in Romania.
In January-February there should be enough good snow for a 1 hour sledge ride in the mountains but please keep in mind that it can be very cold. So instead you can choose to go for shorter 10-15’ circuit rides, have breaks, warm up and go for another round. On a sledge up to 2 people can go so if you are more than 2 you will take turns. If there is not enough good snow you will go with a wheel cart instead of a sledge.
After being outdoors, in the afternoon you will go for a spa with an outdoor thermal pool to warm up and relax. You will spend the night in Tusnad.
From Tusnad you will travel to Brasov. On the way there you will stop by the largest fortified church in Transylvania, in Prejmer, a truly impressive construction with over 200 rooms within the walls of the fortress, used in the past by locals to take shelter during attacks.
In the afternoon you will be in Brasov where you will spend the last nights of this suggested self-drive winter tour of Romania. It is a great place for a walk around the old town. It is set at the foot of the mountain and you can either walk or take the cable car to the nearby mountain for a great view of the town and the region.
12km from Brasov there is Poiana Brasov, the best ski resort in Romania so if you want to do some winter sports, this is the best place for it.
Romania is home to the largest bear population in Europe. Wild bears hibernate in winter but in Zarnesti there is a sanctuary where over 70 previously captive bears were saved, brought there and offered a natural living habitat for the rest of their lives. Because they are fed daily they don’t hibernate and can be seen even in the cold season. In winter the visit has to be confirmed with a few days before as the sanctuary is not open for visits year-round. If you come on a weekend day or if there is a larger group scheduled to visit that day you have a high chance of seeing the bears.
On the same day trip from Brasov you will also go to the Bran castle, usually associated with Dracula. In reality it is a beautiful medieval castle decorated by our queen in the 1920s.
There is another fortress nearby worth having a look, in Rasnov. It is laid on a hilltop and offers great views of the region and mountains.
On the last day of this self-drive tour of Romania you will be passing by the royal Peles Castle in Sinaia set in a wonderful natural location in the mountains.
In the afternoon you will arrive back to Bucharest where you can drop the car to the airport and fly back home.
Disclaimer: December, January and February are usually cold winter months in Romania where snow is common, especially in the mountainous regions so we recommend coming for this tour in those months. The last winters have been quite different, one very cold and with a lot of snow and one very mild. There are only 2 activities among those suggested which need snow, the sledge rides with horses and with dogs. If there is not enough good snow there are alternatives for the slege, the wheel carts. The Ice Hotel will surely be there as it is high in the mountains and there will be snow there.
If you want to visit Romania for the Christmas period please have a look at this suggested Christmas Vacation in Northern Romania where many traditions are still alive.
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