If you have ever looked into the best road trips in the world, then you are probably familiar with the Transfagarasan Highway. The highway, which stretches roughly 130kms and connects the historic regions of Transylvania and Wallachia, gained its popularity after appearing on the BBC TV Show Top Gear in 2009, which labeled Transfagarasan as “The Best Road in the World”.
Our adventure along the Transfagarasan Highway may have been only one of the highlights of our road trip through Romania, but this short drive in and off itself was worth the journey to Romania.
Let’s start with a short overview…
Heading south, the Transfagarasan Highway starts at the small town of Cartisoara, located in Sibiu County, Transylvania and extends just past the little village of Albestii de Arges in northern Wallachia. Although the highway itself is only 130km long and can be easily enjoyed in an easy 3-hour drive, we choose to spend 2 days exploring the area.
Day 1: Our Transfagarasan Road Trip Begins!
From the minute we departed from Cluj-Napoca (our stop over the night before this epic drive), the scenery around us was spectacular. Thick fog hovered just meters above the ground, making the pastures look particularly mythical. We passed by corn fields and herds of sheep until a kaleidoscope of colours appeared on the horizon. Jagged tips, rocks, and rapids hugged the road as we slowly climbed higher and higher along the Transfagarasan. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves driving above the clouds.
Jagged tips, rocks, and rapids hugged the road as we slowly climbed higher and higher along the Transfagarasan. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves driving above the clouds.
Our destination for the day was Balea Lake. Located at an altitude of 2,042m, this was the highest point of the Transfagarasan Highway and an ideal stopping point on our Transfagarasan Highway road trip. The scenery at the lake was incredible and we were incredibly fortunate to see it in all of its beauty of that perfectly clear day.
We checked into Balea Lake Chalet, our accommodation for the night and after devouring a delicious meal at their restaurant, we set off on a short (2-3 hr) afternoon hike in the Fagaras Mountains. It was late October, the last weekend before the Transfagarasan Highway would close for the winter season, so the bone-chilling wind and snow capped trail kept us alert and shivering the entire way up.
The view from the top was nothing short of spectacular. The pink and purple hues over Balea Lake make it seem absolutely magical. The sun hid behind the horizon as we made our way back down to the lake, grateful for hot showers and warm soups that awaited us inside.
Day 2: Beating the Weather on the Way Down!
The next morning, the weather was not as cooperative. Thick fog covered the area, making visibility absolutely atrocious and unsuitable for driving the rest of the way along the Transfagarasan Highway. Luckily the fog cleared up within a few hours, leaving up with plenty of time to carry on with our adventure.
We drove through the Balea Tunnel, the longest road tunnel in Romania at 884 m (2,900 ft) and found ourselves on the other side of Fagarasan Mountains where the winding turns, long S-curves, and sharp descents were about to make our drive a LOT more fun!
We took out time making our way along the Transfagarasan Highway, stopping to admire the amazing views, gushing waterfalls, natural gorges, staggering cliffs, serene lakes, and, of course, the Vidraru Dam. The dam was built back in 1966 on the Argeş River, which in and of itself offered amazing views of Lake Vidraru and served as yet another highlight on the Transfagarasan Highway.
Before we knew it, the temperatures climbed well above zero, and the beautiful curves of the Transfagarasan Highway appeared in our rearview mirrors. And just like that, it was time to say goodbye to one of the best road trips in the world and make our way back to Bucharest.