Before I spent a week and a half in the rural towns of Romania, I didn’t know anything about the country except that it was the home of Transylvania and an inspiration for the legend of Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula. Even after I knew that I would be taking this trip, I still had no idea what to expect. I could never have anticipated that this unique, foreign country with a culture and language so different from my own would become such an important part of my story.
During my trip, I stayed at the House of Joy in Susani, a tiny village on the western side of Romania in the Timis County. While most of my time was spent among the Susani community and the neighboring villages, I was also fortunate enough to be able to travel for a couple of days to different areas of Timis and Hunedoara. Every town, city, and monument that I saw during my trip was an amazing testament to the culture and history of Romania, and now I am excited to have the opportunity to share with you my top three favorite sites that I visited in Western Romania.
Deva Citadel (The Fortress of Deva)
The Deva Citadel consists of the last remaining ruins of the fortress located on a volcano in the Carpathian Mountains. In its glory days (around 1300), the medieval fortified castle was used to defend against Hungarian and Transylvanian invaders. Today, it stands as a reminder of the dramatic history of Romania and offers incredible views of the city of Deva from the top. To reach the citadel, you must either ride the cable car (look for the “Telecabina”), or if you are feeling particularly adventurous, you can attempt to climb to the top on foot. I went by cable car, and I recommend doing so for the spectacular views of the city you can see on the way up. Very few of the ancient ruins remain standing, and when I visited, much of the area was in the process of being restored. While exploring the citadel, watch your step, for the area is also the home of venomous horned adders. However, don’t let the construction or wildlife deter you from visiting this monument. I promise, the stunning 360-degree views from the top of the fortress are well worth it.
The biggest and most fascinating city I visited was Timisoara, the third largest city in the country. It is seen as the Romanian gateway to Western Europe, and has gained the nickname “Little Vienna”. Like the Deva Citadel, Timisoara has a long and complex history, dating back to the thirteenth century, but it also a modern city, and was the first city in Europe and the second in the world after New York City to be lit by electric street lamps. It was also the first city in Romania to break free from Communism and was the location of the start of the Romanian Revolution in 1989. Even today, you can still see bullet holes in the buildings in the city center. The most prominent feature of the city is the stunning Timisoara Orthodox Cathedral, dedicated to Saints Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom. The culture and beauty of this city has not gone unnoticed, and in 2016 it was announced that Timisoara would hold the title as the European Capital of Culture in 2021.
Hunedoara Castle (Corvin Castle)
My absolute favorite spot in Romania is the stunning Hunedoara Castle. The history of the castle is messy, and it underwent multiple phases of building and rebuilding to serve the many different leaders who came in possession of the castle. The most interesting piece of history from this architectural icon is that it was where Vlad the Impaler was kept as a prisoner of John Hunyadi, and it is commonly thought of to be the sister castle of Bram Stoker’s Dracula Castle. The massive stone fortress seems to rise from the ground and towers above its surroundings, and the interior is just as stunning with many original elements that show the history and importance of the castle. If you are ever in the western part of the country, you must take a trip to Hunedoara to experience one of the Seven Wonders of Romania.
I believe Romania is a significantly underrated travel destination, and a place that every serious traveler should have on their bucket list. It is an incredible natural wonder, and the cultural and historical impact of the country is unparalleled. With breathtaking castles, scenic landscapes, and diverse cities, Romania is a country that I cannot wait to go back to again and again.