Is the Transfagarasan the Most Beautiful Road in the World?
The Transfagarasan is a 150 km long road that crosses the Fagaras Mountains, the highest in Romania. With stunning mountain scenery, breathtaking lakes, fortresses, historical churches and countless waterfalls, it’s no wonder the Top Gear crew named it the best road in the world. Before you go chasing waterfalls (I had to), let me show you exactly what makes this road so special.
The Transfagarasan starts from the Bascov village in the Arges county and ends in the Cartisoara village in the Sibiu county and there are two ways to get there: driving from Bucharest or driving from Sibiu. The whole road is open for driving between July 1st and October 31st, while the rest of the year only some parts of it are open due to the snow. Seriously, there was snow at the end of May! However, that doesn’t mean it’s interesting only four months a year. In winter, at its highest point, the Bâlea Lake, there is an ice hotel that can be accessed by cable car if you drive from the Sibiu side.
Here are the five most interesting stops on the Transfagarasan road if you are driving from Bucharest to the Bâlea Lake. You can click on each picture to see it bigger. 🙂
First Stop: Curtea de Arges Monastery
Dating from 1517, the Curtea de Arges Monastery is the natural first stop while driving on the Transfagarasan. While its a beautiful monastery, it became well known due to the master builder Manole. The legend says that the while it was under construction, everything that was built during the day would shatter at night so they agreed to follow the ancient custom and build into the foundation the first woman who came to the site the following morning. Because the other workers warned their wives, the one who showed up was Ana, Manole’s wife. After the monastery was built, impressed by its beauty, the ruler asked the workers if they could build an even greater one and when they said yes, he stranded them on the roof so they won’t build anything to match it. One by one, they fell to their death and in the place where Manole died, a river appeared, forming Manole’s fountain. I promise, your visit to the Curtea de Arges Monastery won’t be as grim as its legend. 😉
Second Stop: Poenari Citadel
Speaking of grim, you may have heard of Vlad Tepes and what he used to do with his enemies. He didn’t get the Vlad the Impaler nickname for nothing, did he? On the Transfagarasan, hidden at the top of a hill you will find the Poenari Citadel, one of Vlad’s (not me) key points for defending the country. Nowadays, to get to the citadel you have to climb 1480 stairs, which sounds worse than it actually is. When I last visited, an old man was selling tickets at the entrance and he said he goes up and down those stairs every day. I guess that’s the secret for a long life, huh?
Third Stop: Vidraru Lake
Built in 1965 to prevent floods and to help with irrigation, the Vidraru Lake is the fourth largest in Romania with a dam that at the moment of its construction was the 20th largest in the world. It makes a perfect place to stop for lunch, relax and enjoy a breath of fresh air. Or do some bungee-jumping, if you’re feeling adventurous.
Fourth Stop: Capra Waterfall
Unless it’s summer, you won’t be able to go to this point, the access will be forbidden a few kilometers back. Well, the only thing stopping you is a sign that says “Do not cross”, otherwise you’re free to go. I wouldn’t recommend it though, the road can be icy and there are areas where a lane is entirely blocked by the snow. The Capra Waterfall (which translates as the Goat Waterfall, haha) has a drop of 40 meters and it doesn’t froze in the winter. There is a perfect place to take photos from the bridge in front of it.
Fifth Stop: Bâlea Lake
The highest point of the Transfagarasan is the Bâlea Lake, a glacial lake at an altitude of 2042 meters. Between the Capra Waterfall and the Bâlea Lake there is the longest tunnel in the country, 887 meters long. Between the start and the end of the tunnel, the temperature drops at least 15 degrees, so on one side you can admire the breathtaking landscape with just a tshirt on, while on the other side you will turn on the heat in the car. In August. 🙂
Would you like to drive on the Transfagarasan road? Is it the best road in the world like people say?