Beautiful bike route through Transilvania (with pics)
A beautiful bike touring route through Transilvania, Romania. (pics)
We hear a lot about bike touring through France, Germany, Austria or Switzerland, but very few people know about some of the amazing places Eastern Europe has to offer. Many of us in the West are a bit wary, if not down-right apprehensive to travel beyond the familiar societies of the western world. I'm sure everyone has heard of Transilvania, thanks to the fictional story written by Bram Stoker, but very few people know that it's a region of Romania. This has to be one of the most beautiful and pristine places in Europe and any bike touring enthusiast must plan a visit here. There are literally thousands of routes one can take. Below I came up with a nice route through the Apuseni Mountains, starting and ending in Cluj-Napoca, a loop about 350 kms. Even though the majority of this route is through mountainous terrain, a large portion is through narrow valleys, so I would categorise it as "moderate" difficulty.
The gateway to Transilvania is Cluj-Napoca International Airport. The Romanian national airline (Tarom), Germany airline Lufthansa and Hungarian Low Cost carrier Wizzair all offer directs flights from major European cities. Once in Cluj Napoca . Once in Cluj-Napoca, we'll head Westbound toward Marisel Village. We'll be biking through flat land, rolling hills and mountain valleys, crossing a portion of Cluj County and eventually entering Alba-County. Below you can see the sample routing.
Cluj-Napoca (starting city)
Marisel (small village)
Lacul Fantanele (beautiful lake)
Poiana Horea (small village)
Pestera Poarta lui Ionele (cave)
Pestera Ghetarul Scarisoara (ice cave)
Arieseni (small village)
Alba Iulia (historic city)
Rimetea (old castle ruins)
Lodging and dining in Romania is quite affordable. There are numerous "pensiuni" or "bed&breakfast" that can cater to any budget. I personally like camping. It's a great way to get immersed in nature and interact with local people. While Romania lacks official camping sites that one may find in Europe, you can almost camp anywhere, including private land (of course, you'd have to ask for permission from the local owner, but I bet nobody will say no). All you have to do is be polite and clean up after yourself.
Where is Romania?
Cluj Napoca International Airport
Cluj-Napoca at night
Tarom Romanian Airlines
I also recommend visiting Romania. My long-time girlfriend is Romanian; her family is from Satu Mare. I've traveled all over the country, and we've thought seriously about bike touring there. Our only hesitation is the crazy semi-truck drivers on many of those narrow mountain roads; they fly around those serpentines.
That's true, but with a bit of planning, you don't have to take major roads. One does have to be a little more careful when touring in Eastern Europe. Traffic is one of the hazards of the game, but if you use Google Street Views (available almost everywhere in ROmania), you can the majority of roads are not that busy...
Originally Posted by @Jason
There's also a significant difference between drivers in the south and drivers in the north. In the south, they are very aggressive, especially if you're an obvious foreigner who is not following the norms. In the north, the pace is much more relaxed. Indeed, if you pick your routes carefully, you can avoid the heavy traffic...but if you were transversing the whole country, it would be difficult to avoid some dangerous traffic.
I don't ever remember seeing a bike tourer in Romania. In the bigger cities, I didn't see many bikes at all (but it's quite possible there are bikers that I didn't see). In the small villages, it's normal to see "commuters" on bikes.
Nice! My wife and I will be travelling eastern Europe but haven't starting the planning process yet. We have another trip scheduled for this year already.
Did you take your bike? or rent over there?
Thanks for posting, this is a good resource.
Awesome pics! Thanks for the share!