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