Romania is a magical country with something for everyone. From fortified churches, world famous castles and historic towns to seaside resorts and the bustling capital of Bucharest. And for those interested in hiking in Romania, there is the awe inspiring beauty of the Carpathian mountain that stretches from the Czech Republic to Romania.
You could spend a whole lotta time exploring Romania, but if you only have 5 days, this Romania itinerary will give you a little snapshot of the diversity that is on offer. So whether you are planning on taking a short holiday to Romania or visiting for a little longer, this itinerary is the perfect starting place for you.
Romania's main airport is Bucharest Henri Coanda Airport also known as OTP airport (Otopeni). This is the largest and busiest airport in Romania with a huge amount of connecting flights taking you to other places in Romania. Click here for the official website.
The Henri Coanda Airport is around 17km north of the country’s capital. You can catch a bus directly to the centre of Bucharest or you can take a taxi. Please be aware that if you take a taxi from outside the airport, they will MASSIVELY overcharge you. Pre-book one if you can or use the UBER app. If you have to take one from the airport, you should pay NO MORE than 35 Lei (€7 | $8).
Train | Coach:
If you are coming from another country in Europe, you may be arriving by train or bus. Both will drop you in the centre of Bucharest. If you arrive late, please get a taxi to your accommodation, the city can be unsafe in some areas at night.
Romania has an extensive public transport system but it is not always reliable, especially the buses - see our Romanian overview for more details.
For the purpose of this Romanian itinerary, you will need to take a couple of trains. Trains, although slow, are fairly reliable and the train station is easily accessible from the centre of Bucharest. Either by a 45 minute walk from the centre or by a short bus ride. You can book your tickets online here or you can buy them at the station - there is no difference in price. Take a look at our overview for information on the class systems.
As mentioned above, please be careful with taxis, especially in Bucharest. We had lots of problems with aggressive taxi drivers and overpriced fares. Negotiate a price before you get in as they do not use their meters - often they will cover them up with a cloth. Alternatively, use the UBER app, there are plenty of those driving around Bucharest.
Begin your Romanian adventure in Bucharest. Once you land at the airport, head straight to your hostel to drop off your bags.
Where to stay in Bucharest:
We highly recommend Podstel Hostel in Bucharest. It is in a fantastic location, close to the centre of Bucharest but in a quieter part of the city and it is super sociable. They throw lots of evening and day time activities, giving you plenty of opportunity to meet other travellers. There is a kitchen, an onsite cafe / bar and a really lovely chill area. On top of all this, the staff are super friendly and knowledgeable and if you are an animal person - the resident cat loves a good cuddle! In the summer, the outside space is beautiful.
What to see and do in Bucharest:
Take a walk around and get your bearings. If you feel uncomfortable walking around on your own, join a walking tour, organised twice daily by Podstel hostel. They are free and last for about 2 hours. If you wanted to book in advance, Walkabout Tours are a great option. Tours with Walkabout run daily at 10.30am and 3pm.
The Palace of Parliament:
Don’t miss out on checking out the Parliament palace - it is super impressive. For a price you can go in and explore the multiple levels and the opulence is mind blowing. Ticket prices vary depending on what floors you would like to explore. The prices are on a board outside of the gates or you can book online. It is important to note, a passport is necessary upon arrival and be prepared for airport-style security checks. Those looking to take pictures should expect to pay an additional camera fee. However, if you would rather save the money and not go inside, the exterior is definitely worth staring at for a while!
Wander through the old town:
Bucharest's old town has plenty of shops, restaurants and cafes, making it the perfect place to end your day. Don’t miss the Macca Villacrasse Passage, the oldest church in Bucharest and the magical Cărturești Carusel, one of Europe's most impressive libraries. Full to the brim of books, old and new, spiraling staircases and little nooks and crannies that you can tuck yourself away in, it is really impressive. And while you are in the part of Bucharest’s old town, relax at a nearby bar with a beer in hand and people watch. If you are in the mood for traditional Romania food, check out Caru’ Cu Bere. Be sure to go early, the queues get long!
If you have some more time, check out the Great Synagogue & stavropoleos monastery - both as equally impressive as each other. But if you are looking for something a little greener, why not take a wander around the Cişmigiu Garden - a welcomed green space in the centre of the city. There is also an onsite cemetery which is less creepy and more beautiful.
In the evening hang out at the hostel or head to Pâine și Vin and then Green Hours 22 - a super cool jazz bar.
What and Where to Eat and Drink In Bucharest:
To get from Bucharest to Peleș castle there are many transport options. You can go with an organised tour, take the bus or take the train. Whatever you decide to do, It is an early start for you!
If you want to maxmise your day and open to making your own way to Peleș castle, try and catch the 6am train from Bucharest heading towards Braşov and jump off at Sinaia to explore Peleș castle. The journey time from Bucharest to Sinaia is around 2.5 hours.
Peleș Castle is a Neo-Renaissance castle in the Carpathian Mountains. Peleș castle is one of the most impressive castles I have ever seen. When you get to Sinaia you can leave your backpack at the station before making your way to the town centre. Head up the stairs directly in front of the train station, follow the path to the left and keep walking until you see the town centre. It takes no more than 10 minutes. To get to Peleș castle, it is a gentle walk through the park (which is just up the stairs from the station on your right), take a left past the casino and then you will see steps and a narrow path leading up to the castle walkway. The walk takes around 25 minutes and it is stunning. You will walk through a forested pathway before passing lots of little chalet souvenir shops and then onto Peleș castle.
Entrance fees to Peleș castle can be found here. We strongly suggest joining a tour for this and paying a little extra to walk around the second level. Each room is individually decorated from countries all over the world, and the opulence is breathtaking.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip --> DO NOT pay extra to take photos inside of Peleș castle. You can easily sneak a photo here and there when you are inside. Or put your phone away and simply enjoy the entire experience.
Get to Peleș castle as early as you can because it gets super busy with tourists - almost unbearable as you shuffle through the narrow corridors. After the castle, spend some time wandering around Sinaia. It is small and quaint but there is lots to see and beautiful cafes to relax in.
After you have explored Peleș castle and the town of Sinaia, pick up your bags and take the train to Braşov . A gorgeous little mountain town where the pace of life is much slower.
→ An alternative or addition to Peleș Castle is Bran Castle - also known as the home of Dracula, even though it isn’t (the real Dracula's castle is derelict and much further north). If you think Peleș is touristy, this is a whole nother level. So if you are going to explore Romania’s famous castle, go early in the morning or much later in the day.
To get to Bran castle from Bucharest you will need to take the train to Braşov (around 3.5 hours) and then transfer to a bus or a taxi for the remaining 30 mile journey on to Bran Castle. Buses run between Brasov and Bran Castle every 30 minutes during the week and every hour on the weekends. The bus you need to catch from Brasov to Bran Castle is the Auto Station No. 2 Brasov.
Bran Castle sits on top of a cliff in the heart of Transylvania. Built over 600 years ago, the castle still retains the magic it did when it welcomed knights through its doors in ancient times. Inside this impressive castle is the Bran Museum which displays a collection of ancient weaponry, ceramics and furniture.
Besides being one of the most well preserved medieval castles in Romania, legend has it that Bran castle is the resting place of Count Dracula, which is why it has become the most famous castle in Romania.
To get from Bran Castle on to Brasov, you need to take a bus or taxi from the castle to Braşov .
**You may be a little tight on time to visit both castles in one day, although entirely possible if you take the 6am train from Bucharest. If you want to make things easier and still want to see both castles in one day, take a day tour from Bucharest and ask to leave the tour after Bran Castle to make your own way onto Braşov .
It will be fairly late when you arrive in Braşov so don’t make too many plans that evening.
Where to stay in Braşov
You absolutely must stay at Zozo hostel. While it is a little bus ride out of town, it is only a 10 minute walk from the train station which is perfect after a long day of exploring. Zozo hostel is like a home away from home. It is basically a cozy house turned hostel with extra log cabins in the garden for private rooms. The communal space is beautiful and the breakfast each more in wholesome and offers a great chance to meet other travellers.
Once you have dropped off your bags and taken some time to relax, grab a bus to the centre of Braşov for a bite to eat. Braşov is one of Romania’s little gems. With its cobbled streets, beautiful architecture and super friendly locals, you could easily get stuck here.
What and Where to Eat and Drink in Braşov:
Give yourself a lie in and take the morning slowly. When you are ready, take a stroll to the centre of Braşov or catch the bus. If you didn’t have time to visit Bran Castle the day before, you could fit that in today.
What to See and Do In Braşov:
Once the heart of medieval Braşov , this wide square is lined with cutsey cafes and restaurants, and at the centre stands the Trumpeter’s tower, in which town councillors would meet.
Don’t forget to look up at Mt Tâmpa, which rises 940m in the distance adorned with a Braşov hollywood-style sign. It was also the site of a mass impaling of 40 noblemen by Vlad Tepes. You can take the cable car up to the top or hike (about 1 hour) to reach a small viewing platform at the top, offering incredible views over Brasov city. There is also a cafe up to top where you can relax and breath in the views.
St Nicholas’ Cathedral:
With Gothic spires and forested hills rolling behind it, this cathedral is one of Braşov's most incredible views. St Nicholas’ Cathedral was built in 1392 out of wood but replaced by a Gothic stone style in 1495. Inside you will find murals of Romania’s last King and Queen that were initially covered by plaster to protect them from communist leaders. In 2004, they were revealed to the world again.
Strada Sforii is one of the narrowest streets in Europe at only 1.2m wide and a former access route for firefighters.
The White Tower:
Climb the stairs of the White Tower, dating back to 1494 for fantastic views over Braşov. It is a 250m walk to reach another tower, the Black Tower.
Another early morning for you! Try and get out of the Zozo hostel door by 7am. Take the bus to Zărnești and then taxi to the starting point of the hike. Ask the team at Zozo to give you directions to the bus stop, it is around a 15 minute walk from the hostel.
The Carpathian Mountains form a 1500km long mountain range, stretching west to east in an arc from the Czech Republic to Romania. For many travellers who enjoy being active, hiking the Carpathian mountains is one of the most rewarding and spectacular experiences to enjoy in Romania. Not only is the landscape variable, interesting and beautiful, but it is full to the brim of wildlife, including sightings of Lynx and Brown Bears. There are lots of different walks and hikes in the Carpathian Mountains for varying abilities and interests so there is something for everyone.
For this hike, you will be going to the Piatra Craiului National Park as it is the closest hike starting point to Braşov.
Once you arrive at Zărnești you can then walk to the start of your hike which is around 45 minutes or take a roadside taxi. If you would like to pick up a map, there is a tourist information desk where you get off the bus on the roundabout.
Once you are at the start of your hike, follow yellow / blue lines up to view point. However, be warned, the Piatra Craiului National Park is the mountain with the most challenging market trails of Romania. Make sure you have a moderate level of fitness to take them on. To reach this peak it will take anywhere between 3-4 hours. But once you are at the top, the views are incredible. You will descend the same way you went up, take it nice and slow as some parts are fairly steep.
If you don’t feel confident doing the hike on your own, and I would suggest going with at least one other person, you can book with an agency through Zozo hostel. All in all, allow 8/10 hours for the day hike.
Suggested packing list for hiking in Romania:
- Snacks and plenty of water
- Waterproof clothing
- Lots of layers - it gets cold up the top
- Good hiking boots and thick socks
- Battery pack for your phone just in case
- Suncream if you are going in Spring / Summer.
- Download Maps.me before you set off
For the purpose of the Romania itinerary you will need to get the bus back from Zărnești to Braşov by 5.30pm because you will need to catch a train from Braşov back to Bucharest at 6.30pm. I suggest pre-booking these tickets as the trains get very busy and booked up early.
You will arrive back in Bucharest late. Catch a bus back to Podstel Hostel again.
**However, if you have some days to spare, you can stay in cabins at the top of the viewpoint which is absolutely magical.
It is time to say goodbye to Romania and catch your flight back home. You can take a bus from the centre of Bucharest directly to the airport. Allow up to 1 hour for this journey although it will likely be much quicker - all depends on traffic.
I loved my time in Romania and this 5 day itinerary was a perfect little snapshot of what Romania has to offer. But there is still so much more to see, which is why I plan to go back.
Whether you are interested in hiking, city breaks, partying, relaxing - Romania has it all. The food is delicious, costs are relatively low, transport is accessible and the people are warm and welcoming - small caveat - administrative workers (people behind a desk selling tickets for tours, trains etc) are not so friendly and neither are taxi drivers on the street! But if you are stuck at any point, ask a stranger passing by - they were super friendly and happy to help.