“A week of fairytale Transylvania at its most fairytale time – winter. A cultural and Carpathian trip, travelling with a small group through Romania’s most romantic region. ”
Bucharest | Sibiu | Sighisoara UNESCO World Heritage Site | Viscri UNESCO World Heritage Site | Libearty Bear Sanctuary | Vulcan | Brasov | Bran ‘Dracula Castle | Piatra Craiului National Park
Description of Transylvania winter holiday in Romania
This week long Transylvania holiday, during the winter months, is all about discovering its ancient cultural heritage during a time when the backdrop of its natural heritage at its most beautiful. A region that is relatively big, and flanked by something even bigger, the Carpathian Mountains, turns into a winter wonderland, making this a wonderful time to discover it.
Starting in Bucharest, the capital of Romania which we spend some time exploring, we then travel north to one of the Saxon citadel towns that Transylvania is so famous for. Sibiu is a stunning city, with lots of pedestrianised areas, and great sites such as the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Bridge of Lies and the Passage of Stairs as well as a plethora of ancient churches to visit.
From here to yet another beautiful citadel town of Sighisoara, also famous for being the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler who inspired Bram Stoker’s novel Vlad Dracula. It is full of gothic gorgeousness in fact, with mysterious alleys, stairways and churches all looking particularly atmospheric as winter nights draw in.
We spend three nights in Brasov on this trip, a city not only worth exploring in its own right, but as a base for getting out into the mountain villages. From here we head out to the Zarnesti Bear Sanctuary which rescues these beautiful mammals from abuse and neglect, often from the country’s sad tradition of dancing bears. A more joyful mountain tradition of fine home cooked winter food is how we say farewell to this fascinating region of Romania, with a trip up into snow covered Piatra Craiului National Park where we are hosted for some fine fare in the village of Magura where traditional horse and cart style farming still thrives. A land of storybooks and folklore, traditions are still strong in Transylvania, a region that is enveloped in beauty and where and tourism is still gloriously responsible.
Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.
Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.
The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.
We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.
Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!
Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.
Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.
Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.
“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.
“The accommodation will be basic” Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.
“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.
“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson
Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando
Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travellers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.
Responsible tourism: Transylvania winter holiday in Romania
Association for Ecotourism in Romania: Our local tour operators are founding members of the Association for Ecotourism in Romania (AER) and hold positions on the Director’s Board. The Association is involved in promotion and marketing of sustainable tourism activity and accreditation of ecotourism tours and green accommodation. In a place where ecotourism is still in its infancy, this group is significant in raising public awareness of responsible ways to travel and this is reflected in the nature of this trip.
Conservation: In the Carpathian Mountains above the Transylvanian town of Zarnesti, we visit Libearty Bear Sanctuary. This is Europe’s largest bear sanctuary and is set in 70 hectares of oak and hazel forests. The sanctuary is home to nearly 100 bears which have been rescued from captivity, having suffered as dancing bears or in circuses. By visiting, we are supporting the work goes on here with monitoring, maintenance and providing educational facilities for school groups to learn about animal welfare.
UK Office: It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.
Accommodation and Meals: We stay in a series of warm and comfortable hotels, all en suite. The first part of the trip we change hotels each night, whilst the second part of the trip we’re based out of the medieval town of Brasov. The majority of meals are included on this trip and they comprise of fresh, local produce and Romanian specialties like smoked meats, cabbage dishes and vegetable soups. There are several opportunities to enjoy typical meals with local people on this trip, including lunch with traditional music at a farm in Viscri and dinner at the fortified church in Vulcan. These are good opportunities to support the community through local businesses.
Local Craft and Culture: In Bucharest, cultural highlights include visiting the massive People’s Palace and enjoying some traditional food. As we journey onto the walled citadel of Sibiu, we explore the town’s churches, squares, medieval walls, towers and bastions. Sibiel offers an insight into rural life in a largely agricultural village and we are able to visit the Icon Museum with its impressive collection of icons in the tradition of reverse glass-painting. Other highlights include Bran Castle, which was home to Vlad the Impaler in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Through these visits, we hope to contribute to the local economy by paying for guides and entrance fees. There will be several chances to buy local handicrafts and regional produce on the tour, but one of our clients’ favourite places to do so is at the vineyard estate on the way to Sighisoara and the Brasov and Sibiu Christmas markets.
Group Size: This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.