Camping in Romania: Review
Article from Thomas
Camping in Romania: A review of the most beautiful campsites in Romania. About the advantages of holidays in Romania, the location and hospitality in this underrated country!
Preliminary remark: We received the text from Antonia Reiter. We have merely adapted it editorially. Thank you very much, Antonia!
When we tell our family and friends about our plans for a camping holiday, we see happy faces and many of them can recall fond memories of their own. And then we say where we want to go. ´To Romania? Isn't that dangerous and what are you doing there?` are the typical reactions.
But yes, we have set our minds on fulfilling our long-cherished dream of travelling to the Black Sea and the Danube Delta in our camper van. And so we are not letting the fact that this is our very first trip with a camper van or the fact that we only have 17 days for the 5,000 kilometre road trip deter us from our plans. So we set off in mid-September with a Grand California 600 on our very first camping adventure, which will end up at the top of our personal holiday rankings!
Camping in Romania: things to consider when camping!
Romania has some special features that must be observed:
- to enter Romania via Austria and Hungary, you need a valid identity card (or valid passport)
- when travelling via Austria and Hungary, a toll sticker is required for Austria and Hungary, and a sticker is also required for motorways in Romania itself (online booking possible in each case)
- in Romania, two high-visibility waistcoats, a fire extinguisher and, curiously, two warning triangles must be carried in the car
- At petrol stations, diesel is usually referred to as Motorina
- Although Romania is in the EU, it does not have the euro but the currency lei (or leu, sometimes also ron) with the conversion rate 1€ = 5 lei/leu/ron
- Wild camping is generally permitted in Romania, as is staying overnight in car parks with TIR labelling.
- the road conditions are much better than expected, potholes are very rare
- It is strongly advised not to drive in the dark because of unlit horse-drawn carriages (yes, there are still many there!), poorly edged and sometimes unsecured level crossings and the odd pothole.
- a mosquito net is highly recommended, as mosquitoes are omnipresent and impressively keen to bite, especially in the Danube Delta
- Contrary to widespread preconceptions, Romania is a very safe country to travel in and we didn't experience a single uncomfortable situation during the whole trip
Let's start your camping holiday in Romania
Our journey begins with a stopover in Sankt Pölten just before Vienna. As we have a long way to travel to the Black Sea, we skip Vienna and Budapest to get to Romania as quickly as possible. The first Romanian city after our departure from Sankt Pölten is Arad, which we head for to withdraw Romanian currency Lei from the ATM, which works perfectly.
We soon realise that signposting of places of interest or campsites is generally overrated in Romania, so we should always navigate using GPS coordinates if possible.
Search for the most beautiful campsites (using a map)
After the mosquitoes at the campsite in Arad almost ate us up and (it felt like) a litre of blood was drawn from each of us, we decided to head for the nearest Hornbach DIY store in Timisoara to stock up on mosquito nets and fumigating spirals. In retrospect, this was an excellent decision, as we then had peace from the pests and the opportunity to take an (unplanned) sightseeing tour of Timisoara. The city became famous worldwide in 1989 when the revolution against the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu began and, despite a very beautiful centre, you can still clearly feel the scars of socialism there.
The next stage of our journey is the trip along the Danube from Old Moldova, followed by the Danube Gorge through the Southern Carpathians (also known as the Iron Gate), which we can enjoy on a boat trip on the Danube at Orsova. The Danube narrows there from a width of over a kilometre to just 150 metres and there are caves, a monastery and the face of the Dacian king Decebal carved into a mountain face to visit.
Further down the Danube, in Drobeta Turnu Severin, we marvel at the remains of the longest bridge in the world for over 1000 years - the Trajan's Bridge, built by the Roman Emperor Trajan in 105 AD.
Campsites around Sibiu (Hermannstadt)
Our next destination is the city of Sibiu, also known as Hermannstadt because it was founded by German settlers over 800 years ago. The city in Transylvania at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains is characterised by beautiful architecture, many historic buildings have now been renovated and shine in new splendour, such as the central square (Piata Mare), the Bridge of Lies, the Protestant parish church or the Orthodox cathedral, which is modelled on the Hagia Sophia.
However, before we set off on our sightseeing tour, we enjoyed a great breakfast near the Piata Mare and by far the best Turkish eggs we had ever eaten. After this refreshment, we also had enough energy to climb the tower of the parish church where we could enjoy a great view over the city. In the early afternoon, we continued into the heart of the Carpathians via one of the most beautiful mountain passes in Europe, the Transfagarasan, so that we would not be too late to reach the highest point of our entire trip, Lake Balea at 2000 metres above sea level.
Outdoor activities and other holiday themes in Romania
The Transfagarasan pass road winds its way in endless hairpin bends from Sibiu up to an altitude of 2,000 metres with constantly impressive views of the valley. We are lucky and can spend the night in the large car park with a direct view of Lake Balea - so we have dinner and breakfast with a view of the lake. The next morning, we go on a two-hour hike around the lake and then fortify ourselves at one of the many market stalls with the local speciality bulz (also known as cocolosi) - these are balls made from corn semolina, similar to polenta, which are filled with processed cheese and grilled over an open fire.
The subsequent drive down the Transfagarasan on the other side towards Arefu reveals even more beautiful views of a huge dam - the destination for the absolute highlight of our trip so far: brown bears living in the wild! Even if it is doubtful that one or two bears are attracted by drivers throwing food out of the window - in the end, we much preferred to encounter the bears sitting in the car than on our hike.
Black Sea: campsites and accommodation
After a seemingly endless drive on straight roads along fields of wheat and sunflowers, some of which are completely dry, we finally reach the Black Sea in the early afternoon! After a long search, we first see the harbour near Constanta, but then turn south to reach our destination ´2 Mai`. On the way, we buy some fresh barbecue food for the evening before heading straight to our super-beautiful campsite, which is almost directly by the sea and has a sandy beach. After the long journey, we are overjoyed to have finally arrived at the destination of our dreams and enjoy swimming in the still very warm Black Sea.
The next morning, we enjoy another refreshing dip on the beach and, after breakfast, set off to visit the harbour town of Constanta. The city is a working-class town and has been little or hardly renovated for a long time, in some places it is even really run-down. However, we seem to have arrived at the right time, as a lot has been invested there in recent months and so, while camping in Romania, we enjoy a walk along the beach promenade with a view of the newly shining casino, a ride on the Ferris wheel with a magnificent view over the city, a boat trip and coffee and cake at the marina - a place that can certainly compete with comparable places on the Mediterranean!
The pedestrian zone also offers beautifully renovated buildings such as the archaeological museum, the Ovid statue, historic churches, a mosque and a small botanical garden. Since the Romans were very present there, there are also many historical buildings or remains of such buildings, so that there is an abundance of ancient artefacts and in Constanta one can allow oneself the luxury of draping remains such as decorated column elements or stone blocks in the pedestrian zone as seating - you have it.... The cityscape is repeatedly adorned with scaffolded buildings, where it is not immediately clear whether they are just being protected against complete decay, renovated or will soon be demolished. All in all, a great city that will certainly continue to develop over the next few years!
Danube Delta: enjoy the atmosphere and nature
After visiting the harbour town of Constanta, we head north to the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve. Our camping destination is the small village of Murighiol, which is considered the best location for excursions into the Danube Delta, which covers an area of 5800 square kilometres and is about 70 kilometres from the Black Sea. We camp at the very nice and clean Dan Pescarul campsite, where we receive a very warm welcome and are asked about our further plans. As it turns out, the campsite itself offers boat trips with small groups and we are lucky that the next excursion to the Danube Delta takes place the next morning at 6 a.m. and there are still two places available on the boat for the trip into nature.
The campsite owner's husband is a tour guide and - as we learn later - also a very active fisherman in the Danube Delta. As a result, he also knows the small, winding connecting paths through the delta, so that we experience an indescribably beautiful boat trip through the swamp and lake landscape along the Sfantu Gheorge arm during our camping holiday. We experienced the sunrise and the awakening of nature on the water, admired seemingly endless carpets of water lilies with yellow and white flowers, travelled through the narrowest channels through dense reed forests and encountered countless water birds, including cormorants, herons, cranes, ducks, geese, sea eagles and pelicans.
The absolute highlight of our holiday was watching a large group of pink pelicans hunting fish together through the nature reserves for several minutes. Fortunately, we were equipped with enough coffee from the thermos flask from the previous evening and warm clothing so that we were able to fully enjoy the four-hour tour and the only drawback of our boat trip was that it didn't last another four hours.
After the tour, we look forward to a warm shower in the campsite's very clean sanitary facilities, visit the excavation site of a Roman fort called Cetatea Halmyris and enjoy the rest of the day at the campsite with a good rating and at a fair price.
Camping in Romania: mud volcanoes and castles
After the Danube Delta and the easternmost point of our journey in Murighiol, we now head back west again. This time we take a slightly more northerly route and head for the village of Berca. There is a nature reserve with mud volcanoes.
The volcanoes are formed by gases rising from the depths through layers of clay and water, causing mud puddles to bubble. The mud dries on the earth's surface and forms structures that resemble a volcano. The mud volcanoes in Berca can be up to three metres high and we are lucky to be able to see some of these bubbling volcanoes up close (fortunately, unlike in many other countries, in Romania such natural attractions are not yet completely closed off and marketed to tourists).
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Count Dracula and other benefits of your holiday
After Berca, we set course for the town of Sinaia, which boasts many tourist attractions such as the Monastery and, of course, Peles Castle. The town of Berca lies in the middle of the Carpathian Mountains, has a cable car to the surrounding peaks and it feels like you are in a small town in South Tyrol. During a visit to Peles Castle (an absolute highlight!), we encountered various wedding parties and the road to the car park turned out to be one big merchandising gauntlet.
After Berca, we head for what is probably Romania's most famous and most popular tourist destination: Bran Castle. This castle is marketed as Dracula Castle, although it was neither the location for famous Dracula films such as Bram Stoker's Dracula, nor did the historical figure of the Wallachian prince Vlad Tepes Draculea ever set foot in the castle. The castle is boldly built on a rock and exudes an incredible charm with its winding corridors and turrets as well as the inner courtyard with fountain and cistern, so that we imagine ourselves in the middle of Roman Polanski's ´Dance of the Vampires`. Even if the tourist hype is a little exaggerated: this castle is a must-see, although ideally you should arrive very early to avoid the streams of tourists that are channelled through here en masse.
Campsites in Romania: Camping in the Carpathians
After narrowly escaping Dracula and other bloodsuckers, we continue our journey westwards and reach the mining town of Turda. The unrivalled attraction in Turda is the local salt mine, where salt was mined from Roman times until around 1930. After being used as an air raid shelter during the Second World War and later as a cheese warehouse, the former salt mine is now used as a sanatorium for respiratory diseases and as a leisure park.
The main gallery, called Rudolfstollen, is gigantic in size with a hall more than 100 metres deep, which houses table tennis tables, a mini-golf course, an amphitheatre with more than 500 seats and a Ferris wheel (no joke!). There is also a natural lake on the lowest floor where you can go rowing, which we do of course. The Rudolfstollen can be completely circumnavigated on a wooden balustrade with impressive views into the depths and eerie echoes from the depths. If you look and listen carefully, you can see the dwarves in Moria digging even deeper...
After visiting Turda, we actually wanted to visit Cluj-Napoca, but the traffic there was so heavy and hectic that we spontaneously decided to drive on towards Romania's westernmost city, Oradea. In the end, this was the right decision, as Oradea turns out to be a beautiful city with historic buildings such as the state theatre, a Catholic cathedral, a Jewish synagogue and a Masonic temple and museum.
Camping in Romania: Last pitch for the motorhome
There is also a shopping arcade and a pedestrian zone with countless beautifully restored buildings from the Art Nouveau period, some of which are even on the Unesco World Heritage List. What a revelation this city is, which can afford to signpost another highlight - the accessible tower of the town hall - so sparsely that we suddenly find ourselves in the room of the mayor of Oradea instead of the staircase to the tower...
The next morning, we enjoy one last great breakfast (again with Turkish eggs and the creamiest coffee we've ever had!) and say goodbye to Romania after two eventful weeks with incredibly wonderful memories of travelling to Austria. This road trip has made it onto our personal holiday highlight list and in our opinion, Romania is a completely underestimated travel destination - thank you Romania, we will definitely be back!