This adventure begins in Brașov, at the heart of Transylvania, and traverses the Carpathian Mountain Range, using many of the best roads that Europe has to offer. The Transfăgărășean, Transalpina, Transrarau and Bucegi passes are the stuff of motorcycling legend. We will be riding all four, plus many more less famous delights as we loop through the best that Romania has to offer the two-wheeled traveller.
Of course there are other legends where myth meets fact, not least that of Vlad The Impaler, the inspiration for the Dracula story. History is all around in this continental crossroads. From the Romans, through Ottoman occupation, to the World Wars, communist dictatorship and liberation, each has left its mark on the landscape and its peoples. Some 15,000 churches, many fortified, mark this ancient frontier of Orthodox Christianity and outstanding castles and palaces abound.
Transylvania is caught between Europe past and Europe present, with horse-drawn transport a not uncommon sight and head-scarfed grannies peeling spuds on their porches while motorcycles thrum by. It is perhaps the nearest faraway place, with distinct cultures, vast tracts of unspoiled mountains and forests rich in wildlife.
In this tour, we put the riding first, linking the highlights with the best paved rides available and cutting out more convenient dud routes. There is no lack of miles in tracking down the best stuff – but while we are here to ride, there’s also plenty to see and do. Restaurants and bars are lively, welcomes warm and value high.
There will be a maximum of seven bikes available on this tour. The bikes used will be Yamahas: XT660-R, Ténéré 700 and Ténéré 1200 models. Click links for further information on BIKES and the terms and conditions of HIRE.
As a participant in this tour you’ll fly to Bucharest, to be met by your crew and transferred to your Brașov accommodation. There will be some paperwork to complete and we will give you a briefing on the trip ahead before dinner and drinks.
When riding there will be a lead rider and a sweeper vehicle travelling at the rear with a spare bike and luggage.
The riding on this tour is pretty much all on tarmac.
Romania has some of the finest motorcycling you will find anywhere, with passes to match the best the Alps has to offer – but without the summer tourist volumes. There are vast tracts of forested mountains to enjoy and the roads snaking over the highlands feature many incredible series of hairpin bends.
On the whole, driving habits are similar to most European countries, although some drivers can be more aggressive on the major highways – especially HGVs, which travel at speeds that suggest their engines are ungoverned, with driver-attitudes to match. Romania has, for Europe, a very low percentage of both paved roads and dual-carriageway and a relatively high accident rate, to which beast-powered transport and pedestrians add a fair number.
Of Romania’s roughly 200,000km of roads, only some 30 per cent are tarred and there’s just 500km of motorway – mainly in the south of the country. Check your specific tour to determine how much dirt/tar riding it involves.
On our tours, we will be avoiding highways where possible, and using less busy routes. Some of the back-roads will be rough and we will ride at a speed appropriate to conditions. There is no true ‘off-roading’ on these adventures and no requirement for any advanced dirt-bike skills. If you want an all-tar tour, there is one available to book.
Traffic drives on the right and helmets are compulsory, both by law and during all riding on our tours. There is a zero-tolerance policy to drink-driving and road rules are enforced.
The ‘Lei’ is the local currency, but Euros are also widely used for pricing services. ATMs are widespread and will accept the usual cards, as will most retailers. As if there weren’t already very many reasons to visit the country, it has the lowest beer prices in Europe (at around £1 per pint). Home-grown and excellent wines are also very good value and meals are around half the price of equivalents in the UK.
Fuel is (Jan 2021) around £0.90 per litre.
There are currently 5.61 Lei to the UK Pound.
With a total area of 238,397 square kilometres (92,046 square miles), Romania is pretty much the same size as the UK. Having approximately 19.3 million inhabitants (as of 2020) its population density is substantially lower. The majority of this population lives in the flatter south of the country.
Its capital and largest city is Bucharest, but we’re not spending time there. We are sticking mainly to the mountains….
The Carpathians, at 1000 miles-long, is the third-longest mountain range in Europe – after the Urals and the Scandinavian Mountains. Half of this range (the Southern Carpathians) lies within Romania’s borders, where the massifs are locally sub-divided into the Bucegi, Făgăraș, Transalpina, Parâng and Leaotă Mountains.
Several Romanian peaks rise to over 2500m (8200ft) and we will see many of them…
Romania has a temperate-continental climate, characteristic of Central Europe, with hot summers, long, cold winters and very distinct seasons. Abundant snowfall may occur throughout the country from December to mid-March, especially in mountainous areas. The higher passes are not reliably clear of snow until the end of June.
The annual average temperature depends on latitude and ranges from 8°C in the North and 11°C in the South, with temperatures of 2.6°C in the mountains and 12°C in the plains. In general, the warmest areas are in the southern districts of Romania. Daytime temperatures vary from 0-5°C in the winter to 25-30°C in summer months. In the southern areas it can be warmer, in the northern and eastern mountainous districts of Transylvania it can be cooler with moderate daytime temperatures and cool nights in the summer and temperatures far below zero in the winter.
Annual average rainfall is abaout 700mm, more in the mountains (up to 1000mm) and less on the coast (around 400mm). It can rain throughout the year, spring being the driest season. In summer, showers and thunderstorms are common, especially in the mountains.
The economy of Romania is one of the fastest-growing in Europe, attracting a great deal of foreign investment and ranks 35th on a global scale. There is a strong industrial base, generating over 30 per cent of GDP, with vehicles, machinery, chemical goods, electronic products, electrical equipment, pharmaceuticals, transport equipment and basic metals being its top exports.
The country is the third-largest agricultural producer in the EU and around a quarter of the population works in the sector. However, agricultural production is falling due to lack of investment and urbanisation. Between 2004 and 2019, the value of Romanian agriculture output fell from 12.6 per cent to 4.3 per cent as the economy grew in other areas.
Politics & History
Being at such a geographical crossroads, Romania’s history is exceedingly complicated. In the past 2000 years, what is now Romania has often been colonised. From the Romans invading Dacian territory to establish Roman Dacia in 106 AD, through incursions from every surrounding country and Ottoman invasions, the national borders in the area have been fluid for millennia.
While principalities like Wallachia and Transylvania enjoyed elements of local control from around 1600, it was not until 1848 that the notion of a united Romania emerged. Recognising the shared cultures and languages of Transylvania, Moldavia and Wallachia, the three principalities combined to enact a revolution against their then overlords, the Ottoman Turks. While the revolution was not successful, it did introduce the idea of a shared Romanian identity.
In 1859, Moldavia and Wallachia unified under the same prince, Alexander Cuza. This union did not include Transylvania, whose controlling aristocracy were majority Hungarian, even where the population was majority ‘Romanian.’
Following the removal of Cuza during a coup d’état in 1866, Romania declared its independence from the Ottomans in 1878, the Turk’s ability to hold the territory having been weakened by the exertions of the Russo-Turkish War. Romania was recognised as an independent state by world powers the same year, in the Treaty of Berlin, and in 1881 its status was raised to that of a Kingdom, under King Carol 1st. From this point until World War One, Romania enjoyed a period of relative peace and social progress.
The War proved to be pivotal for Transylvania. Although declaring itself neutral, pressure from France and other Allies led to Romania declaring war on Austro-Hungry, which controlled Transylvania, two years later. It was a disaster and within four months, Romania has lost two-thirds of its territory, retaining only Moldavia and with its army largely killed or captured. In May 1918 a treaty of virtual surrender was signed with Germany, but by November it was again fighting for the Allies as the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires disintegrated.
The fallout from the war went to Romania’s advantage and a Proclamation of Union, incorporating Transylvania, was announced on December 1st 1920. This was the effective birth of modern Romania and is celebrated as Great Union Day to the present.
Following a period of democracy, in 1938, King Carol abolished parliament and became the first in a line of modern dictators. But again a World War intervened, causing political chaos and control of a territorially smaller Romania swung between Russia and Germany, the country being a major source of oil for Nazi Germany. Its military government, under General Ion Antonescu, played a major part in the Holocaust, rounding up Jews and Roma for death in Nazi concentration camps.
As the Russians swept through Eastern Europe in 1944, the Red Army entered Romania and the Antonescu regime crumbled. Romanian King Michael 1st took control and joined the Allied fight just before the Russians entered Bucharest. At the War’s end, the Red Army remained and effectively manipulated an annexation of Romania. Having lost 300,000 troops in the conflict, Romania did not have the resources to mount any resistance to Soviet occupation, which lasted until the late 1950s.
Estimates of how many Romanians lost their lives under communist racial, social and political pogroms range from the tens of thousands to two million.
In 1958, First Secretary of the Romanian Workers’ Party, Gheorghiu-Dej, negotiated a greater level of autonomy with then Soviet honcho Nikita Kruschev and Soviet troops were withdrawn. This gave opportunity to incoming dictator, Nicolae Ceauşescu, to carve an ever more divergent path from other Warsaw Pact countries. Ceauşescu refused to support the Soviet Union’s 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, kept diplomatic ties with Israel after the Six-Day War and played a constructive part in Middle-Eastern politics. It was the only member of the bloc to follow such policies.
However, as western countries avoided criticism of this Soviet outlier, with its outward signs of economic growth, Romania’s economy was becoming laden with debt. As the economy spiralled downward, severe political repression was rapidly on the rise. Throughout the 1980s, Ceauşescu implemented policies that drained the economy and the population’s personal wealth. They were enforced by a notorious secret police force, used to brutally bludgeon any human rights remaining in the country.
Ceauşescu himself nurtured a cult of personality, promoting himself as a near-deity, but the population was not buying it and in 1989 general unrest led to revolution. Some 1000 Romanians died in the uprising – in many places the police and troops refused to intervene, in others the secret police fought on in fear of retribution. The Ceauşescus fled, but were captured by the army, put on rapid trial for genocide, among other crimes, and riddled with lead.
Although now free of dictatorship, politics in Romania remained rocky for several years, as elements of past power were shed during periods of unrest. Severe economic problems lingered and corruption was an ever-present concern.
In 1993 Romania applied to become part of the European Union (EU) and gained ‘Associated State’ status in 1995. NATO was joined in 2004 and the nation became a full member of the EU on the first day of 2007.
It had been a very busy 87 years since the inception of the country, but things have remained largely stable as an EU member state.
Crime & Annoyances
Romania, in general, has no more crime than a typical European country and is considered a low-threat country in terms of threats to the person. While corruption is high compared to other EU states and cyber-crime and smuggling are present, tourists can expect no more problems than in similar locations elsewhere. There are reports of identity theft being a problem when using banking cards, but this is avoided by using only the ATMs of recognised banks to draw cash.
In ten wordsMunch super-twisty scenic mountain roads through fascinating historic settings.
Riding LevelYou need to get used to local traffic habits and ride on the right. We are avoiding major highways. No technical riding, no dirt, but a few potholes in places. There are a couple of fairly long days in the saddle, up to 6.5hrs on one day. Tarmac: 100%
Pillion RatingThe route is just fine for passengers. But it can be bumpy in places.
Accommodation & MealsThree and four-star hotels and guest houses. Always clean, always beer, great locations.
Day 1: Fly from UK, or don’t
Board a ‘plane to Bucharest, where you will be collected by our team and shuttled (about 2.5hrs) to our start-point in Brașov, at the beating heart of Transylvania. Having checked-in to our comfortable hotel and met your bike, we will go out for a Transylvanian dinner and you’ll be given a briefing on the journey ahead.
DAY 2: Brașov to Miercurea Ciuc
The day dawns with the Carpathian Mountains beckoning. But first a leisurely breakfast before we set out on the bikes. Leaving Brașov, we will acclimatise to riding in Romania, heading for the beautiful backroads of the forested mountains. Following river valleys and scaling minor passes, the day’s riding ends in the small town of Miercurea Ciuc.
Day 3: Miercurea Ciuc to Botos
Today is packed with riding highlights on more superb mountain roads. We set out riding to the Lacul Roșu, the ‘Red Lake,’ formed by a landslip in 1838 at an altitude of 980m, the petrified forest beneath still pierces the surface in places. Riding on through the deep Bicaz Gorges, we will stop for views of the huge Lake Bicaz. Soon after, we’re onwards and upwards, onto the ‘Road of Treasures,’ riding one of Romania’s best passes – the stunning Transrarau Pass (1400m), which features 28km of sublime riding. The road is steep and narrow, with acute switchbacks and stunning mountain views.
DAY 4: Botos to Bistrita
Pure riding. No big tourist stuff, today’s route is all about viewing the country while enjoying some of the nicest back roads Romania has to offer. Through forests, mountains and agricultural land we ride, including another few super-squigglies, including the beautiful Gutai Pass (987m).
DAY 5: Bistrita to Sighisoara
We ride through the Mures Valley and through the Bucin Pass (1287m) on our way to discover historic Sighisoara, the birthplace of Dracula (Vlad the Impaler). We will have the afternoon to explore Sighisoara’s churches and fortified towers. A World Heritage Site, the town is considered to be among the most beautiful and well-preserved inhabited citadels in Europe. We will check-in to our charming hotel, with outdoor dining in the-courtyard restaurant.
DAY 6: Sighisoara to Pestera
From the birthplace of Vlad Dracul, we leave towards Bran Castle. Despite having few associations with The Impaler himself, and having been built in 1382 by the Transylvanian Saxons to defend the pass from the Ottomans, this impressive fort is known as ‘Dracula’s Castle.’ There will be time to take a tour of the castle, before leaving for Viscri, another of Transylvania’s World Heritage Sites. Viscri has a majority of ethnic Roma inhabitants and is famed for its fortified churches. At the end of the day, we head to a remote and relaxing mountain lodge, but not until riding the exciting Rucar-Bran Pass (1254m) – from which views can be enjoyed over both the Bucegi and Carpathian mountain ranges and the amazing Dâmbovicioara Gorges.
day 7: Pestera to Brașov
Another day, another superb riding pass – The Transbucegi, with a maximum altitude of 1925m. On our route we pass the Peleș Castle, a palatial neo-renaissance retreat of the Romanian royal family, built around 1900 and considered among the most impressive in Europe. Here we can visit the village and its fortified church. We will also visit Ialomitie Cave (also known as Kings’ Cave), the most famous and important in the Bucegi Mountains. The cave sits at 1500m in the wall of the Ialomitie Canyon, with a 16th century monastery at its entrance. Within there are grottos and impressive stalactite formations. We end the day in Brașov, again at a comfortable hotel, before heading out for dinner.
day 8: In Brașov
Could be a rest day, or you could choose to be more active. A 4X4 drive into the mountains can be arranged, including a visit to the Libearty Bear Sanctuary. The trip will take 5-6 hours and can include a brief trek up Tâmpa Mountain from which the city can be viewed below. If this doesn’t take your fancy, there’s also the option to take a quadbike into the hills, or get some exercise on a mountain bike
DAY 9: Brașov to Poenari Citadelle
Today we’ll ride one of the most famous roads in the world, the Transfăgărășean Highway and scale its epic pass. The pass was built by Nicolae Ceauşescu in the early 70s as a response to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. The former dictator wanted a quick military access across the mountains in case of an invasion. Today it’s considered one of the World’s greatest bike routes, a must-ride extravaganza of steep hairpins. “Every great corner, from every great racetrack in the world been knitted together to create one unbroken grey ribbon of automotive perfection,” said Top Gear. At the day’s end we’ll go on a photographic bear hunt, searching for wild brown bears in their natural habitat. Bear cooperation cannot be guaranteed.
DAY 10: Poenari Citadelle to Ranca
The day starts with a visit to Poenari Citadelle, a home of Vlad himself and well worth climbing the many stairs to reach it. Next stop, Curtea de Argeș, an ancient town where we visit an interesting historic monastery and learn of its legends. After this we continue on our way toward the Transalpina Pass – the highest in Romania. We will check into our accommodation, before an evening ride to the top of the pass, avoiding daytime traffic. We end the day in a characterful hotel, with fabulous views over the mountains.
DAY 11: Ranca to Brașov
We again cross the Transalpina Pass, at 2145m above sea level, on our way back to Brașov. The road that laces its way over the high mountains was built after the First World War by King Carol II and repaired by the German troops during the Second World War. On the way back to our Brașov base, we will be riding through the picturesque villages around Sibiu as we enjoy our last stint on the road. A last night dinner, washed down with virgin’s blood, will make a fitting end to our Carpathian caper.
DAY 12: Fly Home
Unfurl your cape and fly home, hide in a soil-filled coffin placed on a ship, or take the aeroplane. Fangs for the memories…
WHAT THE TOUR PRICE INCLUDES
- International Flights (when booked as full package)
- Nine Days of Bike Hire
- Experienced Guide
- Luggage-carrying Support with Spare Bike
- All Internal Transfers
- Ten Nights Accommodation on B&B basis
- Other Meals
- Tolls, Entry Fees, Visas and Excursions
- Damage Excess on Bikes
- 4X4 excursion to bear sanctuary and mountains (90 Euro)
Romania is a safe country for tourists. For current UK Government travel advice, check: Foreign Office Website.
You will need a passport, appropriate travel insurance and your home-country driving licence (which you must have held for a minimum of 24 months). If not travelling from the UK or the EU, please check the status of your driving licence in Romania and any visa requirements.
The local currency of Romania is the Lei. There is no need to obtain cash before departure. Currency can be drawn from ATMs and credit/debit cards are accepted very widely.
There are currently 5.61 Lei to the UK Pound.
Romania has a typical Central European climate with distinct seasons. Summers can be hot, with temperatures regularly reaching the mid-thirties (ºC) in lowland ares, especially to the south. In the wonderful mountains we have an Alpine climate and the weather can be changeable, including summer thunderstorms. On tour we would expect temperatures from around 30ºC to as low as 8ºC over the high passes.
On all tours we advise riders to consider their kit in terms of layers. Good quality gear can also prevent a minor spill causing a trip-ruining injury, so we require that you ride with no exposed skin (except your face).
Your main luggage will be carried in a support vehicle and your bike will be supplied with a top-box in which to carry articles you need on the road. Your main bag must be ‘soft’ and not a suitcase. Critical documents should be carried on your body, not strapped to the bike.
This tour is not particularly demanding. If you have any existing medical condition, please consult both Blazing Trails and your doctor before booking.
While we insist those joining us have a full motorcycle licence, and recommend a minimum of two year’s riding experience, time in the saddle and miles ridden are of more relevance to any motorcycle adventure. We will be avoiding traffic where possible by avoiding major highways, but there may be some aggressive drivers encountered.
HEALTH & HYGIENE
The standards in Romania are typical of Europe and not of any concern.
How To Make A Booking
Contact us by any of the means above.
Upon deciding to book, please pay a deposit of £700 into our bank account (or the full balance if within two months of the departure date). This can be done by credit/debit card through our website, by bank transfer, or by sending a cheque to our UK office.
BIKE DEPOSIT (ROMANIA): A deposit of is required against bike damage in Romania, the amount according to the bike you book – please check-out Romanian Bikes for details. You will be asked to place this sum against your credit card with our supplier. The transaction will be cancelled at the tour’s end (subject to bike condition).
Having booked with Blazing Trails, you will be sent all the necessary information on timings and meeting points. You may also like to use our Facebook Page to liaise with others.
PLEASE NOTE: A maximum of one week (seven days) will be allowed for your deposit payment to reach and clear in our bonded account. Should this not happen, we can suspend your booking and may have to give your place on tour to somebody else.
Are flights included?
Flights, international and domestic can be included in the price of your tour, but you can also specify otherwise.
How do I book?
The tours can be booked online, by email, or over the phone on: +44 (0) 7494 050404. To secure a place you will be asked to put down a deposit of £700 and payment can be made by card, cheque, or bank transfer.
Do I need a visa?
UK citizens will be issued entry on arrival. You are permitted to spend 90 days out of every 180 days in Romania without applying for a visa. Any time spent in Romania does not affect the visa-free 90 days you are currently allowed to spend in the EU’s Schengen area, as Romania is not part of the Schengen Agreement. EU folks can come and go as they please. For other countries. please check your entry requirements before booking.
What other paperwork do I need?
A valid certificate of travel insurance is recommended. If you do not have a UK/European photo-ID driving licence, then an International Driving Permit and your home licence are required. If bringing your own wheels, you will need a green card from your insurance provider
Can i book from outside the UK?
Yes. If you are booking from outside the UK, we will quote you on a flight-inclusive price, or provide you with a non-flight price.
DO I really NEED travel INSURANCE?
Travel insurance is recommended to cover you for the period of the tour as it will cover you if you are unable to complete your holiday – and for things such as theft etc . Our bikes are insured for third-party risks, so bike insurance is not a concern if riding our bikes.
You should get a free UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. If you already have an EHIC it will still be valid as long as it remains in date.
The GHIC or EHIC entitles you to any state-provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Romanian nationals.
So it’s important to take out appropriate travel insurance for your needs. A GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and will not cover all health-related costs – for example, medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment. Read more about what your travel insurance should cover.
Where should I change money?
Romanian Lei will be widely available via ATMs. Let your bank know you’re travelling before you leave.
How much spending money will I need?
This depends greatly on what you spend on booze and food, but about £30 should fit the bill.
Will I have to share a room?
No, you can pay a supplement to hold a single room during the booking process.
What standard is the accommodation?
We will be using hotels and guesthouses rated at 3-4 stars, chosen for their standard of accommodation and location.
Will I get bitten by a vampire?
Not unless you pay the undead supplement, currently priced at one human soul.
How much riding experience do I need?
You must have held a motorcycle licence for a minimum of 24 months and we’d recommend you have recent riding experience. There are plenty of miles ridden and many, many corners to be enjoyed, so the ability to concentrate is important.
Is riding in Romania dangerous?
Riding anywhere carries with it a degree of risk, as does riding in Romania. For more information on the riding side of things see ‘Riding’ in the ‘About Romania’ section of this site. If any rider joining us rides in a manner we suspect will endanger themselves, or others, or indeed displays antisocial behaviour, they will receive one warning. If they continue to display a threat to the safety or enjoyment of others on the tour, they will be excluded from the remainder (with no refund given, see terms and conditions).
How fast will we be riding?
We be riding in a ‘progressive’ manner, enjoying the amazing roads where it is sensible to do so. There is, however, no compulsion to keep up with other riders and we will not leave you behind.
Can I use the bike in the evenings?
No, you can’t ride independently of the tour group, sorry.
How fit do I need to be?
This is not a strenuous tour – a person of average fitness can easily take part.
Can I take a pillion?
Yes, this is a good tour for couples. This is an all-tarmac tour and although there can be potholes in places, most of the road surfaces are of typical European quality.
How much luggage can I bring?
You are limited to 20kg by most airlines. However, we suggest you pack as lightly and in as compact a form as possible. We ask you bring soft luggage, not a suitcase.
How much luggage should I bring?
Keep it minimal. One set of riding kit for the tour and a couple of sets of clothes for the evening. Laundry facilities are available at the two-night stop.
Isn’t Romania A Dangerous commie hell?
No. It’s an EU country, really nice and very welcoming.
Is food included in the price?
No, not all food, just breakfasts.
What Romanian food like?
Tasty and interesting. The majority of typical Romanian cooking contains meat, but there are plenty of vegetarian alternatives. If you have specific dietary requirements, contact us which will allow us to check ahead for you.
Are laundry facilities available on-tour?
Laundry service is available at Brasov (night eight on the road). Underclothes can be hand-washed in the evenings and dried overnight.
Do I need waterproofs?
Yes. If your riding kit isn’t waterproof, then bring some light waterproofs.
What medication should I bring & what inoculations are required?
Bring enough of any prescribed medication you take regularly. If this medication is essential, try and bring a surplus that can be carried by the tour team. A basic first aid kit is useful (plasters, antiseptic cream, bite/sting relief, plus insect repellent).