Reasons to visit and love Romania

Romania's just like the opera, you either love it or you hate it, there's no in-between. A place of stark contrasts where breathtaking, pristine beauty lives alongside misery. Yet... If you know where to look, there are countless hidden gems to be admired where East meets West.

Zorhan Mokoele | TDO local expert from South Africa


By Calin

If you love outdoor activities, look no further. Calin was born and raised in the beautiful region of Transylvania where he fell in love with adventures. Now he wants to show others that you can have fun and be active at the same time. He's also a happy husband and a father of three. Despite that, he maintains his lifestyle, which includes meeting amazing people from around the world while travelling to various destinations. It seems like apart from travel, he's also very good at time management.

a Romania based traveler

At the top of every traveler’s list is food. And so is at the top of most Romanians’ minds.

If you like hearty, tasty, soul-warming food, you’ll love Romanian cuisine. With heavy influences from the Balkan culture plus the Ottoman, Roman, and Austro-Hungarian Empires, you can browse through the country’s entire history with your taste buds.

Must-haves include:
MBS or Mamaliga cu Branza si Smantana - a sort of dense polenta mixed with salty cheese and sour cream. Celebrated for centuries all over the country, it’s the shepherds who make it best. Their rendition of the dish is called “Bulz” - a ball of steaming hot polenta filled with aged cheese slightly browned on the grill.

Tocanita – Simply named “stew”, this dish takes many forms depending on the region you’re visiting. They all share an appetite for meat and potatoes smothered in finger-licking gravy.

Mititei – The country’s most popular dish is also one of its simplest. Translated as “little ones”, these meat patties are the smaller version of the Turkish shish kebobs and also contain pork meat. Alongside French fries and a beverage, it’s Romanian fast food at its best.

Sarmalute - A very close second best is the dish that accompanies most Romanian holidays and special events. From funerals to weddings, Christmas or New Year’s dinners, no table is complete without these meat and rice patties rolled in vine leaves with extra bacon and fat in between. Every traditional restaurant serves them and if you are to try a single local dish, this would be it.

Papanasi – there’s NO desert like it on Earth. Deep-fired doughnuts smothered in heavy cream and home-made jam.

There are many other local delicacies you should try, but these five are an absolute must as are the local soups. Divided between classic and sour soups, known as “ciorba”, some local favorites include “ciorba de burta”, “ciorba de perisoare”, “bors de peste”, “supa cu galuste”, and “ciorba radauteana”.

As rich as Romanian cuisine is, there’s more to the country than its food. If I were to pick a single region to visit here, there’s no doubt in my mind that would be Transylvania. Despite the many legends surrounding it, vampire hunters will come back disappointed, nothing but friendly folks around. Yet the scenery... absolutely breathtaking.

You’ll find mountains, and you'll find valleys all over the world but in Transylvania, there is a lingering timelessness you won’t feel anywhere else. Even with modern amenities around, part of your soul will tap into the local vibe and connect to the spirit of people that walked these fields before your time in an endless chain of being. All you need to do is pause and observe. The rocks, the trees, the grass will work their magic and transport you back to an original time when everything was pure.

Cities like Sighisoara, Brasov, Sibiu, and the exceptionally beautiful Maramures County are all great choices. The countryside in Transylvania as well as its mountains should also be high on your list of priorities, and the Western Carpathians, known locally as “Carpatii occidentali” are particularly delightful plus easy to trek.

You’d waste your time, though, visiting the country’s capital, Bucharest. A medium-large city, home to 2 million people, it bears the scars of past communism and present capitalism to make for an eclectic, chaotic settlement. Corruption and neglect contributed heavily to the generally dismal state the capital is in. But... it is home to some of the world’s best nightclubs and bars, plus some of the most famous brutalist buildings if you’re into that sort of thing.

A place where time stood still, with exceptional food, incredibly friendly people, and unimaginable past trauma that seeped into all living things, Romania instantly delights all of its visitors. Yet, it keeps part of its beauty hidden. Order the right dishes, visit the right places, and most of all, pause and listen. Only then will the country fully reveal itself.