Prince Charles said it & I couldn’t agree more: Romania is a wonderful country!
Transfagarasanul is one of the most famous road in Romania, and even from Europe, due to the height at which it was built, beautiful landscapes and numerous switchbacks. The road is spectacular because it crosses the Fagaras Mountains, the highest mountains in Romania so Transfagarasan reaches an altitude of 2042 meters and is the second road in Romania as altitude, after Transalpina.
Also known as DN7C, Transfagarasan connect Muntenia with Transylvania and has a length of 92 km, 27 viaducts and bridges and a tunnel of 887 meters, the longest tunnel in the country which crosses the Paltinului mountain. Due to numerous switchbacks average speed is around 40 miles per hour; also because of the altitude, the heavy snowfall and avalanche risk, Transfagarasanul is only open during July to October. Between November 1 and July 30 sector between km 104 and km 130 is closed circulation. Access to Balea Lake is made only by cable car.
The spectacular road was built between 1970-1974, with tremendous efforts the soldiers and workers were able to create an important piece of Romania’s infrastructure. The number of lives lost were many; The official number of deads was 40, but people who worked on this road said that the number of the deads is by hundreds.
The sights of Transfagarasan
Among the attractions include Lake and Balea Waterfall, Lake and The Vidraru dam, Goat Waterfall, Lake and Goat Massif, Citadel of Poenari. We can add an winter attraction as the Ice Hotel Balea Lac, and hiking trails around the massive Transfagarasan.
The road begins in the town of Arefu, Arges County and ends in the town of Cartisoara Sibiu County. Most recommend travel is from south to north, but honestly I did it from north to south and seemed much more interesting and spectacular.
From the landscapes of the hill, the road climbs slowly to the mountain ranges, deciduous forests turn into coniferous forests, speed decreases slowly and the precipices open in front of you. The air becomes cooler, cleaner with windy increasingly louder.
1. Balea Waterfall
The first stop we did it to Balea Waterfall. Situated between Moldoveanu and Negoiu peaks at over 1200 meters altitude, Balea Waterfall is the highest waterfall in steps from Romania, which has a fall of 60 meters.
The access can be made by car to Balea Waterfall and from there on foot, on a route that takes about an hour.
2. Lake Balea
From the waterfall we went on, and after many switchbacks and a great climb we reached the lake Balea, the point of maximum height of Transfagarasan. Lake Balea is a glacial lake formed in glacial cirque (that was formed in a depression surrounded by high mountains). The lake is situated at an altitude of 2,040 meters, has a length of 360 meters, an area of 4.6 hectares and a depth of about 11 meters. Near the lake there are several lodges; first cottage was built in 1904.
During the winter, when Transfagarasan is closed, access to Lake Balea is made by cable car from Balea Waterfall. All winter, for three months, a great attraction is the Ice Hotel from Balea Lake, one of the few Ice hotels in Eastern Europe.
The first hotel was conducted in 2006 and since then the tradition is repeated every year. The hotel is built as an igloo, has around 14-16 rooms and an ice bar. The tourists who rents rooms in the Ice hotel are most of them foreigns. The experience of spending a night here is unique, the only inconvienent is the cold air and the clothes. The price is not the most accessible, but considering the uniqueness of the hotel, it is worth paying.
Lake Balea are also many merchants that invites you to their goodies: cheese, smoked cheese, meats of all kinds, sausages, pies and cakes and many many more, just be money :).
3. Lake Capra (Goat)
Once inside at the Balea Lake I decided to go up and make a trail that surrounds the lake Balea. So after an hour of waiting to cross the fog, the sun finally appeared so I could start on. The tour lasted about 3 hours, with a medium to hard difficulty, depends on each person workout. However it is a path which deserves. Landscapes, air, altitude and especially freedom from there makes you want to never leave, and the satisfaction of reaching 2400 meters is complete.
After we descended the mountain and we pulled a little soul, I got in the car and went further, crossing the tunnel that crosses the mountain. Road tunnel seemed very long; poorly lit walls, cold air currents that naturally ventilate the tunnel, it attracts you and you want to get out as quickly towards the light.
After the tunnel start the descent; mountain peaks start to become smaller, the forest is more dense and the air begins to warm.
4. Lake and Vidraru dam
The next attraction is Vidraru dam. The dam was opened in 1966 and it is the highest dam in Romania, with a height of 166 meters but the largest arch dam in our country.
The inauguration from 1966 made Vidraru to be 5th arch dam in Europe and ninth in the world. The engineers pride who built the dam was the power plant, which is situated underground inside “Cetatuia” Massif to a depth of 104 meters. From the dam you can practice bungee-jumping site.
Lake Vidraru was created in 1965 to afford the energy; has a length of 14 km, maximum width is 2.2 km, an area of 870 hectares and a depth of 155 meters. Over lake and dam dominate erected on Mount Pleasa, it was built in 1965 and depicts the mythological hero Prometheus with a lightning in hand, a symbol of electricity.
5. Poenari Fortress
Last Transfagarasan attraction is the Poenari Fortress, which is now a ruin. The fortress was a secondary residence of Vlad Tepes and was built as a fortress against the Turks. There is a staircase with 1,480 steps leading up to the fortress. Unfortunately all you can see are some landscapes with thick walls and the Fagaras mountains. To climb 1,500 steps it takes time and patience, climb is very tiring, especially if you’ve done before a mountain trail.
Transfagarasan offers many natural attractions and is perfect for mountain lovers, but not only, Transfagarasan force you to go very slowly and admire the beauty in detail.