Frequently cited as one of the best roads in the world to drive on (most notably on Top Gear), the Transfăgărăşan road is one-of-a-kind experience in southern Romania. Unbelievably twisty road and fantastic rugged mountainous scenery, the Transfăgărăşan is definitely worth the drive.
Seasonal colours on the Transfăgărăşan
We drove the Transfăgărăşan south to north in September – there was a lovely autumnal tint to the scenery even if it was FREEZING (and I mean it) at the top.
It was also very quiet; when we reached the mid-point there were maybe three or four other cars parked; a number of tacky tourist stands at the mid-point convinced me that we had visited at the right time!
The Transfăgărăşan: A bit of history
The Transfăgărăşan road was built in 1970 during Nicolae Ceauşescu’s dictatorship. He wanted a road crossing the Făgărăş mountains in case of war (like all good Cold War dictators he was completely paranoid of attack).
The 90km long road (60 miles) was built by soldiers, and reportedly 40 died during construction – well, as the records say anyway (I would guess more). At the highest point, the road reaches 2034 meters in altitude, making the Transfăgărăşan one of the highest roads in Europe.
I haven’t got that many photos of the earlier sections, mainly because I was taking videos of the state of the road! The road followed a lovely lake for a while, and also crossed over a dam.
We had stayed at a campground the night before since we wanted a full day to drive the road, but regretted that as soon as we started driving in the morning – we found loads of wild camping opportunities throughout the first 20km or so.
Potholes and other road damage
There was a section of approximately 25km of road that was in pretty bad condition – lots of potholes and uneven levels of tarmac. We didn’t meet too many cars on the route which was great as we were then able to avoid the worst of it.
Giving Romania credit, though, this road is closed for most of the year – it is generally open June to September/October depending on weather conditions. The Transfăgărăşan crosses a mountain range, so the must be a very difficult road to maintain.
As a side note, we experienced great road conditions throughout the rest of our driving in Romania (especially in relation to surrounding countries and other places we had been recently), despite warnings from other travellers and our guide book.
At the summit of the Transfăgărăşan
I have to say that while I wasn’t a big fan of the tacky tourist stalls at the top of the road, it was nice to get some hot food (see above)! It was so cold up there that we didn’t spend too long looking around, despite the awesome view down the mountain towards the northern section of the road (the very windy and most famous part) and Lake Balea.
I felt quite sorry for the stall holders, not only was it freezing but they weren’t having much custom either!
Despite the northern part being the bit usually featured on websites, TV programs, photos etc, I didn’t enjoy it as much as the southern part. I found the road more enclosed and less scenic.
We only stopped once, but did meet a lovely young Romanian couple from the North-East, who told us their cross-country driving tales!
Arriving in Transylvania
Another thing I found amazing about this road was how quickly we were transported into the beautiful region of Transylvania after finishing it. Not long after being at the top of the mountain range we were driving through wonderfully preserved villages.
What a great way to get here from Bucharest – not only an awesome road to drive, the Transfăgărăşan ended up being pretty convenient too!