I’m not sure when this blog post will reach you, but it was written during the great pandemic of 2020, in summer. I’m on a mission to discover places to visit in Romania, and I started with a 5-day road trip from Bucharest, in June 2020. This is the blog for the first day, the Bucharest to Danube valley road trip, as I call it.
Romania is blessed with beautiful nature and great history, that’s why I envision some more road trips around Romania for the rest of the summer of 2020. This was the first day of a 5-day road trip around Romania, which started in Bucharest, on a very early Wednesday, in June 2020.
Check out the second day of this trip: Oravita to Anina Train ride, the most spectacular train ride in SE Europe.
This was my second visit to the Danube Gorges, a wonderful place that I love and wanted to visit once more. I have a feeling I will visit it again, really soon.
Check out the post from the Danube gorges from 3 years ago.
Bucharest to Danube valley road trip: All you need to know
Remember that there are so many other places you can visit in Romania and this is a suggestion for a road trip, which you can make as long as you like.
That why I recommend renting a car if you want to make the most out of your time in Romania!
Driving through Romania will be an adventure, and you will get to see places you didn’t even include on your initial itinerary.
Romania is full of castles, fortress and old buildings, ruins, churches and heritage sites. It’s like you’re driving and ‘Look, there’s a sign for another place to check out!’. Really!
To be completely honest, I don’t plan too much before going on road trips. I love it when I get to a random place that has something unique to offer, a story and that it’s a little off from the beaten path.
Like some of these places from the last 5-day road trip in Romania was.
Day 1: From Bucharest to Danube valley road trip
It’s important to wake up early when leaving Bucharest because it gets busy after 7 am when everyone is up and going places. It can take up to an hour to just get out of the city if you’re lazy and don’t wake up early.
I recommend leaving by 6 am or even earlier if you can.
I set the destination Drobeta Turnu Severin on the GPS and started driving.
There’s a highway from Bucharest to Pitesti (a total of 100km) and then another 230km on the national road. Beware that national roads have only one lane in each direction. Get used to this, because driving in Romania is mainly on national roads and some drivers do funny stuff. So stay away from them and don’t drive too fast, because you won’t get anywhere faster anyway.
On the way to Drobeta, you will pass through Craiova, which is a nice stop for lunch if you have the time.
What to visit in Craiova?
- Church of Cosuna Monastery – the oldest building preserved in Craiova
- Madona Dudu Church – famous for its paintings
- Oltenia Museum, which is hosted in Baniei House ((1699), one of the oldest in Romania
- Art Museum, in Dinu Mihai palace – which has 6 of Brancusi’ early sculptures (he studied arts in Craiova)
- The Jitianu Monk Monastery
- Botanical Garden
As you reach Drobeta, you will notice the Danube on the left. The scenery is starting to change, and you will want to see more. Don’t worry, you will!
What to see in Drobeta – Turnu Severin?
- Severin Fortress, Dragulina Park
- Castrul Roman Drobeta – It was built in 103 AD was the fist stone fortress built in Dacia with the main purpose of defending the Trajan’s bridge. The fort was hosting 500 solders.
- Trajan’s Bridge – Bridge of Apollodorus over the Danube was a Roman segmental arch bridge, the first to be built over the lower Danube.
- Cultural Palace Theodor Costescu
- Iron Gates Museum – Its antiquity section displays the remains from the oldest permanent settlement in Europe, Schela Cladova and other objects from neolithic, bronze age and iron age.
- Water Tower
From Drobeta, head to Orsova, and admire one of the most scenic roads by the Danube. You can’t stop for pictures, as the road is narrow and the traffic is always heavy, so just enjoy the beautiful views.
In Orsova, you can stop and enjoy a walk by the Danube, head over to Mănăstirea Sfânta Ana. There you will see a beautiful nun monastery with a view over the Danube.
Then drive further towards Eșelnița, pass thought it, and park when you reach Decebal Statue. You can’t miss it. There are a small parking lot and lots of boats, a small restaurant on the side of the road and other things.
Here you park the car and find the next boat that goes out for a tour on the Danube. The motorboats go out once they have at least six people on the boat (to make the trip worth for them too) and it costs 30 lei per person. If the group fro the boat agrees to it, for an extra 10 lei, they will take you to see Tabula Traiana.
During the Danube Gorges boat trip, you will see
- Mraconia Monastery – Also known as the underwater monastery (the old monastery is underwater)
- Grota Veterani (a natural cave used the Romans and the Austrians; 6 lei to visit it)
- Ponicova cave (you will see it from the boat),
- Tabula Széchenyi – the original was placed on the mountain in 1885 to honour the memory of Széchenyi István, the cont that made possible navigation on this part of the Danube. The original plate is 22m underwater, as the water level raised after the Iron Gates were built
- Tabula Traiana – a 2000-year-old plate, on the Serbian shore, built by Traian, the Roman emperor to celebrate the victory over the Dacian empire
- and obviously, you can see Serbia on the other side of the Danube.
This wasn’t the first I visited the magical Danube Gorges in Romania. Check out more about the Danube Gorges in Romania in this post from 3 years ago to get the complete explanations on everything you will get to see during this boat tour.
And since you made it so far, I have another tip for you.
Hike on Ciucaru Mare in Dubova
There’s a nice hike you can do, to get to see the Danube Gorges from up the mountain. You need to drive to Dubova. Just follow the road by the Danube.
After you get to Dubova, park near Birt Dubova and 100 m further, on the fest, you will find the trail for the Ciucaru Mare mountain, which will get you right on top of the Danube. The hike is marked with a yellow triangle, takes 5 hours and is of a medium level.
Where to spend the night?
If you decided to do all of the above, I suggest finding a place to spend the night in Dubova, or you can drive a bit further away, to get a head start for the next day.
I decided to drive for another hour to Cheile Nerei – Beușnița National Park and spent the night in Eftimie Murgu, a village that not a lot of people have heard of.
I stayed at Casa Valea Morilor in Eftimie Murgu, and loved it. The owners are very nice, and the house had a nice garden and a spacious room.
To my surprise, this village is home to a UNESCO heritage site, a complex of traditional water mills, which is one of the few of this kind in Europe. Had I not drove to get closer to the National Park, I would have never discovered this place.
This was the first day of a 5-day road trip around Romania, and I call it the Bucharest to Danube Valley road trip, and I will soon share with you all the details of the next days. It was a great trip, filled with some of the best landmarks in Romania.
Check out the second day of this trip: A train ride on the oldest railway in SE Europe.