Transfagarasan is one of the most famous roads in Romania and possibly in the entire world.
That’ why I want to help you understand all there is to know about Transfăgărășan and that you need to plan a road trip to see this beautiful road in Romania.
Transfagarasan: Seen by Romanians
Transfăgărășan became popular worldwide after the BBC Top Gear team came to Romania in 2009. Ever since the Transfăgărășan road in Romania is known as the best driving road (or at least one of the best) in the world.
As a Romanian, I can’t say I am really amazed by this statement, as I know about this great road since I was a child and I’ve been there many times. But even after all this time, it amazes me every time.
I’ve been there with my parents when I was only a child, and then I drove my own car on Transfăgărășan. I’ve been hiking in Făragaș Mountains, and the starting point is the highest point of the road, Balea lake.
After I’ve seen it from all sides, it still takes my breath away with every visit I pay. Simply said, for Romanians, Transfăgărășan is one of the best roads there is, and we are proud to have it our country.
As I imagine that you are not a Romanian, you probably have a lot of questions about Transfăgărășan, such as how was it made, and what can you do around it.
That’s why I want to share you some of the most interesting facts about Transfăgărășan, the best driving road in the world.
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Transfăgărășan Romania Facts
Transfăgărășan Romania name
The road is officially called national road 7C, but everyone knows it by the name of Transfăgărășan.
Regarded as Romania’s best road, in terms of scenery and location, Transfăgărășan gets its name from the mountains it crosses. Trans means across, and făgărășan refers to the Făgărăș mountains which the Transfăgărășan goes through. Note that Făgărăș mountains are the highest mountains in Romania and the hike for the two highest peaks in Romania start from the highest point on the Transfăgărășan.
Transfăgărășan is one of the main ways to drive from the south part of Romania to Transylvania.
Transfăgărășan Romania Construction
The best driving road in the world was built during the communist regime in Romania, and its construction started in 1969. There were two teams, each starting the construction of Transfagarasan from one side of the mountain. They met on the 16th August 1971, and you will find a monument to mark their encounter on the north side of the mountain, at 1600 meters altitude.
The entire road was finished in 1974 and paved in 1980. The alpine route has 833 bridges and 28 viaducts. In order to be built, Transfagarasan required three million tons of rock to be blown up, and they used 6520 TNT tons to do so.
Besides the hundreds of tons of materials, Transfagarasan also took the life of 40 people during its construction. There are two monuments placed along it to remind us of their sacrifice.
Transfăgărășan Romania Length
The total length of Transfăgărășan is 152 km, but only 90 km go through the mountains.
Transfăgărășan Romania Altitude
The best driving road in Romania has its highest point at Bâlea Chalet, where the altitude is 2042 meters.
Transfăgărășan Romania Weather and Temperature
Romania has a continental climate, and fortunately, that means that even mountain weather predictions are mostly reliable. The weather for Transfagarasan is generally pleasing during summer. Except for the highest point at Balea Lake, where the weather can be unpredictable, the rest of the Transfagarasan route is manageable.
During hot summer days, the temperature drops at around 10°C at its highest point (Balea Lake) during day time. That’s why it’s recommended to bring some warmer clothes if you want to stop for a longer time.
Transfăgărășan Romania Route
Transfagarasan has a length of 152 km, but most Romanians think about the most spectacular section of the road when talking about it. That is between Vidradu Lake and Cârţişoara village. That’s 85 km of Transfagarasan, and it will take a minimum of two hours to cross it.
Transfăgărășan Romania schedule and road conditions
Because Transfagarasan is a dangerous mountain road, the access is restricted to only six per year, between 30th June and 1st of November, between 6 am and 10 pm. The recommended speed is 40km/h. The road doesn’t have any protective elements or reflective signs, and it’s considered especially dangerous due to its many sharp curves, which present a high risk of falling off the road.
There are road signs indicating the exact conditions at the beginning of the road on each side.
During winter the road is covered with snow and it can’t be used. Some parts are also particularly dangerous due to the risk of avalanches during winter and falling rocks (all year round). During winter the road is closed between Piscu Negru (South) and Balea Cascada (North).
There is a cable car connecting “Bâlea Cascadă” Chalet to Balea Lake, which functions all year round. This is on the north side of the mountain. The road to “Bâlea Cascadă” Chalet is open all year round. Driving on the closed section during winter is forbidden, and the road is physically blocked. Also, there is a fine for those who attempt it. And even if you could somehow avoid the road obstacles, the tunnel which crosses the mountain at the highest point of the road is closed with a gate. That is if the entire thing isn’t covered in tons of snow.
Tips for visiting Transfagarasan during summer
Transfagarasan is the second highest road in Romania, after Transalpina, and one of the most popular touristic attraction for Romanian and foreign tourists. That’s why the Transfagarasan gets crowded on most summer weekends.
It gets even worse during public holidays when most people aren’t working. The road can get jammed with hundreds of cars, and the few parking options will be full. Such an experience can ruin what it should have been a wonderful day trip on Romania’s most spectacular road.
Plan your visit to Transfagarasan
After some bad experiences I had myself, here’re some tips to help you plan your visit to Transfagarasan:
- Arrive early, and you will be able to stop wherever you want and take all the pics you want. Early means 7 am.
- If possible, spend the night before in one of the villages close to the start of the spectacular part of the road (Arefu on the south side; Cârțișoara on the north side). This is highly recommended if you want to start a hike from Balea Lake.
- Bring some warmer clothes you can easily change into once you reach a higher altitude. It will be under 10 °C when the sun is not shining and even less during the night. And the real feel can be even below.
- Don’t plan to drive on Transfagarasan if you’re a beginner driver. It can overwhelm you, and the road isn’t for the faint of heart.
- Don’t overload your car. Not with luggage and not with people. You’ll understand why once you start ascending on Transfagarasan.
- Check out the webcam from Balea Lake to get a sense of the weather conditions. (It works all year round.)
- Going from North to South might be better if you plan to spend more time on the Transfagarasan. The Southside has more sun as the sun sets, whereas the Northside is in the shades after 1 pm, and it gets colder.
- Make sure you have a full tank of gas, there’s a distance of over 120km between the two gas station on each side and the road is more challenging than a flat road. That means that our car will have a higher consumption rate than usual.
- The sunrise is at 8 30 am during summer and then it starts to get cold after 5 pm, as the sun rays don’t reach all parts of the road.
- Don’t pick up any Edelweiss flowers. And don’t buy any from the souvenirs vendors, in case they sell them. It’s illegal to pick them up and you can get finned. Also, the entire world will hate you for doing so.
- Don’t leave any trash behind. What belongs to the mountain, stays on the mountain. Everything else must go the same way it came.
Transfagarasan, Romania: Things to See and Do
Transfagarasan is the main attraction in itself. The views are spectacular, even if you don’t want to stop for pictures. The driving experience on the Romanian Transfagarasan is one of a kind.
And if that isn’t enough, there are many viewpoints and famous stops along the Transfagarasan, which might be interesting for a first time visitor. Just to name a few:
- Vidraru Dam and Lake
- Capra Chalet (at 1585 m altitude, and 9 km before Balea Lake). They have accommodation and a restaurant.
- The longest mountain tunnel in Romania, the one before Balea Lake. It’s 887 meters long and situated at over 2000 meters altitude.
- Balea Lake. At the highest point of Transfagarasan, you will find Balea Lake, which is a glacial lake. Next to it is Balea Chalet, which offers accommodation and also has a restaurant. There is also another chalet, Paltinu Chalet, which is newer construction. During summer, the entire area gets crowded with tourists, and many streets vendors sell food and other traditional souvenirs.
- Balea Lake is the starting point for the hiking trails towards the two highest peaks in Romania. You can park your car near the lake and start the hike from there. These are full-day hikes.
- The two monuments for the men who built Transfagarasan: “Poarta Geniștilor” (The gate for the and “Poarta Întâlnirii”.
Transfagarasan Hiking Trails
Did you know some people come to Romania with the primary goal to hike in the Romanian mountains? Well, if you are a mountain lover, you will understand why.
Transfagarasan is not only a scenic road, but it is also a convenient way to get as close as possible to the highest mountain peaks in Romania:
- Moldoveanu Peak (2544m) and
- Negoiu Peak (2535m).
Although other trails can get you to the summit, Balea Lake is one of the most common starting point for both these hikes. They are in opposite directions, so you will have to decide which one you want to conquer right from the beginning.
Bear in mind that the trail to Moldoveanu Peak from Balea Lake and back is a 14h hike, and most people make that trail in two days, with a stop on the first day at Podragu Chalet. Some finish it in one day, but it is not recommended, especially if the weather is bad and your fitness level isn’t above average.
The trail from Balea Lake to Negoiu Peak and back is a one-day hiking trail and can be done in about 8 hours, at a leisure pace. I did it in one day, and after I got off the mountain, I drove all the way to Bucharest. I wouldn’t recommend driving before or after these trails, but it’s possible.
Transfagarasan Hotels and Restaurants
Where can you stay on Transfagarasan? Note that it is custom that most hotels also have a restaurant, so most likely you can stop for lunch at most of these hotels on Transfagarasan.
There are many chalets and homestays that will welcome you, even without a reservation. During summer, when it’s the peak season, most hotels with mountain views tend to be fully booked, so bear that in mind if you plan a trip on Transfagarasan and you want to spend a night around.
It’s cheaper to stay somewhere in the villages than in the touristic hotels with great views. As always, you pay (a lot) extra for the location.
Here are some recommended hotels on the Transfagarasan:
- Budget accommodation: Livada cu Meri, Pensiunea Bujor de Munte, Piscu Negru- La insule
- Mid-range accommodation: Complex Dracula & Spa, Casa Mosului, Cabana Capra (great location if you want to hike), Piscul Negru Hotel – Transfagarasan
- Expensive accommodation: Hotel Posada Vidraru
Transfagarasan vs Transalpina
Some will say Transfagarasan is the best road in Romania, while others will argue that Transalpina is the ultimate alpine road. And they are all right. It’s a matter of personal preferences.
While Transfagarasan is a winding spectacular road between Romania’s highest peaks, Transalpina is the highest road, built on the mountain’s ridge. Both roads offer spectacular views, and both are pretty dangerous, and I wouldn’t recommend them to a beginner driver.
If you decided to check out Transfagarasan while visiting Romania, I have a better idea for you. Why not check out the two best roads in Romania during the same trip?
Planning a road trip in Romania can be a lot of fun. If you’re aiming to see more of Transylvania, then you can consider driving on Transfagarasan on your way towards Transylvania and then checking out Transalpina on the way back to Bucharest. Or vice versa. The only recommendation would be to treat these roads as attraction and to plan your schedule accordingly.