Many Eastern European countries were, for a long time, closed off from the global touristic circuit – the Iron Curtain is to blame, mostly. Then, as they opened up their borders, these countries often had a hard time rising to the expectations of international travelers: while they do have beautiful places to see and explore, their lodging and dining options were subpar, to say the least. Now, three decades after the fall of the Iron Curtain, many of them have become welcoming places for visitors from around the world. Today, let’s take a brief look at one country that has a cornucopia of picture-perfect places to explore even for the thrifty traveler: Romania.
A Bit of History
Between the late 1940s and the late 1980s, Romania was under a pretty isolationist communist dictatorship that, aside from virtually locking its citizens within its borders, also prevented its resorts from growing into ones with international fame. It’s a pity, considering that the country has more than its fair share of natural wonders. The fall of the communist regime didn’t exactly bring the change Romania’s tourism needed: instead of focusing on what makes it unique, several governments spent most of their tourism-related funds promoting the country’s Black Sea shore – which, as a result, has become overcrowded and overpriced. In recent years, though, several cities decided to take matters in their own hand, restoring their ruined landmarks, and shifting focus toward welcoming tourists from all over the world. Plus, other areas aside from the shores of the Black Sea have finally received some well-deserved attention. Today, Romania has become a much more welcoming place with more to offer than its crowded beach clubs: it is a place with natural wonders to see and cities to explore.
Wonders of Nature
Romania is home to the second-biggest river delta in Europe, and one of the best-preserved: the Danube Delta. It is an amazing area with 23 natural ecosystems, home to hundreds of species of birds, and to a human population that often lives in villages that can only be reached by boat. The Danube Delta offers everything from fishing trips to nature photography, boating, rural tourism options, and more.
The Carpathian Mountains dominate the country’s central and northern area – and this makes these regions perfect for hiking in the summer and – in certain areas – skiing in the winter. While there are quite a few well-known and crowded resorts in the country – especially in the area closer to its capital city Bucharest – there are also several lesser-known slopes that are much more budget-friendly. Aside from ski slopes and hiking routes, there are countless wonders of nature to explore in the country’s mountains, from the karst caves of the West to the mostly untouched wilderness of the East. Between them, you’ll find everything from isolated villages to ruins to explore.
A Rich History
Romania has several major historic regions, each of them with their own influences. In the western and central parts of the country, you’ll stumble upon many examples of Western European architecture with churches, palaces, and other buildings encompassing several eras and styles. In other areas, you’ll stumble upon traditional churches – including some surprisingly well-preserved small wooden churches – and monasteries, and several medieval forts either close to modern settlements or hidden among the hills and mountains of the area. These are often restored to their former glory, and home to festivals honoring their history.
As we said above, Romania can be a very budget-friendly destination. Depending on what your expectations are, of course. In some areas, you can book a room at a guesthouse for as low as $15, and at many restaurants, the “menu of the day” (a full meal) costs somewhere between $3 and $5. Of course, you’ll also find more sophisticated and higher-profile lodging and dining options – for a fair price, of course. If you are a thrifty traveler, though, you will almost certainly find the options fit for your pocket as well.
All things considered, Romania is a great destination for travelers for every budget. It has a myriad of things to explore, from wonders of nature to its rich history, and many of them can be done in a meaningful, budget-friendly way.