Winter Activities in Romania
Wonder what's there to be done in Romania in winter? Here are some ideas that you might find useful...
Romania is a country which can boast with four distinct seasons: winter, spring, summer and autumn, the local differences of the climate being mainly caused by altitude and proximity to important water streams. The fresh and crisp air, the deep azure sky and the snowy landscapes make Romania a special place for a winter holiday! The winter activities in Romania are much more than just skiing opportunities in the Carpathians. The country awaits its guests with cultural and natural variety, as well as numerous winter activities up its sleeve.
Traditional Christmas masks from Bucovina, credits: salajean/Bigstock.com
If you are eager to feel on your skin the winter traditions and customs of Romania, then the villages from the northern Moldova, region also known by its historical name as Bucovina, should be your destination. Namely here you can find extremely valuable elements that form altogether the popular spiritual culture of Romania. Also, it is believed that the winter traditions are the best preserved and the most spectacular here. The cycle of winter holidays starts with St. Nicholas, then follow with Christmas, New Year, and ends in January with St. John the Baptizer. The rich variety of customs include artistic performances combined with unique traditional clothes, decoration and props.
Traditional wooden house and gate from Maramureș, credits: Cristian Balate Photography/Bigstock.com
The region of Romania where traditions and customs are present every step you take is Maramures. Here, the traditions seem to have been frozen in time, being constantly passed down from father to son! Winter holidays are very important for this area and are treated as such by locals: before the Christmas season, besides cooking and cleaning the house, the people of Maramures practice pig slaughter, known as “Ignat”. The process is followed by singing and drinking the traditional beverage palinca. Then, women prepare the pork meat for the festive table, usually using lots of onion, garlic, cabbage and potato. Many festivals are organized during winter in Maramures, such as that from Sighetu-Marmatiei or Targu Lapus for Christmas. In January, many theatrical performances take place: “Capra” (The Goat), “Ursu” (The Bear) – where people wear masks, dance and sing accompanied by old traditional instruments like “trambita”, an extremely long horn, or “buhai”, a small barrel through with horsehair is pulled. All this pack of activities is topped with idyllic mountain views and lots of snow.
Brașov Christmas Market, credits: Photosebia/Bigstock.com
During the month of December, go Christmas crazy through the Romanian delightful Christmas markets! Usually, the markets are organized on the main squares of the cities, bringing along farmers, traders, villagers from all the corners of the country to share their traditional products with pride and joy. The cities which can boast with their Christmas markets are Brasov, Sibiu, Alba Iulia, Cluj, and, of course, the capital of Romania – Bucharest. Visitors can find here gorgeous handicrafts, glittery decorations, as well as sweet gingerbread, hot mulled wine, cured meats, regional pies and other baked goods. Music concerts and various performances take place in the heart of the market, where the beautifully lit Christmas tree is found. Live carols are heard in all the corners of the market, while Santa Claus, elves, and fairies entertain the little ones.
Sibiu's Old city centre, credits: twindesigner/Bigstock.com
There are so many reasons why Sibiu should be visited! First of all, it is one of the most beautiful cities not only in Transylvania, but also in the entire Romania! In winter, the town of Sibiu, together with its windy streets, cobblestoned squares, gorgeous restaurants, and lively cafes, becomes a Gothic fairy-tale! The town’s historical center has been recently renovated and looks spectacular with holiday decorations. Sibiu has one of the best Christmas markets in the country, which brings a special festive atmosphere to the heart of the town. Spend your holidays with lots of family fun and visit the traditional concert with local artists on the Grand Square (Piata Mare) in the New Year’s Eve. As well, one can venture to the neighboring attractions of Sibiu: the open-air museum from Dumbrava Sibiului, where visitors have the possibility to practice horse sledding, or the mountain resort from the village of Paltinis – a great place to ski and enjoy cold fresh air.
Postavaru Chalet, Poiana Brașov, credits: Photosebia/Bigstock.com
Brasov is one of the most visited places in Romania in the winter season, as adrenaline and relaxation go hand in hand here! Only 13 km far from the city of Brasov, up in the Carpathian Mountains, a unique winter resort is located – Poiana Brasov. This place offers some of the best skiing in Romania, with eight ski slopes of various difficulty degrees. The most avid skiers may try also night skiing. Besides skiing, in winter, visitors have the opportunity to practice snowboarding, ice-skating, ride in a horse-drawn sleigh, but also admire the marvelous landscape from the Postavaru mountain. Yet, before leaving for this destination, it is advisable to check the weather forecast, as most of the slopes rely on natural snow.
The highest road of the Carpathian Mountains is the Transalpina, its maximum altitude being of 2.145 m above sea level, at the Urdele Pass. The road connects Novaci, south of Parang Mountains, and Sebes in the north. A newly inaugurated ski resort situated on this road is Transalpina Ski Resort, known also as Ski Resort Vidra – Transalpina - Voineasa. The destination can be reached by car even in winter, starting from Ramnicu-Valcea on the road DN7A. If the weather is not very harsh, you can get to the ski resort from Petrosani, but better find out information on road’s condition from the National Company for Road Infrastructure Administration. Besides some of the most important skiing slopes in Romania, ski-touring lovers can enjoy here the dreamlike landscape with tall fir trees and wild nature of mind-blowing beauty, with rocky peaks reflecting into the Vidra Lake, just like into a crystal globe.
Bâlea Ice Hotel, credits: Project-Photo/Bigstock.com
The second highest road in Romania - Transfagarasan road, connects Transylvania and Muntenia regions, particularly crossing Arges and Sibiu counties. It also passes through the highest mountain range in Romania – the Fagaras Mountains. Besides the fact that the Transfagarasan road offers a magnificent sight in winter, along the road beautiful attractions can be visited and unforgettable things can be done. However, the part which is at a higher altitude (its length being of about 27 km) is closed for about 8 months due to some natural hazards.
There are many lakes in Romania’s mountains, but none among them are like Balea Lake. It is located on Transfagarasan’s highest point – 2040 meters. When this part of road is closed, tourists can reach Balea Lake via a cabin that ascends from Balea Waterfall – the country’s largest stepped waterfall. At the lake, the ice hotel and the church can be visited. The hotel is one of the few hotels made entirely out of ice in Eastern Europe and is open for three months, during winter. It has the form of an igloo with about 15 rooms and a bar, where you can enjoy a cup of hot chocolate. The bravest ones can spend a night there. For sure, it will be a unique experience! Yet, before moving to Transfagarasan in winter, we recommend you to find out information about the eventual temporary traffic restrictions.
For the Romanian guests who do not quite like cold, there is a warm alternative for winter – Baile Herculane. This is a town in Romanian Banat, Caras-Severin County, located in the valley of Cerna River. It is one of the most ancient spas in Romania, but also in the world! Locals, as well as tourists, like to bath in the famous pools equipped along the Cerna River, with thermal water that comes directly from the earth. It is considered that the hot springs with sulfur, chlorine, sodium, calcium, magnesium and other minerals, as well as negatively ionized air, have natural healing properties. So, why not to have a vacation and improve your health at the same time?
Another thermal spa resort is Baile Felix, found in the commune of Sanmartin, Bihor County. Located at an altitude of approximately 150 meters above sea level, the spa resort has moderate continental climate, with mild winters, just perfect for spa tourism! It hosts many mineral springs that offer a soothing effect to those who suffer from articular and muscular pain, post-traumatic conditions, endocrine disorders, etc. Also, the resort provides to its guests various procedures involving electrotherapy, hydrotherapy, massage, paraffin packing and other water treatments. Besides the healing properties, Baile Felix is known for its natural beauties: rare species of water lilies grow here. Moreover, tourists can discover some turtles that feel themselves awesome in the thermal waters of artificial lakes, but also numerous kinds of fish of different dimensions and colors.
The pearl of Bucovina - Vatra Dornei, from Suceava County, is a well-known spa and ski resort in the Carpathian Mountains. There are four slopes which ski lovers can try: “Dealu Negru”, “Park”, “Poienita”, and “Veverita”. This place is also great to improve your health: it is popular for its natural sea salts, carbonated mineral springs, you can perform mud baths, warm baths with mineral water and other procedures.
Fall under the spell of Romania in winter and design your own journey! You may find that this will be one of the best winter holidays you will ever experience!