The Transfagarasan is one of the world’s most scenic routes and it is definitely the ultimate Romania road trip.
For years, it has been the country’s highest paved road – now there’s Transalpina.
Taking a trip on the Transfagarasan road is one of the best things to do in Romania and one of the best 1-day trips from Bucharest – or Sibiu or Brasov.
This article presents you everything you need to know about the Transfagarasan.
We’ve taken many day trips on this road – and we also included it on our drive to the Apuseni Mountains, when we had a vacation in that part of the country -, so we have extensive experience. Therefore, we compiled this Transfagarasan guide to help you plan the perfect trip!
Transfagarasan: the best one-day trip from Bucharest or Sibiu or Brasov
Before presenting you all the tips about a Transfagarasan road trip, a few words about its history.
Built during the Ceausescu regime – the communism – between 1970 and 1974, the road had a strategic and military role: it was supposed to assure safe passing through the Fagaras Mountains in case of a Soviet (Russian) invasion.
Nowadays it’s “the best road in the world” according to the Top Gear (the original crew, with Clarkson, May, and Hammond, now known as The Grand Tour).
The Transfagarasan is located on the National Road 7C (DN 7C) – a road that links Muntenia with Transylvania.
Transfagarasan weather and the Ice Hotel at Balea Lake + When to visit the Transfagarasan
As Romania has four seasons, the weather is very different throughout the year.
The road is open from June 15 until the end of October, though these dates can change depending on the weather.
In June and in mid-September to October you may have the pleasant surprise of enjoying sun and warm weather along the road and getting into a snowball fight at the top of the Transfagarasan, at Balea Lake.
It happened to us both in June and in October, but it’s not the rule.
During the winter, the top of the Transfagarasan – Balea Lake – is accessible via cable car as there are skiing possibilities in the area.
The fun part is that during the winter if the weather allows it (if it snows) an ice hotel is built at Balea Lac (Balea Lake Ice Hotel.)
It’s a truly spectacular hotel and a great choice for an unforgettable experience in the winter in Romania.
So, to answer the “when to visit the Transfagarasan” question, I’ll say this:
- You can visit it by car from mid-June to the end of October (dates may vary depending on the weather – please do a google search for Transfagarasan open and the year you plan to visit it in: eg Transfagarasan open 2022)
- You can get to Balea Lake during the winter too – depending on the weather conditions.
In my opinion, the entire road is an attraction in itself.
There are plenty of places where you can stop your car and get down from it to admire the view and take some pictures. Here are the best Transfagarasan attractions or, better said, the top Transfagarasan points of interest.
If you head to the Transfagarasan from Bucharest, you can stop in Curtea de Arges first.
It’s a smaller city, but its monastery is beautiful and it is the resting place of the royal family from Romania.
You’ll also find an old Princely Court, dating back to the 14th century in Curtea de Arges.
Your next stop will be the Vidraru Dam – it’s huge as there is a thermal power station here. This is one of the best Transfagarasan things to see!
You can park your car and enjoy the view and take some amazing photos for your insta feed.
Tip: if you’re returning on the same route or if this is your route back, make sure you take photos in the yellow light late in the afternoon. They will be mesmerizing.
You can also stop here for a longer period of time and take a trip on the Vidraru Lake with the available ships (guided tours).
There are also stairs allowing you to get to the top of the dam for a better view. I admit, we never went up the stairs.
At about 1700 meters you’ll see a wonderful Transfagarasan waterfall – this is one of the popular stops along the Transfagarasan.
There are many other smaller waterfalls that you will be able to see on the way.
Of course, the main Transfagarasan attraction is the Balea Lake – a glacier lake – and the Balea Lake Cabin – its reflection into the water is stunning!
Balea Lake is one of the Transfagarasan things to do that will enchant you!
As a side note, this photo is from one of our previous trips to the Transfagarasan.
In October it was snowy and foggy – wonderful still, but, obviously, we couldn’t take such a photo.
Instead, we had a lot of fun taking photos of the fog and snow.
And even our dog – and keep in mind that Maxie hates the water – was happy and explored the area.
As a note, on sunny days, you can hike the mountain. From the top, you get a spectacular view of the lake and cabin!
The top is also one of the best viewpoints from the Transfagarasan!
You can also have an internet connection there, so your experience will be complete and amazing from all points of view. Plus, you’ll be able to share your precious photos on Instagram! If you need a VPN, you can use NordVPN as a reliable solution.
How long does a Transfagarasan day trip take?
Well, from Bucharest to Balea Lake you’ll need to drive between 2h20min to 3h, depending on the traffic.
However, during the summer when there are many people heading to the Transfagarasan, it can take even 4hrs to get to Balea Lake.
Add 30-50 minutes for a stop in Curtea de Arges (if you plan on visiting it), and 30-40 on the way up – to admire the view, waterfalls, and to take pictures.
One more important note: during the summer months, you will notice that many people choose to picnic on the Transfagarasan, which often involves a barbecue.
That is why you may see smoke on the mountain and smell the meat prepared – “mici”, pork, chicken.
You can eat at Balea Lake – there is a restaurant there and there are also some cabins selling souvenirs, corn, various meat and cheese products.
I have to admit, I always eat corn here! – baked or boiled.
There are some cabins and hotels along the way up too, so you can always choose to make your trip longer or to stop for a meal there. There is also a restaurant close to the Vidraru Dam.
How to get to the Transfagarasan
Frankly, the easiest possible way is to use Waze no matter where your starting point is.
We always choose the Balea Lake destination, make sure to choose DN (national roads) only (not forest roads) and that’s it.
After you reach Balea Lake, you set the next destination – either choosing to get them down through Sibiu County or the same route you arrived on.
As a note: getting back to Bucharest via Sibiu is a way longer route with significantly more tight hairpins (as the road descends then climbs again and descends once more). Worth every moment though!
You can also take a guided tour to the Transfagarasan. There are plenty of companies offering such tours, regardless of your starting point. You can either choose a private sedan for 2-3 people or a tour by a small bus or van.
When you visit Romania during the summer, if you can rent a car or book a tour or if you have friends willing to drive you, then you should definitely take a trip to the Transfagarasan.
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you shouldn’t miss.
The road is incredible and the views are staggering.
Final note: Transfagarasan Road or Transfagarasan Highway: what is the correct name?
You see that I used both names in this article. I did this ONLY because I saw that many people are doing searches on search engines with both names.
However, the correct name is Transfagarasan road.
It’s not a highway – it’s a paved road through the mountains.
A superb road, but not a highway.