Our Transfagarasan Highway Adventure: The Best Road Trip in Romania

If you have ever looked into the best road trips in the world, then you are probably familiar with the Transfagarasan Highway. This paved mountain road, which stretches roughly 130kms (80 miles) and connects the historic regions of Transylvania and Wallachia, gained its popularity after appearing on the BBC TV show Top Gear in 2009, which labeled Transfagarasan as “The Best Road in the World.” 

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Our adventure along the Transfagarasan Highway may have been only one of the highlights of our road trip through Romania, but this short drive in and of itself was worth the journey to Romania.

Transfaragasan Highway. Best roadtrip in Romania

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About the Transfagarasan Road

Where is it?

As the name suggests, the Transfagarasan Highway crosses the Fagaras Mountains, dividing northwestern and southern Romania. They form part of the Carpathians mountain range, also referred to as the Transylvanian Alps, to give you an idea of how impressive they are!

Heading south, the Transfagarasan Highway starts at the small town of Cartisoara, located in Sibiu County, Transylvania, and extends just past the little village of Albestii de Arges in northern Wallachia. Although the winding road itself is only 130km (80 miles) long and can be easily enjoyed in an easy 3-hour drive, we chose to spend 2 days exploring the area.

Fagaras Mountains
Fagaras Mountains

Why is Transfagarasan Road so Famous?

Transfagarasan, Romania, was brought to the attention of the world by the popular TV show Top Gear. In 2009, Jeremy Clarkson spent a day filming the drive along the Transfagarasan Road with twists, turns, and tunnels. The show and the fact that Clarkson declared the Transfagarasan Highway as “the best road in the world” helped make this unique highway one of the main attractions for visitors to Romania.

Of course, Transfagarasan Road was important before Top Gear! It has played a huge role in Romanian communist history. The Transfargarasan Road was constructed between 1970 and 1974 in response to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 as a way to provide quick military access across the mountains should the Soviet Union invasion come any further.

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Thick forest lines the Transfagarasan Highway. Road trip in Romania
Thick forest lines the Transfagarasan Highway

Best Stops Along the Transfagarasan Road

Balea Lake

Our first destination as we embarked on our journey along the Transfagarasan Highway was Balea Lake. Located at an altitude of 2,042m, this is the highest point of the Transfagarasan Road and the glacier lake makes for a must-see stopping point along the Transfagarasan Highway.

The scenery at the lake is incredible and we were incredibly fortunate to see it in all of its beauty on that perfectly clear day. This is also a good overnight stop along the Transfargarasan Road. We recommend the Balea Lake Chalet, where we checked in for our first night.

Balea Lake
Balea Lake

Hike the Landscape Around Balea Lake

If you have time to turn this visit into a day trip, explore this stunning landscape on one of the many hiking trails around the lake. There are trails of varying lengths and difficulties, including one 10 km route that runs from Balea Lake to Balea Waterfall if you’re up for a challenge.

Transfaragasan Road leading up to Balea Lake. Road trip in Romania
Transfagarasan Road leading up to Balea Lake
Roadtrip in Romania Balea Lake, the highest point of the Transfagarasan highway
Balea Lake, the highest point of the Transfagarasan Highway

Fagaras Mountains

After devouring a delicious meal at the Balea Lake Restaurant, you can work off all that food with a short (2-3 hour) afternoon hike in the Fagaras Mountains. The Fagaras Mountains are the highest of the Southern Carpathians, in Romania. There are lots of marked trails in the area, but be sure to stick to them and keep an eye on the weather forecasts. 

The particular time of year we were visiting the Transfagarasan Road was late October, the last weekend before the Transfagarasan Highway would close for the winter season. As we made our way up the Fagaras Mountains, the bone-chilling wind and snow capped trail kept us alert and shivering the entire way up.

The view from the top was nothing short of spectacular. The pink and purple hues over Balea Lake make it seem absolutely magical. The sun hid behind the horizon as we made our way back down to the lake, grateful for hot showers and warm soups that awaited us inside.

Fagaras Mountains in snow. Transylvania. Romania
Cold but beautiful day for a hike in Făgăraş Mountains
Enjoying the views from the top! Balea Lake. Faragas Mountains. Romania
Enjoying the views from the top of the Făgăraş Mountains
Max, Oksana and friends at Balea Lake in Romania
Enjoying the views from the top of the Făgăraş Mountains


Balea Lake. View from the top of Faragasan Mountains. Roadtrip in Romania
Balea Lake. View from the top of Făgăraş Mountains
Sunset view from Fagaras Mountains. Transylvania. Romania
Sunsets behind the Făgăraş Mountains

Balea Waterfall

Situated on the northern side of the Fagaras Mountains, the Balea Waterfall is a popular attraction for visitors in the area. It’s very close to the Transfagarasan Highway and you can make the whole trip in a couple of hours, so you’ll have the rest of the day to continue on your adventure. 

There are two ways to see these waterfalls – you can hike in, or you can take the Balea Lake – Balea Waterfall Cable Car. The hike will take about 2 hours round-trip, and it is moderately difficult. The hiking trail gets steeper the closer you get to the waterfall. 

Bâlea Waterfall
Bâlea Waterfall from afar

Take a Ride on the Balea Lake – Balea Waterfall Cable Car 

Whether you decide to hike to the waterfall or catch a ride on the cable car, head to the Balea Waterfall Visitor Centre, which is right off of the Transfagarasan Highway. Both the trailhead and cable car station are located here. The cable car normally runs daily from 9am to 5pm, and a one-way ticket is 30 Lei. Check the website for operating times and prices and to make sure weather conditions haven’t caused any closures.

cable car going to balea lake

Vidraru Dam

Take your time along the Transfagarasan Highway, and stop to admire the amazing views, gushing waterfalls, natural gorges, staggering cliffs, serene lakes, and, of course, the Vidraru Dam. The dam was built back in 1966 on the Arges River, which in and of itself offered amazing views of Lake Vidraru and served as yet another highlight on the Transfagarasan Highway.

Vidraru Lake has become a popular spot for recreation, with water sports facilities offering boat tours, recreational boat races, and even bungee jumping off of Vidraru Dam. If you would rather relax and take in the amazing landscape, look for the Belvedere Platform, a multi-level vantage point on the dam.

Vidraru Dam
Vidraru Dam
Small waterfall along the Transfagarasan Highway. Road trip in Romania
A small waterfall along the Transfagarasan Highway.
Lake Vidraru, along the Transfaragasan Highway. Roadtrip in Romania
Lake Vidraru, along the Transfagarasan Highway

Curtea de Arges Monastery

If you continue south on the Transfagarasan Highway for about 40 minutes, you’ll pass by the Curtea de Arges Monastery. This monastery dates back to the 16th century, and the architecture is stunning. If you have time, explore the inside of the church, which features exquisite murals and relics.

Curtea de Arges Monastery
Curtea de Arges Monastery. Photo via Romania Ministry of Tourism/romania.travel

Poenari Castle

This is one for the history buffs. The visually striking Poenari Castle looms high above the start of the Transfagarasan Road above the Argeș River and gives a stunning view of the winding pass below. It was once used by the Prince of Wallachia, better known as Vlad the Impaler…or Dracula! The castle is considered “the real Dracula’s castle,” as Vlad spent more time here than in Bran Castle. Get ready to climb a LOT of steps to visit this creepy castle with its dark past.



Where to Stay Along the Transfagarasan Road

Hotel Valea cu Pesti

The Hotel Valea cu Pesti is perfectly placed for a stop along the Transfagarasan Highway. It’s just 13km (8 miles) from Poenari Castle and right on the shores of Lake Vidraru in the shadow of the Făgăraş Mountains. They offer apartments, mini-suites, or twin rooms. If you can, get a room with a lake view!

All 60 rooms have private bathrooms and satellite television, and guests have access to the indoor pool and recreation area with billiards and bowling. Hotel Valea cu Pesti also arranges recreational activities on the lake and tours of the area.

Balea Lake Mountain Chalet

We really loved our stay at the Balea Lake Mountain ChaletIt’s located right next to the glacial lake. The rooms are decorated in wood, just as you’d expect from a mountain lodge, and it has everything you need and then some! The view of the lake is just stunning and makes the stay even more special.

There are two different lodges to choose from, each with a variety of rooms and apartments to choose from. All accommodations have private bathrooms and wifi, with apartments offering more amenities. The onsite restaurant specializes in regional dishes made with seasonal ingredients. 

Balea Lake Chalet, our accommodation along the Transfagarasan Highway. Roadtrip in Romania
Balea Lake Chalet, our accommodation along the Transfagarasan Highway

Vila Balea

A little further from the lake (12km) is Vila Balea. It’s like a fairytale setting and perfectly located for a bunch of activities, including walking tours and mountain trekking. Budding wildlife photographers will also enjoy the chance to spot and shoot the local deer, wild boars, bears, lynx, and grouse.

Vila Balea offers a handful of spacious rooms and private cottages, each with a private bathroom and gorgeous mountain views. Cottages include kitchenettes, living areas, and large terraces. The onsite restaurant specializes in dishes prepared with local game and produce from small Romanian suppliers. 

Magical and Mystical Transfagarasan Highway, Romania

As you wind along the Transfagarasan Road, you are captivated by the sheer wild, rugged beauty of it all. The fog and clouds just add to the atmosphere and energy of this unique place!

Before we knew it, the beautiful curves of the Transfagarasan Highway were in our rearview mirrors. And just like that, it was time to say goodbye to one of the best road trips in the world and make our way back to Bucharest.

Along the Transfagarasan, Transylvania, Romania
Goodbye Transfagarasan!

What are some of your favorite road trips in the world?

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9 thoughts on “Our Transfagarasan Highway Adventure: The Best Road Trip in Romania”

  1. Keri @ Ladies what travel

    Visited Romania for the first time last month and loved Transylvania – would love to explore more of the area, it really is so beautiful!

    1. Did you get a chance to get up to Maramures during your visit? It’s a very picturesque region that borders with Ukraine. Definitely one to see, especially if you get a chance to visit in the fall! The colours are amazing!

  2. This is lovely! I haven’t seen too much on driving in Romania. We are planning our first trip there and just wanted any advice on if you recommend driving as a good way to get around! Thank you and all the best to you!

    1. We really enjoyed getting around by car during our trip. It was a great way to get off the beaten path and to see some lesser known parts of the country. The only thing we would recommend is to carpool if you can, to reduce your impact on the environment. 🙂

  3. Hi Oksana,
    The Transfagarasan road and the mountains surely look stunning and your photos are simply amazing. I have to admit I’ve never been up there after the first snow of the season. You were so lucky to be able to go up! 🙂
    I’ll give you a reason to come back to Romania: the Transalpina road, which is even higher than Transfagarasan 🙂

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