by victoria · 16th June 2016
When and where to visit
When to visit
Romanian winters are cold, especially in the mountains and high plateaux of Transylvania. If you want to ski, the resorts south of Braşov, such as Poiana Braşov, Predeal and Buneşti, can virtually guarantee snow-covered slopes from November to mid March.
April and May are generally considered good months to visit Transylvania to see the spring flowers and avoid the searing heat of summer, especially towards the south of the region, which can last from June to August. If you don’t like the heat, head for the hills, as the mountainous regions of Harghita, Bistriţa-Năsăud and around the Făgăraş peaks are wonderfully refreshing and blessed with clean, fresh air. Cities such as Braşov, Sibiu and Cluj-Napoca can be stifling in summer, although Cluj-Napoca is a major student city and empties of youth in the summer break.
Autumn is a lovely season in Transylvania. The colours of the leaves turn the landscape into a beautiful painting. There are many festivals connected with the harvest and much pastoral merrymaking before the long, hard winter sets in. Spring and autumn are best for tackling strenuous hiking routes and give good opportunities for wildlife-watching, bird spotting and nature trails.
Romania has a temperate-continental climate, with four distinct seasons. The spring is pleasant with cool mornings and nights and warm days. Summer is usually pretty hot and steamy with long, sun-drenched days. The hottest areas in summer are the lowlands in southern and eastern Romania where 40ºC is often reached in July and August. In recent years the summers have been significantly more sweltering. When I was in Braşov in June, the temperature reached a breathless 45ºC and Bucharest was said to have been even hotter.
During the summer, the landscape is occasionally blasted by incredibly violent thunderstorms with dramatic displays of lightning and sudden bursts of torrential rain. Then the sun reappears and it’s boiling hot all over again. When it gets unbearable, Transylvanians head for the mountains where the air is fresher and temperatures are cooler. Autumns are dry and cool, with meadows and trees producing beautifully coloured foliage, making the landscape look like a pastoral painting.
Winters can be bitterly cold and snow covered especially in the mountains where temperatures can drop to below –4ºF (–20ºC). A bitter, icy wind called the crivaţ sears through from Siberia, while spooky fog often envelops the countryside, especially at night, making driving difficult and visibility a problem. Many horse and carts are hard to spot and they travel at a snail’s pace on major highways, so be very careful if venturing out in a hired car. Heavy snow may fall throughout the country between December and mid March, although this does not occur every year.
The ski resorts around Braşov can usually guarantee good skiing conditions from November throughout the winter. Another problem comes when sudden storms cause flash flooding – the lands around Sibiu and southern parts of Transylvania were covered with floodwater in June 2007, and there was severe flooding in several areas of Romania in 2010 and 2012.
Bran Castle is commonly thought by tourists around the world to be ‘Dracula’s castle’. And from a distance, it looks a great deal like the castle described in Bram Stoker’s novel: it’s a terrifying silhouette, perched on a cliff-face near the Bran Pass.
Unfortunately, the resemblance is only skin deep. The castle doesn’t really have any connection to Vlad the Impaler: there’s no strong evidence to say he stayed here, although he did fight battles in the region. There’s also no evidence Bram Stoker ever visited – or had even ever seen – the castle.