To start with the very beginning, Transfagarasan, or Transfagarasan Highway (how is known internationally), is a paved road that crosses the Southern side of the Carpathian Mountains, 150km in length, and was built in early 1970 as a strategic military road.
Nowadays, the Transfagarasan highway was voted by Top Gear to be one of the most beautiful roads in the world and as well voted by hundreds of travel magazines, blogs, and people around the world to be in the top 10 if not top 5, and in some rankings even voted as the one to be, the most beautiful scenic road in the world! And no, it is not a typo; it is Transfagarasan!
A simple Google search of “Transfagarasan” will take you to another world!
Transfagarasan Highway was also used in some games, such as V-rally 4 and driving simulators.
Well, I was one of the lucky ones to travel this road from the northern side, the intersection of E68 with 7C to Curtea de Arges. There are two ways to travel this road, the one I took (north-south) or from the Southern side, from Curtea de Arges to the above-mentioned intersection. Each route will have different chronological landscapes to see.
But as I came from the north, I will share my trip with you timelinely, in this order.
Also, I want to split the road into three different groups, as it will offer you three diverse landscapes totally unrelated to each other.
Just as a tip, Transfagarasan highway is closed for about 9-10 months a year due to massive snows present. It is open only in late summer and early autumn when the temperatures in Romania are scorching the country, with enough melting for the roads to be open.
Part 1. The ascending – Road to Transfagarasan
As I’ve come from the intersection E68 with 7C, it takes about 15km or more of a flat field drive towards a chain of mountains looking like the Himalayas, and the more you get up close, you start to have a feeling that it’s not possible in any way to get to the top by car, not even by feet. But the road is so well designed, to explain, it is snake-like with sharp turns and abrupt driving.
But as compared to Transalpina, there is a lot of parking on the side of the road as you are going up. In the beginning, you won’t be able to see much because of the dense forest, but as more you drive, the scenery becomes more explicit, allowing you to enjoy the stunning landscape of the first part, as in the photo above or below.
If you look closely at the above photo, you can see above the middle right side of the image something shaped like a flat cloud. That’s, in fact, the field you came from. This photo was taken at about 1.5km altitude above sea level.
There is about little to no protection if you approach the edges, neither when driving nor when stopping and enjoying the landscape. You can see from these photos a forest…below me.
I remember my mom was so afraid that she remained in the car, stuck to the other side, holding onto things. She has a height sickness. There was only about a meter from the edge of the vehicle until the massive gap. Imagine this!
And this is the road you are ascending from the northern side.
As you go more up, the landscape becomes more stunning. Keep in mind that the roads are pretty dangerous, and at points, part of the road and cliffs literally have massive ruptures to fall. But those areas are marked, and the traffic is redirected on a single lane.
Please keep in mind that if you are a beginner driver, I would strongly not recommend you to drive up this road; only a driver with experience should.
You drive more up, and the forest hills become rocky mountains with stunning landscapes, like in the first photo and the next one. The landscape will be on your right if you follow my route.
In the image, the mountains may look small due to my camera’s wider focal length, but in fact, it would be like living in some fantasy movies.
The first part of the road, the “Ascending” as I called it, as coming from the north, will take between two to three hours, depending on your driving speed (please drive safe) and the number of stops to enjoy the landscape, before reaching the “platform.” God, where do I find these names?
The “platform” may be slightly visible on the left side of the above photo. That is where the landscape becomes unique, without a doubt.
Part 2: “The Platform”
And now is now, ready to enjoy the utter experience on one of the most beautiful roads in the world. The “platform” is located about 2km above sea level, and you won’t see any more steep valleys, but instead, you will observe a stunning landscape. This is my most precious photo:
But, of course, why did I need to record more videos than photos? I have hundreds of videos with Transafagarasan hoping that once I will create the most visual cinematic video of the zone, but I never had the time. Tons of videos and little pictures.
In the above picture, you can see beyond the “platform” the “part 1” mountains we came from and, in the end, barely visible at about over 30-40km, the field. Sorry about the strange naming; I really have no inspiration to find the right words to describe the zones.
Romania was scorching at about 40 degrees Celsius. But being in these mountains will come with an advantage: SNOW!
Yes, that is me sitting under a two-meter-high patch of snow. The snow was pretty dirty from all the cars coming and going and the dust, but the temperature wasn’t so cold; therefore, imagine how heavy the snow must be during the winter to resist this long.
Answer found: The snow can be even higher than 6 meters during the winter!
I hope the following photo won’t give you a “bleah”! But before I came to Transfagarasan, I was at Vidra Lake (my other post), where I had some massive sunburns because, to be honest, in the UK, the sun is never as intense as in Romania.
But what a relief to step on the snow with those sunburns! Yes, as mentioned before, the snow there is really dirty long into the summer. But the cold air emitting is so pleasant during this heat!
I remember having a Facetime call with my mom sisters, and cousins who live in Spain. At that time, they had heat peaks higher than 41-42 degrees Celsius. A massive hint of friendly jealousy came from them when they all saw the actual snow and the location we were while they were boiling heat. Same as my partner; she wasn’t happy about it, but my evil, friendly laugh was one to remember (even in the UK was above 30 degrees Celsius)
Okay! Moving on, this is how the road going up “on the platform” looks like.
You will also find a series of waterfalls around, and this is “Cascada Capra” (Capra Waterfall).
Okay. The peak height of the Transfagarasan highway is at Balea Lake, a stunning lake on the left side, before going through the tunnel towards the other side of the mountain, which will be “part 3”.
I was an idiot that I didn’t visit the lake, and I have no photographs around the peak area, but let me tell you a bit more information I know and what you can do from the Balea Lake, the Transfagarasan Peak area.
If you are a hiker, you are in for a treat! Coming from the north, on the right side (or left side as looking at the map), at a distance of 7km of hiking, you will reach the Negoiu Peak, the second-highest mountain in Romania with an elevation of 2535m above sea level. You will have to plan full-day hiking to reach the destination for such a trip.
Furthermore, from the Balea Lake (Transfagarasan Peak), going on the left (right on the map), you will reach within favorable walking distances the “Varful Vanatoarea lui Buteanu”, with a peak of 2502m above sea level.
Furthermore, for professional hikers or enthusiasts with careful planning, on a distance of 12.3km of hiking (traveling by foot), you can reach Moldoveanu Peak, the tallest mountain in Romania, with an elevation of 2544 meters above sea level. Beware, such trips are very long and should be carefully planned and considered and often are recommended to be done in groups.
Balea Lake area also offers hotels for overnight staying and parking spaces (paid) on both sides of the road.
But, of course, when I captured the images and recorded the videos, I didn’t think I might actually need more media for posting.
Part 3: “The descending.”
After going through a massively long tunnel through the mountains, where the temperatures inside drop to only a few degrees Celsius during the summer, where around the country it is over 40 degrees, you will reach the other side (obviously hehe), with an entirely new and different landscape.
The road will give you a stunning landscape view towards the rocky mountain formations behind you (of course, no photos) and towards the other mountains and valleys as you begin descending to the other side (from the north towards the south).
The landscape is also stunning, and the roads are unsafe to drive by new drivers because, as on the “ascending” part of the trip, during “descending,” you will not find as well any protections against steep valleys.
The snow can also be seen on this side of the mountain, but it would not be reachable as by the time I went on this trip, it wasn’t on any side of the road as during the “ascending.”
But you will see valleys, sheepfolds, forests, and a stream from another waterfall on this side of the mountains.
As you continue to go down, you will find a zone with a bunch of friendly donkeys and a shop selling all kinds of meat and products naturally made there by hunters and shepherds.
But donkeys? YEES! Lovely friendly donkeys that block the road and are used by tourists to pet them!
This is the ultimate experience after such a beautiful adventure on Transfagarasan. I also made a funny photo of my dad between the donkeys; we classified him as a “donkey master” 😂
By the way, those donkeys didn’t want to let us leave the area!
Unfortunately, we had to move forward. After a while of driving down the road towards Curtea de Arges, we drove past the long Vidraru Lake and stopped at Vidraru Dam (which is covered in this post, “Vidraru LAKE“), and we met the bears. I will try not to duplicate content, but to continue our experience on Transfagarasan, I recommend you check out that post.
In the end, the whole trip left an empty place in my heart, telling me that I have to revisit it this summer on a lengthy trip! I wish I had more for you. But I created a short video of the landscape from my Transfagarasan experience for this post!
Thank you so much for all your support, and I hope I will be able to create as many articles like this one with my travel experience. Although limited, I dream of traveling as much as possible in the future, and I am taking the first steps into my new way of life.