During our tour of Transylvania, we had to take some tough decision: which attractions to include and which to exclude. With only 6 full days, it was impossible to pack all attractions I had on my wish list, for this reason we had to be selective.
Here are the attractions that, in my opinion, are surely worth a visit. And I will tell you why…
ASTRA MUSEUM IN SIBIU:
For those with limited time to visit Romania, the Astra Museum is a must. It is an open air museum (apparentely the largest of the kind in Europe), where traditional Romanian folk culture is showcased.
It contains a vast collection of buildings from various parts of the country and focuses on the simple life of Romanian peasants, their occupations and traditions. We found the old peasant technologies such as waterwheels and windmills powering forges, fuelling mills and presses particularly interesting. Traditional means of transportation are also displayed.
An added bonus is that it is situated in a great location in the Dumbrava Sibiului Nature Reserve and is easily reached by taxi or by car from the centre of Sibiu, it takes about 10-15 minutes, depending on traffic conditions.
Why should you visit the ASTRA MUSEUM?
If you have limited time in Romania, visiting this open air museum gives you the opportunity to discover the traditional rural Romanian lifestyle in just a few hours.
If you want to enjoy a walk in the nature (there are around 10 km of alleys) or take a boat ride, this is a great place to visit.
If you are travelling with kids, this is an attraction they will love. Not only will they be able to run around but they will also have fun in the playgrounds.
Cost: 25 RON per person (5,30 €). Free for kids unter 6.
Official website: https://muzeulastra.ro/
LIBEARTY BEAR SANCTUARY IN ZARNESTI:
The Libearty Bear Sanctuary is a 69-hectare enclosure where bears rescued from miserable living conditions and abuse can end their days in a more natural environment. In their new home, a beautiful oak and hazel forest, they can roam freely, climb trees, play in the many swimming pools and receive all the medical care they require.
The Bear Sanctuary is not a zoo where you can freely walk around and there is no interaction between the bears and the vistors at all (no feeding, petting, etc.). It can only be visited as part of a tour led by a specialised guide who will explain the history of the sanctuary and will provide lots of information about bears.
Guided tours take place a couple of times per day. When we visited the Sanctuary in May, tours started at 9.15, 10.15 and 11.15 am. During the summer period there are 4 tours per day, and during autumn and winter there are only 2 per day. All details can be found on their website: https://millionsoffriends.org/en/libearty/visit-the-sanctuary/
Like many other attractions in Romania, the Bear Sanctuary is closed on Mondays.
The Bear Sanctuary is situated 25 km south of Braşov. The last few kms are on a gravel road. The road is sometimes described as “very bumpy” or “in terrible conditions”. Here is a picture of what it looked like when visited – we found it absolutely ok (although I can imagine it can be more challenging after a rainy day or with snow):
Why should you visit the LIBEARTY BEAR SANCTUARY?
First of all, it is an incredibly inspiring place to visit because it shows that the determination and passion of one person can make a huge difference. As a matter of fact, until 2005, bears in Romania were often kept outside restaurants and other tourist attractions, usually in appalling conditions. Cristina Lapis, a Romanian woman, decided it was time to stop this cruelty … and this is how the sanctuary was born.
Secondly, the Bear Sanctuary receives no governmental funding at all, therefore its funding comes entirely from people visiting and donating money. So just by visiting the sanctuary, you are helping the bears! Of course you can also buy souveniers or refreshments at their small shop inside the ticket office… every little helps!.
Thirdly, it is extremely educational. You will learn a lot about bears and wolves, their natural environment, their behaviour and their habits.
Cost: 60 RON for adults, 20 RON for children and 40 RON for students (Tuesdays to Fridays). At the weekend, prices are slightly higher (+5 RON)
Official website: https://millionsoffriends.org/en/libearty/
Some additional tips for those visiting the Sanctuary:
- Be aware that for safety reasons kids unter 5 years are not allowed in the Bear Sanctuary. Those travelling with little ones should ensure they have a document certifying the age of the child.
- If you are concerned about not being able to follow the group, or if you have mobility issues, there are train tours of the Sanctuary. All details can be found on their website.
- The Libearty Bear Sanctuary is part of the “Millions of Friends Association”, which also has a dog shelter in Brasov (https://millionsoffriends.org/en/victory/). Since we have plenty of space on our truck, before leaving for Romania I collected old blankets and sheets to be used to make dog bedding and I dropped them at the Libearty Bear Sanctuary.
MOCANITA STEAM TRAIN RIDE IN VISEU DE SUS:
Mocanita is a Romanian forestry narrow gauge steam train.
The ride on the old-fashioned train into the high Carpathian Mountains is very enjoyable, as you can hear the train whistle and the hiss of the steam while you admire the lush forest.
The train stops for lunch at a restaurant in the middle of the forest, where you can also visit a small museum.
Why should you take a ride on the Mocanita?
If you like trains, this is an excellent opportunity to take a ride on a century old steam locomotive.
I personally do not have a great interest in trains, however I still enjoyed the ride because the scenary is incredibly picturesque.
Cost: 59 RON per person
Lunch during steam train trip (grill platter, cheese pie, one hot chocolate, one beer): 41 RON (8,75 €)