Yes indeed, that is the Hungarian flag within Romanian borders! Because Szekely Land actually consists in three counties inside Transylvania, with a huge Hungarian population. Which can only mean one thing: a guarantee that everything is properly prepared for the eyes of their visitors. I have already covered Mures on this blog - do find it by the way, it is one of the most beautiful in Romania! Harghita and Covasna are my main focus for today, a controversial area with many things to offer for any nature lover, hiking fan, any adventurer who wishes to tick off all the beautiful places in this world.
For some reason, we Romanians look for other destinations when booking our vacation. We somehow don't feel welcomed in this area...
There is a huge Hungarian majority here, and the most passionate of them literally hate what we represent. They feel they rightfully belong to Hungary, and truly believe we have stolen their territory from their mother country...
Fortunately, there are less and less people thinking like that these days, but we still have the tendency to avoid Harghita and Covasna, as much as we can.
Now my personal experience was always positive here. Both in the 90s when my parents tried to recover a property here, and later on in 2001, when I had a lovely holiday with my high-school class. Not to mention everytime I cross this region, when I am like always in awe with this outstanding territory - another good reason to be proud of my golden country!
Our internal issues don't really concern you as an international traveller. What you need to know is this - you will have the time of your life in the Szekely Land! So use the following road trip route planner as an organizer for a beautiful 8-day vacation in the Hungarian Romania!
As you can see, Harghita and Covasna are hidden deep within the middle of Romania. My recommendation for you is to book a flight to Iasi, rent a car or personal driver service and drive for two hours (130 km) towards PIATRA NEAMT. It is a not-so-famous-but-still-very-nice city to spend a night in.
It is considered the pearl of Moldavia, beautifully surrounded by mountains, offering some sunset sceneries nowhere else to be seen in Romania!
Photo source: Q-Blog
It also houses a sight not to be missed - the only museum in the world entirely dedicated to the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, one of the most impressive civilization of prehistoric Europe.
49 km away from Piatra Neamt, you will enter one of the most unique roads in the world! Cheile Bicazului (Bicaz Canyon) is a 8-km gorge connecting Moldavia with Transylvania, along the valley of Bicaz river. The narrow road is guarded by impressively high rocky walls on both sides. Look at this majesty, how small can we people get in front of the spectacle of nature...
Photo source: RoClimbs
At the end of the road you will enjoy a stroll around Lacul Rosu (Red Lake) – the largest natural lake in the Carpathian Mountains.
It was only formed in July 1837, after a series of thunderstorms managed to break a mountain nearby, thus blocking the course of three small creeks. Its discoverers defined it at as a unique paradise corner, mainly thanks to the many spruce stumps within the lake, the red unusual color of the chalk and the wild beauty of the mountain views.
From the center of Red Lake resort, there are several mountain routes available. You should spend a few hours on these trails around the lake, as the air is incredibly clean and healthy in this area. Every single one is worth it, but if your time is limited, you should aim to conquer Suhardul Mic Peak (1345 m). It is a maximum 2.5 hours back-and-forth easy route, offering these kind of views...
Photo source: Blogul meu de calator
For the end of the day, you will take on the road again to find your lodging, somewhere around IZVORUL MURESULUI, where the main destination for the following day lies.
Izvorul Muresului is a beautiful resort surrounded by mountains all over the place. Its name is descriptive and means Mures Spring - one of the most important rivers crossing Romania.
The highlight of the morning is finding this spring up in Hasmasu Mare Mountains at an altitude of 1350 m. It is a beautiful 4-hour mountain route, which reveals three small creeks forming the imposing river that digs its way into Transylvania.
For the second part of the day, I would definitely recommend you to find the mining city of BALAN. From there, an astonishing 2-hour back-and-forth mountain route awaits you - a must-do for any mountain lover who wishes to enrich his photo collection with the most amazing landscape!
Your destination is the hut called Piatra Singuratica (The Solitary Rock - 1504 m), from where you can admire the monumental rock cathedral with the same name.
Photo source: Blogul de calatorii al Alexandrei
Check out this website for complete info, both about reaching this rock or organizing several hiking trips to the peaks around.
Driving further south, you will arrive in MIERCUREA CIUC, the seat of Harghita County and the most important city in this region. I don't know if this info is still relevant in 2017, but in order to avoid any potential issues with locals, make sure your car is not registered in Bucharest...
The most important landmark is Miko Castle, a former defensive fortress, nowadays host of the Szekler Museum of Ciuc. Local music festivals take place in the courtyard, while the castle itself houses several art exhibitions. You will probably spend around 2 hours if you wish to understand the finest delivered by local artists!
Miko Castle. Photo Source: Hotel Guru
You will then drive along the Olt river towards BAILE TUSNAD - the smallest town in Romania and your place to lodge for the following two nights. It is a famous balneo resort, the perfect starting point to explore the main landmark of Harghita...
Photo source: La Taifas
Sfanta Ana (St Ann) is the only crater lake in Romania. It is said to have the purest waters in the world, with no mineral salts, no oxygen and no living species whatsoever.
You will only need approximately 30 minutes to surround it, and you can rent a boat, also for 30 minutes.
Most tourists are attracted by the beauty of the photos taken from the pontoon bridge. You can enjoy a few legends about the lake formation, have an evening swim or recollect in the wooden chapel nearby.
Day 5 is dedicated to exploring the beautiful trails around Tusnad:
Tinovul Mohos (The Moss Lake) - an estinguished volcano covered by moss, water, and trees, surrounded by a forest, believe it or not, which floats over water!
Guided tours start every two hours, the first one at 10 am. The walk lasts for about an hour and will lead you to an unique place in the whole Europe! You can easily imagine how it's like to be over a volcano, as the guide usually makes sure to remind you what lies underneath the ground...
Photo source: Talente de Nazdravani
Turnul Apor (Apor Tower), at the end of another 1-hour pleasant walk through the forest; the route is easy, so every step is a chance to admire the diversity of nature and the views upon Tusnad and the lake...
Photo source: Info Travel Guide
Stanca Soimilor (Hawks' Rock), recommended for more experienced hikers, which will offer another outstanding perspective over the city and the lake.
For the evening, I recommend you to spoil your body in one of the many wellness centers in Tusnad. It is impossible not to find an exceptional deals, providing the perfect ending for an unexpectedly wonderful day!
Today you will reach the southernmost point of your vacation in Szekely Land. One hour away from Tusnad, the city of COVASNA uncovers some very interesting sights:
The Dacian Fortress, where it is said King Decebal himself had spent his final days after being defeated by Roman Emperor Trajan. Many legends revolve around this place, the most interesting being about Ileana Cosanzeana, a famous figure from the Romanian methodology who used to live here.
Valea Zanelor (Faries Valley) - a charming natural landscape, housing one of the most ingenious invention of Romanian engineers: for more than 100 years, up until 1995, they used to transport both people and timber with a train on an inclined surface, without any loss of energy and only based on gravity. It hasn't been used in over 20 years and looks outdated today, but it's still interesting to see an unique invention provided by the brilliance of the Romanian mind!
Photo source: Sky Trip
You could also stop in the city center for lunch and for finding the symbol of Covasna: Vulcanul Balta Dracului (Devil's Swamp Volcano) - estinguished since 1984, formerly used for treatment of different diseases.
Photo source: Locuri din Romania
I totally recommend this de-tour, but if you'd rather spend a whole day in your next location, it's perfectly fine! Lodging for the night will happen in a genuine castle in BARAOLT, Talisoara village - Castle Daniel Hotel to be more specific.
It will be a little more expensive than you got used these days, but it's your only chance to personally relive the life of medieval noble families in this region. Check out the link above, you'll be stunned by the description, fabulous reviews and photos! Book long in advance though, as this location is very sought after, and you don't wanna miss it...
Varghis Gorge is a hidden gem, known by few people in Romania and fortunately unaltered by too many tourists: it is a fabulous congestion of tourist attractions, some of the best 4 kilometers you will probably walk on!
You will pay a very small entrance fee (4 lei per adult plus 5 lei per car for parking). You will then enter a genuine paradise for nature lovers. especially impressive for its marvellous caves. They enjoy some of the most unexpected shapes in Romania, and hide the largest bat colony in the country.
The whole adventure should last around 4 hours, during which you will experience the uniqueness of the caves opened for tourists, the adventure of balancing on suspended bridges or the fulfillment of climbing on top of the gorge...
Photo source: Mecanturist
Your journey through Szekely Land is almost done. You have 1.5 days to close the gap between VARGHIS and the Iasi airport. You are about to drive for 3 hours, with one stop in LAZAREA for a short visit to Lazar Castle - one of the most impressive medieval building in Romania. The former residence of a noble family houses an interesting art collection and offers wonderful panoramic views:
Photo source: Hai la bord
You will spend the night around the city of TOPLITA where you have the chance to admire one of the only two thermal waterfalls in Europe! You will experience a beautiful warm feeling, as you will be welcomed by an amazing scenery and a pleasant high temperature provided by the falling water.
There are 220 km between Toplita and Iasi, which can be covered in maximum 4 hours. On the road, I suggest you make two stops:
In BORSEC resort, home of the first bottled water in Europe (1806), still very popular on the Romanian market today. Locals brag they have the most beautiful arranged route in Romania, and indeed a walk through Poiana Zanelor (Fairies Meadow) reveals a gorgeous scenery...
Photo source: Apollo Blog
And, finally, in TARGU NEAMT, for the Neamt Fortress - one of the most important monuments of Romania, transporting its visitors into the times of Stephen the Great. Check it out here as a great opportunity to spend some quality time in the surroundings of beautiful IASI.
I know this was a lot of information, but I hope you'll find it useful. I invite you not to shut down this window just because it's too long, but to remember it for your future trip to Szekely Land. Because I am sure one way or another you will find your way to Romania!
I've built this road trip route planner because I couldn't find something similar in English online, about the main landmarks of Harghita and Covasna.
It's up to you if you use it for a 8-day trip, a longer or a shorter one.
It's also your decision if you follow my recommendation and connect it with Iasi Airport. Bucharest, Targu Mures, even Suceava are also excellent options as well.
Remember this though: this 8-day circle from Iasi to Iasi will cost about 70 Euro for gas, 250 Euro for accommodation and somewhere around 250 Euro for 2-person meals and sight visiting. Now, please tell me, where will you find a similar 8-day vacation for 600 Euro max?
For the ending, I leave you with the map of the region, where the pins are exactly the places you will stop in during this trip.
Feel free to ask me any questions regarding Szekely Land!
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