Romania Top Cycling Climbs
By Larisa Chinces & Robert Thorpe
By Larisa Chinces & Robert Thorpe
Cyclists all over the world travel to ride great climbs. Each summer, the French Alps, the Italian Passes, the Spanish Pyrenees and places such as Majorca are filled to bursting with dreamers. It can often be like cycling around Trafalgar Square in London – not quite the escapism that you imagined. Time then to look elsewhere, and Transylvania has everything that any person, let alone any cyclist could dream of.
There are places in the world that are not only still relatively undiscovered, but that also have road cycling climbs that rank alongside any cycling climbs in the world – welcome to Romania cycling, or to be precise – it’s time to be transfixed by Transylvania! With roads such as the Transgarafasan Highway, weaving its way through the wild and beautiful Carpathian Mountains, and with a depth of history such as the World Heritage status medieval city of Sibiu on its doorstep, there are so many reasons to take a cycle tour in Transylvania. We thought that we’d give you 5 specific reasons, by listing the 5 classic road cycling routes in Romania – 5 epic Transylvania road cycling climbs that will test the very best and which will live in your cycling memory forever.
Let’s start with the best first: the ribbon of road that is the majestic Transgarafasan Highway, near to the city of Sibiu. It’s a home to our editor Larisa, who says, “I’ve cycled this route now several times, raced up it and sped down it. I’ve spent time in these mountains and they hold my heart, with their beauty. I know that you’ll love this road to – so lets go and climb it!”
We’ve listed the top 5 routes below. All that you need to do is to click each one open, read about it, and then plan your Transylvania bikecation holiday and ride it!
Transgarafasan Cycling Route
This spectacular ribbon of road was built between 1970 and 1974, and has some of the most historic tourist attractions in Romania nearby. The fortress of Poienari at 1480 metres was built in the 13-14th centuries, extended later by Vlad the Impaler, also known as Dracula. Next is the famous Vidraru Dam, one of the largest dams in the world and in several movies. The glacial lake of Balea, freezes in the cold season, when a church and a hotel made of ice are built each year.
The road itself is approximately 90km long and it’s a great attraction for tourists, due to it’s breathtaking landscapes, being totally sublime and spectacular for visiting. The route is very special, due to the mountainous scenery encountered, and with so many dangerous curves that twist and turn and challenge you, high level differences, cliffs and gullies as well as steep waterfalls everywhere. The road climbs to an altitude of 2,042 metres (6,699 ft), making it the second highest mountain pass in Romania after the Transalpina.
You can ride out from the centre of Sibiu, taking in the road and the lakes and forests, makes a great ride of over 140 km, very challenging for a real two day adventure, as part of a Romania Bikecation. However, an easier alternative, if that’s the right phrase, is to ride from the monastic village of Cartisoara, maybe riding out to here from Sibiu the day before your climb.
The Transgarafasan is a winding road, dotted with steep hairpin turns, long S-curves and sharp descents. The road is usually closed from late October until late June because of snow. Depending on the weather, it may remain open until as late as November, or may close even in the summer. However, whenever you visit it, the scenery will always be beautiful – it’s my spectacular home, my Romania, so visit soon.
Anyway, if you follow the link here, you can see the map, route description and access the GPX file; although it’s not difficult to stay on course – just keep cycling upwards until you reach the beautiful Balea Lake, stop for coffee and cake and then descend with the wind rushing by as you twist and turn on the winding ribbon of tarmac.
Transalpina Cycling Route
The Transalpina or DN67C located in the Parâng Mountains group, in the Southern Carpathians of Romania, is one of the highest roads of the Carpathian Mountains. It connects Novaci, south of Parâng Mountains, to Sebeş in the north. Close to historic Sibiu, so easily accessible as part of a Transylvania cycling holiday. It’s a Short ride in terms of kilometres covered, but as the gradient shows, there’s no easy way up this ribbon of Transylvania tarmac.
Yes, the Transalpina is a tough and unrelenting road cycling climb, but with amazing views over the mountains of Romania. By basing yourself in nearby historic Sibiu, which is also one of the most beautiful medieval cities in Europe, you can make this a bike trip to remember.
Sibiu to Paltinis Cycling Route
One of the finest road cycling climbs in Transylvania, to the highest resort in Romania, Paltinis is a favourite area for our own Larisa 🙂
Sibiu is one of the most beautiful medieval cities in Europe and is surrounded by the high mountains of Transylvania. This route takes you to Paltinis, the highest resort in Romania and a regular climb on the annual Sibiu Cycling Tour. It’s a relentless climb of 69km up and down, but thankfully has amazing scenery to accompany you along the way.
As we’ve indicated, Sibiu is an amazing place, with an international airport and lots of accommodation choices at all prices. There’s a wealth of great coffee shops and restaurants to eat at too, and lots to explore on foot. The historic centre has superb hotels and AirBNB choices to suit all budgets.
Making Sibiu your cycle tour base will allow you you to chill out as you enjoy the ambience and flavour or Transylvania. In terms of the climb character: this is a tough and long climb, but with amazing views of the mountains all around you. The climb twists and turns to Paltinis, with some sharp switchbacks to be careful of on the descent. Staying in historic Sibiu also allows you the freedom to enjoy the history and scenery more on foot, relaxing in this unique area of a Europe – transfixing Transylvania, the home for our own editor, Larisa Chinces, who is waiting to share her favourite roads with you.
Bran to Rucar Cycling Route
Most of us will know of the legend of Vlad the Impaler and Bran Castle in Transylvania. However, the real medieval story is just as fascinating.This classic Transylvanian cycle route takes you across this mountain pass, with epic views as the road snakes and twists through the trees. Bran is the medieval home of Vlad the Impaler, and the imposing castle is well worth a visit after the route has been tackled. The road climbs steeply, with forests and meadows on either side, before descending on tight and twisting hairpins to Rucar.
After a brief stop for coffee, reverse the climb and finish at Bran for history and cake. The route itself is simple to follow, and is a testing 70.55 km. However, the history and the amazing mountain views are simply breathtaking.
As a base, nearby Brasov has all that you need for your stay, and you can fly in to Sibiu and it’s international airport. There are lots of accommodation choices at all prices. There’s also a wealth of great coffee shops and restaurants to eat at too, and lots to explore on foot. The historic centre has superb hotels and AirBNB choices to suit all budgets. Bran itself is a good mountain town, with cafes and accommodation choices. Take in a few more classic Romanian road cycling climbs while you’re here too.
The Rucar-Bran Pass is in our book, easily one of the 5 top road cycling climbs in Romania, taking riders through the beautiful Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania and should be on any serious cyclists bikecation vacation list.
Trans Brucegi Cycling Route
Heading out from historic Peles Castle near Brasov, this short road cycling route in Transylvania is a real classic. It takes the road up to the mountain plateau above Sinaia and Busteni, and is a cul de sac road, meaning that the only purpose is to simply climb the road for the views and experience – which is definitely reason enough. Busteni and Sinaia are both good mountain sports resorts in Transylvania. This short but classic road cycling route will test the best riders, being one of the top road cycling climbs in Romania.
Start the climb from historic Peles Castle, onto the road, and then keep going up until you reach the plateau and the mountain cabin. Peles Castle has often been used in Christmas films and so will be strangely recognisable to many people.
This is a short but steep and testing route, at 57.4km and 1,539 metres of ascent. Nearby Brasov has all that you need for your stay, and you can fly in to Sibiu and it’s international airport. There are lots of accommodation choices at all prices. There’s also a wealth of great coffee shops and restaurants to eat at too, and lots to explore on foot. The historic centre has superb hotels and AirBNB choices to suit all budgets. Busteni itself is a good mountain resort, with cafes and accommodation choices. Take in a few more classic Romanian road cycling climbs while you’re here too.
Many cycling fans will be aware of the snow lined roads of the French and Italian Alps, and yet here in Transylvania and Romania, roads such as the Trangarafasan Highway are snow filled into May and June, as you can see from the early summer image of Larisa riding it just a few days ago. Transylvania offers an epic challenge for all serious cyclists and best of all, it comes with a wealth of history too.
Cycling holidays don’t have to mean the bike filled roads of Majorca or the expensive centres of the Alps. You can find lots of amazing road cycling climbs in transfixing Transylvania, Romania. Best of all, the area is filled with some of the best preserved medieval centres in Europe, with places such as Sibiu and Brasov nestling beneath the Carpathian Mountains.
With international flights into Sibiu and so many amazing places to stay, it’s time for you to take a look at Romania and to tackle these 5 awesome road cycling routes. If you’re looking for a new cycling challenge, look no further than Romania – or Transylvania to be precise – and cycle the home roads of our editor Larisa Chinces, amidst the unspoilt beauty of the Carpathians.