A truly off the beaten track European holiday, see the dramatic landscapes of the Carpathian Mountains and wider Transylvania and enjoy riding, bear spotting, local craftsmanship and medieval architecture for a true insight into an ancient way of life all but vanished in the rest of Europe.
Take a direct three-and-a-quarter-hour flight from London to Bucharest arriving in the early afternoon. Once you have cleared customs and collected your luggage, you will be met by one of our team on the ground for a half-an-hour private transfer to your hotel for the night.
The rest of today is all about getting your bearings, and our excellent local Concierge has booked you a table at one of the best spots in town for dinner and recommended a couple of favourite bars for a couple of pre-dinner drinks.
While Bucharest might not compete on the same stage as Paris or Rome, its impressive collection of museums, cosmopolitan ambience and grand, pre-Second World War avenues hold many a secret and make it a city well worth exploring for a morning or so.
With this in mind, your expert guide will meet you at your hotel for a morning tour of some of the city's best bits. Together you will explore the museums and former playgrounds of Romanian aristocrats, before learning how it was all upended under the Communist regime. Your tour will finish at the Parliament Palace, President Ceausescu's enormous neo-classical vanity project (and the second biggest building in the world), where you will learn how the revolution in 1989 toppled the dictator.
After your tour, and lunch, you will be privately transferred to your hotel in Transylvania. The journey, which will take about three hours, will take you north through the dramatic Carpathian Mountains to your rural lodge in the heart of beautiful Translyvania, and a nice spot for a stop en route is Peles Castle, in the heart of the Carpathians, and once the home of the Romanian royal family.
This morning you will be met by your expert historian guide for a 20-minute private transfer to, and tour of, Bran Castle.
Although often referred to as 'Dracula's Castle', the castle was actually home to Hungarian royalty rather than blood-sucking Counts and is one of Romania's national monuments. The current castle dates back to the 14th century, but there has been one on the site for hundreds of years before then. Throughout history, the castle has played a role in the country's defence against the Ottomans and other invaders from the east and was once confiscated by the bailiffs when the King couldn't pay back his debts. Your guide will bring the vibrant history of the place to life, before you head to the spectacular Piatra Craiului National Park. As you hike along well-marked trails through the stunning forest-clad mountains, be sure to keep an eye - and ear - open for bears, wolves and lynx, as there are dozens in the park!
This morning you will set off further north, heading for the Saxon town of Sighisoara, birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Dracula.
The private transfer will take about two hours, so you will arrive in time for lunch. This afternoon you will have a guided tour of the ancient town with your guide, including the Clock Tower (the views from the top of which are fantastic). You will explore the cobbled streets and painted houses, as your guide helps you to unravel the rich and complex history - a lot can happen in 1400 years! Your hotel is perfectly placed for night time wanderings, so this evening we recommend eating in a city centre restaurant.
After a leisurely breakfast, you'll met by your driver for a private transfer to Miklosvar, stopping off in Viscri, a beautifully preserved medieval village, on the way. Your hotel, the home of the Count Kalnoky, sits in an ethnically Hungarian village, offering a wonderful contrast to the Romanian and Saxon cultures you've seen so far.
The rest of today (and tomorrow morning) are yours to enjoy at your own pace; your hotel has a whole host of activities on offer, which you can chose to participate in, or you can enjoy the simple life, perhaps going for a walk or taking the (rather rustic!) bikes out for a spin. Activities that are on offer (and included in your stay) range from a trip to local volcanic lakes to meeting local craftsmen. Simply decide what you'd like to do in the morning and head out with the expert guides, there is also the chance of spotting bears! One must-do is to sit, drink in hand, as evening approaches to watch the cowherders bring their herds down the high street as they have done for centuries.
After breakfast this morning, you will have a chance to explore the village and surrounding countryside the way the Counts of old did, by horse and cart.
As you drive through the picturesque landscape of hills and valleys, wildflower meadows and forests, you will see local people going about their lives in the string of village along the River Olt, farming the land in the same way their ancestors have for centuries.
After lunch, you will be privately transferred to Zalanpatak through bucolic countryside and along a dirt track which bears only a passing resemblance to a road. The juddering road is worth persevering with because the village and guesthouse where you will be staying are wonderfully picturesque. This evening, the chef will prepare a wonderful dinner of goulash and cheese pancakes for your supper, washed down with plenty of the local wine.
Zalanpatak is somewhere to sit and contemplate a way of life long since consigned to history in the UK, but there are also plenty of excellent local activities on offer as well, including long walks, riding, horse and cart rides into the hills for picnics, and visits to the village.
Alternatively, settle down with a good book and enjoy the sound of silence and the slow pace of life. This evening, you will visit a local bear hide where there is a chance you will see brown bears in the wild, before heading back to your guesthouse for one final Szekler (ethnically Hungarian) supper.
After breakfast this morning your driver will meet you at your hotel for the four-hour private transfer to Bucharest and the airport.
To break up the drive, you will stop in the lovely town of Prejmer, where you can stretch your legs by taking a stroll around the castle and, perhaps more importantly, have some lunch. Your three-and-a-half-hour flight home will leave in the early evening and, thanks to the two-hour time difference, will land roughly an hour later.
If you would like to book the itinerary mentioned above, with economy flights, during mid-season and staying in our preferred room category at our preferred hotels.
If you would like to pare back the above itinerary by travelling at non-peak times, staying in a standard room and removing some or all of the guided activities.
If you are looking for something extra special, we can discuss with you upgrading your accommodation, flights or activities.
We rarely boast about our service but we believe it's what sets us apart and makes us truly original, so please forgive this moment of unabashed self-promotion.