Between Bran and Rucar, stretching for 22.5km, there is a fairy tale space, with rustic settlements nestling along a pass flanked by the Piatra Craiului Mountains range on one side (Prince’s Stone – a 25 km narrow saw-like ridge with the highest peak at 2,238m) and the Bucegi Mountains on the other (highest peak at 2,505m).
Centuries ago, a trade road ran through the pass, linking Brasov (Transylvania) to Campulung (Vallachia).
The wooden houses of the locals are scattered over hills whose meadows are smelling of blackberries, wildstrawberries, freshly cut hay in summer and birch wood.
This is a region of knolls, ravines and hills, on which shepherds still graze their flock and make super yummy cheese. If you are a cheese lover, this is cheese paradise, anything from feta to smoked cheese, cheese wrapped in pine bark and a classic Romanian speciality of creamy soft mild unaged white cheese (queso blanco).
Bran is famous as an ancient pastoral settlement, where the influence of the transhumance can still be felt. On the last Saturday of September, the sheep are brought down from the mountains and returned to their owners, an event celebrated for 50 years.
While visiting Bran, you could learn the secrets of weaving, knitting and wood working, decorating eggs, make masks and puppets, paint icons on wood and glass.
The main attraction in Bran is the mediaeval castle, built in 1212 by the Teutonic knights.
Standing on a 60m crag, the castle has become synonymous with Vlad the Impaler (Dracula), although it had little to do with the historical figure.
From Bran you can set out to Zarnesti(20km), the gateway to Piatra Craiului Mountains, the most spectacular massif in the Carpathians – a limestone crest stretching for 25 km from Zarnesti to Podu Dambovitei. There are numerous karst formations, approximately 160 caves and 23 gorges. Several tracks can take you up and the climb is completely worth it.
Of course, everyone wants to see Bran above all. However, there are plenty villages with less known names that are competing with the renowned mountain resort. Moeciu de Sus, Simon, Pestera,Fundata, Fundatica, Podu Dambovitei si Dambovicioara have been able to preserveunaltered their rustic charm, in spite of the tourism boom.
Gradistea Gorge is not to be missed. Rent a bike or drive to the Gradistea Gorge – Fundata Tourist Complex and you can have one of your best meals ever, while enjoying the cool fresh air.
Late July you can go the summer market in Moeciu de Jos (4km from Bran) and also visit the 160m long ‘’Bat’’ cave in Pestera village.
Fundata, near the Giuvala Pass, 1270m above sea level, is the highest settlement in the area. A pastoral festival is celebrated every year, at the end of August.
If you go in winter, don’t miss out the sleigh ride.
From Fundata, the road heads south-westinto Arges county, crossing a depression where a small settlement can befound. It then leads over Sasului Hill (site of the famous Piatra Craiului Inn) to the touristic village Podu Dambovitei. The village is named after the bridge over the Dambovita river, built in 1711.
A road links Podu Dambovitei to Dambovicioara. For 2 km you will pass through the spectacular Dambovicioara Gorge, whose sheer walls soar to 100-150m, gouging the limestone massif of south – eastern Piatra Craiului.
Further on, at an altitude of 861m, sits DambovicioaraCave, with two galleries of 244m length, where you will be guided by children from the local school.
Rucar is the other end of the old trade route that linked Transylvania to Wallachia in the Middle Ages. An old custom point, the village has got whitewashed houses, with porches as long as the façade of the house.