CYCLING & WALKING IN TRANSYLVANIA
Transylvania is famous as the home of Bram Stoker’s Dracula but you'd better leave your preconceptions at home. Formerly at the easternmost reaches of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and absorbed into modern-day Romania in 1918, Transylvania is one of the most magnificent, flower-bedecked places on earth, with some of Europe’s most beguiling and wild landscapes. It is a true pedalling and walking paradise. At The Slow Cyclist we focus our Transylvania cycling holidays on exploring its beautifully preserved, largely untouched Saxon (German) and Szekler (Hungarian) villages. At the heart of the Saxon region is Sighisoara, one of Europe's best-preserved medieval citadels. Szeklerland is further east, closer to the mountains. Its capital is Sfântu Gheorghe. Cradled in the horseshoe of the Carpathian Mountains, both regions are home to rich wildflower meadows, wonderfully preserved architecture, friendly and hospitable local people and a way of life that has changed little for 800 years. Europe's largest populations of bear, wolf and lynx hide in the forests too. From April to October one of us spends most of our time in-country, working with local friends to host small group & tailor-made tours. We look forward to welcoming you to one of the most magical corners of Europe.
"A magical way to experience this hidden corner of Europe. Superb."
Aoife McErlean - September 2016
MEMORIES OF 2015 & 2016
TRANSYLVANIA & THE SAXON VILLAGES
The Saxon Villages of southern Transylvania were first colonized by Germans - or Saxons - from the 12th Century, when King Geza II of Hungary needed protection from the threat of invasion from Ottomans and Tatars. The Saxons were asked to build fortifications. The most important towns were fully fortified, and the smaller communities created fortifications centred on the church. Up to a quarter of a million Saxons remained for more than 800 years but the population began to decrease after World War II, when many returned to Germany. The migration continued under Ceausescu and today fewer than 35,000 Saxons live in Transylvania. Those who remain inhabit a land that is celebrated as an outpost of medieval Europe, where plum orchards and vineyards rise out of valleys towards meadows and pastures that are home to shepherds who protect flocks from the continent’s largest populations of bear, wolf, and lynx. It is a magical land we feel lucky to have spent so much of the past few years exploring on our own and with our wonderful guests.
ABOUT OUR TRANSYLVANIAN TOURS
To help you decide if a Slow Cyclist holiday in Transylvania is for you, here is some general information about our trips. It is intended as a guide. For more detailed information on each trip download the relevant brochure from our listings page.
IS THE SLOW CYCLIST IN TRANSYLVANIA RIGHT FOR ME?
We think our journeys in Transylvania are fantastic but of course they are not for everyone. Our trips are about more than just cycling. You will delve into the region’s fascinating history and have the chance to spend time with its people. Transylvania is a hilly place and the distances we cover, although not huge, are still not inconsiderable. So although you don’t need to be Chris Froome to complete this journey, you should have good general fitness and be comfortable riding a bicycle on dirt roads and paths. When you see something interesting, we encourage you to stop and take it in rather than racing by. In every group we welcome to Transylvania there are novice and experienced cyclists, and those at every level in between. Our guides are skilled at spotting your skill and confidence level and reacting accordingly. If this means splitting the group so that experienced cyclists take on a tougher route, that’s fine. If it means that one morning you’re just not up to a long cycle, let us know. This is your holiday and we’re here to make it a memorable one.
GUIDES & SUPPORT
We know that guides can make or break a trip like this, which is why we are so pleased to work with Cornel Stanciu and Sergiu Paca. Either Cornel, Sergiu or both guide our guests each day. Cornel is a passionate conservationist and entrepreneur who was brought up and lives in Bunesti, one of the villages you will pass through on your journey. He has guided HRH The Prince of Wales on private nature walks and is most at home in the forests and meadows around his village. Sergiu works for his family’s business in Sighisoara but his two real passions are cycling and history. He lives within Sighisoara’s medieval walls and his ability to grasp and explain Transylvania's complicated history is a skill only matched by the care he takes in looking after our guests. Both Cornel and Sergiu speak perfect English but you will also be hosted by a member of The Slow Cyclist team from the UK. Your bags will be taken ahead each day and a driver will often be nearby to offer a lift if you really need one.
We use 2014 Merida Matts mountain bikes for the cycling sections of this journey because, although it is not a mountain biking trip per se, the variety of terrain means they’re the best tool for the job. They are comfortable and extremely well-maintained.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE PRICE?
Airport transfers on arrival and departure for recommended flights, support vehicle, Slow Cyclist host, English-speaking expert local guides, accommodation, activities and entrance fees, snacks, water throughout, soft & alcoholic drinks at meal times, bicycle & helmet hire. N.B. pricing structures vary so please check the relevant itinerary for accurate information.
WHAT IS EXCLUDED?
Flights (estimated cost £80 - £150 if booked well in advance ), visas (if required), personal travel insurance, local airport taxes (if applicable), tips for local staff & personal costs. N.B. pricing structures vary so please check the relevant itinerary for accurate information.
FOOD & DRINK
Transylvanian food is simple, fresh, delicious and the very definition of organic. Sometimes you’ll eat out in the open, at other times in private homes, small restaurants and guest houses. Allergies and other preferences are all taken care of at the time of booking.
Below are a couple of examples of places we stay during our group tours through Transylvania. We aim to use accommodation that enhances your overall experience, rather than simply providing a roof for the night. Sometimes this means staying in one of the best guest houses in Transylvania and at other times it means staying with a local family. Rest assured you will always be comfortable and well looked after.
In one of Transylvania's most picturesque villages are a series of houses that are so charming we're never ready to leave. Wonderful food and beautiful views complete a perfect night's stay.
In a peaceful courtyard overlooking the village's 14th century fortified church, Richis' old parish house, run by Tony & Gerrit, is a home away from home, with more fantastic cooking.
SUPPORTING THE COMMUNITY
A small amount from each trip we operate in the Saxon villages goes towards the vital work of the Anglo Romanian Trust for Traditional Architecture (ARTTA), which was founded by celebrated author William Blacker and William Heathcoat-Amory and Asociatia Monumentum, run by local architect Eugen Vaida. Romanian built heritage is being destroyed at an alarming rate, meaning the most visual part of Romania’s history is being rubbed out.
CLIMATE & WEATHER
Transylvania has a temperate climate. Spring usually bursts in April, when typical daytime temperatures are around 15-20°C. Things warm up towards summer: 15-25°C is typical in May and June but it can get much hotter. In July and August temperatures of 30-35°C are not uncommon. Autumn begins in September. By the second half of October temperatures average between 10 and 15°C. Except in the height of summer evenings are cool. Rainfall is not uncommon at any time of year.
Many of our guests spend more time in Romania either before or after their adventure with us in the Saxon region. It is a wonderfully diverse country and we can work with some really great local partners to help you get the most out of your visit. Whether you would like to hike in the Carpathians, explore the wooden curches of Maramures and the painted monasteries of Bucovina, spend a long weekend at Prince Charles' private residence in the Transylvanian wilderness or get under the skin of vibrant Bucharest, we can help.