Transalpina – the highway in the sky

Transylvania, Transalpina
The Highway in the sky

There are many names and descriptions that I could use for Transalpina, that’s how spectacular this road is!

I have travelled the world for years, but I embarrassingly admit:  I do not know my own country: Romania. Yes I have the  good excuse of not having lived here for 11 years, but I am determined to correct that.

So, very recenlty I took a quick trip through a part of Transylvania covering Transalpina, Hunedoara, Alba Iulia, Sibiu and finishing with the Olt Valley (part of Oltenia region, in the south of the country).

If you are a passionate traveler, I am sure you already know that Lonely Planet elected Transylvania THE #1 region to travel to in 2016, in their “Best in travel 2016”!

So maybe you have already ticked that off your list by now. If you did, I would love to hear your opinion in a comment below. But if you didn’t, I would like to help you make up your mind by giving you an insight into  this gorgeous region.

By the way,  I am planning to go back and cover the whole region at some point, but for the moment I only had a few days available.

In order to make it easier and more reader/user friendly, I decided to split this post in 2 parts.  So stay tuned for part 2!

Right! Let’s hit the nail in the head and start with the most spectacular highway in the country: Transalpina!

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Transalpina – the road between sky and earth

The rooftop of Romania

Transalpina is the highest and (considered) the most beautiful road in Romania. I say “considered”, because there is an older highway simliar to it, called Transfagarasan. The Transfagarasan was opened in 1974, and although it was one of the most famous and, at the same time feared, roads in Romania, its fame went international after Top Gear declared it “World’s best road” in 2009. The Transfagarasan is shorter (92km) and a bit lower (2042m) than Transalpina, but also almost 35 years older!

Since Transalpina was opened the second time (after being paved in 2009), there is a constant comparison between the two roads.

I have experienced Transfagarasan maaaaaany years ago, as a child, so I need to go back in order to be able to compare myself. But… what I can say already is that, while Transfagarasan abounds in spectacular sightseeing, Transalpina is longer, higher and definitely better for driving (being quite new). In my opinion, the preference is very subjective though. You have to experience both roads yourself in order to be able to decide.

However, both can feed the hunger for adrenaline and none of them is for the faint-hearted. With sharp curves and sheer drops at every corner and at 2000m above sea level, they require excellent driving skills and quite a bit of courage. PS: do not look down while driving if you have fear of heights!

Sharp corners, sheer drops, spectacular views
Driving into the clouds

Like I said, Transalpina is in very good condition, however, due to its height, rapidly changing weather conditions and extremely winding road, it is closed during the winter months, which can mean even October-May at that height in the mountains.

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I have seen many cars struggling on this road, either because they are affected by the height or simply because they are not powerful enough. So I recommend going there with a powerful car or for even more fun…by bike 😉 .

Transylvania, Transalpina
Even an old Dacia dared to face it! …Do not do that!

Aside from the breathtaking views and driving thrill, you can also experience a local meal at one of the terraces and restaurants alongside the road. Or…even at a sheep station, where you can try fresh cheese and other local produce.

Interesting facts about Transalpina:

  • it was officially opened in 1937, however it was only paved in 2009, compared to Transfagarasan, which is open since 1974!
  • it stretches over 146km
  • its name comes from Latin and it means “The country beyond the mountains”
  • it connects the south of the country called Oltenia region with Transylvania
  • it crosses over 6 mountains all part of the big Carpathian mountains chain
  • before it officially opened (the first time) in 1938, it used to be called “Devil’s road” by the shepherds, as it was very dangerous to cross, especially for their horses.
  • after its official opening it was called “The King’s Road” as the King Himself (Charles the 2nd) officially inaugurated it and drove over 8 hours on it.
Ranca ski resort
Unpredictable weather creates dramatic landscape
Nature at its best
Nature’s drama…
Transalpina, Trasylvania
Imagine riding your bike there….FREEDOM!

So what do you think? Did I convince you to give it a try? 😉

Let me know in a comment below.

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