When getting excited at the prospect of your next travel, do you ever ask yourself if you’re a smart traveler? Meaning one who seeks to discover the world heritage in its full display.
If you’re visiting Romania in the near future, we suggest that you turn into such a traveler by considering the UNESCO sites in Romania.
But why should you include them in your list?
- You get to discover little known, but enchanting destinations.
- You get a real taste of a country’s civilization and natural treasures.
- You can appreciate a country’s contribution to the world treasures in an informative way.
What’s best, however, is that each one of us can start building our own map of cultural treasures by following the UNESCO sites in countries we pass by.
In the case of Romania, you can choose from 7 such spots – and you’ll get to learn why and how we advise you to do so.
What Is a UNESCO Site and Why Should You Care
World Heritage sites are landmarks that have been chosen by the UNESCO to be of particular cultural and physical importance.
Once a location is officially recognized as such, it benefits from special funds and programs that ensure its preservation within the global patrimony.
In short, it is the least we can do at a global level to safeguard items of ‘outstanding universal value’.
But what qualifies as a UNESCO site?
The criteria for selection stipulate that the place has to be one of the above:
- masterpieces of creative genius
- symbol of cultural interchange of human values
- unique/exceptional testimony of a living/disappeared culture
- outstanding architectural/technological ensemble representative of a historical stage
- an example of human settlement within an endangered environment
- events or living traditions
- area exhibiting exceptional natural phenomena or aesthetics
- representation of the earth’s history
- containing ongoing ecological processes
- natural habitat for in-situ conservation
As you can see, the criteria can be divided into two main categories: cultural and environmental preservation, respectively.
Plenty of UNESCO sites in Romania can be found within the former group.
Keep on reading to learn about all of them.
An exhibit of the Brancovenesc style, this monastery is representative of the famous Balkan architectonic style sporting the following characteristics:
- balance and purity of lines
- a blend of Balkan and Renaissance elements
- rich sculptural details
- special treatment of religious compositions
- votive portraits
- its own school of mural and icon painting in the 18th century
Horezu is a well-known region for its unique brand of ceramic and pottery – ‘ceramica de Horezu’.
If you visit the monastery, you’ll get to admire or buy one-of-a-kind artisanal pottery with Romanian traditional motifs.
If you’ve leafed through Romanian touristic guides at least once, you most likely heard or read about Sighisoara.
It’s because the historic center of this city is one of the best-preserved instances of small medieval urban style.
- fortified walls
- urban architecture representative of the Transylvanian Saxon culture (which is an endangered one)
- a 500-year old clock tower
- uphill cobblestone streets
Dubbed ‘the medieval jewel of Romania’, Sighisoara is to this day a living frame of a small-scale fortified medieval city.
A special kind of medieval flare can be experienced if you choose to visit Sighisoara during the Medieval Festival taking place each summer at the end of July.
Transylvania is a region that, to many foreigners, stands for the legend of Count Dracula.
To Romanians, however, it is more than that – it is a well-defined cultural area striving to preserve its individuality.
The first steps have been made with the following villages being listed as UNESCO sites in Romania:
- Valea Viilor
Located in the Southern part of Transylvania, these 7 villages present in-situ conservation of the Transylvanian Saxon lifestyle and urban display. They have in common:
- the settlement pattern
- household configuration
- fortified churches as central elements within the village.
These elements have been preserved as such since the Middle Ages – that’s why they’re considered an area of outstanding cultural relevance.
By visiting this area, you get a glimpse into the Saxons’ way of organizing a community. Not to mention the churches, which in themselves are architectural points of interest, with frescoes preserved starting with the 13th century.
The Danube Delta – A Unique Touristic Reverie
If you’ve ever dreamt of witnessing nature being born, you’ve got to take into consideration visiting the Danube Delta.
Here, the land is permanently ‘under construction’, as it is formed by alluvial sediments adding up. This phenomenon leads to the delta advancing into the Black Sea at a yearly rate of 24 m.
But it is just one reason the 2nd largest wetland of Europe has been included on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
Considered to be the largest reedbed in the world, the Danube Delta has a particular charm due to its habitat containing:
It is a place wherein you can completely lose the sense of time, no matter which type of tourist you are.
This intricate natural labyrinth is host to 330 bird species, of which several are endangered species:
- 70% of the white pelican and 60% of the pygmy cormorant populations can be encountered in the Danube Delta
- the glossy ibis
- the egret
- the heron
- the collared pratincole
- the tufted duck.
Not surprisingly, the waters of the delta are populated by almost all European fish species (around 45 of them).
The ethereal beauty of the plain land filled with water lilies is pretty sure to take anyone’s breath away. You’ll have the chance to relish in the uniqueness of aquatic vegetation like:
- floating reed islands
- brook mint.
This is where all the birds find an ideal ecosystem for nesting.
On the terrestrial habitats, you can spot otters, minks, ermines, wild boars, Enot dogs, nutrias or pheasants.
Occupying a 3446 km² space, the Danube Delta is a place you can visit by boat (led by local fishers) or by ferry (if you choose to explore the 3 branches: Chilia, Sulina and Sf.Gheorghe).
In case you choose the latter, you’ll reach the point where the Danube pours into the Black Sea – here’s where you can admire a rare phenomenon of freshwater meeting sea water and generating a special kind of ecosystem called ‘brackish water’.
All in all, do you think you can fancy a destination where you can let go of literally everything while getting to see one of the most dynamic ecosystems in the world?
Then perhaps you might want to read more on the key stops alongside the Danube river.
Known as a mountaineering region, Maramures encompasses the Northern Romanian area.
This detail is of particular importance when talking about the profile of the following churches included among the UNESCO sites in Romania:
- Poienile Izei
Here, visitors are able to admire the wooden buildings produced despite religious impositions of the Austro-Hungarian rule from the 17th to 19th century.
Each one of them defined in structurally different ways, they pose common elements such as:
- narrow foundation, tall clock towers
- single or double-roofed
- naïve style of mural painting
- thick logs.
Another common feature is that they’re reviewed by some tourists as a piece of ‘heaven on Earth’, due to the simplicity, positive energy and peacefulness they convey.
We’ve previously talked about the Saxon heritage of Transylvania, but what about an even more ancient relic?
This time, it’s about the Dacian fortresses dating back to the first century B.C.
Before being conquered by the Romans, the Dacian rulers (considered to be the Romanian ancestors) built an array of fortified sites that are now considered typical for the late European Iron Age.
Both military and religious in their scopes, they reveal elements of a solid pre-Roman civilization.
This is the place to go if you seek for the Romanian equivalent of Stonehenge – both historical artifact and spectacular – part mystical – scenery.
Landmarked as posing outstanding universal value, the following churches and monasteries can be found in the Southern part of Bucovina (also known as the Romanian historical region Moldova):
- Sfantul Ioan cel Nou din Suceava
They’ve all been built in the 15th to 16th century period and their common feature is the display of Byzantine elements.
The frescoes on the exterior walls are of particular interest since they are unique across Europe.
Nowhere else could you admire cycles of religious themes painted and displayed in this particular fashion.
More than iconographic style, these walls give us an idea of the cultural horizon of Moldavians in the Middle Ages.
Sucevita Monastery is a particular display of exceptional conservation since the 15th century (no alterations have been made to the original building and mural paintings).
A similar state of conservation can be noticed within the rural environment itself, which practically makes this area a living museum.
Explore the UNESCO Sites in Romania
Now that we’ve capped off this list of Romanian UNESCO sites in grand fashion, it’s time we bring some good news.
We can help you include most of these amazing places in your itinerary. As such, you can choose from the following tours:
- The Romanian UNESCO Heritage Tour – 4 days
- Maramures, Bucovina & Danube Delta Tour – 5 days
- Transylvanian Medieval Castles and Fortified Churches Tour – 4 days
- The Black Sea and Danube Delta Tour – 2 days
- Transylvania Break Tour – 2 days
- Bucovina & Transylvania Tour – 3 days
Let us know of your interest and drop us a call so that we can help you assemble your own UNESCO itinerary.