Budget-friendly trips during the winter have become a tradition in many households and while Romania’s popularity as a travel destination increases, many tourists choose to spend their winter break in this country full of surprises. The activities to choose from are many and varied and sure to fit any taste and disposition. Here are 4 tips to follow while planning a great time during your winter vacation in Romania.
1. Visit the Heartwarming Christmas Markets
Are you a Christmas markets fan? Do you automatically giggle at the thought of brightly decorated cities and intermittent lights? Then you should consider going on a Christmas Markets tour in Romania. A great place to start is the Bucharest Christmas Market, one of the most beloved and attended. You could continue with Brasov and then move on to a more spectacular option in Sibiu. Get ready to be inundated by the scent of chocolate pancakes, sweets, hot chocolate, mulled wine, cinnamon, ripe apples and orange-flavored teas. One single sniff will immediately set you in your best Christmas mood. What comes on top of this is the possibility to bump into some traditional rituals and traditions enacted by the locals.
2. Snowy peaks skiing
Wait, what? Did you just say you cannot ski? This makes this tip perfect for you. While everyone brags about their preparations for the skiing season and you feel rather ashamed as you always wanted to learn skiing but somehow never did, here is the solution: How about getting two birds with one stone and combining your winter holidays with some good ski lessons?
Where? Prahova Valley is a great example but there are many other regions in which winter resorts deliver ski courses for children and adults alike. You can also decide whether to learn skiing individually or in groups. The moment you find an instructor, they will guide you through your first steps. In just one week you will be a master at the most essential ski slope aspects, and you will have developed the confidence to push them further the next time. Of course, beginners are assigned to specific beginner slopes. This does not mean that fun is not ensured also for the more advanced skiers. Get ready for a challenge on the Romanian valleys.
3. Stay at the Ice Hotel
Popular and beloved especially among younger tourists is the Ice Hotel, which in the last years has been attracting visitors from all over the world. It is situated in the Balea Lake area with its beautiful natural landscape and provides a really magical atmosphere.
If you are wondering how an ice hotel is built, the answer is “yes, it is built entirely out of ice cubes”. Indeed, large ice cubes are cut from the frozen lake as the hotel is rebuilt every winter anew. Romanian and foreign tourists crowd the hotel every winter and some of them even decide to celebrate their weddings there since usually an ice church is built in the hotel as well.
But visitors do not just go to the hotel for a drink or a celebration, they actually want to spend the night and sleep surrounded by ice cubes. Too cold for an entire night? You can also just go to their restaurant. However, do not forget to book in advance since the hotel only has a limited amount of rooms and these get reserved rather quickly. Just casually stopping by and finding an available room is an unlikely scenario.
The Balea Ice Hotel has rapidly gained popularity as a travel destination after first opening its doors in 2005. This hotel is one of a kind in Romania and is even the first such hotel in the south east of Europe. Yet there is something more that adds to the uniqueness of the experience at Balea Ice Hotel, namely that every winter the hotel is built following a different theme. Therefore, the entire shape of the hotel changes and each room is decorated following the new theme. Also the ice-sculpted bar and the restaurant will match the theme which usually inspires the type of event organized in the suite.
Do not imagine though that you will be left there to freeze to death. The hotel does not only provide comfortable beds but also extra warm coats and sleeping beds which will keep you warm during the night.
4. Discover Maramures
It is typical for Romanians to enjoy their winter holidays in the beautiful region of Maramures. Along with friends and family, they travel to an area rich in traditions and full of well-preserved tall wooden-churches. The latter are usually extra decorated for the holidays and create a spectacular atmosphere.
But what if Christmas tree decoration is associated to death in Maramures? Macabre as this may sound, it was not easy for the locals to introduce and really accept the concept of Xmas tree decorations. This is due to the fact that in the old traditions of the area, this practice was associated with death. As late as the 1920s is when the inhabitants began decorating their trees for the first time before this became an integrated tradition. Now you can even get around in a horse-drawn sleigh to admire the landscape. On top of that, if you enjoy plays, you will have the chance to watch a religious theater show called Viflaim. Here the young village will be wearing their folk attire and sing carols song.
So, this year you may want to join the other Romanians traveling to Maramures and experience the magic of Christmas celebrations in this area. And if you are a fan of old customs and rituals, you may want to keep in mind the town of Sighetu Marmatiei which puts together a Winter Customs Festival every December. There you can admire the typical folk attires, taste some of the local food (including regional holiday goodies) and shop for souvenirs so you can take the memory of your trip back home with you.