TRANSFAGARASAN & TRANSALPINA 🇷🇴
“FROM ABOVE, IT LOOKS LIKE EVERY GREAT CORNER, FROM EVERY GREAT RACE TRACK IN THE WORLD HAS BEEN KNITTED TOGETHER TO CREATE ONE UNBROKEN GREY RIBBON OF AUTOMOTIVE PERFECTION”
TOP GEAR PRESENTER
ABOUT THE TRANSFAGARASAN HIGHWAY IN ROMANIA
In 2009 the widely popular British TV program TopGear ditched the famed Stelvio Pass as "the greatest driving road in the world" for the TransFagarasan in Romania. What they didn't test was the neighbouring TransAlpina Highway.
Both, the TransFagarasan Highway and the TransAlpina Highway clearly deserve a high ranking spot among the the best driving roads in Europe, if not the world. Dotted with astonishing serpentines, hairpin curves and incredibly steep slopes, the two roads convey the visitors through the majestic peaks of the Carpathian Mountains, offering them plenty of sightseeing opportunities and a sequence of breathtaking landscapes.
The roads are mostly closed from October till end of June due to the high altitude and snowfalls.
Tentative Opening Dates: July 1 -- October 31 (tentative date of closing for winter time).
With a bit of luck the road stays open till end of November. Please check ahead of time on the weather and road conditions, since it has been snowing up here in the past as early as August. Constantly updated information on the Romania High Roads are available online. The road quality is fairly good with some dirt stretches since winter always leaves its marks on the road.
HISTORY OF TRANSFAGARASAN
The TransFagarasan is one of the major tourist attractions in Romania. Partly because the British TV program Top Gear called it the best driving road in the world. But also for its special history:
6000 tons of dynamite have been used and 40 lives were lost to make its 90 km run trough the Fagaras mountains, a part of the Transylvanian Alps.
The entire road was built in only 4 years from 1970 to 1974 ordered by former communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. There is the theory that he wanted a strategic route across the Fagaras Mountains to be able transferring army troops north should Romania get invaded by the USSR.
A far more plausible explanation is that the dictator wanted to give an example of what the socialist country was capable of doing. Probably it is a status symbol, because the TransFagarasan is in general absolutely useless. Apart from driving on it for pleasure of course.
The Arges River gorge is base for the TransFagarasan. But the road is named after the mountain range it crosses in never ending soft serpentines. An absolutely amazing road, that is hard to compare to anything else.
From Curtea de Arges almost all the way to the UNESCO heritage town of Sibiu it winds its way in waves up and down the Fagarasan Mountains. Almost like a giant snake, serpentine after serpentine.
Along the 91 kilometres (57 miles) highway you will drive past road-side waterfalls and up to the highest point on 2042 metres (6.699 ft) at Balea Lake. The water however is very uninviting for swimming, since it is a super cold Glacier Lake.
Poenari Castle on the road belonged to Vlad III the Impaler, well known for torturing people and the inspiration to Bram stoker's Dracula Vampire story. Sporty 1480 steps will take you to the top of the castles ruins. The views over the gorge will reimburse for your efforts.
The Vidraru Lake is a man-made reservoir retained by a dam. The 165 meters high, 305 meters long walls of the dam are part of the TransFagrasan and you can drive on top of this gigantic construction.
The spectacular TransAlpina Highway stretches over ultra-scenic 148 kilometres (90 Miles) of which about 20 kilometres (12 Miles) go above 2000 meters (6561 ft) altitude crossing the Parang Mountains in Romania.
The road runs parallel to the famous TransFagarasan, but is often ignored since the British tv program TopGear missed out on promoting the drive when they have been in the region. The reason was probably that the road has still been asphalted while they did their shooting.
The TransAlpina had many names in the past. From the “Devil’s Track” used by shepherds in the region to the "King's Road" because King Carol the 2nd inaugurated this spectacular road. The most spectacular section has always been the Urdele Pass as you pass by the peak of the Papusa Mountain.
We call it driving heaven and even taking it a step further by saying it is a better driving experience than the famous TransFagrasan Highway.
The TransAlpina was built at the beginning of the 2nd Century AD by Roman legions. The Transylvanian treasures such as gold were transported over this road to Rome.
In 1930 the road was paved and later King Carol II inaugurated the new TransAlpina. Since then also known as the King's Road.
The name TransAlpina was given because it connects Transylvania with Oltenia via the Transylvanian Alps. During World War II the road was rebuilt by German troop for military purposes.
With 146 km and on 2145 m it is the highest road in Romania and is only since 2009 completely paved. But only since 2012 the road is open to traffic and deserves a listing as one of the greatest driving roads in the world.