Are you thinking about booking the ‘Bear Watching and Castle Hopping in Romania’ tour with Much Better Adventures or Truly Romania, but want further detail from someone who’s done it? Or are you just curious as to what this trip is all about? Love reading about travel? Then this is the post for you as I will be going through how I found the trip and what you can expect on each day!
This three-day trip was a short-and-sweet introduction to Romania: on the itinerary was a walking tour of Bucharest, two castle visits and two opportunities to try and see some of Romania’s bear population. We stayed one night in Bucharest and another night in Braşov. The trip was led by a company called Truly Romania and I booked it via a company called Much Better Adventures who helped organise airport transfers and pre and post-trip accommodation.
This post is about Day 3 of the trip. To read more about Days 1 and 2 (Bucharest, Peleş Castle, Braşov and bear watching), please check out the links at the bottom of this page.
Waking up to snow. Like, an actual thick layer of snow. My boots were still damp from stepping in a puddle in the woods the night before but it didn’t matter because they were about to get even wetter from all the slush. Day 1 and day 2 of the trip had both been hugely enjoyable: I had loved wandering around Bucharest and trying some traditional Romanian food on Day 1, and seeing Peleş Castle and people watching in Braşov on Day 2 had also been good fun. It had been a chilly and very quiet evening sat in the observatory, however, waiting to see if would see a bear (we didn’t), and it had started to sleet on the way home.
Back in Braşov, we had stayed the night in a boutique hotel called Casa Wagner. Each of the rooms were quirky and I really loved the all the carved furniture in mine. I would definitely recommend it to anyone staying in Braşov. The breakfast could have done with a couple more options, though!
On the morning of Day 3, we drove to the Libearty Sanctuary. I spent the drive looking out of the window at all the snow that seemed to have even surprised the locals.
The Sanctuary had been set up to provide a safe patch of forest to rescued bears. In Romania, it had been fashionable to have a caged bear – restaurants had them, monasteries had them, as well as your usual suspects like the circus. A law was passed which made having caged bears illegal, and some of them ended up at the sanctuary, which now rescues as many as they can from captivity.
It was an emotional and unforgettable morning at the Sanctuary. All the bears had such sad stories of how they had been held previously, and there were so many of them! Some were older and a bit calmer, quite a few boisterous young ones and then even a couple of cubs who were playing in the snow. A lot of the bears had injuries (mental and physical) from the abuse they received before their rescue but the sanctuary provides them with space, food and companionship.
It was very cold, and while the snow did make the sanctuary very picturesque, I had to buy a hat to try and keep warm, however, they only sold child sizes so it just had to perch on top of my head! But I love it, it became my favourite memento of the trip. Protect the brown bears, y’all.
Next up was Bran Castle (Dracula’s castle), which yes is cheesy and stereotypical, but it was also interesting to walk round! From the top there are some lovely views of the surrounding areas (especially pretty under a layer of white snow), as well as exhibits on vampires, werewolves and all many of supernatural things. Also, there was a café, not at the castle but in the town, that served me one of the most delicious cups of hot chocolate I’ve ever had.
To help us get back to Bucharest on time, the guide suggested we grab a takeaway pizza to eat on the bus. It was fun and memorable – I even had a beer whilst looking out of the window and eating my pizza. She also surprised us with a Romanian pastry called Kürtöskalács (huge pastry chimneys covered in cinnamon sugar). I found that it was little touches like this that made our guide so great – she was knowledgeable, fun, and she really made the trip easy and memorable.
Back in Bucharest, most of the group went straight to the airport but we stayed for an extra night. We ate at Hanu Lui Manuc (the oldest inn in Romania, set around a beautiful courtyard), which turned out to be the best meal of the trip.
Overall, I thought the trip was very enjoyable – every part was nicely timed so we never felt rushed. The castles were interesting and the bear watching was an experience I won’t forget. I’ve looked at other Truly Romania’s trips since getting home and they do have a couple of other tempting itineraries (the Danube Delta Discovery, especially, looks good). It has definitely made me want to see more of Romania.
And, of course, I have looked at other trips with Much Better Adventures. I am addicted to their website – if you haven’t seen it, you must! Booking through them makes everything super easy, and the information and communication is always excellent. I thought it was great value for money and a great few days away from home. Get it on your travel list!