The Transfagarasan Road
The world-famous Transfagarasan Road meanders its way through the southern arm of the Carpahatians Mountains, home to some of the last remaining pockets of unspoiled nature in Europe. Transfagarasan (pronounced “trans-fuh-guh-ruh-shan”) means “across the Fagaras”, referring to the mountain range through which the road is carved. For centuries, these rugged mountains stood as a barrier between Transylvania and Walachia, forcing travelers to bypass them through the more accessible river valleys that border them.
Plans to build a mountain road that would connect the historical regions of Transylvania and Walachia existed well before the 1968 soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Facing the prospect of a similar event in Romania, Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu decided to commence the construction of a strategic roadway that would allow army units to easily cross the Carpathians.
The Transfagarasan Road goes up to a maximal altitude of 2042 meters, cutting through the highest mountains in Romania, Fagaras Mountains. Breathtaking as it may be, the Transfagarasan Road is actually the second-highest paved road in the country, after Transalpina.
The Transfagarasan – or National Roadway 7C, as it’s officially known – starts in arges County, in Bascov, and ends in sibiu County, close to Carțisoara. The total length of “the road through the clouds”, as it’s often called by visitors, is 151 kilometers. The longest tunnel in Romania, Balea Tunnel, with a length of 887 meters, is also part of the Transfagarasan. The 27 bridges and viaducts that support the roadway transform the Transfagarasan in one of the most spectacular roads in the country and beyond.
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Due to the high altitude and the harsh mountain weather conditions, the Transfagarasan Road is only open four months a year, from July to October. Don’t expect to be able to test your rally-driving skills, as the average speed you can reach is just 40 kilometers an hour.
During the winter, the Transfagarasan Road can be accessed up to Balea Waterfall, on the northern end, and to the Capra Waterfall on the southern end.
One of the Transfagarasan’s famous “gates” is located nearby the scenic Balea Lake. The “Engineering Corps’ Gate” stands as testimony to the extraordinary hardship through which the Romanian army went in order to build the road. another important milestone on the road is the “Meeting Gate”, which represents the point where the two teams that built the road from opposite flanks finally met.
Every year, thousands of tourists come to see the “road to the sky” and admire the landscape, with its stone walls, clear waterfalls, and many lakes.
Driving on the Transfagarasan is a challenge for drivers, due to the sharp descents and frequent s-curves. One edition of the well-known TV show Top Gear was filmed on the Transfagarasan. The Brits were deeply impressed by the road and the amazing scenery. Jeremy Clarkson, the presenter of the show, called Transfagarasan “the most beautiful road in the world”.
Besides the natural attractions, a trip to the Transfagarasan is an opportunity to see some impressive man-made attractions, such as Poenari Citadel, a historical monument dating back to the 14th century. Other must-see attractions along the Transfagarasan are Vidraru Dam, the highest in Romania, with a height of 166 meters, and a giant statue of Prometheus with lightning bolts in his hands.
Natural or man-made, the surrounding attractions only enhance the unique experience of driving on the Transfagarasan, one of the world’s most interesting roads.