Transfagarasan Highway (officially called DN7C), also labeled “the Road to the Clouds”, “the Road to the Sky”, “the Best Driving Road in the World”, is the second highest road in Romania at a peak of 2,042m, after Transalpina – at 2,100m.
Ranked one of the most scenic strips of blacktop in the world, it is not for the faint of heart! Visitors will find some impressive views, but also some of the nation’s most terrifying, since portions of the road are without barriers and lead to drops above 1,000 feet. It is both a challenge and an attraction for cyclists, marathonists, hikers, drivers and motorcycle enthusiasts.
The Transfagarasan journey is not only a trip through nature at its best, but it can also be a good trip through history. Built as a strategic military route, between 1970 and 1974, during the rule of Nicolae Ceauşescu, the 90 kilometers of turns and twists laid over the Carpathians, scary ravines, marvelous waterfalls, steep rocky walls will take your breath away, links the historic cities of Pitesti in Transylvania and Sibiu in Wallachia.
At a high cost, both financially and from a human standpoint – roughly 6,000 tons of dynamite were used on the northern face, and the official records mention that about 40 soldiers lost their lives in building accidents, and it came as a response to the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union. Nicolae Ceausescu wanted to ensure quick military access across the mountains in the event the Soviets attempted a similar move into Romania.
At the peak of the Fagaras mountains, at Balea Lake, the road passes through Balea Tunnel, the longest road tunnel in Romania at 884 m (2,900 ft). Here you can also stay over night to rest, as there are two lodging facilities, one of them actually on the lake, and where you can stop to buy some food and take some pictures. The prices are a little expensive for Romanian standards, but I suppose this is to cover the costs of transporting supplies and staff to such a remote location.
After getting used to the road and its beauties, the next breathtaking stop should be at the Vidraru dam (considered by specialists a real jewelry of engineering) and the Vidraru lake. The artificial lake was created in 1965 by the construction of the Vidraru dam on the Arges river – in the shadow of the Fagaras Mountains, for electricity production (the volume of the water is 465 million m³).
A village was submerged at the bottom of the lake. The construction of the Vidraru dam took 5 years with many human sacrifices (about 80 persons lost their lives during its construction), from 1960, and upon completion, it ranked 5th in Europe and 9th in the world. The curved dam is 166 meters tall, and the water reaches a depth of 155 meters. The underground power station is located at a depth of 104 meters and can provide annual energy production of 400 GWh. In 2006, the first ice hotel in Eastern Europe was built in the vicinity of the lake.
When to travel to Transfagarasan Highway in Romania
If you are on vacation in Romania between June and September, the Transfagarasan Road is an amazing and unforgettable experience. Sometimes the road can be open as late as November, but on the other hand, it has been known to snow as late as August so it’s always good to check ahead of time on the weather and road conditions.
Tourists who would like to “venture” on the Transfagarasan Road are advised to climb it from South to the North.