Romania's Bran Castle © Todor Bozhinov
Romania is a surprising and mesmerising destination; with seven UNESCO-listed monuments, magnificent landscapes, as well as a vivid culture, Romania will leave visitors wanting more.
The country has slowly emerged from the effects of being one of the most repressed countries under communism, but it is rapidly regaining its identity as a popular tourist destination and has plenty to offer the international traveller. Exploring Romania is certainly rewarding, with the place names alone evoking a certain charm - who could resist finding out more about mysterious Transylvania, so often the literary home of mythical monsters.
The country's geography is diverse: from mountains, rolling hills and rural farmlands to white sandy beaches and resorts along the Black Sea Coast. Dotting the natural landscape are rustic villages where local people live much as they have done for the past 100 years. There is an abundance of religious architecture - including the exquisitely painted monasteries of Bucovina - and there are ancient churches and cities bursting with historic buildings. The capital city, Bucharest, is re-inventing itself and its damaged architecture is slowly being restored to its original glory. It has elegant restaurants, a revitalised nightlife and cultural attractions that are becoming integral to its new image.
A visit to Romania will leave few impassive, offering a refreshingly different culture to elsewhere in Europe. The mix of quaint medieval towns and castles, drab cities striving for Western modernism, and the diverse rural landscape seemingly untouched by modern history, offers a fascinating kaleidoscope. Romania appeals to visitors because it is so different: it has one foot firmly placed in the past while the other one is stretching forward in an effort to keep up with the progress of the modern world.