Taking on the Twists and Turns of Cheile Gradistei
Romania boasts some of the most dramatic and dangerous scenic drives in Europe. The mountainous terrain and indifferent attitude to maintenance add up to experiences that are not for the faint hearted. For a short, sharp adrenaline buzz, Cheile Gradistei, near the resort town of Bran, is hard to beat.
Lifestyles of the rich and famous
Romania has long been a popular destination for knowledgeable vacationers and thrill seekers from Germany. Cheile Gradistei boasts two luxurious mountain resorts, but before taking to the slopes, German motorheads in upgraded BMWs and Mercedes can be seen on the spectacular mountain road that curls around Fundata holiday village between the resort towns of Bran and Rucar.
Stunning views and spine-chilling turns
The road twists and turns its way through the Bucegi Mountains, and while it is blacktop all the way, the quality of the surface can be diplomatically described as “variable.” With frequent hairpin turns and not a single guardrail in sight, this is not a route that forgives mistakes, so drive within your car’s limits.
The views across the Romanian landscape are absolutely sublime, so this is a route where taking your time brings its own rewards. There are plenty of places where it is safe to stop for photo opportunities, but exercise caution when leaving the blacktop, especially after heavy rain, as landslides are not uncommon.
When you’re ready for a break from driving, there are plenty of tourist attractions in the area, including the Chisatoare nature reserve, the bats cave at Pestera cu Lilieci and the remarkable caves at Pestera Dambovicioara, where you can see prehistoric drawings and fossils.
How to get there
Those tourists we mentioned from Germany and other places in Western Europe often incorporate Cheile Gradistei as part of a wider road trip through Romania. If you are visiting from further afield, you will most likely be flying into either Brasov or Bucharest.
Brasov is certainly the most convenient – in fact, you can be in the heart of the mountains within an hour of leaving the airport. Be aware, however, that car hire options are limited and it can be a case of settling for whatever you can get. A 10-year-old C-class Mercedes is not without its virtues, but neither is it the ideal vehicle for tackling Romania’s most challenging mountain roads.
Bucharest has more options, both in terms of flights and car hire when you arrive, and all the usual rental agencies operate from the airport. Nevertheless, it is still strongly advised that you book well in advance. While an SUV is not essential for taking on the twists and turns of Cheile Gradistei, it is strongly recommended for optimum safety and peace of mind.