More than 150 kilometres in length the Transfagarasan Highway is Romania’s most spectacular and best known road and, thanks to an appearance on BBC Top Gear in 2009, now one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. Fully open only from June to October, the road’s highest point is at 2042 metres: the tunnel which links the northern and southern sides at Lake Balea.
The Capra Tunnel – 890 metres long and at an altitude of 2040 metres – marks the top of the Transfagarasan Highway. The scene on the northern side of the tunnel is little short of spectacular: a wide open valley with the road serpentining its way down visible as far as the eye can see. This is the classic picture postcard view of the Transfagarasan.
The Transfagarasan runs trough the Arges River gorge. After travelling beyond the last village, Capataneni, you’ll see a road sign to Poenari Castle. This castle was property of Vlad III the Impaler. Vlad earned his nickname by impaling, torturing, burning, skinning, roasting, and boiling people who did things that displeased Vlad; stealing, lying, and adulterous relations. In this way Vlad kept his people in order and taught them that stealing would not be tolerated in his lands. Bram stoker’s Dracula was based on his personality. When you look up on the mountains you can see his fortress on the top of a high and remote cliff. It will take 1480 stairs before you reach the top, but the view is certainly worth the effort.
The lake is only about 11 meters deep and 360 meters long. However, it is not a bathing attraction as the temperature of the water can rarely reach 10 degrees Celsius in summer. There are also summer days when the water temperature hardly reaches three degrees.
Balea Lake is a glacier lake situated at 2,034 meters of altitude in the Fagaras Mountains, in central area of Romania. The lake is accessible by car on the Transfagarasan road (an amazing awesome road crossing the Fagaras Mountains) during the summer, and the rest of the year by cable car from “Bâlea Cascadă” (Balea waterfall)
Also, at this great altitude, you can relax after a long road up by staying a night at one of the two guesthouses here or the ice hotel (never been to any of them). However, you can also experience a great feeling just by picking a rock to sit on and eat your road sandwiches with your friends while admiring the landscape or you can choose to buy something good to eat from the small market improvised by locals just near the lake. I ate there and the products were safe to eat as I never had any problems afterwards. They all look fresh. There are also restaurants at the hotels, but the prices are rather high as there are so many tourists here.
Vegetation type the perimeter of the lake is hydrophilic, consisting of sedges and herbs such as: alpine plantain, dandelion alpina, spleen, and I was charmed by the hypnotic reflection of the lake.
I would recommend you to come here in summer by car, by bike or motorcycle.
Following the Transfagarasan highway over to the other side of the Fagaras mountains we reached the quite spectacular lake Vidraru. You can then choose to navigate down the right or left hand side of the lake to get to the town of Curtea de Arges. We chose the more established route to the dam at the bottom end of the lake. The two lake routes then link before the 15 or so kilometre drive into town.