Romania is one of my favourite destinations. I love the place, I love the people, I love the food, the culture, the history, the mountains... I’ve been back a few times, at various times of year, but this was my first time experiencing 'Romania: The Winter Destination'.
I went to Poiana Brasov - Romania’s biggest, most popular, and most luxurious mountain resort. Despite its remote location, nestled deep in the Carpathian mountains, it’s actually within easy reach of the major city of Brasov and, by extension, of Bucharest - which is around three hours from the slopes.
The resort itself is beautiful. Poiana doesn’t have the scale and drama of the Alps or the Dolomites, but it is stunningly beautiful. The town's picture-postcard perfect main street is lined with half-timber houses and stunning pine forest, and from the town, rolling hills grow up into challenging slopes that will suit skiers and riders of all ages and abilities.
There are regular shuttle buses and trains between Bucharest (city or airport) and Brasov, with the journey taking between two and three hours depending on traffic and trains. From Brasov, you can take a bus or taxi to Poiana, or if you’ve chosen to hire a car in Bucharest you can, of course, drive the whole way in comfort. Roads are good and you might prefer this if you are taking gear with you.
On arrival in Poiana, if you’ve taken the bus you'll find yourself at a station near the top of the town. From here you can take the mini Poiana shuttle to your hotel; it costs just 60c or so per journey and runs the entire length of the town - all the hotels are within easy walking distance of the road so you can ask the bus driver to stop where you need him to and walk from there!
I got my gear at Interski, which is a small ski shop at the top of the town, right across the road from the Ana Teleferic lift. They’re really helpful and highly experienced, so they'll make sure you have the right gear to suit your skills and needs. The gear is well-maintained and in great, like-new condition, as well as being great value to hire. A full day’s full gear will set you back the Romanian equivalent of about €10, which is around a quarter of the price you could find yourself paying in French or Swiss resorts.
Luckily, you don’t have far to go for lessons; Interski offers ski and snowboarding lessons, with group private ski and snowboarding lessons available from just €25 an hour. Lift passes can be bought at the bottom of the Teleferic, with various options available depending on how many mountains you want access to during your stay.
The hotels in Brasov are generally of high quality and there are options to suit any type of trip, from big, all-inclusive family-friendly hotels to smaller romantic lodges and options for lower budgets too. There's plenty to choose from, and because the town is so small, you're never too far from a slope wherever you do choose to stay... but you can't get much closer than the New Belvedere Hotel. Conveniently located right across the road from both the Interski rental shop and the main Teleferic ski lift it’s a really lovely hotel with equally lovely staff. It has lots of storage space for skis and outdoor wear, and the plush, comfy bed you need after an exhausting day on the slopes. Breakfast is decent here, and dinner is excellent.
Food here is big, hearty and tasty – exactly the kind of stuff you want after a long day out on the slopes. There are loads of great restaurants in Poiana (including the excellent food in the New Belvedere Hotel), but I definitely had some stand-out meals.
Vanaturol is a beautiful restaurant just a little off the main street in Poiana, and it’s the perfect place to go if you want to taste some of Romania’s famous wild game - both boar and venison. Vanaturol literally translates to ‘The Hunter’, which might give you a clue about how seriously they take their meats... but they take their dessert seriously here too, so make sure you try the Crêpes Suzette here; they will wheel out the pancake trolley and make those bad boys right in front of you.
The Coliba Haiducilor restaurant is probably the most famous restaurant in Poiana Brasov, and with good reason. This is as traditional as it gets - it's as much a museum to the way of life in Romania's mountain as it is a restaurant, and you should really try to eat here at least once during a trup to Poiana – jut make sure to reserve your table first because it gets busy!
Poiana is fairly quiet little spot, but it still manages to carve out a nice nightlife and aprés ski scene. The place to be after a day on the slopes is Club Rossignol, where the pizza is good and the wine is mulled, and where dancing on the tables until the wee small hours is a regular and raucous occurrence.
For daytime socialising, make sure you stop at Julius Römer Hütte - Cabana Postavarul half way up Postavarul mountain. This is the mid-mountain place to stop for skiers in need of a little refreshment, and it's always buzzing with people - eating, chatting, and warming their cockles with some lovely mulled wine.
If you're accompanying skiers but prefer to stay off the slopes, there's still plenty to keep you occupied in Poiana. Even if you're not staying on tone of the resort's spa hotels, you can access the fitness and leisure facilities in some of the bigger hotels, and rates for day visitors are generally quite affordable.
If you like the mountains but just don't want to slide down them at high speeds, you can get your fix by taking the cable car lift up Postavarul mountain. The 360 degree panoramic view from the top is incredible, and you can take the nice, warm cable car back down the mountain when you're done!
Poiana might not be the most exciting resort for experienced skiers, but if you are anything from a total beginner to an enthusiastic intermediate skier or rider, or you want to introduce kids to the joys of the slopes, then you couldn't pick a better place than Poiana.
Book flights to Bucharest with Ryanair!