Travel with wildlife and ornithology expert Andy Bunten to the South-Eastern Carpathians, some of the wildest mountains in Europe with magnificent scenery, followed by the Danube Delta, a unique habitat of water channels and reed beds providing a haven for birdlife.
Following a brief visit to the old center of Bucharest, full of charming fin de siècle buildings and boulevards, travel to the medieval town of Braşov and visit its famous Council Square and Black Church. Explore the beautiful Piatra Craiului Mountains, rich in alpine flora, looking for signs of bears, wolves, lynx, red deer, wild boar, white-backed woodpeckers and wallcreepers. Walk through high pastures grazed by flocks of sheep which are looked after by itinerant shepherds and meet with the shepherds, farmers and foresters.
Visit nearby Bran Castle, linked with Count Dracula and summer residence of Queen Maria of Romania, the grand-daughter of Queen Victoria before continuing to the Danube Delta. Here take a 4-night cruise on board a comfortable 8-cabin floating hotel, observing many rare species of birds such as pigmy cormorant, glossy ibis, white pelican, dalmatian pelican and red-footed falcon.
London / Bucharest
Morning departure from London Heathrow on a British Airways flight to Bucharest Airport.
On arrival late-afternoon, transfer to the Scala Boutique Hotel, with French neo-classical style architecture and decor located in the heart of Bucharest, where one night is spent. Dinner at the hotel.
Bucharest / Brasov
Early morning short tour of Bucharest old town, driving along Victoriei Street, the main and most popular street in Bucharest. View its the period buildings, many of them with a strong French neo-classical imprint, which led to the city being known as ‘Little Paris’, including the Romanian Athenaeum, the Museum of History, the Royal Palace and the central University Library. Stop to visit Revolution Square and the 18th century Kretzulescu Russian Orthodox church with its beautiful frescos. Depart for Braşov, heading north along Prahova Valley. Check in at the centrally located Casa Wagner Hotel where two nights are spent.
Lunch at a local restaurant. Visit the old town of Braşov, one of the seven cities founded by the Saxons in Transylvania in the 12th century when they were invited to Transylvania to guard the mountain passes. Walk through the medieval streets, visit the Black Church, Europe’s most eastern Gothic church, and the famous Council Square. Legend has it that when the Pied Piper enticed the children from Hamlyn in Germany, they vanished underground and emerged in Transylvania near the Council Square. Take the funicular up Tâmpa Mountain for views of the town. Dinner at a local restaurant.
Brasov & Magura
Drive to Zarnesti at the foot of Piatra Craiului Mountain in the South-Eastern Carpathians. Visit the Carpathian Large Carnivore Project based on the Piatra Craiului Mountains which are flanked by vast areas of natural forest that contain a healthy population of wolves and bears and are some of the wildest mountains in Europe. Largely formed of limestone and very rich in alpine flora, the high areas are grazed by flocks of sheep looked after itinerant shepherds. There are also plenty of interesting birds in the area including White Backed Woodpeckers and Wallcreepers. Walk in the foothills of and take in the splendid views of the limestone mountain. Search for signs of wild animals and visit a sheepfold in a mountain meadow.
Picnic lunch. Explore the local villages and the lush, green valleys of Peştera and Măgura with impressive backdrop of the Piatra Craiului and Bucegi Mountains where traditional occupations such as sheep farming, wool weaving and cheese making are still in use. Return to Brasov for dinner at a local restaurant. Visit a local bear hide.
Brasov / Bran / Buzau
Drive south to the small town of Bran to visit the legendary castle, linked wrongly with Count Dracula, more famous as being the summer palace of Queen Marie, grand-daughter of Queen Victoria. The impressive building, perched on a 60m high rock, lives up to the legend, with ramparts and towers dominating the wooded landscape and elements of its original Gothic style. Inside there is a museum of furniture and tapestries collected by Queen Marie.
Lunch at a local restaurant. Depart for Buzau leaving Carpathian Mountains behind. Cross Buzau Pass and descend through Nehoiu to Berca village to see the ‘Muddy Volcanoes’, a strange landscape in the Buzau Mountains created by gas emissions of boiling mud which cool to form volcanic cones ranging between 50 and 80cm and sometimes 5 to 7m in height. The bubbling brown mud looks like a moon landscape. We continue to Buzau where we spend the night at the comfortable Hadar Chalet. Dinner at the hotel.
Buzau / Danube Delta
Drive across the flat eastern plains to Braila and cross the Danube into the Dobrogea region.
Lunch en route. Continue to Tulcea town where and board the Pontoon floating hotel which will be your home for the next four nights. The Pontoon is a 40 metre-long boat equipped with 8 double rooms each with its own bathroom. Above the rooms there is a nature viewing platform. There is also a family-style dining room.
Each room is provided with a double bed with a small single bunk bed above. All rooms are provided with 220V power outlets, mosquito nets at the windows and heating and air-conditioning systems. The Pontoon is towed by a large motorboat that sometimes serves as a boat for daily excursions. More often excursions will be taken in smaller motorboats to facilitate the entries into tighter canals, which will allow a better observation of nature. Time permitting sail to Maliuc. Dinner on board.
Discover the wonders of Danube Delta using the small motorboats with or without engine. Here are no roads. The unique environment of water channels interspersed by beds of reeds, reed mace and sand dunes provides perfect conditions for a high level of biodiversity. Cross lakes such as Fortuna, Ciobanica, Baclanesti, Iacub and Maliuc fish farm where it is possible to observe pelicans and other birds adapted to this aquatic ecosystem.
Cormorant, pigmy cormorant, glossy ibis, white pelican, Dalmatian pelican and red-footed falcon are just a few of the species to discover. Also visit to WWF coordinated projects, the famous Letea forest and Letea village. The programme will be adapted according to water levels and weather conditions and to avoid restricted areas for nesting birds.
Lunches and dinners on board.
Danube Delta / Bucharest / London
Transfer to Bucharest.
Lunch en route at a local restaurant. Depart Bucharest Airport on a British Airways late afternoon flight to London, arriving London Heathrow early evening.