The Transylvanian capital city, Cluj-Napoca, has no shortage of things to do. Still, it’s a large city, and sometimes it’s necessary to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and explore what’s around.
These best day trips from Cluj Napoca highlight the beauty and diversity of the region and offer incredible opportunities to step off the typical tourist track.
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Day trips from Cluj-Napoca
1. Salina Turda
Turda Salt Mine isn’t just famous within Romania – Smithsonian Magazine actually included it in a 2018 compilation of ‘subterranean wonderlands’! I don’t visit many underground tourist sites (ya know, anxiety and whatnot), but Salina Turda legit looks like a hidden NASA station. Some of the stair passages and elevated walkways seem a little precarious, particularly if you have a fear of heights.
Salina Turda first opened in the 1600s, was used as a bomb shelter during WWII, a theme park in the early 20th century, and now is somehow a strange compilation of all of its history. It has a miniature ferris wheel, paddle boats, a miniature golf course, spa services, and tours.
Turda is a 40 minute bus ride from Cluj, a little less if traveling by car. You can visit Salina Turda for RON 40 per day for adults; seniors, children, and students RON 20 per day. To take a paddle boat out is 20 lei per boat, which holds a maximum of 3 people or 200kg. The boat ride is completely worth it, offering some really spectacular vantage points for photos.
2. Lake Tarnița
Lake Tarnița is situated just west of Cluj-Napoca and is a popular day trip from the city.
Local legends proclaim that there are hidden tunnels under the mountains, exceeding lengths of 10 kilometers. People say that the entire plant looks like a military intelligence center encased in rock and is capable of withstanding a nuclear attack!
Cluj has some of the best drinking water in the country, thanks to the water coming in from springs in the Apuseni Mountains. On that note – tap water is safe to drink in all of Romania, and perfectly fine in Cluj. We refill large bottles and store them in the fridge in lieu of purchasing bottled water.
The area is popular for fans of water sports and fishing. Be forewarned, that most of the lakeshores are on private property, so access to the lake is limited.
3. Cheile Turzii
Cheile Turzii is a nature reserve just west of Turda and about 15 km from Cluj-Napoca.
The gorge formed over the course of 150 million years as a result of geological activity of the Hașdate River in the Jurassic limestones of Trascău Mountains.
Cheile Turzii takes your breath away with its grandeur and beautiful vistas. It spans an area of roughly 170 hectares, has a length of almost two kilometers and nearly 350 meters difference in altitude.
As such, it’s a popular spot for rock climbing and hiking with local residents.
Sibiu will always be my first love in Romania, and luckily, if you’re visiting Cluj, it makes for a great day trip. If you’re renting a car, the drive takes about two and a half hours.
I’d recommend renting a car or an organized tour as the train route is indirect and can take upwards of four hours. A bus ride will take just under four hours.
There are a ton of things to do in Sibiu, including open air museums, sprawling green parks, shopping, and more.
Hungry? You won’t have any difficulties finding where to eat in Sibiu – the food here is phenomenal.
Sibiu is slightly less expensive than Cluj in terms of both accommodation and dining.
5. Alba Iulia
En route to Sibiu, be sure to stop at Alba Iulia. Located approximately mid-way between the two cities, Alba Iulia is an up-and-coming destination in Romania. In fact, both Alba and Sibiu are on the tentative UNESCO World Heritage list.
The Citadel is without-a-doubt the most popular attraction in town, but there are a number of other things to do as well. Hike the caves and mountains, tour (and taste) at Jidvei Winery, visit the fortified church at Calnic (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), or simply explore the labyrinth that is the city center.
6. Lavanda Lola Festival
The annual lavender festival takes place in Bonțida, just 30 km outside of Cluj-Napoca. The lavender festival takes place each June, showcasing over 50 species of lavender!
Visitors can purchase fresh lavender and learn how to extract natural lavender flavor from plants. Enjoy a picnic on the orchard or sample and purchase the myriad of lavender products available!
Entrance is RON 10/person (about $2.50 USD).
7. Ardeal Delta
The Ardeal (Transylvanian) Delta is the third most famous delta in Romania, after the Danube Delta and the Văcărești Delta.
Nestled in the heart of Transylvania, the Ardeal Delta is a remarkable nature reserve that showcases one of the most biodiverse areas of the country. The reserve has everything from wetlands, lakes, ponds, forests, marshes, meadows, and more.
Fishing, hiking, camping, and bird-watching are all allowed in designated areas. For birders, there are observation towers as well!
Mărișel village is a village in Cluj County, located in the Gilau Mountains, which comprise part of the Apuseni range. The village is located about 50 km from Cluj, making for a doable day trip. Mărișel is 1250m altitude, the largest inhabited mountain plateau in Apuseni. It’s a very popular winter destination, depending on when you choose to visit Transylvania.
Aside from capturing stunning photographs during any season, you can also check out museums, the Astronomical Observatory, and the Hydropower Plant.
Oradea is one of western Romania’s most treasured cities. Beautifully decorated with Baroque and Renaissance architecture, and slightly off the typical tourist track, Oradea makes for the perfect day trip from Cluj Napoca.
Among the best activities in Oradea include visiting the Black Hawk Palace Arcade (be sure to get some photos of the iconic stained glass), the Moon Church, the Neolog Citadel, and the Oradea Fortress.
From Cluj, there are direct trains to and from Oradea. In the morning, there is a 7:35 train that takes roughly two and a half hours. Trains back to Cluj Napoca leave around 17:00 and 19:30, giving you a full day to enjoy Oradea. Alternatively, driving is also an option and will get you there much quicker.
10. Scărişoara glacier cave
Located about three and a half hours away from Cluj-Napoca by car in the Apuseni Mountains, this is one of the more ambitious day trips we’ve included. But, if you’re in the area, the Scărişoara Glacier Cave is a sight to behold!
Entrance is 13 lei per person, and consists of a leisurely walk through the forest followed by the descent (by stairs) into the underground cave. Admittance is restricted to 50 people at a time, less with current pandemic restrictions.
The cave experience takes under 30 minutes, but take some extra time to wander around the souvenir stalls. The best thing you can purchase here are local confections, such as baked goods and local honey.
After visiting the cave, spend the rest of the day exploring outside in the surrounding Apuseni National Park.
Guided day trips from Cluj-Napoca
These guided day trips from Cluj Napoca are perfect for going to destinations inaccessible by public transportation! Not to mention, guided tours mean you get a lot of history, insight, and personal anecdotes that you wouldn’t otherwise get from a self tour.
11. Vladeasa Peak and Bride’s Veil Waterfall
The Vlădeasa Mountains are the northernmost of the three high central massifs of the Apuseni Mountain range, which belongs to the Southwestern Carpathians. The main hiking ridge of the Vlădeasa massif is approximately 50km in length. The eastern ridge, on the other hand, boasts the highest peak named Vf.Vlădeasa which is 1836m tall.
Your guide will take you through some of the area’s most breathtaking trails as you explore the Vlădeasa Mountains. You’re provided with a bottle of water, lunch, and some fresh fruit. Bring extra water and wear good hiking boots!
Price: From $95 per person
12. Transylvania: Dracula’s Castle & Birthplace
This is probably the most famous of the many amazing castles in Transylvania, but if you’re restricted to public transportation, it’s not feasible to take a same-day trip to Bran Castle (Dracula’s Castle) due to time constraints. Sighișoara (birthplace of Vlad the Impaler) is more doable, but this all-in-one guided tour is definitely the most efficient option.
Departing around 8:00 from your accommodations in Cluj-Napoca, you’ll begin the tour with a stop to Sighisoara medieval center, the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler – here you can also taste some palinca, a traditional Romanian spirit.
You’ll continue onward to Bran, to see the historic Bran Castle nestled in the thick Transylvanian forests. Along the way, your guide will teach you about the life of Vlad Dracul, including myths versus facts.
If you have the ability to take this tour on your own (i.e., renting a car and driving), be sure to spend a few days in the area, as there are so many things to do in Brașov besides seeing the nearby castles.
The tour lasts around 14 hours in total, getting back to Cluj around 22:00.
Price: From $137 per person
13. Sarmisegitusa & Densus
On this day trip from Cluj Napoca, you’ll see some of the most intriguing monuments in Transylvania. Your expert guide will take you on a journey through time to 2,000 years ago, exploring the ancient civilization of the Dacians. Discover the ‘Romanian Stonehenge’ at Sarmisegitusa and the Densus church, Romania’s oldest church. Densus is the only church that stills holds religious services after over 700 years!
This is an all-day tour that lasts approximately 12-14 hours. Food and drinks are at your own expense.
Price: From $155 per person
Situated just outside of Cluj-Napoca, Călata is a region that is largely unknown to large-scale tourism and travel guides. Also called Kalotaszeg in Hungarian, Călata is an area of pristine natural wonders, beautiful traditional architecture, friendly people, and quaint villages. On this tour, you will visit two of the villages in Călata, Izvoru Crisului and Vistea.
Explore medieval churches, get to know local craftsmen, savor a traditional lunch, and even learn some local dances before returning to Cluj in the evening.
Price: From $113 per person
15. Corvin Castle & Alba Carolina Fortress
On this private, guided day trip to Corvin Castle and Alba Carolina Fortress, you will get to see two of Transylvania’s most famous monuments. The trip lasts around 10 hours and gives incredible insight into Transylvania’s culture, history, and architecture.
This is a private tour, so only your group will be present, along with your guide. Both the Castle and the Fortress make for epic photography subjects, so be sure to bring your camera. Lunch, personal expenses not included.
Price: From $168 per person
Unless you have a rental car, seeing these highlights of Maramureș from Cluj is no easy feat. Head to northern Romania, just near the Ukrainian border, to see two UNESCO World Heritage-listed churches and the famed Merry Cemetery in Săpânța.
En route, you’ll pass through awe-inspiring Transylvanian landscapes, complete with plenty of traditional Romanian haystacks. After visiting the sites, you’ll enjoy a traditional Romanian lunch at a local family’s house.
Price: From $209 per person
17. Piatra Secuiului & Rimetea
On this day trip through the Apuseni Mountains, you’ll dive deep into the benefits of hiking, learn new hiking techniques, compass and map tips, as well as hiking gear recommendations. In addition to learning about the local landscapes, plant and animal wildlife, and this area of the Western Carpathians, you’ll also get to explore the village of Rimetea.