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Romania


With a surface area of 238,391 square kilometres (92,043 sq mi), Romania is the largest country in southeastern Europe and the twelfth-largest in Europe. It lies between latitudes 43° and 49° N, and longitudes 20° and 30° E.

Romania's terrain is distributed roughly equally between mountainous, hilly and lowland territories. The Carpathian Mountains dominate the centre of Romania, with 14 mountain ranges reaching above 2,000 m or 6,600 ft, and the highest point at Moldoveanu Peak (2,544 m or 8,346 ft). These are surrounded by the Moldavian and Transylvanian plateaus and Pannonian and Wallachian plains. Romania's geographical diversity has led to an accompanying diversity of flora and fauna.

A large part of Romania's border with Serbia and Bulgaria is formed by the Danube. The Prut River, one of its major tributaries, forms the border with the Republic of Moldova.

The Danube flows into the Black Sea within Romania's territory forming the Danube Delta, the second largest and best preserved delta in Europe, and also a biosphere reserve and a biodiversity World Heritage Site. Other major rivers are the Siret (596 km), the Olt (614 km), the Somes (388 km), and the Mures (761 km).

Lakes and lake complexes have a low share throughout Romania, occupying only 1.1% of total land area. The largest lake complex in size is Razelm-Sinoe (731 km²), located on the Black Sea seaside. Glacial lakes exist in the Fagaras Mountains, a result of quaternary glaciation, of which the largest are: Lake Avrig (14,700 m²), Bâlea Lake (46,500 m²), Capra Lake (18,000 m²), etc. Other notable lakes are Lake Sfânta Ana, the only volcanic lake in Romania, and Red Lake, a natural dam lake, both situated in Harghita County.

Romania derives from the Latin romanus, meaning "citizen of Rome". The first known use of the appellation was by 16th-century Italian humanists travelling in Transylvania, Moldavia, and Wallachia.

The oldest surviving document written in Romanian, a 1521 letter known as the "Letter of Neacsu from Câmpulung", is also notable for including the first documented occurrence of the country's name: Wallachia is mentioned as Teara Rumâneasca ("The Romanian Land", Teara from the Latin terra, "land"; current spelling: Tara Româneasca).

Two spelling forms: român and rumân were used interchangeably until sociolinguistic developments in the late 17th century led to semantic differentiation of the two forms: rumân came to mean "bondsman", while român retained the original ethnolinguistic meaning. After the abolition of serfdom in 1746, the word rumân gradually fell out of use and the spelling stabilised to the form român. Tudor Vladimirescu, a revolutionary leader of the early 19th century, used the term Rumânia to refer exclusively to the principality of Wallachia."

The use of the name Romania to refer to the common homeland of all Romanians, its modern-day meaning, is first documented in the early 19th century. The name has been officially in use since 11 December 1861. English-language sources still used the terms Rumania or Roumania, derived from the French spelling Roumanie and/or the Greek Pouμανíα, as recently as World War II, but the name has since been replaced with the official spelling Romania.

Tourism focuses on the country's natural landscapes and its rich history and is a significant contributor to the Romanian economy. In 2006, domestic and international tourism generated about 4.8% of gross domestic product and 5.8% of the total jobs (about half a million jobs). Following commerce, tourism is the second largest component of the services sector. Tourism is one of the most dynamic and fastest developing sectors of the economy of Romania and is characterized by a huge potential for development.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, Romania is the fourth fastest growing country in the world in terms of travel and tourism total demand, with a yearly potential growth of 8% from 2007 to 2016. The number of tourists grew from 4.8 million in 2002 to 6.6 million in 2004. Similarly, the revenues grew from 400 million in 2002 to 607 in 2004. In 2006, Romania registered 20 million overnight stays by international tourists, an all-time record, but the number for 2007 is expected to increase even more. Tourism in Romania attracted €400 million in investments in 2005.

Over the past few years, Romania has emerged as a popular tourist destination for many Europeans (more than 60% of the foreign visitors in 2007 were from EU countries), thus attempting to compete with Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Spain. Destinations such as Mangalia, Saturn, Venus, Neptun, Olimp, Constanta and Mamaia (sometimes called the Romanian Riviera) are among the most popular attractions during summer. During winter, the skiing resorts along the Valea Prahovei and Poiana Brasov are popular with foreign visitors.

For their medieval atmosphere and castles, Transylvanian cities such as Sibiu, Brasov, Sighisoara, Cluj-Napoca, Târgu Mures or Miercurea Ciuc have become major tourist attractions for foreigners. Rural tourism, focusing on folklore and traditions, has become an important alternative recently, and is targeted to promote such sites as Bran and its Dracula's Castle, the Painted churches of Northern Moldavia, the Wooden churches of Maramures and Salaj, or the Merry Cemetery in Maramures County (at Sapânta). Other major natural attractions, such as the Danube Delta, the Iron Gates (Danube Gorge), Scarisoara Cave and several other caves in the Apuseni Mountains have yet to receive great attention.

In terms of tourism potential, Romania benefits from splendid cities, scattered on the smooth plains or high peaks. These include Sibiu, a city built by Saxons, with cobblestone streets and colorful houses. The Hunyad Castle, one of the most important monuments of Gothic architecture in Transylvania, can be visited in Hunedoara. Also, resorts such as Baile Felix, Baile Herculane and Baile Tusnad are points of interest for local and foreign tourists.

The Romanian seaside is the most developed tourist area of Romania. In 2009, Romania's Black Sea seaside was visited by 1.3 million tourists, of whom 40,000 were foreign. The shore is very varied, formed by slightly wavy shapes, with emphasized capes and deep bays extending into the Dobruja valleys, with cliffs, beaches and sand cords. In Târgu Jiu one can see the sculptures of Constantin Brâncusi (1876-1957), a Romanian sculptor with overwhelming contributions to the renewal of plastic language and vision in contemporary sculpture. These include The Endless Column, The Gate of the Kiss and The Table of Silence, which together represent the three parts of a monumental sculptural ensemble.