For February I knew I wanted to take a winter holiday. After months of enjoying the sunshine in Asia my body and mind was craving a little bit of cold. Yes we went back to the UK in December but aside from one freezing day it hadn’t hit the spot. We debated between Romania and Georgia for a while, one was less than four hours from Dubai while the other had much more to offer. Romania won when I found the Ice Hotel Ski Experience with Untravelled Paths through The Travel Hack’s Blog. She’d done a very similar tour but without the days on the slopes, however it was this part that sold it for us.
Staying in an Ice Hotel had been on my bucket list for so long and it had been many years since our last snowboarding adventure in Scotland. So did it live up to expectations?
Romania Ice Hotel Ski Experience Untravelled Paths
In one word, yes!
But this is a blog post and it wouldn’t be very useful if I left it at that.
Our experience with Untravelled Paths was a brilliant one from start to finish. Once we’d booked our spot we received a detailed booklet of all of the spots we would see on our trip and plenty of recommendations. This was exactly what we needed to get excited for our holiday. We also received our detailed itinerary including hotels and timings. Our itinerary actually changed from the one advertised as we ended up snowboarding first but we weren’t sad about this as it meant we could save the Ice Hotel till last.
We arrived into Bucharest ready to begin the first day of our tour. We were met at the airport by a transfer car and dropped at our hotel, The Rembrant, for both stays in Bucharest. We had the afternoon and evening to ourselves to explore the city and enjoy a Valentine’s date evening but before all of that we were greeted by our first tour guide Alin. He explained our itinerary in more detail and answered any questions we had. It was here that we learnt we would have two tour guides due to the way our itinerary was planned.
During our time in the city we wandered the streets, took in the main sights which included the Parliament Building, the famous bookshop Cărturești Carusel, Caru cu Bere for drinks and Distrikt 42 for dinner. It was easy to spot the communist influence on the city but this was contrasted with plenty of beautiful buildings.
Our first stop on the tour was this gorgeous castle which belongs to the royal family of Romania. It is also the castle used in the Christmas Prince series on Netflix. I’m not going to lie, I had high expectations for this place but they were certainly met. Included in our experience, we had a tour of the inside of the castle where we got to learn about the history of this wonderful place as well as seeing plenty of the different rooms. The whole time we were inside I was amazed at the decor; there were enormous chandeliers in dazzling colours, huge rooms for entertaining different guests, a library with a secret door and much more.
It wasn’t just the inside that felt magical, with a dusting of snow all around the outside of the castle certainly made you feel like it was still Christmas. Before jumping back on the bus, we had time for a quick hot cider and pizza to warm us up from the chilly air outside.
Our second stop on the tour was the ski resort, this would also be our home for the next three nights as we said goodbye to our first tour guide and group. At this time we were the only ones taking part in the ski experience. We had also lucked out with our hotel choice as we stepped foot into Ana Sport we knew it was going to be the perfect place to relax and unwind after our day on the slopes.
Before our guide left us he made sure we had an instructor set up for the following morning, our rental gear ready to go and lift passes sorted. We absolutely adored our time in Poiana Brasov. We were perfectly located a few minutes walk from the beginner slope and gondola which took us to the top of the mountain. The town had a great vibe, there were plenty of restaurants to try for lunch and dinner and a fantastic aprés ski spot during the weekend.
Full blog post coming on our snowboarding days.
Our next castle stop on this tour was none other than Dracula’s Castle. Well, a castle that fits some of Bram Stoker’s description at least. It’s perched on a small hill and towers over the small town of Bran. Upon entering the castle you follow through a maze of rooms all connected through different passages including some tiny stairwells. It’s easy to see how this castle became known as Dracula’s Castle.
It was here we met our new tour guide and group which we would be with for the rest of our time in Romania. The entry to Bran Castle was included in our experience and during our time inside the castle there was plenty of information to educate us about the history of this castle. Our new tour guide Dragos also gave us some extra background information and stories.
Brasov was a place I was really looking forward to visiting, it is famous for it’s cobbled old town which during history was protected by city walls. It has a lot of history like much of Romania and this was something we learnt about during a walking tour with Alin our first tour guide and a local of the city who runs his own walking tours.
The main town square is one of the main attractions of Brasov with it’s cute colored buildings and outside spots for sitting and watching the world go by. You also cannot miss the narrow street, underground restaurants, black church and city walls/gates.
Hotel of Ice
The final part of our experience with Untravelled Paths was to the Ice Hotel. It is located in Sibiu at the top of a mountain with Bâlea Lake. This is also the mountain you’ll pass over if you were to take the famous Transfāgārāsan road, however, as we visited in winter the road was shut and our only way up was via a cable car. As such, we had to pack our overnight things into a backpack and leave our main luggage with the bus at the bottom of the mountain.
Once we’d taken the 20 minute cable car ride we were greeted to a picture perfect winter wonderland. The snow was falling heavily for most of our time on the mountain and visibility was poor but that only made it even more exciting! At the top you’ll find a cabin that offers rooms year round and has a fantastic menu for food and drink. This was where we left most of our belongings overnight while we slept in the ice hotel.
The ice hotel itself was set into the hillside and easy to miss unless you knew it was there. This year it was much smaller than normal and had been built very late in the season, as the lake had frozen much later than normal. They use the ice from the lake to construct the ice hotel. It was split into a room for the bar, two restaurant rooms and a dozen bedrooms.
Full blog post on our stay at the Hotel of Ice coming soon.
This was the first group tour we’d taken in years but we had a fantastic time. The tour was well organized from the minute I made an enquiry on the website to the final goodbye off the bus on our last day. It was the perfect mix of organized activities and free time, everything was adjusted for the group of people on the tour to suit their needs. The guides were very knowledgable and helped to keep everything running smoothly but also it never felt like we were being rushed.
My only complaint would be the bus felt very packed and crowded especially with all of our thick winter coats and jumpers on.
Untravelled Paths run many tours in Romania in both winter and summer and well as many other destinations around the world. You can find out more about them on their website. I would certainly use them again.