If crumbling castles set atop craggy mountains are your jam, Romania is the country for you. This is a place where the past is all around, from those aforementioned fortresses to the simple subsistence lifestyle practised in some of the more far-flung villages.
As a contrast, Bucharest is a capital city going places. Layers of its past, including its bleak and more recent communist history, can be seen throughout the streets, but there is also lively bar scene in Lipscani, the old town.
The Danube Delta, with its outstanding birdlife, and the Carpathian Mountains, where hiking trails traverse alpine meadows and pass glistening lakes, are great for outdoorsy types. Channel your inner bohemian as you hang out in towns like Vama Veche on the Black Sea, or get close to the legend of Dracula (and the real life stories of Vlad the Impaler, who is said to have spiked 80,000 of his enemies during the fifteenth century) in Transylvania. As well as visiting Bran Castle (thought to be the inspiration for Dracula’s home in Bram Stoker’s novel), hunker down in a hide in the forests near Brașov to spy bears, enjoy the thermal salt waters of Bear Lake, and sample palincă, the local plum brandy. Watch out: one shot is fine, two might leave you on the floor.