The best road in the world? – driving the Transfagarasan mountain pass

sunset-transfagarasan-pass-romania

I’m not really into roads and cars. And I don’t really listen to what that Jeremy Clarkson has to say. But driving this road through these Mountains is pretty exhilarating – even in a van.

This is the Transfagersan mountain pass in Romaina

The road closes for the winter on the 1st of October and reopens mid summer. I wasn’t sure about doing this road at first – an old, overloaded van with steering wheel on the other side plus I didn’t know if there would be much snow at the top.

BBC: one of the 7 riskiest roads in the world

Large sections of this road have sheer drops of up to 1000ft – with no barriers. If the brakes fail on this road then that’s it! Brakes only fail in films though so it’s cool. Today is the 30th of September – I have 24 hours before this road closes…

Transfagarasan facts

  • Second highest road in Romania at a peak of 2034m (after the Transaplina which is 2100m). It runs across the highest section of the Southern Carpathian Mountain range (Făgăraș Mountains)
  • Built between 1970 to 1974 as a strategic military route stretching 90km
  • 6 million kilograms of dynamite used in it’s construction
  • It’s estimated that ‘hundreds’ lost their lives during the road’s construction
  • In 2010 they used a section of this road to film Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, with Nicolas Cage.

I drove an LDV Convoy on the best road in the world

I started on the North side (I think TopGear started on the South) at 3.30pm at a village called Cârţişoara and finished on the south side at 10.30pm at a village called Curtea de Argeş.

Near the village of Cârţişoara on the North side of the mountains
Near the village of Cârţişoara on the North side of the mountains
There were a lot of scarily tame foxes
There were a lot of strangely tame foxes
A soon as I hit the ascent it was difficult not to stop at every opportunity to get a picture
A soon as I hit the ascent it was difficult not to stop at every opportunity to get a picture
Looking South from the North side to the highest point (2034m) – a tunnel (887m) goes through to the south side
Looking South from the North side to the highest point (2034m) – a tunnel (887m) goes through to the south side
Bâlea Lake – a glacial lake at the top on the north side, just before the tunnel
Bâlea Lake – a glacial lake at the top on the north side, just before the tunnel
This chalet is open all year round. There is accessible by cable car when the road is closed during winter
This chalet by the glacial lake is open all year round. There is accessible by cable car when the road is closed during winter
Balea-lake
Bâlea Lake – looking south. The peak of the mountain
Looking down at the southside ascent. This is the crazy twisty turny part of the road which everyone talks about. It is about 25km
Looking down at my ascent on the North side. This is the crazy twisty turny part of the road which everyone talks about. It is about 25km
View from the weather station at the top, looking south west.
View from the weather station at the top, looking south west
glacial-lake-transfagarasan
An angry cat guarding the lake
Stalls selling cheese, dried meats, jams.
Stalls selling cheese, dried meats, jams
Looking south on the south side of the tunnel at the top.
Looking south on the south side of the tunnel at the top

Then it got dark

I had to drive the last 40 miles of the decent in the dark. I was the only one on the road. It was great, if a little surreal – the moon coming in and out of view, the trees moving past the huge rock faces in the background, the crystal clear stars in the sky… and the Ravi Shankar music I was playing in the van.

I missed a few things (dam, the lake, the castle) because it was dark but I reckon it was worth it to see sunset at the top when no one else was there.

And then I saw a bear!

A bear crossed the road and then stopped behind some bushes by the roadside and watched as I slowly passed. I stopped just a bit after the bear. We stared at each other for about 20 seconds. My photograph attempt was pretty much a failure though. I’m sorry

Alright It's the only picture I have. I completely forgot how to work my camera. You can just see the face over the bushes - eyes, ears and snout
Alright It’s the only picture I have. I completely forgot how to work my camera. Can you just see the face over the bushes – eyes, ears and snout?

I spent the next 3 days back in the mountains looking for more bears (see post about looking for bears). It looks like that picture is the best I’ll get.

The end

What do you reckon… the best road in the world? would you drive it?

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