Transylvania might remind you of literary legends and Halloween masks, but it is a realm much more layered than its spooky legends would suggest. Supposed as one of the inspirations for Dracula’s home by Bram Stoker, his novel and subsequent pop culture manifestations have plunged the region forever into infamy. In truth, the warlord that inspired the fictional Dracula—Vlad the Impaler, Prince of Wallachia—wasn’t inspiring terror from behind the walls of Bran Castle.

Many stone fortresses dominate the Transylvania landscape, all well fortified to repel attackers like Vlad and his ilk, a haunting reminder of life in the precarious Middle Ages. Visitors will find wonderful forts and relics nestled in the area: the Neo-Renaissance royal retreat at Peles Castle, the astounding Renaissance-Gothic towers of Corvin Castle, and one of the oldest churches in Romania, Densus Church. Brasov is the largest city in the region, with well-preserved medieval buildings and easy access to Poiana Brasov, one of the most popular ski resorts in Europe. Vast networks of hiking trails snake through the region, promising outdoor adventure for skilled explorers and some incredibly pristine mountain scenery.

Transylvania Villages and Villas

The Carpathian Mountains also shelter a number of quaint villages that date back to the days of the Saxons. Seven Transylvania villages with fortified churches have been inscribed as a group onto the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Built between the 13th to the 16th centuries by ethnic German Transylvania Saxons, the marvelous churches at Viscri and Cinscor are among the sites to see. The larger town of Sighisoara is famous for the many towers of its well-kept walled citadel.

Inn on Balaban

Positioned on a hill with views over the rolling forested hills, Inn on Balaban was constructed in the style of a 18th-century peasant home. The peace of rural life can be realized here in one of the three homes, each authentic and kept comfortable with modern conveniences amidst antique furnishings. Hike to Bran Castle and the Rasnov Citadel close by, enjoy hearty home-cooked regional cuisine and Romanian wines, and enjoy the splendors of the Carpathian Mountains.