Epic Roads: The Transfagarasan Highway

Carrying on in the exploration of the world’s best driving roads, this week we have a real heavyweight.

Romania is a hidden gem of Europe, often overlooked for the bigger players such as France or Italy and that’s a shame because it’s home to stunning views of rolling mountains, valleys and castles. It’s also home to the Transfagarasan Highway, which is much more exciting to drive than it is to spell.

Probably the best known road in the world now thanks to appearing in countless Top 10 Driving Roads lists, as well as appearing in Top Gear 2009 during which the team amended their earlier claim of the Stelvio Pass being the best driving road in the world to the Transfagarasan being the new King.

Open from June to October, it’s the ultimate driving mecca for petrolheads and casual tourists alike. It’s worth bearing in mind that the Transfagarasan has got to be the most popular, beautiful 56 miles of tarmac in the world during the season, so hitting it during the working week is a must. To make the most out of it you’ll want to head out around 5am to have a chance of getting the road to yourself for a while.

That being said, a little bit of traffic being around to slow you down may not be a bad thing as this road is notoriously dangerous, with unbarriered sections atop big drops this is not somewhere that you want to get carried away – which you will. When Clarkson describes the Northern section after the tunnel as “every great corner from every great race track lined up one after another”, it’s hard not to.

If you’re making the journey in a 20 year old Volvo for example, I admire your optimism but you really ought to check the brakes and other essentials before embarking. Brake failure will be the last failure you ever have in this environment and I’d hate to not have warned you.

At the highest point (2042m) is the colossal Capra Tunnel, 890m long to be exact. Which doesn’t do a lot for the view but it’s quite impressive nonetheless. There’s also a Dam, an Ice bar (in the winter), and the ruins of Dracula castle in a village named Capatinenii Pamantului meaning “The Ends of the Earth”. Confirming my suspicions that this is the coolest road ever.

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