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Transfagarasan: The Best Driving Road in the World
Transfagarasan is considered by many the best driving road in the world. The engineers that designed the road did such a tremendous job that, as Jeremy Clarkson said, it is like every famous corner from every famous racing track was put in it.
Top Gear Romania Special
National Road 7C (DN7C), also called Transfăgărășan ( trans = across + Făgărăș, the mountains) , is one of the most spectacular roads in Romania, and link the historic region of Muntenia to Transilvania.
Transfăgărășan is an asphalt road, crossing Făgărăș Mountains, the highest mountain chain in Romania. The road reaches, close to the tunnel entrance next to Bâlea Lake, an altitude of 2024 m. It is though, only the second highest alpine road in Romania, Transalpina, from The Parâng Mountains, reaching up to the 2145 m mark.
In the south, the first segment of the road passed in front of The Vidraru Hydro station, placed underneath Cetățuia Massif. From this point on, close to Poenari citadel, the road ascends on chicanes and viaducts, passing through three short tunnels, and reaches the Vidraru Dam, which, with its 307 m length connects, Pleașa and Vidraru Mountains. After crossing the dam the road continues on the left of Vidraru Lake until its end. After this the road follows the course of Capra river valley, passing in front of Capra’s Fall, and reaches the south entrance to the Capra - Bâlea tunnel. This is the longest road tunnel in Romania, with a length of 887 m, and runs underneath Făgărăș Mountains crest, between Peaks Capra(2414 m) and Paltin(2398 m).
On its north side, Transfăgărășan passes through the natural reservation Golul Alpin al Munților Făgăraș, between Podragu - Suru and Bâlea Valley, next to the glacier lake Bâlea, after which it descends through chicanes for 13 km, inside glacier valley. After this the road passes close to Bâlea Fall, a 68 m stepped fall, the highest of its kind in Romania, at a height of 1230 m. From then on it runs for 21 km until it reaches DN1.
Transfăgărășan passes over 830 culverts and 27 viaducts.
The road's history
Transfăgărășan was built between 1970 – 1974, on Nicolae Ceaușescu’s initiative. Romania had at that time many passes through the Meridional Carpathians, but because of the ease with which they could be blocked and attacked made for a need of a new road between Transylvania and Muntenia. The idea was to create a strategic road that would link the garrisons between Pitești and Sibiu. In the project’s back notes it was also stated that the road would open access to the forests in the Făgărăș Massif, offer a more rational use of the alpine grasslands and put the grounds for a touristic centre at Bâlea Lake.
It was initially proposed that the road should pass through a 7 km tunnel that would make possible the use of the road during winter time, but because of high costs and difficulty in construction the idea was dumped. In was also proposed in the beginning that the road should have only one lane, but was later decided that it should comply to the current legislation for mountain roads.
The work on the road was done all-year round, even though the harsh weather allows for normal working conditions only 4 to 5 months per year. The official number of casualties during construction is 40, but in an interview workers stated that only at the dam at least 400 boys have lost their lives.
Transfăgărășan was officially opened on the 20th of September, 1974, by Nicolae Ceaușescu himself. In reality though the road was finalised, in its current form, only in 1980.
Would you go on a spin on Transfăgărășan?
When and how can you visit?
The high mountain zone of DN7C is open for circulation every year between the 30th of June and the 1st of November. This is due to snow blocking the road and the impracticality of snow removal and because of the risk falling boulders and avalanches in the area.
In winter time the road is officially open on its southern versant until Piscul Negru (Black Beak) Complex. The plows however go up to Turistic Capra Complex, for those adventurous enough to use the available one lane, but they are at risk of being sanctioned by the mountain rangers. On the northern versant there is the possibility of going up to the Bâlea-Cascadă Cottage, but no further than that, as the rad is blocked by concrete parapets. Also, the Bâlea-Capra tunnel is closed for cars during winter time, but it is accessible by foot.
During the summer period the restrictions include only a recommendation for the night time (between 22:00 and 06:00) because of the dangerous nature of the track, with many corners and hair-pin turns, with the risk of falling off the cliff. The recommendation is that the speed should be kept under 40 km/h.
During winter time, when the road is closed, the access to Bâlea Lake is available by taking the cable car from Bâlea Fall.