Why Moldova Should Be Your Next Travel Destination
I’ve heard every cliché: sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, on the edge of Europe, Eastern Europe’s poorest country…Yes, it’s Moldova but Moldova is so much more. For the past six years, I’ve traveled to the country more than six times and worked in the capital, Chisinau, for a year managing a human rights program.
Some of my most memorable life experiences are connected to a place that many would find difficult identifying on a map of Europe. (Hint: It’s the small country sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine).
It’s a place where the sun shines more than 200 days out of the year, so you can always count on sunny days during your stay.
During my travels to Moldova, I visited almost every nook and cranny of a country slightly bigger than the state of Maryland: from Soroca with its famous 15th century fort in the north to Comrat, the capital of the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia, where Gagauz, a Turkic language is spoken, and to villages on the River Dniester bordering Transnistria. With all this area covered, I can say with some authority that sometimes smaller places, often overlooked, have much to offer.
You can see Chisinau’s main sites in two to three days and most of its touristy areas can be explored on foot. While the city has its charms, the rural parts of the country really captured me. I have been in countless villages of less than 5,000 inhabitants living in brightly-painted homes and driven along lonely stretches of highway, passing few cars and trucks on the way.
I’ve hiked along the banks of rivers and atop cliffs, discovering the Tipova monastery from the sixth century built into the limestone, and then picnicking and practicing yoga with friends at the foot of a waterfall.
Moldova Travel: Why Moldova Should Be Your Next Travel Destination.
Venturing outside the crowded capital, there is much natural beauty, open space and vibrant colors–rolling hills with fields of sunflowers and bright red poppies. There are rows of twisting green-leafed vines on which clumps of plump purple grapes ripen in the hot sun.
Moldova’s famous wine is housed in underground labyrinths accessible to tourists for tasting and touring. Wineries to visit include Cricova and Chateau Vartely. The country is known for its fertile soil, long growing season, and abundant, fresh produce sold on the side of the road. Try the cherries, apples, and juicy tomatoes.
You can’t get lost in Moldova; it is small, so you’ll always find your way. It’s a place where the sun shines more than 200 days out of the year, so you can always count on sunny days during your stay. Romanian is the official state language but Russian is still widely spoken by many, especially in more urban areas. There are tour operators with English-speaking guides and the number of English speakers, especially in the capital, has greatly increased in the past few years.
Another thing you can count on is the sincere hospitality of the people who will not let you leave without feeding you till you burst and loading you up with more bottles of homemade wine than you can carry.
In general, tourism in Moldova is on the upswing as more people realize how much potential there is for development and investment in the sector. However, the country still lacks infrastructure in some areas to accommodate tourists. Another thing you can count on, though, is the sincere hospitality of the people who will not let you leave without feeding you till you burst and loading you up with more bottles of homemade wine than you can carry.
For the newcomer to Moldova, there are countless options, depending on the time of year, and how far afield you want to go. The best time to visit is anytime, really, but visiting in the spring, summer or fall will allow you to do and see more of the countryside.
Four tour operators to check out when planning your trip include:
Explore Moldova: offers kayaking, biking, hiking and mountaineering tours in a variety of locations across the country.
Haila Tara Travel Company: offers rural experience tours in villages, fishing excursions to lakes and rivers and paragliding over the vast vineyards.
Travel Agency Corina: can lead you on city tours of Chisinau and surrounding areas, such as Cricova Winery, several monasteries and the Soroca fortress built in 1499.
WaysTravel: has comprehensive cultural and history tours lasting up to a week.
There are several flights in and out of Chisinau International Airport and the number of airlines that fly there is growing as the airport expands. You can fly direct from Vienna, Munich and Moscow, for example. Chisinau is just a ten-hour bus ride from Kyiv and there are mini-buses that will take you at record speed from Bucharest Airport to Chisinau’s main bus station.
Moldova is still a country that most travelers can see on a shoestring and will likely remain so for the next few years. So venture farther east, farther afield, to a tiny corner of southeastern Europe and discover for yourself how a country, while on the verge of change, maintains its authentic natural beauty and sunny hospitality.
Moldova Travel: Why Moldova Should Be Your Next Travel Destination
Have you traveled to Moldova? How was you trip? Email us at [email protected] for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.
Moldova Travel: Why Moldova Should Be Your Next Travel Destination photo credits: Bobbie Traut and Unsplash (top).