Why you should make your next beach break to Romania

Romania has 152 miles of coastline – and I was reliably informed that most of it is under sand as fine as any you’ll find in the Caribbean. Lured by the promise of beautiful beaches – as well as cheap food and beer and great value accommodation – in early June I hopped on a flight (direct from the UK) to the country’s largest port city, Constanta, where I rented car and hit the road and follow the signs to Tulcea.

The scenery, at first, was nothing short of inspiring: seemingly endless wheat fields punctuated by grim Soviet-era villages. Near Sarichol, however, just after a turtle crossed my path, the scenery suddenly changed. Instead of wheat fields that were on the road with tall trees and stork nests on top; The unsightly blocks of flats were replaced by single-storey houses with thatched roofs, whose facades – painted powder pinks, pistachio greens and poppy reds – looked out over cottage gardens planted with onions, melons, tomatoes and roses. Perhaps my decision to try a beach holiday in a land known to Dracula and Dacia was not entirely misguided.

Romania is home to over 150 miles of coastline

Romania is home to over 150 miles of Black Sea coastline

“We are very proud of our homes. We had the opportunity to buy after the revolution in 1989, and everyone did. According to recent figures Romania is the first place in the world in terms of private home ownership – 96 percent of the people own their own property,” Sergiu Pol, another traveler from Brasov, told me when I arrived early in Murighiol village. I was there to board a riverboat to the Green Village Resort in the coastal town of Sfântu Gheorghe (not to be confused with the city of Sfântu Gheorghe in central Romania).

At the heart of the 580,000 hectare Danube Delta, where Europe’s second longest river flows into the Black Sea, Sfântu Gheorghe can only be reached by water, or by walking around 65 miles across swamps. Although the Romanians come, very few foreign tourists do – I was the only non-native passenger on the small boat, just big enough for 10 people plus luggage. The white-tailed eagle and the blind Dalmatian pelicans soared high above where herds of long-horned cattle wallowed like hippos in the bottle-green waters.

Damp with spray, we boarded a narrow iron jetty surrounded by the blackened hulls of traditional canoe-like fishing boats, many abandoned since the resort became part of the Danube Biosphere Reserve. “We have been fishing sustainably here since the Middle Ages, but now they only grant a few fishing licenses a year – Europe has ruined the local way of life,” said the receptionist Mihai as he led me to my a sitting room, with a thatched roof. and a nest of chattering storks.

Green Village Resort, Sfantu Gheorghe, RomaniaGreen Village Resort, Sfantu Gheorghe, Romania

The Green Village resort has a large swimming pool with panoramic views of the Danube

I would have expected mosaics, cement-hard mattresses and Brutic furnishings, but the beds were plump and the wooden floors and ceilings reminded me of an alpine chalet. Best of all is the large swimming pool, panoramic views over a lily-studded section of the Danube. As for the price? €100 (£84) per night, including breakfast and lunch.

After breakfast, taken to a background of grazing cattle calling cuckoos and green spoons, I walked along a sandy track to the beach, which was almost deserted despite the 30C heat. Stretching for miles in either direction and strewn with the ribbed shells of Venus clams, the sand was gray as clay but soft as talc under my bare feet. I spent much of the next few days soaking up the sun, playing in the waves and watching great white pelicans scavenging for fish.

At lunch, seeking shelter from the heat, I enjoyed cheap snacks such as chips and ice-cold bottles of Ursus beer at one of the two canteens behind the beach. Piled plates of “crap la gratar” (breaded fried carp) cost 45 leu – around £7.50 – and my favorite dish, piu de balta (crispy frogs legs in garlic sauce) even cheaper at 35 leu (£6).

Wild horses are a common sight in the Letea forestWild horses are a common sight in the Letea forest

Wild horses are a common sight in the forest of Letea – alamy

On the hottest days I cooled off with boat trips. One afternoon to visit the old fishing grounds of Gàirla Turkesc and Letea Forest, where wild horses have lived for hundreds of years; on the other hand to spend some happy hours looking at the ornate tombs of pirates and princes in the cemetery of Sulina, one of the oldest settlements in Romania.

La Sfatoi – a locals’ hangout overlooking the village’s fishing port, where plates of fresh mussels cooked in white wine and bread came in for £8 – was my favorite place to watch the sunset slide by the white waters of the Danube to the chorus of a thousand frogs.

Back on the busy road to Constanta after a week in this magical place, I stopped in a cafe for lunch. Reporters on TV were discussing Romania’s decision to adopt the euro, after finally becoming a Schengen member. I asked the waiter if he was happy with the prospect. He gave me a resigned look and handed me my heaving £5 plate of pork sarmala (cabbage rolls) and a £2 beer. “Enjoy our free country while you can,” he said.

Accommodation at Green Village resort: 'The beds were stuffy and the wooden floors and ceilings reminded me of an alpine chalet'Accommodation at Green Village resort: 'The beds were stuffy and the wooden floors and ceilings reminded me of an alpine chalet'

Accommodation at Green Village resort: ‘The beds were stuffy and the wooden floors and ceilings reminded me of an alpine chalet’

How to do it

Fly from London Luton to Constanta (fares from £112 with Wizz Air). and hire a car with Enterprise (from £23 a day) to get to Murighiol and the boat to Sfântu Gheorghe. Double rooms at the Green Village Resort cost from £73 per night, including breakfast.

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