How to get there:
From Bucharest, take the train, coach or maxitaxi to Curtea de Argeş. Here take the twice-daily buses or maxitaxis which will leave you no farther than Arefu, the village situated 4km south of Poenari Castle. You will have to walk, hitchhike or provide your own transportation beyond this point.
By car, Poenari Castle is accessible on the 7C national road (Transfăgărăşan), 25km north of Curtea de Argeş.
Poenari Castle is considered to be the true residence of the Romanian Prince Vlad the Impaler (Vlad Ţepes), perceived today as the fictional Dracula. The fortress is supposed to have inspired Jules Verne to write the novel „The Carpathian Castle”.
Vlad the Impaler, ruler of Wallachia, was a legendary figure about whom countless tales have been written. Courageous in fights against the country’s enemies but kind with the poor and the honest people, he soon became one of the most representative rulers in our history. This fame was strengthened by his strong leadership and the ruthless treatment applied to criminals, thieves and liars. The practice of impaling the wrongdoers to punish them for their deeds is one of the main reasons why he was chosen to embody Bram Stoker’s cruel, bloodthirsty character.
Poenari Castle was built by Negru Vodă in the 13th century on top of a cliff, and Vlad consolidated it in the 15th century. Some say the consolidation took place by using the manpower of a group of captured Turks, but other legends speak about how the Prince took revenge on the local boyars from Târgovişte, who had previously killed Vlad’s father and brother. The older ones were impaled, while the younger ones were forced to march to Poenari and participate in the rebuilding of the fortress. This massive defensive citadel was, thus, strategically positioned on a mountain top so that it would successfully resist any attack. However, legends tell us that, during one siege, the Turks were so close from conquering the citadel that Vlad’s wife flung herself out of the window so that she would not fall in the enemy’s hands. It is said that Vlad himself got away tricking his pursuers by shoeing his horse backwards.
In the 1800s, almost a third of the castle fell down the mountainside. Nowadays you can still visit its ruins. The entrance is made through a narrow wooden bridge which then leads the way inside the citadel flanked by two towers. Access is very difficult, as the castle can only be reached by climbing 1480 stairs. But don’t get discouraged: it’s a great way to get in shape, plus the fact that you will enjoy breathtaking views on the surrounding Făgăraş Mountains and the spectacular Argeş Valley.
Open daily, between 9:00-17:00.
Tickets (around 1 euro/person) are sold at the upper part of the stairs.