Tucked away on the edge of eastern Romania, the Danube Delta is the ideal place to reconnect with nature, get away from it all and reset your inner balance. Life is slow and untroubled, though you have to see it with your own eyes and experience everything the Danube Delta offers.
The Danube Delta had been on our travel list for a while, but we neglected to visit it. This autumn, two lovely friends invited us to discover this remote place, and despite all the madness going around the world, we decided to give it a try.
The pieces of information found on the internet are quite elusive; therefore, I put together a complete guide to the Danube Delta, and I hope I’ll give you a glimpse of this gorgeous place. Following this article, you’ll be able to put together an excellent itinerary.
Facts about the Danube Delta
The Danube River is the second largest river in Europe and reaches nine countries until it meets the Black Sea in Romania, right after forming the second largest Delta in Europe. The confluence point Danube Delta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991 and a paradise for fish and birds.
There are more than 300 resident and migratory species of birds in the Danube Delta. The region has the third-largest biodiversity globally, and more than 60% of the area is unspoiled by human touch.
This unique place covers more than 5,000 square kilometres and has three main channels: Sfantu Gheorghe(St George) in the south, Sulina in the middle and Chilia in the north.
There is one city, Sulina, and 28 villages in the Donau Delta, reached only by water.
Places To Visit
There are so many places to visit and things to do; therefore, it’s hard to choose from. Some of the locations can be reached by car, while others can only be reached by water. With the help of this complete guide to the Danube Delta, I hope you can plan your trip to this part of the world effortlessly.
The old town of Tulcea is the main entry gate into the Danube Delta and also an important industrial port town. You can reach the city by car, from Constanta in almost 2 hours (130km) or Bucuresti in 3 hours30minutes (300km).
Many choose Tulcea as a base for day trips to the Danube Delta. If you wish to visit Tulcea, you will need no more than a half-day but if you are tide on time, skip this part.
Danube Delta Musem
One of the best places to visit in Tulcea is the Danube Delta Museum, an exciting and informative site for adults and children. You can find out more about the Danube Delta’s flora and fauna from the aquarium on the ground floor and from the exhibition of stuffed wild birds and animals on the upper floor. You will need no more than 2 hours for a visit to this small museum.
Address: 14 Noiembrie Street, No.1
Opening Hours: 09:00 – 17:00, closed on Mondays.
The Azizyie Mosque is one of the largest mosques in Romania and a vital prayer place for the region’s Muslim community. What makes this place unique: the beautiful prayer room and the height of the minaret.
Address: 14 Noiembrie Street, only 200m away from the Donau Delta Museum.
St. Nicholas Cathedral
St.Nicholas Cathedral is a beautiful and imposing monument built over a century in Byzantine style on older churches’ sites. It worths a quick stop for a moment of silence.
Go for a walk along the Danube promenade and pass some old churches, the Heroes Monument, and the old buildings dating back to the communist era.
Tulcea to Sulina
From Tulcea, take the speed boat or the ferry to Sulina, where the Danube River flows into the Black Sea. You can stay for a couple of hours in Sulina, spend some time in the sun, and return later in the afternoon. Or you can stay for more days in Sulina and take day trips into the Delta from there.
Tulcea – Sulina, by speed boat, only 1hour 15minutes, 60Ron/adult.
For reservations, departing hours and prices, read more here.
Tulcea – Sulina, by ferry, almost 4 hours.
For reservations and departing hours, read more here.
The small village of Crisan is 7 kilometers long, with only four guesthouses. It is the ideal place to relax and enjoy the silence and the views. Situated on the Sulina Branch, it can be reached only by water.
Due to its excellent location, you can spend a few nights in Crisan and go on day boat trips: explore Sulina and Sf. Gheorghe branches, cross the lakes and the canals of the Danube Delta, and visit the small villages of Mila 23 and Caraorman.
The Danube Delta joins the Black Sea at Sulina, Romania’s easternmost point, once a famous meeting point for the adventurers and traders, now a dozy city. The port town with a population of less than 4,000, can only be reached by water.
There is not much going on here, but you can choose Sulina as a base for day trips. Find a nice and cozy accommodation, explore the Danube Delta, lay in the sun at the Black Sea, and indulge in some traditional cuisine.
Don’t be shocked if you see a few cars in Sulina; most are used as a taxi, driving tourists between the beach and the promenade, which is a reasonably 2,5km ride.
The speed boat leaves you directly to Sulina’s Promenade, a colorful and vibrant part of the town. You will find many day trips offers along the promenade, so find one that suits you and go on an adventure. Or relax at one of the many terraces and spoil yourself with a traditional Romanian meal.
The Old Lighthouse
The old Lighthouse, built in 1870, was once situated right near the confluence of the Danube into the Black Sea. The building is a small museum now, far away from the river, proof of the vast land advance.
On the way to Sulina Beach, you will bump into Sulina Cemetery. Although an interesting place, the cemetery is in poor condition. It is a mix of cultures; that’s why you will find orthodox, catholic, Muslim, and Jewish funeral stones.
What better way to relax than laying out in the sun with a good book in your hand, listening to the waves crashing, and watching the seagulls playing around.
Once you get to the beach, you will find an organized area with lounges and umbrellas, some beach bars and a restaurant.
If you prefer a wild stretch of beach, walk further, and you will find an empty beach.
SFANTU GHEORGHE (St. George)
The village of Sfantu Gheorghe, where the Danube river meets the Black Sea, is only accessible by boat. It is a fishing village with a population of almost 800 people.
You can choose Sfantu Gheorghe as a base for your day trips in the Danube Delta, riding down the canals and exploring the sites.
Or spend a perfect holiday on an empty beach, with no one around you, only some begging seagulls.
I would highly recommend staying at Green Village, a beautiful resort designed with attention to detail.
Murighiol or the “Violet Lake” (the name comes from the lovely reflection of the Murighiol’s lake in the evening) is a beautiful small village, with beautiful Slavic motifs on most of the houses. Once a Turkish community, now a tourism hub of the Danube Delta. While many choose Tulcea, Sulina, or Sfantu Gheorghe as a gateway to the Danube Delta, I highly recommend choosing Murighiol. You can reach Murighiol by car or by boat. There is plenty of accommodation and plenty of boat trips to choose from. It is connected to the Sfantu Gheorghe branch and many canals and lakes. From Murighiol, you can blend adventure and wildlife with relaxation and comfort.
Close to Murigiol, situated on a hill, the village of Uzlina was home to a Lipovan fishing community for more than 200 years. Nowadays, besides fishing, Lipovans also deal with tourism. You can enjoy the silence and explore the wonders of the Danube Delta from one of the fancy accommodations.
Note. Uzlina can only be reached by boat.
Home to the Olympic canoe champion, Ivan Patzaichin, Mila 23 is one of the most visited villages in the Danube Delta, reached only by boat. You can spend a couple of days at Mila 23 and take boat trips from here.
The first thing you’ll bump into as soon as you get out of the boat is an honor panel of the Olympic achievements of men and women born and raised in Mila 23.
A visit to Mila 23 takes no more than one hour. First, take a walk around the village and admire the colorful houses and alleys, the old boats and fishing nets.
After strolling around the village, relax at one of the terraces and enjoy a cold drink away from the burning sun.
Caraorman or “Black Forest” is an old fishermen’s village, also reachable by boat. Ceausescu planned to build a glass company on this sandy establishment, but this never took place after the revolution in 1989. Instead, you will witness three abandoned residential buildings built for the employees.
Now, the only inhabitants of the buildings are the donkeys, who go upstairs searching for coolness in the summer months. Don’t be afraid of them; they will pose in your selfies in exchange for some treats.
If your time allows you, you can tour the Caraorman Forest. The four-wheel-drive needs to be prearranged in advance, so let your boatman or accommodation know. In the forest, you can spot 400 years old oaks that are growing on sand.
It is the oldest nature reserve in the country, dating back to 1938. Completely underwater once, now Letea Forest is Europe’s northernmost subtropical forest. It is one of the few places where you can witness wild horses.
The small town of Babadag can be reached by car. There is not much going on, but if you have plenty of time, you can incorporate it into your itinerary.
Mosque “Gazi Ali Paşa”
Gazi Ali Pasa is an old Turkish mosque, dated around the 16 century. Although restored and beautiful, there is no much information around, so there is nothing more to do here besides taking some pictures.
Address: Geamiei Street, Babadag
Sari Saltuk Baba Dede Memorial
The memorial was built in 1484 in honor of Sari Saltuk Baba Dede, the Babadag town’s founder. Around the 12 century, Sari Saltuk asked permission from the Emperor to settle in the area together with 10,000 Turkish families he was leading.
Adress: Macin Street, Babadag
The old village of Dobrudja, accessible by car, is the place to be if you want to get away from it all.
Enisala Safari Village
The place is beautiful and quiet, and if you want a Dobudjan country experience, that’s the place to be.
We spent a few nights at Enisala Safari Village, a place where we could reconnect to nature. We woke up early in the rooster crow and enjoyed a delicious homemade breakfast and a coffee with a fortress view.
What we loved the most here were the locals running this accommodation: always kind, with a smile on their faces, ready to help us, give bits of advice and make us feel at home!
Enisala Homestead Museum
If you want to learn more about the Dobrudjan country life, pay a visit to Enisala Homestead Museum. The beautiful small museum includes a house with two rooms, a porch, and a few annexes for animals, utensils, and kitchen. You will love the blue color of the facade, and the traditional Danube Delta reed thatched roof.
Opening Hours: 10:00 – 18: 00, closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Price: 4 Ron/adult
The medieval fortress of Enisala was built between the 13th and 14th-century on a hill, at an altitude of 116 meters. The fortress played a commercial and political role, being one of the Black Sea’s best Genovese communities.
It’s worth a visit for its position on top of the hill, which offers lovely views over the valley, Babadag town, and Razim Lake. In the evening, head to Enisala Fortress and wait for the sunset as the panorama is gorgeous.
Opening Hours: 09:00 – 20:00
Price: 8 Ron/adult
Address: 2km outside the village
The nearby Razim Lake, named after a Cossack leader, is the largest in the country, with a 415 square kilometers surface area. It has a maxim measurement of 3,5 meters and small depths of 1,5 – 2 meters. The lake is an essential sweet water reservoir for irrigations and activities like fishing, canoeing, and kayaking.
The beautiful village on Razim Lake is another great option when it comes to experience the Dobrudjan lifestyle. The place is so quiet and laid down, easy to reach by car, and still so far away from the unleased world. Walk around the sleepy village and cherish the houses painted in blue.
Next, head to the lakeshore and admire the typical small wooden boats called “Lotca”.
Take a moment to indulge in the beauty of the place before walking to the nearby Russian-Orthodox church. You will be amazed by the gold domes and the blue exterior, which is so much different from other churches in Romania. The village is home to a large community of Lipovans, so if you want to admire their costumes, head to the church for the Sunday morning service.
If you would like to stay in Sarichioi, I can highly recommend Casa Filip, a few steps from Lake Razim. For a memorable and authentic stay, definitely a go-to!
Another hidden gem of the Danube Delta is the Gura Portitei village, where the Danube meets the Black Sea. It’s a little piece of heaven, great for relaxation, sunbathing, and taking long walks on the shore.
To reach Gura Portitei, you’ll have to drive to the small village of Jurilovca. From here, embark on a speed boat, and in no more than 30 minutes, you will reach this beautiful place on earth.
Note. Prices for the speed boat at Jurilovca tend to be lower when booked in advance. Address to your host to help you with booking. We booked in advance and paid 60 Ron for a return ticket/person. Otherwise, you will be approached by a boatman who will charge you 70 Ron for a return ticket/person. The difference is not huge, so don’t go crazy if you can’t schedule it before. Another thing to keep in mind: you’ll have to let your boatman know the return hour. In case you change your mind about the return hour, ask for his phone number and call him one hour before the scheduled time.
Once you get to Gura Portitei, you’ll bump into the restaurant area. Head to the beach and leave behind the organized beach area.
Overlooking the sea, take it to the right, leave the tent area behind and walk a little bit further. You’ll have an empty beach all to yourselves. Relax, lay in the sun, swim, and do nothing! You will definitely forget about everything here. If you get hungry, return to the restaurant and have a delicious traditional fish dish.
Things To Do
#1. Boat Rides in the Danube Delta
The number one purpose for visiting the Danube Delta is taking at least one boat tour. You can eighter arrange it through your accommodation, search online and try to find a private guide, or you can head to the harbor and find a boatman.
The boat will take you through narrow channels, many lakes, and you’ll have the chance to get a glimpse of what this part of the world has to offer. Bring your binoculars and discover life in its most beautiful form.
We arranged it through our accommodation, which I think is the best option, but finding someone willing to take you on a required route is hard to find. We had some struggles with our boatman at first, but as soon as he realized what we are looking for, everything went perfectly. As we came prepared with a map, we could explain what we would like to see and where we would like to go. With some suggestions from his side, we planned two beautiful day trips in the Danube Delta.
Note. We used Murighiol as a starting point for our two-day boat trips. Each boat trip took almost 10 hours, and as a group of four, we paid 1,200Ron for the boat. It might sound expensive, but it was all worthwhile as we discovered many beautiful hidden gems and covered more than 150km in almost 10 hours.
The second purpose of visiting the Danube Delta is fishing, which is practiced all year round(excepting the 60 days prohibition period). The Danube Delta is home to more than 160 species of fresh and saltwater fishes. There are 30 areas where fishing is allowed in the Danube Delta, and the best places are Crisan Channel, Vatafu Channel, Olguta Channel, and Fortuna Lake.
#3. Touring a Winery
No visit to the Danube Delta is complete without touring one of the few wineries of the region: Macin, Niculitel, or La Sapata. The Dobrudja region is characterized by a lot of sunshine and low rainfall. Try some autochthonous wine varieties such as Fetească Alba, Feteasca Neagra, or Feteasca Regala.
#4. Hiking the Macin Mountains
Hiking the oldest mountains in Romania, a mix of forest and grassland, should be high on your list if you’re time allows you. You will be impressed by a large number of flowers and medicinal plants. While roaming around, you might bump into some turtles, a common thing in Macin Mountains.
#5. Discovering the Community of Lippovan Russians
Lippovan Russians are descendants from the main Russian Orthodox Church, fled from religious persecution in the 18th century, and settled in Dobrudja and Eastern Muntenia.
If you want to meet them and see their colorful traditional costumes, head to the church for the Sunday morning service.
A Complete Guide to the Danube Delta – Our Itinerary
Day 1. Touring Enisala, Sarichioi and Babadag
We woke up late on our first day in the Danube Delta as the weather didn’t seem promising. Our basecamp was Enisala Safari Village, a beautiful, quiet place. After pampering ourselves with a delicious homemade breakfast, we wrote down some ideas. With the help of a good cup of coffee, the four of us made a pretty good plan for the days to come.
We started our day with a visit to the Enisala Fortress and enjoyed the views from above.
Another highlight of Enisala was Enisala Homestead Musem, a real surprise as we didn’t expect to see so many exhibits.
For lunch, we headed to Babadag. The town doesn’t offer much, but a good meal was more than welcomed. We made a quick stop at the Mosque “Gazi Ali Paşa” and “Sari Saltuk” memorial.
After that, we drove to Sarichioi and spent some time on Razim lake’s shore.
We walked a little bit through the village, visited the nearby church, and got a sneak peek inside “Casa Filip” homestay. Although not a place to visit, we got permission to get inside and see the interior. We even got up in the tower to snap a pic of the village from above.
We ended our first day embraced by silence and washing down a delicious fish and “mamaliga” dish accompanied by a glass of red wine of Dobrudja.
Day 2. Boat Trip: Murighiol – Uzlina – Isac Lake – Litcov Chanel -Ciamurlia Chanel – Crisan – Sulina Branch – Sulina – Murighiol
We woke up early this morning, and the host was kind enough to pack some sandwiches for us. After 45minutes drive, we reached Murighiol, where we met our boatman. A quick brainstorming session, and soon after, we left the shore.
We spent the day on the boat looking around, admiring nature, birdwatching, exclaiming every time we saw cormorants, pelicans, egrets, swans, bitterns, and many more.
We cruised through the channels of the Danube Delta until we reached Sulina Branch and last Sulina village. After so many hours spent on the boat, the walk to the beach was more than welcomed. We had a delicious lunch at one of the terraces along the promenade. After the little retrain, we got to the boat and returned from Sulina straight to Murighiol.
Day 3. Leisure Time at Gura Portitei
Our third day was a day spent at the beach. We prearranged a boat to take us in the morning to Gura Portitei from Jurilovca, and in no more than 30 minutes, we reached the shore. We left behind the assigned area for umbrellas and lounges, passed by the few tents, and found a secluded spot only for the four of us. It was truly incredible to find a beautiful private beach, away from everything. We picked up shelves, swam, and relaxed all day long. Before our embarking time, we satisfied ourselves with a delicious fish meal and a cold drink.
Once at Enisala, we hiked to Ensiala Fortress, to witness the sunset over the valley.
Day 4. Boat Trip: Murighiol – Isac Lake – Obretinu Mic Lake – Crisan – Dunarea Veche – Mila 23 – Caraorman Chanel – Caraorman – Puiu Lake – Erenciuc Lake – Caraorman Chanel – Caraorman – Sfantu Gheorghe – Sfantu Gheorghe Branch – Murighiol
We woke up early once again and drove to Murighiol to meet our boatman. This day was by far shinier and warmer, so we couldn’t wait to navigate through different channels, see new places, and recognize more birds.
The boatman guided the boat through many narrow channels, passed various lakes, and we had the chance to see many pelicans, swans, marsh harrier, and many more.
We toured Mila 23 and embraced the beauty of the village. After that, we visited Caraorman village and took plenty of photos with the donkeys.
Our last stop was at Sfantu Gheorghe village, the oldest inhabited area in the Danube Delta. The beach was mostly deserted, so we had once again a beach all to ourselves.
Day 5. Visiting Tulcea and spending some time at the beach in Sulina
On our fifth day, we decided to drive to Tulcea and spend some time here. The town didn’t have much to offer but still enough to cover a few hours of our spare time. After that, we embarked on a speed boat to Sulina, where we spent some leisure time at the beach.
We couldn’t leave the Danube Delta without tasting a Turkish coffee in the ottoman salon at Enisala Village.
Things to Keep in Mind
- Most hotels, restaurants, and activities run only from May to September.
- Spring is the best time to visit the Danube Delta if you want to see the water lilies blooming.
- Summertime is perfect if you love the sun and the heat; however, that is when mosquitos are the most aggressive.
- Early autumn is excellent for birdwatching, taking boat trips, and discovering new places.
- Remember to purchase a visitor’s permit upon discovering the Delta by boat.
- There are plenty of mosquitos, so bring insect repellent and wear long sleeves.
- Wear a hat, sunglasses, and SPF protection, especially in the summer months.
A Complete Guide to the Danube Delta. Interactive Map – Points of Interest
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