You’re invited to join our annual Vlad Dracula Expedition—a seven-day dinner party through Romania, celebrating both Halloween and then Day of the Dead, as we explore the life of Vlad the Impaler!
Expedition dates: October 28th – November 3rd, 2020 (we’ll be running this adventure again in 2021).
Maximum group-size for this expedition is 13.
Scroll down past the itinerary for prices, inclusions, and the hosts’ biographies.
We’ve made all the reservations—you just need to pack a costume and your inner child (or demon) for this howling Halloween party across Romania. Our seven-day (small group) expedition includes attending the ultimate costume party on Halloween night, at Bran Castle (known as Dracula’s Castle, built circa 1377) which was owned by Vlad’s grandfather (Mircea the Old), and we’ll also be dining on Day of the Dead (November 2nd) in the chamber where real-life Dracula, Vlad Drăculea (known as Vlad the Impaler), was born in 1431. We’ll be sleeping that night, in a inn of similar vintage, just a few doors down from the home where Vlad was born, inside the (UNESCO) medieval walled city of Sighișoara. We were the first people (and are the only) to ever host a Halloween dinner party in the room where Dracula was born, and each year we barely make it through cocktails before we are regaling each other with spine-tingling experiences from our lives.
Our Transylvanian guide (with whom I explored Romania extensively) and I have designed a journey that will take us to the best local haunts: medieval castles with gruesome history, torture chambers, moody cemeteries, all contrasted with one of the most beautiful times of year to visit Romania which will be glowing in autumn colours. And Christopher Campbell, professional photographer (Chatelaine, Food Network, HarperCollins), will be guiding you during our escapades to capture photos of a lifetime, whether you’re using a mobile device, point & shoot, or a DSLR with multiple lenses. Plus he’ll be providing you (throughout the expedition and when you get back home) with digital images of your adventures.
Keep scrolling for the itinerary, more photos, and full details on how to sign up.
Day 1: October 28th – Pickup at Otopeni Airport outside Bucharest (we’ll also greet you at the airport if you arrive a day in advance). Next door to our hotel are the ruins of the Princely Palace, the castle that Dracula built in celebration of his own greatness or evilness. In the evening we’ll explore the historic pedways of the old town of Bucharest which was first settled in 70 BC and by the 1400s was the wealthiest city in Eastern Europe. Then we’ll dine at The Beer Chariot, a dazzling 19th century restaurant which is always packed with locals and boasts an extensive menu of tasty Romanian dishes. – Dinner. Palinca shots. Overnight at Europa Royale Bucharest Hotel ****
Day 2: October 29th – After a hot buffet breakfast in the hotel’s award winning restaurant, we’ll visit the Palace of Parliament, the heaviest building in the world (according to Guinness World Records), and it’s the second largest administrative building in the world (following the Pentagon) and a legacy of a more recent “Dracula,” the communist dictator Ceaușescu (executed in 1989). Then we’ll break out the treat bags for our scenic drive to Targoviste.
The townsfolk of Targoviste were blamed by Vlad for their involvement in the assassination of his brother by the Turks. Vlad killed nobles and enslaved the townsfolk to build his castle at Poenari. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner – Overnight in Curtea de Arges****
Day 3: October 30th – Dracula’s Fortress (where Vlad’s first wife plunged to her death off a cliff to avoid capture by an enemy army) and then to the mind-blowing Transfăgărășan!
The ruins of Poenari Castle (Dracula’s Fortress) are perched high on a rugged crag above the Arges river gorge. There are 1,480 stairs to Dracula’s “vulture nest.” One of our previous participants worked it out to being 100 storeys. Now, if you really think you can’t make the climb–there’s a lovely lodge and restaurant down the road from the first step. Following our hike, we’ll cross the Carpathian Mountains on the Transfăgărășan Highway. (Please note that last year we couldn’t do the stairs up to the fortress–some of you will be heaving a sigh of relief–because the area was closed due to bear attacks. Eeks! They have since put an electric bear-proof fence around the site and reopened. If bears are still an issue in 2020, we’ll see Vlad’s fortress from below, and will go to Făgăraș Fortress on this day instead–otherwise Făgăraș is on the 1st.)
We’ll be spending the next two nights in the mountains near Bran Castle (“Dracula’s Castle”), at our guide’s rural, family-run inn, where we’ll have a bountiful, seasonal, home-cooked Romanian dinner. Tonight (for those who’d like an adventure) we’ll walk to a hillside cemetery with chained crypts (perhaps to keep people out – or perhaps to keep them in) to take night shots.
(A small sample of food on our expedition. We can cater to omnivores, vegetarians, vegans, vampires and carnivores.)
Breakfast, lunch, dinner – tonight and tomorrow night are at our guide’s mountain lodge. The setting is rustic; the chalet is new (private ensuite bathrooms, wifi).
Day 4: October 31st – Halloween festival and costume party at Bran Castle (Dracula’s Castle) – Wine is courtesy of Dracula tonight!
After a hearty farm breakfast (or lighter if you wish) we’ll drive to Brașov where we’ll conquer the medieval ramparts, watchtowers, and Saxon churches (if they don’t conquer us). But best of all, this walled city boasts one of the narrowest streets in Europe. From Brașov our quest continues at Râșnov, the 13th century, breathtaking, mountaintop fortress, built by Teutonic Knights. Then we’ll return to the farm to dine, drink wine, and don our costumes for the night’s festivities.
Tonight is the ultimate costume party – at Dracula’s castle. Adults of all ages come from around the world for this festival. Every year they decorate the castle differently. You’ll get to photograph some fantastic costumes. Whoever wants to stay to dance into the night is welcome to do so. If anyone would rather return to the inn, they’ll be driven back to Moeciu.
Day 5: November 1st – ghosts and legends
We continue (after a little sleep-in this morning) on our Vlad Dracula Expedition, stopping in Sibiu, a town steeped in legend and named by Forbes magazine as one of the 10 most idyllic places to live in Europe. It was here that Mihnea the Evil, Dracula’s son, was murdered in front of the cathedral. We then plunge further west into Transylvania to Corvin Castle where Vlad Dracula was fugitive, or some argue prisoner. This is one of the largest castles in Europe and has been host to many paranormal investigative television shows from around the world. You’ll see why, or maybe some of you will feel it. – Breakfast, lunch, dinner – Overnight in Hunedoara ****
Day 6: November 2nd – Hunedoara to Sighișoara – Day of the Dead – tonight we have our private dinner party in the room where Vlad Dracula (Vlad the Impaler) was born in 1431!
After exploring Corvin Castle and the grisly torture chambers at its gates, we’ll take a picturesque drive to Sighișoara, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
We’ll be spending the night of Day of the Dead inside this preserved walled town, in a medieval hotel, a few doors down the street from the house where Vlad Dracula was born in 1431, which is where we’ll be dining. After scaring each other with spine-tingling stories around the dinner table, we’ll also pay a nighttime visit to the cemetery. – Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Palinca tasting. Overnight in hotel which is over 500 years old!
November 3rd: Day 7 – we’ll travel from where Vlad the Impaler was born to the island of his grave – then back to Bucharest
We’ll revisit the cemetery of Sighișoara by day and will explore the rest of the fortified Saxon town before heading away from Transylvania back to Wallachia, stopping for the climax of Vlad’s life – his death – and unusual burial wishes.
Farewell: We’ll then drop you off (near 6:00 PM) at the airport, or your Bucharest area or airport hotel, or the train station for the next leg of your journey. – Breakfast, lunch, return to Bucharest
- All accommodation (the delightful inns are small and unique – four star, with private bath, and wifi)
- All meals (don’t blame us if you gain weight – the food in Romania is fabulous, and you’re the one ordering what you want from the menus)
- Some alcohol (see itinerary)
- Photography sessions for those who wish
- Professional digital images of your journey
- Writing tips for any who wish (however, please note this is a roving dinner party and photography adventure, not a writing workshop)
- All transfers and transportation on tours
- English-speaking, Transylvanian guide
- Our own driver and private vehicle
- All entrance fees to castles and museums
- Alcohol (unless listed on the itinerary)
- Visa (not something for North Americans or Europeans to worry about)
Kirsten describes your hosts:
Christopher Campbell: once again I’ve invited one of my favourite photographers (and one of the best travel companions you’ll ever meet) to lead our photographic adventures and share a lifetime of tips, tricks & technique. You have probably seen his images displayed on TV’s Food Network cooking shows or in publications as varied as Chatelaine, Spa Magazine, or HarperCollins cookbooks–and most definitely in ads–he’s the one you can blame for making you crave Absolut Vodka, Kahlua, that dew dripping glass of Gordon’s gin, Florida oranges, late night fast food at Wendy’s or McDonald’s (blame him for that), or test driving a Mercedes—that’s Christopher Campbell’s fault too. This is Chris’s sixth year hosting our Dracula Expedition. He’s also been our photography host twice in Jordan and in Vietnam.
Kirsten Koza: I’m your host and expedition designer and am a professional adventure travel writer, author, humourist and journalist. I ruthlessly pretest the Writers’ Expeditions trips to find the best local guides, tour operators, and unique adventures, so you can have a great experience. I’ve had more than seventy-five stories published in books, magazines, and newspapers around the world, on topics as varied as going inside the largest Syrian refugee camp, bullfighting, cannibalism, tornado chasing, mountain biking, dildos, dictators, Putin, gluten, mutants, and politics. I’ve even made the front page of Kyrgyzstan’s national newspaper. I’m the author of Lost in Moscow: A Brat in the USSR and edited the Traveler’s Tales anthology Wake Up and Smell the Shit: Hilarious Travel Disasters, Monstrous Toilets, and a Demon Dildo.
And we leave you with some photos of Halloween costumes, food and fun from past expeditions (just click on images to expand) and a three-minute documentary made by a participant from a previous expedition. Turn up your speakers for it! The Dracula Expedition Video!