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Skiing, Igloos and Dracula: Why Sibiu, Romania Should Be Your Next Winter Vacation on the Cheap

Aug. 29, 2019
6 min read
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If you're like me, your first thought when you read the title above was probably: "Huh?" Which is fair, because no one I know has heard much about Romania, let alone the city of Sibiu. So where is it, and what's so great about it?

Well, it turns out Sibiu, the former capital of Transylvania, is set almost dead center in the country of Romania, and it has a lot going on.

Where to Stay in Sibiu

I first stumbled upon the city when looking for a place to use my $250 resort credit from the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express. The list of these hotels is a lot shorter than you'd think — only around 200 resorts around the world qualify for the credit. The Hilton Sibiu happens to be one of those resorts, and it's beautiful:

Photo courtesy of Hilton

More than that, though, it has oodles of charm:

Photo courtesy of Hilton

And check out the executive lounge (free for Diamond members, a status awarded by that Aspire card mentioned above):

Photo courtesy of Hilton

The best thing about it? It's cheap. The room rate for a Friday night right before New Year's is a measly $124:

At this rate, you can extend that resort credit to two full nights at this hotel. Not bad!

While I was excited by the prospect of getting great value out of my credit, I was absolutely beside myself when I realized that Sibiu is home to the Hotel of Ice, which is a full-service hotel featuring — you guessed it — rooms made of ice.

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Photo courtesy of Hotel of Ice

I've been wanting to sleep in an ice hotel ever since reading Erika Owen's review of her experience, but I've always been put off by the exorbitant costs charged by such Scandinavian specialties as the Icehotel.

Fortunately, rooms at Sibiu's Hotel of Ice ring in at $109 per night, or, if you're truly feeling like splashing out, you can reserve your very own igloo for $166 per night:

I went with the igloo, because I figure it's either 'go big or go home' in the mountains of Romania. In contrast, the Swedish Icehotel will run you $799 for a single night:

The Hotel of Ice has tons of winter activities to do, as well. Whether you're looking to snowmobile, stargaze or get married in a chapel made of ice, the hotel has you covered.

What to Do in Sibiu

Awesome accommodation aside, Sibiu has a lot going for it. Featured as the European Capital of Culture in 2007, it was the first Eastern European city to claim the title after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Photo courtesy of the city of Sibiu

Originally settled by German Saxons in 1191, the city was a major hub for trade and a large cultural center. Very few Germans remain today. The culture of the city is as lively as ever, with Christmas markets, medieval towers and an absolute plethora of museums to explore (don't tell me you don't want to go to the Pharmacy Museum).

In the summertime, Sibiu is host to the largest performing arts festival in the world, though when the crowds wind down there are still plenty of performances to see, with several different theaters and even a philharmonic orchestra to visit.

And for those looking for a bit of mystery, Vlad the Impaler — more commonly known as Dracula — once lived in Sibiu. Even better, his birthplace is located just an hour away in the city of Sighisoara. Between the two, you're well on your way to traveling the Vampire Trail of Count Dracula himself.

Once you've finished exploring the city itself, you can head to Paltinis, 10 miles from Sibiu and the oldest ski resort in Romania. Founded in 1894, it features numerous slopes for skiers of all skill sets (including a bunny slope, just for me). It's close enough that you can commute from the city, but there are a number of chalets, villas and private holiday rentals to choose from if you'd like to overnight.

Photo courtesy of the city of Sibiu

How to Get to Sibiu

Unfortunately, as a smaller city in a less-traveled part of Europe, Sibiu isn't easy to reach. You'll ideally want to fly into Sibiu International Airport (SBZ), located just 10-12 minutes from the city center and 15 minutes from the Hilton. Many flights into and out of the city are operated by low-cost carriers like Wizz Air, though you do have the following options with two of the three major alliances:

  • Star Alliance:
  • Austrian Airlines offers daily service from Vienna (VIE) through November. It drops to six times per week (excluding Saturdays) through March before starting back up with daily flights in April.
  • Lufthansa offers two daily flights from Munich (MUC) to Sibiu.
  • Sky Team:
  • Tarom, the flag carrier of Romania, offers 3x weekly flights (Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays) from Bucharest.

Wizz Air's destinations include Brussels-Charleroi (CRL), London-Luton (LTN), Madrid (MAD) and Stuttgart (STR), though be sure to check the flight schedules for your dates of travel, as many cities don't have daily service.

Bottom Line

Europe is absolutely rife with wonderland-like winter destinations — from Scandinavia's northern lights to Switzerland's Alps. However, these places are as popular as they are pretty, and have the prices to match. Sibiu features all the same breathtaking activities — skiing, an ice hotel and a vampire's trail — for a fraction of the cost.

What are you waiting for?

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

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80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
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Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more