Attractions in Moldova range from sites of natural beauty to castles, extravagantly-decorated Eastern Orthodox churches, historic working monasteries, quaint rural villages, lively town markets, museums, and lush green parks. The Soviet sites in the breakaway republic of Transnistria are unique to this part of Europe and well worth a visit, preferably with a registered tour company. The Moldovan capital, Chisinau, has the best choice of urban areas of interest.
For wine-lovers, this massive underground warren is a must, as it’s the largest wine cellar in all of Europe, set in limestone tunnels under the winery itself. Its 125 miles of wide passageways are named after famous genres including Cabernet, Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Visitors travel the labyrinth in a car complete with a guide explaining the world-famous wine collection of over two million bottles which concludes with a tasting session and lunch.
Address: Str Vaeile Alecsandri, 137, City Center, Chisinau, Moldova
Orheiul Vechi Monastery Complex
Known as Old Orhie close to the village of Trebujeni, this haunting religious site was carved into the massive limestone cliffs of this remote area. The Cave Monastery itself, overlooking the meandering River Raut, dates back to the 13th century and was occupied by a colony of Eastern Orthodox monks until the 18th century. Recently in 1996, a few monks returned to the desolate monastery to restore its place of worship and living cells.
Address: Trebujeni, Central Moldova
Lake Valea Morilor
A favorite summer spot for Chisinau residents, this lovely lake and its swimming beach is packed with locals on warm summer weekends, but is also a charming place to wander in less clement weather. Visitors can rent paddle boats, row boats and canoes from the southern shore boat station and relax on the water for hours.
Address: Chisinau, Moldova
Chisinau Memorial Park
Linked to both the country’s Communist era and its fight for independence, Memorial Park is dominated by two landmarks, the first commemorating the victory of the Soviet Army in 1945 and holding an eternal flame for unknown soldiers who lost their lives during WWII. The second memorial, set in the park’s center, remembers Moldovans who died during the fight for independence in the 1990s.
Address: City Center, Chisinau
National Archaeological and History Museum
For those unfamiliar with the history of the country, this major museum is a good place to start. You’ll find archaeological treasures from Orheiul Vechi including gold coins from the Golden Horde and many other exhibits tracing the history and heritage of the region. You’ll also see Soviet-era tanks, weaponry and a huge diorama of the events of WWII.
Address: Str 31 August, 121A, Chisinau, Moldova
This memorial is a tribute to the famous Russian poet in the cottage where he lived for three years from 1820 to 1823 after his exile from Russia. When he wasn’t drinking, fighting, engaged in amorous intrigues, or causing chaos among his social circle, he wrote his famous Prisoner of the Caucus and other works. It’s a trip back in time to when Moldova was the remote Wild West of the Russian Empire.
Address: Str Anton Pann 19, Chisinau, Moldova
House of Soviets, Tirasopol
Set in the heart of the capital of Transnistria, the neoclassical House of Soviets towers over the city’s main thoroughfare. A bronze bust of an irritated-looking Lenin ornaments the front of the impressive building and the interior holds a memorial to those who lost their lives in the 1992 conflict. The nearby Museum of Headquarters is also worth a visit.
Address: Tirasopol, Transnistria
Open-Air Military Museum
This memorial to Soviet-era weaponry was created after the departure of the Russian Army following the country’s independence. The Moldovan Army inherited planes, tanks, armored cars, and various other tributes of war that the Russians left behind, which are now on display at this favorite destination for families. Kids love to swing from the wings of the fighter planes and climb in the tanks.
Address: Str 31 August 1989, Chisinau, Moldova
Set 100 miles from Chisinau, Soroco’s main landmark is its ancient castle constructed in the 16th century as part of a Balkan line of defensive forts aimed at repelling Cossack, Tartar, Ottoman, and Slav invaders. It’s an impressive, graystone massif, large enough to shelter the townspeople when an attack was imminent. Its unusual circular form is a rarity among castles of the period. Aside from the refuge and defensive fort, there’s a small museum and a church on the complex.
Address: Soroca, Moldova
Saharna Waterfalls and Monastery
Set above a steep, forested gorge formed by the River Dniestr some 70 miles from Chisinau, the monastery is located close to the site of a 2,000-year old settlement, one of the oldest in the country. The dramatic canyon is 10 miles long and holds 30 cascades, waterfalls and rapids at their most spectacular in fall, winter and spring.
Address: Saharna village, nr Rezina, Moldova
Located in the heart of the remote Codry Forest Reserve not far from Orhei town and Orheuil Vechi, Ivancha Village is surrounded by seven pristine lakes settled by Ukrainian migrants hundreds of years ago. The Ukrainian dialect is still spoken here and by the 19th century, the village belonged to a local Armenian noble, with his grand mansion transformed into a museum displaying traditional Moldovan handicrafts.
Address: Ivancha village, nr Orheuil Vechi, Moldova
Moldova’s wine regions
Amazingly, Moldova is one of the world’s great wine-producing countries, with commercial wines exported all over the world, although it has to be said that many of the best vintages are rumored to be kept in the country. A self-drive wine tour is an unforgettable experience, enhanced by the varieties produced. Grapes have been cultivating since time immemorial, and the region between the Nistro and Prut rivers has been producing over 4,500 years ago. The four regions are Balti, Codru, Nistreana, and Comrat, and the many wineries welcome visitors.