Moldova is your perfect destination if you hate crowds as it’s one of the least–visited countries in the world. A small, landlocked state bound between Romania and the Ukraine, Moldova was split into two regions in 1994, with the newly-formed breakaway Transnistrian Republic to the east (unrecognized by the rest of the world). Its main attractions are its wine regions, although the best Moldovan wines aren’t exported for "political reasons."
The capital, Chisinau, is an interesting city for a day or two of exploring, and Balti has a pretty old town. Soroca is known as the Romany Capital of Moldova and has a 15th century fort as well as ornate Roma homes. Tiraspol, the country’s second largest urban area, is known for its museums and is the capital of the breakaway Transnistria region. The most attractive city in the country is Ungheni, with plenty to keep visitors occupied. The countryside is dotted with Eastern Orthodox monasteries, but the ancient cave monastery at Orheiul Vechi the crown jewel.
Museums in Chisinau and Transnistria give a glimpse of the Soviet and earlier years, while the rolling steppe topography is given over to small, traditional farming villages. For a totally unique experience, a visit to Transnistria is a must, as it’s an eerie journey back to the Soviet era with tourists as rare as snow in summer.
The multi-ethnic Moldovan people are charming, friendl, and not at all used to tourists. Hospitality is legendary, with visitors often invited to dine with families. Oddly, it is the poorest country in Europe, yet you’ll find a choice of upscale city hotels and a dearth of less expensive accommodation, with the capital a hub for luxury getaways at a price to match. Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria, has a few standard hotels and several cheap and cheerful lodgings.
Travel in Moldova is by rail, bus, car, boat along the Danube, or taxi, with the rail system relatively comprehensive and the bus service extensive and reliable. Chisinau is the transportation hub for the country, with three bus stations offering routes to every city and town, as well as an urban trolley network. Minibuses are the most popular and fastest way to get around, but the full-size buses are safer as they move more slowly.
- Tour the extensive wine regions and taste the first-class Moldovan wines
- Check out Chisinau’s three major museums, Archeology and History, Natural History and Fine Arts
- Take a boat tour along the River Danube
- Explore the 13th century cave monastery in Orheiul Vechi, set amongst massive cliffs
- Visit the Milestii Mici’s underground wine cellar, 125 miles of roadways holding the world’s largest wine collection
- Explore Soroca town, its massive fortress and Roma community
- Take a trip back in time to Transnistria, an entire open-air museum dedicated to Communism and the Soviet era
- Embark on a daytrip to the ancient settlements, monasteries, gorges, and waterfalls around Saharna