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What do you do when life takes you by surprise? Do you open yourself and embrace the challenge? Do you shy away and rather stick to the familiar? How do you draw the line between adventure and insane risk? If you wonder how all these relate to the Danube Delta in Romania, just keep on reading. Most of the time we worry for no real reasons. That’s what I did when I avoided visiting the Danube Delta for so many years.

Willows and water as far as you can see

Willows and water as far as you can see. Actually you can’t see because the photo is limited, but I can tell you that was everything I saw from that boat for a long time.

For many years I was literally afraid to visit the Danube Delta. Learning that it was a paradise for birds and insects made me never want to go there. I don’t like flying insects, except for butterflies. When I see more than two UFIs around me, I consider myself in a life threatening situation. I leave all common sense aside and fight for my life. This is why for such a long time I refused to get close to this paradise, one of the few places in Romania that aren’t too spoiled by civilization. UFIs are Unidentified Flying Insects, in case you were wondering. This irrational (?) fear is entomophobia and this is a quote from Wikipedia, which I’d love all my friends to read and remember:

Loved ones can often benefit from learning more about entomophobia and what they can do in helping a friend or relative overcome the condition.

The Best Time of Year to Visit the Danube Delta

Anyway, even if flying bugs give you chills down the spine, there’s no need to worry: there aren’t that many insects in the Danube Delta. If you go to Romania between June and October, it’s worth finding a few days to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site which is the Danube Delta.

May is still a bit too cold to have a great time, but there are years when the weather gets unusually hot in May, so you shouldn’t overlook this option whatsoever.

How To Get to the Danube Delta from Bucharest

If you have a car, you can drive to Tulcea, and then head over to Murighiol. If you don’t want to rent a car and drive, you can book this two days trip from Bucharest that will allow you to enjoy this UNESCO Heritage site without having to worry about driving or finding accommodation by yourself. Everything will be included, from transportation by land and by water, to guidance from a local expert and one night of accommodation. You’ll only need to pay for your meal.

For those who can only afford to visit the Danube Delta in a one-day trip from Bucharest, there’s this option, here. If you’re in a hotel in the central area of Bucharest, they will pick you up from your hotel in the morning. The tour takes one full day and it offers you the chance to take a glimpse into the wild universe of the Danube Delta. Make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes and don’t forget your binoculars and your camera.

If you don’t feel like visiting the Danube Delta on your own, but you’d still drive through Romania, you can find accommodation in Tulcea and book a 12-hour tour like this one, here. You’ll travel by boat through Madgearu Chanel, then stop by Mila 23, a village where you’ll experience some of the local culture and atmosphere. You’ll see pelicans and lots of other birds and wildlife. You’ll also go on a 4×4 tour to see the wild horses in Letea Forest.

If you’re keen on doing your own thing, from Tulcea take the road to Murighiol.You’ll need to drive for about 40 km. It shouldn’t take you more than 45-50 minutes, provided that you don’t stop along the way.

At Murighiol, the road ends and also does the solid ground. That’s where you’re going to leave your car and board on a small boat to get to your hotel. The parking spot is guarded, so you don’t have to worry about having your vehicle stolen.

All boats departing from Murighiol follow the main water stream for a while. Then, at what I could call “crossroads” of waters, they will take smaller canals, and even smaller ones, until you’ll get to your floating hotel or to whatever type of accommodation you’ve booked.

Boat on the Danube river

Which way? Those boat drivers must have a sixth sense to be able to tell the right way.

Canals in the Danube Delta are like roads on solid land. There are lots of crossings and bifurcations, all reeds and willows looking very similar, so it’s very easy to get lost. Little boats are the equivalent of taxis, while bigger and slower boats can be assimilated to buses.

Small boat, big fun

Water taxi with no passengers or just a fun ride?

Danube Delta hotel

Hotels in the Danube Delta come with their private parking. For boats, of course!

Two black birds in the Danube Delta

The Best Way To Visit the Danube Delta

The best way to visit the Danube Delta is with prior arrangements. Usually, hotels take care of your transportation on water and they organize fishing or bird watching trips.

You may also find private boats to hire, should you be willing to avoid agencies and tour operators but I’d choose to book everything in advance, boat trips included.

You have to keep in mind that the season is rather short, and there are lots of people willing to come to Danube Delta every year. This means you risk to find out that all good hotels and villas are fully booked.

Clouds and floating hotels

Clouds and floating hotels

Floating hotels

Getting closer to those floating hotels

Boat hotels

… and closer …

A few more steps to solid land

A few more steps to solid land

Water taxi parking

Water taxi parking

The Must-Have Ingredient for Awesome Danube Delta Fish Soup

Danube is Europe’s longest river. It measures 2,860 km (1,780 miles), it starts in Germany, in the Black Forest Mountains and then it flows through or follows the borders of nine more countries before joining the Black Sea: Austria, Slovakia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Moldova and Romania. Part of this river never joins the sea. That’s the part which ends up in the delicious fish soup made by local people. I don’t know if all of them actually use this water for cooking, but I’ve seen it once. I’ve seen it, I ate the soup and I’m still here to tell the story. However, I wasn’t very comfortable with it at the time. The water wasn’t even blue. It was muddy brown!

The huge cauldron with yummy fish soup

The huge cauldron with yummy fish soup

Anyway, the traditional fish soup starts with a nice wood fire and with a cauldron set on top of it. The cauldron is filled with water and veggies: tomatoes, onions, potatoes, bell peppers, chili peppers. When the vegetables are almost done, there comes the fish, previously cleaned and cut in big chunks. Locals believe a great soup calls for at least four different types of fish.

In about 20 minutes, the soup will be ready. Add salt and vinegar. Taste frequently until you are satisfied with the taste. Optionally you can add a little bit of oil. Remove from heat, sprinkle finely chopped parsley, cover and let the cauldron sit for 10-15 minutes.

How To Serve the Fish Soup “Lipovenesc” Style

“Lipovenesc” comes from Lipovans, a population of about 35,000 souls, most of them living in Dobrogea, the Romanian region which includes the Danube Delta. They have a particular way of serving the fish soup. When it’s ready, they remove the meat from the soup, set it on big plates and serve it with a garlic cream called mujdei. The soup itself comes as a second course and it is served together with mujdei, chili peppers and polenta. That exactly what we did with the food in these photos: had it “Lipovenesc” style. It was delicious!

Fish meal preparation

Fish meal preparation. The hosts were nice and let me sample some fish before the lunch was ready.

Fish head - hand comparison

Fish head – hand comparison. In case you didn’t know: yes, the heads go into the soup. Cleaning the fish means only removing the bowels and the scales. Heads are considered yummy.

Have you ever been to such a place where everything floats, even the land? Did you feel claustrophobic of powerless, knowing that the only way to leave is on a boat? Did you know that there are lots of people who live like that their entire life?

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Violeta Matei

Violeta writes for people who want to design, research and plan their own travel experiences. After two decades of working in advertising and marketing, she decided to pursue her two passions, to travel the world and to write about it. Since 2012, she authors and administrates a network of travel blogs.