Sitting on a mountain cliff overlooking the Arges River, the Poenari Castle is best known for its connection to Vlad the Impaler, said to be the inspiration for the fictional Dracula. Now partially in ruins, the castle was first built in the 13th century and came under Vlad the Impaler’s control in the 15th century. Legend has it that Vlad’s first wife committed suicide rather than be taken hostage by the Ottoman Turks. She allegedly threw herself off one of the castle walls into the river below, turning the water red. The river is now referred to as the Lady’s River.
The castle was eventually abandoned and an earthquake in the 19th century destroyed the northern section. It sat in ruins until 1970, when the Romanian government decided to open it to tourists, building more than 1400 steps into the rock of the mountain to allow visitors to climb up to the castle. Walkways and handrails have also been installed to allow for easier movement throughout the ruins.
Poenari Castle is located about 150 kilometers from Bucharest, near the town of Curtea de Arges. Tour buses travel directly to the castle from Bucharest, but you can make the trip independently by traveling first to Curtea de Arges and then catching a mini bus in the direction of Arefu. Tell the driver you are going to the castle and they will drop you as close as possible. No guides are available at the castle, but signs provide information in Romanian and English. Allow at least two hours for a visit, including time to
climb the steps up to the castle.