Transylvanian Highlands receive the ecotourism destination certification
Transylvanian Highlands (Colinele Transilvaniei), a destination from the heart of the country, located around the Hârtibaci, Târnava Mare and Olt Valley, has got the ecotourism destination certification from the Tourism Ministry.
Three counties, 260,000 hectares of protected natural areas, 44 communities that offer soulful experiences for Romanian and foreign tourists. Fortified churches, UNESCO sites, traditional Saxon houses renovated and converted into guesthouses, 600 kilometers of marked tourist routes, for hiking or cycling, in a natural landscape that people have maintained here for hundreds of years.
The area covers part of the territory of Brașov, Mureș and Sibiu counties and is geographically delimited by the rivers Târnava Mare, Olt and the Hârtibaciu basin. The certification, obtained following an evaluation process, recognizes “the development of the Transylvanian Highlands destination on sustainable principles” and will be able to be used to promote tourist experiences in the area for a period of three years.
WWF Romania has been working in the Hârtibaci Plateau alongside local partners for over 10 years to maintain both the natural and cultural, gastronomic and historical value as intact and authentic as possible, helping local communities to develop sustainably, in harmony with nature.
“The adventure of having an ecotourism destination in the Transylvania area began over 10 years ago, when a local initiative group saw ecotourism as a way to help this area, with well-preserved natural and cultural values, to develop in a balanced way using these values as main attraction elements for tourists. And this worked, first for visitors from abroad, who appreciated the uniqueness of the experiences in the Transylvanian Hills, then, in the last five years, more and more, for Romanians as well. It is a great joy for all the organizations that have joined the initiative and that contribute, in many communities in the area, to the local development based on ecotourism. At the same time, for us involved, it is an honor that obliges us to promote the maintenance of a high standard of experiences and tourist services, in order to keep this certification and remain authentic for tourists,” says Cristina-Ana Iliescu, from the Unit of Destination Management
Tourists return to the Transylvanian Highlands for the local culture and traditions, which also include a rich gastronomy, as well as for active holidays in the middle of nature. In the last five years, the percentage of those who come to the area several times a year has increased 4 times, and the duration of visits over 3 nights has doubled. Thus local tourism operators, who promote high standards, are encouraged to continue, and communities recognize the value of nature and the customs they preserve.
The certification of ecotourism destinations in Romania is carried out by the Ministry of Tourism to promote areas where sustainable tourism is developed, based on the values of protected natural areas and of local communities. Currently, there are three other certified destinations in our country, alongside the Transylvanian Hills, namely Șara Hațegului-Retezat, Șara Dornelor and Eco-Maramureș.
The Colinele Transilvaniei Ecotourism Destination includes protected areas of national interest and protected areas that are part of the European Natura 2000 network, the largest ecological network in the world, with over 25,000 sites across the continent, including 531 on Romanian territory – 7 of them in our area.
The large number of protected areas makes this area the second largest area in the country with protection status, after the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve. It totals 267,438 ha and is home to over 90,000 inhabitants, in 44 communes, spread over 3 counties (Sibiu, Mureș and Brașov). Transylvania, especially the area contained in the Transylvanian Hills, is unique in Europe, with a valuable natural and cultural heritage
More about Colinele Transilvaniei is available here.