7 Reasons to Visit Moldova
Why visit Moldova? What are the top things to do in Moldova? What travel advice do you to have for travelers looking for the full Moldovan experience?
Although Moldova is a small country in Eastern Europe, it packs in a lot for its size thanks to its diversity of cultures and traditions, natural landscapes, wine regions and tours, historical sites and monasteries, adventure trails, and growing network of 40+ rural bed and breakfasts. In other words, you are never far away from your next experience, adventure…or surprise.
However, the two things that you’ll find at the heart of all your experiences in Moldova: hospitality and authenticity.
Let yourself be surprised by Moldova. Here’s how.
1. Discover the Unexpected
Moldova is (until now) an undiscovered Eastern European destination where, if you are open to it, the next adventure is always around the corner. This is not only because of the strong tradition of hospitality where local people want to share and take good care of their guests, but it’s also due to the unexplored nature of the country that spurs exploration and discovery.
The country’s long history and rich cultural heritage, from the Cucuteni-Trypillia civilization that produced wine 7,000 years ago to the Soviet Union in the 20th century, has created the culturally diverse, agriculturally (and wine) rich and dynamic independent Moldova today.
Whether it’s walking through the world’s largest wine collection and its millions of bottles at Milestii Mici Winery, taking an electronic vehicle through the 150km of limestone tunnels at Cricova’s underground “Wine City”, sleeping in a rooftop wine barrel at Chateau Purcari, discovering Gagauzian culture and cuisine in the south of Moldova, visiting the Transnistrian Region to be transported back to the USSR, kayaking in the Prut or Dneister rivers, exploring medieval cave monasteries at Orheiul Vechi (Old Orhei), cycling along Lake Beleu in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, tasting Moldovan wine with one of the 50 grape varietals grown in rich soils, staying in a rural B&B and learning how to cook traditional Moldovan dishes, or relaxing in Chisinau with its hip wine bars, prestigious opera house and grandiose Soviet architecture….there is a lot to discover in Moldova.
2. Explore Moldovan Wine and Wineries
With a wine heritage going back almost 7,000 years, Moldova is one of the world’s oldest wine producing country. Moldovan wine is still the pride our people today and it continues to play an important role in local culture and festivals, like the National Wine Days that are celebrated each year in Chisinau’s central square the first weekend in October. Perhaps its not surprising to learn then that Moldova has the largest collection of wine in the world at Milestii Mici Winery at over 2 million bottles and the highest concentration of vineyards per capita. Yes, wine is a big deal here.
Not only has Moldova gained attention for its high quality wines (the winner of the prestigious Concours Mondiale de Bruxelles 2022 Best Red Wine in the World was from Fautor Winery in Moldova), but in the last few years it has also become an exciting wine holiday destination. Each of Moldova’s four wine regions has its own “Iter Vitis” Wine Route that connects visits to wineries with local cultural heritage and historical sites.
One of the best ways to learn about and enjoy Moldovan wine is to stay at at a winery, eat at a winery restaurant or go wine tasting at one of the 40 wineries offering tours (download a map here). Currently, six wineries offer accommodation, each with a different style and feel, from having your own Moldovan village house at Asconi Winery to sleeping in a barrel room overlooking the vineyards at Chateau Purcari to having your own luxury bungalow with access to a wine spa at Castel Mimi.
One of the exciting developments in Moldova’s wine scene the last few years is the rise of small, independent Moldovan winemakers and the focus on local native grapes. We recommend you pair a traditional Moldovan meal with a local varietal like Feteasca Neagra, Feteasca, Alba, Rara Neagra, Feteasca Regala or Viorica. Alternatively, you can try different types of Moldovan wines and varietals at one of the many wine bars in Chisinau.
You can find more wine tasting holiday inspiration in this article about Moldova’s wine regions in National Geographic Travel.
3. Experience Hospitality and Slow Travel in the Moldovan Countryside
Our people and the hospitality they show visitors really are what our country special and your visit memorable. Travelers usually come away from Moldova filled with stories of the people they met — their generous hosts in the countryside, a gregarious winemaker or an artisan excited to share her craft. This feeling of hospitality is especially true once you enter a Moldovan village and family guest house. Before you know it, you will be sitting at the table with a feast of hearty Moldovan food as your host pours you a glass of local wine.
The best way to experience this hospitality and feel of the countryside where so many cultural and culinary traditions are preserved is by staying in a family-run rural bed and breakfast in a village. Moldova has a network of over 40 such rural guest houses, many of which are in traditional country homes and offer home-cooked meals, usually with ingredients fresh from the garden or nearby farm. There is a peace and tranquility in the Moldovan countryside that allows you to recharge batteries and reconnect with nature, people and yourself.
4. Create Your Own Adventure in Moldova’s Nature
Moldova’s untouched nature, from its forests to its rivers and lakes, are the perfect place to get away from it all. A few of Moldova’s unique natural sites include the Codrii forest and one of the longest caves in the world, “Emil Racovita Cave.” A truly special and peaceful place is Lake Beleu, part of the Lower Prut UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, in southern Moldova which is a popular spot for pelicans and other birds migrating north or south. You can also enjoy finding over 100 different species of birds at Orhieul Vechi (Old Orhei) most of the year on one of its many bird-watching trails.
In the last years, Moldova has also become a place for adventure travelers interested in cycling, hiking, kayaking, rock climbing and other outdoor activities. With over 400km of newly developed cycling routes, newly marked hiking trails, and kayaking options along the Dneister and Prut Rivers, there are many different ways to immerse yourself in Moldova’s nature and enjoy a bit of adventure.
5. Join in Moldova’s Festivals and Events
Moldova is a country that loves to celebrate and local people love to invite visitors to celebrate together with them, whether it’s for one of our traditional Moldovan holidays like Mărțișor to celebrate spring or Memorial Easter, or for one of our many festivals held throughout the year. Each year as part of the Tree of Life Cultural Calendar there are over 40 festivals and events, including music concerts, cultural festivals, sporting activities (like running through a wine cellar or vineyard), wine events and more.
Festival and events highlights include:
- DescOpera open-air classical music and opera festival that takes place each June in Orheiul Vechi (Old Orhei) with the surrounding limestone cliffs providing a dramatic natural background.
- National Wine Days, Moldova’s biggest wine festival, takes place the first weekend of October in Chisinau’s main square. Over 60 wineries from around the country showcase their wines and provide wine tastings, making this the perfect time to really learn about Moldovan wine and meet the winemakers. There is also a cultural program with traditional music and dance, as well as modern Moldovan singers and bands.
- Ethno Jazz Festival in Chisinau each October with musicians from around the world celebrating the beautiful diversity of music.
- Milistii Mici wine cellar run is a truly unique 10k race that takes runners through the underground tunnels that make up the largest wine cellar in the world.
- VinOpera celebrates the beauty of opera and wine at Castel Mimi with its dramatic, luxurious castle and garden backdrop. A special opera train takes participants from Chisinau to the winery.
- Ia Mania in the summer is a cultural festival celebrating the ia, the traditional embroidered Moldovan blouse, as well as traditional Moldovan culture, handicrafts, music and food.
6. Taste Traditional Moldovan Cuisine
Traditional Moldovan cuisine will surprise you with its richness of flavor and its simplicity. This is due in one part to the freshness of ingredients as Moldova is an agricultural country with fertile lands and another part to the traditional recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation and are still being used today in kitchens around the country.
One of the best places to taste Moldovan food is in the rural guest houses where you will enjoy home-cooked meals with ingredients from the garden or nearby farm. There are also many restaurants in Chisinau or other cities serving traditional dishes. No matter where you eat in Moldova, be sure you try our savory soup called zeamă made with homemade chicken broth and noodles, mămăliga which is like a local polenta made from cornmeal that cut into pieces with a thread and usually served with Moldovan cheese (brânză), sour cream and braised pork, plăcinte prepared from a thin dough stuffed with a variety of savory fillings like cabbage, lcoal cheese (brânză), or potato or sweet varieties filled with apple or cherries.
Finally, no visit to Moldova is complete without trying sarmale, stuffed sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) leaves filled with a spiced rice and meat filling. And be sure to accompany your meal with a glass of Moldovan wine and finish it with baba neagra, a spongy type cake with a special preparation passed down in families.
The warm and hospitable nature of Moldovan people will conquer you, as will its national cuisine. When the two come together it can be very hard to leave.
7. Have Fun on a Chisinau City Break
Located only a couple of hours away from most major cities in Europe by direct flight, Chisinau makes for a fun and discovery-filled city break getaway, whether for a long weekend or week. Wander the streets of Moldova’s capital city and you’ll find yourself amidst grand Soviet architecture and boulevards, expansive green spaces and parks filled with cafes and local life, 19th century Bernardazzi buildings and modern urban design. For culture and music lovers there is opportunity to see opera and ballet at the renowned Maria Bieșu National Opera and Ballet Theatre, take part in one of the many festivals and events (hint: the National Wine Days is the first weekend in October) or visit one of the city’s many museums.
Wine and food lovers will especially enjoy the new hip wine bars, fusion restaurants using fresh local ingredients in innovative ways, and boutique hotels that have opened the last few years. Add to this cozy cafes, traditional Moldovan restaurants, micro breweries, local fashion designers, and food markets highlighting the agricultural richness of the country. You’ll quickly see how Chisinau has it all, often at lower cost than many other European cities, for a relaxing, fun and different city break.
Bonus for Business Travelers and Digital Nomads: Fast Internet and Coworking Spaces
Another thing that might surprise you in Moldova is the speed, price and coverage of our internet. Mobile internet is available throughout Moldova with speeds ranked in the top ten in the world, along with Japan and Latvia. These mobile data plans are very inexpensive with 50GB for under €5, making it easy and affordable to get online in Moldova. In addition, you’ll find free wifi in hotels, cafes, restaurants, parks and even trolleybuses across Chisinau. This makes it easy to stay in touch with family and friends when traveling and share all your experiences in Moldova.
In addition, this internet and IT infrastructure combined with the availability of coworking places also makes Moldova an ideal place for business travelers, remote workers or digital nomads. In addition, the growing network of technology startups and creative industries professionals in Moldova provide opportunities for cooperation and connecting to an innovative and creative community.
If you prefer to work in a quiet place, then choose one of the many rural B&Bs with high speed internet and comfortable desks with a view of the countryside and surrounding nature. The beauty of the a good internet infrastructure is that it provides you the flexibility to work (or not) where you’d like. And have the opportunity to explore Moldova along the way.
How to Plan Your Trip to Moldova
It’s easier and faster to visit Moldovan than you might imagine thanks to the growing number of direct flights, trains and buses. In just two to three hours from London, Berlin, Paris, Rome, Munich or Istanbul you can arrive in Chisinau airport and begin exploring Moldova. Train buffs can take the overnight train from Bucharest or Kyiv to Chisinau.
The articles linked above provide a lot of information on things to do in Moldova, where to stay, wineries to visit, and much more to make it easy for independent travelers to research and book their trip to Moldova. For those of you who would prefer someone to create an itinerary and take care of all the logistics with a private or group tour, we can recommend one of the following local travel agencies and tour operators. You can also find a local Moldovan guide with the specializations in history, culture, nature, wine, food and other topics.
We look forward to welcoming you soon in Moldova. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help.