The Transfagarasan was built between 1970 and 1974 by military forces. After the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviets, Nicolae Ceausescu had it built as a strategic military route to cross the mountains in the event the Soviets attempted a similar move into Romania. The builders used 6000 tons of dynamite to clear a path for the road on the northern side of the mountains (this is the most spectacular) and on the tunnel. 40 soldiers lost their lives during construction.
A few miles beyond Curtea de Arges the Transfagarasan road starts to face the mountain slope. You can see a typical mountain landscape with pines and alpine meadows. The road is not in good shape here, so pay attention for holes and stones.
The Transfagarasan runs trough the Arges River gorge. After travelling beyond the last village, Capataneni, you'll see a road sign to Poenari Castle. This castle was property of Vlad III the Impaler. Vlad earned his nickname by impaling, torturing, burning, skinning, roasting, and boiling people who did things that displeased Vlad; stealing, lying, and adulterous relations. In this way Vlad kept his people in order and taught them that stealing would not be tolerated in his lands. Bram stoker's Dracula was based on his personality. When you look up on the mountains you can see his fortress on the top of a high and remote cliff. It will take 1480 stairs before you reach the top, but the view is certainly worth the effort.
If you follow the road further north, you'll reach Vidraru Lake. This lake is a man-made reservoir retained by a dam. The dam is 165 meters high, 305 meters long and holds 465 million cubic meters of water. When the dam was completed, it ranked 5th in Europe and 9th in the world. In an average hydrological year it can generate approximately of 400 GWh/year. The road runs over this dam.
As you continue you will see a waterfall and some great scenic spots. Eventually, when you're near the top of the road you will see the tunnel under the Paltinu Ridge. Be careful inside the tunnel. Regardless of weather conditions outside, the road in the tunnel is always wet and can be slippery. When you leave the tunnel you are at the highest point of the Transfagarasan, Balea Lake.
There is a parking just after the tunnel. Balea Lake is a glacier lake with clear, icy water. It's surrounded by mountain peaks. The first European ice hotel was built here in 2006. Since then it's constructed here every year in December with ice from the frozen lake. Since the road is closed during winter, it can only be reached by cable car from Balea Falls. Usually the hotel remains open until it melts in April.
When you go down on the northern side of the road, you can see the sharp descent and the hairpin turns. In good weather the road is almost entirely visible.
The bends of the Transf ă g ă r ă şan are also an attraction and a challenge for drivers and motorcycle enthusiasts. Even though some may be tempted to push the pedal, the recommended speed is 40 km per hour. The road is closed from the end of October until June, because of the snow.
The road became even more popular when the crew from Top Gear filmed a show on the Trasf ă g ă r ă şan, in September 2009. The host of the show, Jeremy Clarkson said that Transf ă g ă r ă şan should have the title of the best road in the world, and that they were mistaken when they gave the Stelvio Pass in Italy this title.