Backpacking in Moldova on a Gap Year

Countries  »  Moldova

Landlocked between Romania and Ukraine, the Eastern Europen country of Moldova offers a snapshot of rustic living.  Walk around old communist cities, awe at brightly coloured Orthodox churches, and do a workout on the steep hills of the Moldovan countryside.

Things to See

To see something bloomin’ marvellous then head to the Milestii Mici wine cellar, named by the Guinness World Records as the biggest wine collection in the world. Even if you’re not a wine enthusiast a trip to this cellar is worth it. Located near the capital, Chisinau, nearly 2 million bottles of wine are stored in 55km of limestone caves. You even have to drive a car to get round the whole thing like some sort of boozy village.

Milestii Mici wine cellar in Moldova

Experience some of the Moldovan culture and religion at Moldova’s oldest monastery in Capirana. The Capirana Monastery stands out amongst green fields with white ceilings and several black domed roofs. The first recorded reference of the monastery was documented in 1429, and was rebuilt in the 1500s, but still, it’s pretty ancient. For a brief period in the 1960s the monastery was used as a sanatorium for sick children, and oddly enough, the dining area was transformed into a club for parties and weddings. Eventually, it was decided in 1898 that the cathedral should resume its original role as a place of worship, rather than a place of drinking games.

For a glimpse of medieval Eastern Europe, Festung Tighina, also known as the Bendery Fortification, shouldn’t go a-miss. This Fortress, in Tighina, is made up of eight towers, all with pointed roofs which are regularly restored.  Part of the fortress is actually a check point and is used by the military so make sure that you go to the correct entrance!

Things to Do

Tone up those arm muscles with some kayaking down the Dniester River, which runs through Moldova. The waters are calm and relaxing so even if you’ve got the fitness level of a sloth, kayaking shouldn’t be too challenging.  

To combine history with adventure, try pulling yourself up the side of the Orhei Vechi. The Orhei Vechi are unique stone monasteries, which were dug by monks in the 13th century. But, in Moldova you can forget your walking tours and information recordings, it’s all about hoisting up a harness and rock climbing your way around this natural museum.

Orhei Vechi Monastery

Hear your voice bounce off the walls of the giant Emil Racovita Cave, located in northern Moldova. These caves have a network of underground tunnels and goes across several levels. There are several underground lakes with some pretty epic names; the Blue Lake, Dinosaur Lake and Nautilus Lake.