Chisinau is a wonderful capital city with lots of cool history to explore, but if you find yourself with a few extra days on your hands, there are lots of things you can do to go out and explore the rest of Moldova. Here are my favorite day trips from Chisinau so you can see more of this beautiful country!
The Best Day Trips from Chisinau, Moldova
For Chisinau day trips, you can choose from exploring the modern legacy of the Soviet Union, monuments to scientific advances, Orthodox monasteries, historic sites, and famous wineries. For such a small country, Moldova really offers
Transnistria is one of the most interesting places I’ve been. It’s the Soviet breakaway republic that formed when the Soviet Union fell apart, Moldova, which is comprised of mostly ethnic Romanians, declared independence from the USSR, which made the ethnic Russians frightened that the country would unify with Romania. The ethnic Russians in Transnistria (also known as Trans Dniester) balked.
The war between the two sides ended in a stalemate, with Transnistria now an autonomous region inside of Moldova, operating as an independent nation in many ways but unable to achieve complete independence. Propped up by Russian money and oil, the situation seems to be in a permanent state of paralysis, making this one of the most
A day trip to Transnistria is probably at the top of the list for every traveler headed to Moldova. But for many, this excitement might be coupled with trepidation. Let me tell you, you should definitely take a day and visit this last enclave of the Soviet Union.
I wrote up my day for this essay on my friend Gary’s website Everything-Everywhere. You can read all about the petty bribes, squat toilets, and knock-off cognac here: Traveling to Transnistria: A Day in Soviet Disneyland
Before going, brush up on your Red Tourism etiquette (and Cyrillic would also come in handy).
How to Get to Transnistria
The easiest way to get to Transnistria is to take the train. Just make sure you check in with the Immigration office in the train station! If you cross overland by car, you need to register when you actually cross the border.
This Moldovan winery is not your only option for wine tourism in Moldova (and it’s actually not the country’s largest), but it is the most famous winery you can visit while traveling to Chisinau. It’s so famous that it has entertained important international figures like Secretary of State John Kerry from the US and it even hosted Vladimir Putin’s birthday party.
You can book tours with the winery directly, and they have a list of their tours with prices available here in English, Russian, and Romanian.
How to Get to Cricova Winery
You can take a taxi or go by public transportation. To get from Chisinau to Cricova by bus, take the Number 2 bus which leaves from the intersection of Alexandru cel Bun and Vasile Alecsandri. Double check the times and bus line before you leave, since they will cancel your tour if you are late. If you go by taxi, you’ll pay more than on the bus, but you won’t have to worry about figuring out the buses. I always arranged drivers with my hotel (except when I left from the airport).
A gorgeous monastery in the middle of flower-laden fields with no other tourists spoiling the views? If that’s your kind of thing, you should definitely check out Rudi Monastery, which is an easy day trip from Chisinau by car.
The monastery is built in the gorgeous “witch’s hat” architecture popular with contemporary Romanian monasteries. Built towards the end of the eighteenth century, it has a long, possibly cursed, history. It’s amazing it survived throughout the Communist era to be reestablished as a holy center once again.
How to Get to Rudi Monstery
I wrote up my entire day trip from Chisinau to Rudi Monastery in my post How to Visit Moldova’s Rudi Monastery, which includes important information about what to wear and what to expect when you get there.
Struve Geodetic Arc
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is in an (almost) unmarked field in Rudi, Moldova. A trip out here isn’t for everyone, but if you’re a UNESCO World Heritage Site collector, you really cannot skip it. The Struve Geodetic Arc has taken on a kind of mythical, legendary status since it’s points are spread across ten countries and stretch from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
Visiting the Struve Point in Rudi, you’ll be met with no fanfare and no other tourists. Just the knowledge that standing alone in the middle of this apple field, you’re standing at an important point in the history of scienticfic discover.
How to Get to the Struve Geodetic Arc in Rudi
You can read all about my day trip and how to get there in my guide to Moldova’s Struve Geodectic Arc in Rudi, Moldova.
While the Orhei Vechi Monastery is the most popular tourist destination in Orhei, it’s not the only reason to venture out here. The Orhei Vechi Archeological Landscape is a Tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to UNESCO:
The Landscape is dramatic and beautiful because of its highly unusual geomorphology, and it and its surroundings are rich in subsistence resources: chernozem soils that are enormously productive, meadows and forests rich in wild fruits and medicinal herbs, many springs of fresh water, varied aquatic and terrestrial fauna. At the same time, the area abounds in building materials: limestone, sand, clay and wood.
The Landscape provides excellent natural defensive conditions, not just the natural escarpments, but also because it is at a generally higher elevation than the wide surrounding areas, while the Răut and its tributaries ensure the connection with the Black Sea, where martime trade flourished since the 5th Millennium BC. These factors combine to render the landscape of Orheiul Vechi very different from the rest of the region. That is why, since prehistoric times, humans in large numbers were attracted to the area. Therefore, the density of archaeological evidence is unusually high within the Landscape.
While the pre-history here is interesting, it’s the medieval Mongolian and Russian history that I find truly fascinating:
Around 1,241 AD, the Tatar-Mongols conquered this fortified settlement. At the first half of the 14th century, the local chiefs of the Golden Horde founded a town of central-Asian type Şehr al Cedid / Yangı Şeher (meaning New Town) in the same place. Until 1,368, when the Tatar-Mongols left the town because of pressure from Lithuanian and Moldovan armies, it was the most important political, administrative, economic, military and religious center in the region. The archaeological remains of this town include the well preserved ruins of the fortification system, several houses, a palace, a mosque, a caravan serai, a mausoleum, three baths, and many other structures built of local limestone or bricks.
Soon after 1,368 AD, one of the most important Moldovan medieval towns, Orhei, was built on the remains of the Tatar-Mongol town.
How to Get to Orhei, Moldova
The drive from Chisinau to Orhei is about an hour, so you can easily hire a private driver or taxi to take you there for the day (or even just the morning or afternoon). You can also take public transportation from Chisinau to Orhei. Your destination is actually not the town of Orhei proper, but Orhei Vechi (Old Orhei). The bus informtion is now different from when I travelled through Moldova, so check with your accommodations for up-to-date public transportation information.
5 Things to Pack when Taking a Day Trip from Chisinau
Planning a trip to Moldova? I have an entire Moldova packing list, but make sure you don’t forget these important items:
- Lonely Planet Romania & Moldova I find it’s actually really hard to find hard copy travel guides on the road, so if you love having a paper guidebook you need to buy it ahead of time. This guide also comes in a Kindle version for those who don’t want to carry the physical copy with them.
- A Backup Charging Bank so you can keep your phone (and thus phone camera) charged while you’re on the road for the day.
- Your camera: to capture all of the beautiful places in Moldova you visit. I used a mix of my Nikon D810 and my Samsung8 smartphone.
- A Primary SD Card and a Spare SD Card because it would be torture to run out of memory while on a day trip. In Chisinau, you can buy SD cards if you run out of space, but not while out in the countryside.
- Travel Insurance Policy information, because things happen on the road. I pay for World Nomads, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’re going to be doing any hiking or outdoor activities in Moldova or combining your time in Moldova with a trip to Romania or Ukraine.
I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for travel insurance for two years, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance when participating in outdoor activities. Even in the cities, though, you’ll be happy when you’re able to replace your stuff if it’s lost or stolen.
Pro Tip: Combining a trip to Moldova with Ukraine and want to visit Chernobyl? Make sure you follow the packing guidelines for Touring Chernobyl and Pripyat.
Where to Stay in Chisinau, Moldova
Chisinau offers a seriously great bang for your buck when it comes to staying in hotels and hostels here. I’m including a recommendation for hotels and hostels for each of the following budget categories:
- Budget: A room in a hostel, usually $10-15 USD per night for a dorm bed or under $25 for a double.
- Mid-range: Around $35-65 USD per night
- Luxury: Around $100 per night or more
Budget: For a great budget-friendly hostel, you can stay in the dorms at Amazing Ionika Hostel, which has some of the best reviews I’ve ever seen for a hostel. The rooms are clean, funky, and bright, with free wifi and in-room coffee makers. Check pricing, reviews, and availability here.
Mid-Range: For an affordable, yet elegant stay in Chisinau, pick the four-star Tulip Residence & Spa. This is a Thai-style hotel that has a spa, a Turkish bath, and a swimming pool, so you can really relax when you’re not out exploring Moldova. Check pricing, reviews, and availability here.
An alternative is the four-star Aria Hotel, which I stayed in for a week. The rooms are luxurious and clean, with stylish bathrooms and super-helpful staff. They helped me arrange private drivers when I needed them, and I really loved making this hotel my home for the week. Check pricing, reviews, and availability here.
Luxury: If you want to enjoy your Moldova vacation in true style, you can stay at the five-star Radisson Blu Leogrand Hotel with updated and modern everything. With sleek decor, modern amenities, and an on-site spa and fitness center, it’s a fabulous place to call home for a few days or more. Make sure to check out the hotel’s gorgeous city views. Check pricing, reviews, and availability here.
Still looking? Here is my guide for the best Chisinau Hostels and Hotels.
More Moldova Travel Resources
Headed to Chisinau? Before you leave, check out my complete packing list for Moldova.
If you’re looking for a hotel or hostel in Chisinau, check out my guide to where to stay in Chisinau.
Many travelers choose to pair a trip to Moldova with a trip to either Ukraine or Romania.
If you’re also headed to Ukraine, check out my posts for going on a Chernobyl tour, pictures of what Chernobyl looks like today, my guide to what to pack for Ukraine, and my interview about what exactly happened at Chernobyl.