Traveling to the Struve Geodetic Arc in Moldova
The Struve Geodetic Arc is one of the most intriguing UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Spanning ten countries, it looks like it should be easy to check off the list.
However, it ended up being one of my weirdest and most difficult-to-reach sites to date. Seven hours after leaving my hotel, standing in the middle of an apple field while my driver took my photo standing next to the marker, I was elated.
But really, should a place clearly marked with handy GPS coordinates, a place that is the country’s sole UNESCO site, be so hard to find?
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My visit started off with the simple request that my hotel arrange for their driver to take me to it, using the specific GPS coordinates of the point. The receptionist hadn’t heard of the Struve Arc at all and neither had my driver. But we had GPS coordinates and Google Maps, how lost could we get?
My driver, who is the same one who took me to Transnistria the next day, spoke no English. This didn’t seem to be a problem, as he would just call the hotel and hand me to phone to speak. This trick has worked in more countries than I can count, so I still wasn’t worried.
When we pulled up to Rudi Monastery and he gestured that we were at the place, well, that is when I started to worry.
By now you know me well enough to know that if presented with the opportunity to visit an old monastery, I will take it. I’ll tell the story of this monastery in a separate post, but for now, I’ll just say it was amazing. But it was also not where I needed to go.
Leaving the monastery, my driver called the hotel, handed me the phone, and the receptionist asked me if I was ready to go back to Chisinau.
“Actually, we still need to go to the arc.”
Thus began forty or so minutes of trying to figure out where it was. My driver went back to the monastery, but they’d never heard of it. No one at the hotel could help. The GPS coordinates didn’t work (although I think they just didn’t understand what I was saying). We started driving around in circles, trying to see if we could see a trace of what we were looking for.
Finally, my driver asked a farmer walking down the side of the road, and he knew what I was talking about. Not only that, but he also knew exactly how we could get there!
It’s not that Moldova doesn’t have the arc marked on the road, it’s that the sign is hard to see from the highway. But once we knew what we were looking for, we felt silly that it had been so difficult to find.
Walking up to the arc, I could tell my driver thought I was a fool. All this fuss for a statue in the middle of an apple field? But for me, this moment was the entire reason I’d added Moldova to my itinerary. Victory was mine.
What is the Struve Geodetic Arc?
According to the UNESCO website, the Struve Geodetic Arc is:
…a chain of survey triangulations stretching from Hammerfest in Norway to the Black Sea, through 10 countries and over 2,820 km. These are points of a survey, carried out between 1816 and 1855 by the astronomer Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Struve, which represented the first accurate measuring of a long segment of a meridian. This helped to establish the exact size and shape of the planet and marked an important step in the development of earth sciences and topographic mapping. It is an extraordinary example of scientific collaboration among scientists from different countries, and of collaboration between monarchs for a scientific cause.
Bet that didn’t make it into your high school history text, huh?
The UNESCO site lists thirty-four of the original 265 stations, with more being worked on to be added to the list in the future. It runs through Belarus, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Moldova, Russia, Sweden, and Ukraine. Different countries have different monuments to the arc, and some have observatories and other related buildings.
Like any other list, once it’s out there, someone will want to finish it. I’m not sure if I’m committing to seeing each of these serial points (though it’s tempting), but I know I’ll seek out at least a few more.
How to Get to the Struve Geodetic Arc in Rudi, Moldova
Ah, well, I’m glad you asked. Because no one seemed to know. And I can’t tell you precisely either, but I’ll give it a shot.
It’s near the town of Rudi, which any driver should be able to get you. I spent fifty euros to be driven from Chisinau to Rudi, visiting both the monastery and the arc. These fifty euros covered seven hours, and I tipped another five. The driver acted like this was a bit overpriced (I’d negotiated with the hotel), so you could probably get it down a little less if you negotiate.
My best approximation of directions: Head to Rudi. The arc is right off the highway. There is a sign on the highway, but you have to drive slowly to see it. You turn off the highway at the sign, and there’s also a small Orthodox shrine nearby on the highway. Park near the abandoned building, and walk down the brick path across the street.
If you’re driving (the roads in Moldova were very easy), you can put the coordinates in your GPS yourself. That would be the easiest way. Otherwise, know that if you ask enough people in Rudi how to get there, someone will be able to tell you eventually. Don’t give up.
Public transit: I have no idea. I’m sure it’s possible since it’s on the highway, but the language barrier might get in the way.
- Once you’re at the arc, you need fifteen to twenty minutes, depending on how serious of a photographer you are. There’s not much to see or do once you’re there.
- There are other points in Moldova that aren’t part of the UNESCO site yet, but you can look for those, too.
- The gas stations on the highway between Chisinau and Rudi are very modern, so you can stock up on whatever road trip snacks you need.
- I would suggest a stop at the Rudi Monastery as well. It’s the major tourist attraction in the area (though I was the only tourist there during my visit).
- The roads are great, so renting a car is also a great option.
- If you’re looking for other ideas for day trips from Chisinau, wine tasting at Cricova is a great option!
Where to Stay in Chisinau
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? Check out my Chisinau hotel and hostel guide.
5 Things to Pack for a Trip to Moldova
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 out sightseeing.
- A copy of Eugene Onegin so you can read it in the city (or even in the house) where Pushkin wrote it while in exile in Chisinau. Get this dual English/Russian version if you want to practice your Russian!
- A Primary SD Card and a Spare SD Card because it would be torture to run out of memory and miss out on your photos opportunities (especially because I’ve had a few SD cards fail on me).
- 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’ll be hanging out in cities where tourists can be the victims of pickpockets.
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.
More Moldova Travel Resources
Headed to Chisinau? Make sure to check out my recommendations for what to do in Chisinau, the best Chisinau photography spots, and the best Chisinau day trips plus my write-ups on how to visit the Rudi Monastery.
Looking for a hotel or hostel in Chisinau? Check out my guide to where to stay in Chisinau.
Before you pack, check out my Moldova packing list so you don’t leave anything important behind.
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.