Why do people rarely visit Moldova?
Located almost on the eastern edge of Europe, nestled between Ukraine and Romania, Moldova is one of the least known countries in the continent.
If we look into the country statistics, figures vary largely across the internet, but, according to Business Intelligence for Southeast Europe, in 2016, they received 306,307 tourists, the vast majority of whom were from Romania, Ukraine, and Russia.
This means that the number of visitors coming from countries other than its neighbors is very, very small.
The truth is that Moldova is a great country but, after spending two weeks roaming all around, I could easily understand why it doesn’t attract a lot of visitors:
It doesn’t have bucket-list sites, its capital doesn’t have much to offer, and its nature isn’t particularly epic.
I remember the day I met some backpackers at the hostel in Odessa (Ukraine), who had just come from Chisinau.
Since I was heading to Moldova on the day after, I asked them about their experience in the country, but all they could tell me was: It’s pretty boring.
Sure, if you visit Moldova with a narrow mindset, expecting to see gorgeous European architecture and a large variety of UNESCO World Heritage sites, then you are going to the wrong place.
However, if you are willing to get deep into the culture, have a special interest in Soviet history, and want to check out the most traditional country in Europe, you are definitely going to like Moldova.
This article will take you through 5 good and unusual reasons to visit Moldova.
Here we go with all the reasons:
It is a wine country, but a real one
After living and traveling in Georgia for 7 months, I really thought that Georgia was the ultimate wine country.
In Georgia, outside of the main cities, everybody has a vineyard in their garden to produce wine for self-consumption, which usually lasts for the entire year.
In Georgia, you shouldn’t be surprised if a random dude you bump into the street gives you a bottle of home-made wine.
In Georgia, wine is cheap and the way to go in any sort of celebration.
I always thought that this was a unique cultural custom from Georgia but then, when I visited Moldova, I found out their wine culture was pretty similar, if not the same.
In Moldova, people also have a small vineyard in their garden, including in the suburbs of Chisinau. In the capital, wine bars abound and, of course, the whole country is filled with all types of wineries, some of them being actual monster corporations, while others are small, family-run and more interesting to visit.
Furthermore, if you visit rural Moldova and stay in a guest house, you are likely to be offered some home-made wine and, if you are lucky enough to visit the country during harvest season, you will be able to see how they actually produce it, in a very traditional way.
If you like wine, you are definitely going to enjoy visiting Moldova.
It has a unique Soviet-Romanian blend
A very, very short history lesson.
Present Moldova used to be part of a region named Bessarabia, which belonged to Romania but got annexed to the Soviet Union in 1940.
After the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, Moldova attempted to join Romania but, due to several reasons, mainly because of the pro-Russian people from Transnistria and Gagauzia, it didn’t happen and Moldova became an independent country.
However, you don’t need to spend much time in Moldova to realize that Moldovans proudly claim to be culturally Romanian in all aspects of their life.
Actually, most Moldovans will say they speak Romanian, not Moldovan and, as you may know, Romanian is a Romance language from the same family as Italian, Catalan, Spanish, French and Portuguese.
Nevertheless, what makes Moldova particularly interesting is that this Romanian/Latin background is entirely mixed with their Soviet history, so Russian culture is clearly visible all across the country.
Russian dishes are found on all restaurant menus and most locals will never mind switching from Moldovan to Russian, plus they tend to show a very Soviet attitude, always looking particularly serious.
Moreover, this is also home to a large Soviet heritage, so if you are a fan of Soviet architecture, you are going to have a real blast when you visit Moldova.
It has a self-proclaimed independent territory
Moldova is home to an unrecognized country named Transnistria.
An unrecognized territory is, basically, a country that has proclaimed itself independent from another country, but the United Nations doesn’t recognize it as such.
Transnistria is a breakaway territory within Moldova inhabited by pro-Russian people who didn’t want to belong to the pro-Romanian country of Moldova.
Visiting Transnistria is like visiting a brand-new country as they have their own visa rules, currency, parliament, and a large fascinating etcetera.
If you are interested in geopolitics and this kind of bizarre places, it can’t really get better than that.
For more information, read my Transnistria travel guide.
It is the most traditional country in Europe
Inevitably, one of the biggest downsides of a country’s complete development is that the traditional way of living fades away, something which is currently happening in practically all countries in Europe.
Today, even the remotest village in Spain, for example, will have a few ATMs, probably a high-quality restaurant and a lot of people will drive expensive cars.
This is not the case of Moldova, however, a European country that got stuck in time after the fall of the USSR, where you can visit timeless villages absolutely authentic, inhabited by self-sufficient Moldovans and where a carriage and a horse might be the preferred way of transportation.
Please, don’t get me wrong. I am fully aware that, in the eyes of the locals, this isn’t a positive thing but, from a travel and photography stand-point, the learning experience is great.
In Europe, you can’t get more off the beaten track
Some areas in Moldova are still the type of place where the locals get particularly excited when they see a foreigner, so the local interactions across the country tend to be great and spontaneous.
Visiting a country that very few people know about is always a rewarding experience, as the WOW factor will always be higher, plus the vast majority of the country remains untouched, raw, and, therefore, very Moldovan.
Today in Europe, there aren’t many places as authentic and offbeat as Moldova.
Conclusion and more reasons for visiting Moldova
These are the most unusual reasons to visit in Moldova but there is definitely more than that.
As you might imagine, Moldova is a very affordable country compared to the rest of Europe, plus there are quite a few Christian Orthodox sites that definitely deserve to be visited and the local food is good!
As per the capital, Chisinau may not be the most beautiful capital in Europe, but hanging out in the many wine bars and checking out all the Soviet architecture is definitely fun.
Moreover, Moldova is pretty close to anywhere in Europe and it is a trip that could be easily combined with Ukraine, another great, offbeat country, or Romania.
You are definitely going to enjoy it.