The world is finally waking up to the charms of this little nation wedged between Romania and Ukraine. Moldova was famously dubbed the world’s least happy place in a bestselling book in 2008, but today it’s better known for its unspoiled countryside and superb wine tours. As one of Europe’s least visited countries, Moldova retains a measure of roads-less-travelled charm. But that’s changing quickly as budget flights from Western Europe take off.
Pretty much all roads in Moldova lead to its wine-and-food loving capital. While the city’s origins date back six centuries to 1420, much of Chişinău was levelled in WWII and a tragic earthquake that struck in 1940. The Soviets rebuilt it into what you see today: grandiose Stalinist architecture mixed with gloriously brutal modernism from the later Soviet period and a smattering of pre-WWII edifices.
Cricova’s underground wine kingdom, 15km north of Chişinău, is one of Europe’s biggest cellars. Some 60km of the 120km-long underground limestone tunnels – dating from the 15th century – are lined wall-to-wall with bottles.
3. Orheiul Vechi
The archaeological and ecclesiastical complex at Orheiul Vechi (Old Orhei), about 50km north of Chişinău, is an important historical site and a place of stark natural beauty. Occupying a remote, rocky ridge over the Răut River, the complex is known for its Cave Monastery, but also includes ruins ranging from the earliest days of the Dacian tribes more than 2000 years ago through the Mongol and Tatar invasions of the early Middle Ages and the time of Ştefan cel Mare.