Kauehi atoll
A little corner of paradise

A castle fit for a count

Peeking out above the trees in the Făgăraș Mountains of Romania is Poenari Castle, a fortress steeped in history and legend. In the 15th century, this castle was occupied by the notorious ruler Vlad III, aka Vlad the Impaler, aka Vlad Dracula.

Vlad wasn't a vampire, but he had a reputation for cruelty towards his enemies. His bloody resistance to Ottoman encroachment made him a national hero and the subject of much folklore—some of it gruesome. These tales are likely what inspired author Bram Stoker to name his fictional vampire Count Dracula.

Poenari Castle was abandoned decades after Vlad's death in 1476. Over the centuries, it fell into ruin as earthquakes and landslides sent parts of the building down the cliff and into the Argeș River below. Visiting the ruins today requires a bit of stamina. It's a 1,480-step climb to the citadel walls, unless you can change into a bat and fly to the top.