Sulina is the smallest of three estuaries taking the Danube Delta out to the Black Sea. It stretches for 42 miles, a smaller sister to the 70 mile long Chilia arm. It accounts for approximately 18% of the delta’s water flow. Despite this, it serves as the busiest area for passenger and commercial boats. This is because, in the 19th century, the channel was artificially shortened to provide faster, safer access to inland settlements.
Tourist boats along the Sulina arm tend to make fewer stops, travelling from Tulcea and spending time at Partizani, Maliuc and Crisan. Maliuc is a particular treat for visitors as it is home to Lake Fortuna. This is one of the delta’s biggest natural lakes and it is positively brimming with wildlife. Expect to see swans, moor hens, pelicans and wild ducks in congregating in large numbers here.
For most guided tours, Crisan is the primary attraction. Here, visitors can step right off the water and stay overnight at a delta fishing village. While the settlement is small, there are some modest hotels and guestrooms available. You can hire a traditional boat (known as a lotca) and travel down the Old Danube Canal to a nature reserve called Caraorman Forest. This pristine reserve is a sight to behold with striking black poplar trees, falcons, boars and wolves providing an unforgettably wild experience.
Many visitors stop at Mila 23, so called because the picturesque fishing village is 23 miles inland from the Black Sea’s coast. Like Crisan, the settlement is charmingly antiquated. However, it does offer a limited number of accommodations for tourists. These are mostly guest rooms rented out by locals so staying in Mila 23 quickly becomes an unexpected, authentic and delightful experience.
Sulina is the end point of the trip along this particular arm and the easternmost region of Romania. Most of the larger cruise ships arriving and departing in the country stop here because it’s a busier, more established port town. Though the type of activity has changed –transitioning from trade to tourism – Sulina still provides an important link between Romania and the Middle East.
During the 19th century, Sulina was a dynamic region characterised by the adventures of explorers, pirates and international traders. It served as the control centre for the European Danube Commission of 1948 which eventually transformed large expanses of the Danube River into hyper efficient commercial
shipping channels. One consequence of this was an influx of diverse cultures and the arrival of Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Anglicans, Jews and Muslims.
A visit to Sulina’s burial ground reveals a history entwined with and enriched by migrant personalities, customs and cultures. It’s certainly hard to miss the towering Church of St. Nicholas which sits right along Sulina’s waterfront. At sixty feet tall, the 19th century Greek Church was built in 1802 and extensively restored in 1870. If you take a trip to Sulina, don’t forget to enjoy a stroll along the sandy beach while admiring this unique structure.