Ancient Greek colonies were established in Dobrogea in the 7th century B.C., with the founding of Histria, 70km (43 miles) north of the regional capital Constanta, Romania's major port city. Later, this became a Roman province, and a base for conquering the Dacians. From 1418, the region fell to the Turks and remained under Ottoman rule until they were expelled in 1878; Dobrogea was divided in two, the southern portion going to Bulgaria and Northern Dobrogea becoming part of Romania.

Today, there are two distinct regions comprising Northern Dobrogea. Like Bulgaria, the southern fringes along the Black Sea Coast have been totally colonized, turning the country's Riviera to near ruin. Now overdeveloped or steeped by the summer rush of both the moneyed elite and an unruly neobohemian crowd, there are few stretches of sand left unspoiled by tourist exploitation. The northern part of Dobrogea is known for its bird colonies, inhabiting the expansive Danube Delta, a wetland biosphere widely considered one of Europe's last true wildernesses.

Black Sea Coastal Resorts -- Unfortunately, Romania's once lovely and fairly untouched seaside "Riviera on the Black Sea" has become developed and exploited to the point where domestic holidaymakers finally decided to boycott it, and visitor numbers dropped by about 50% in 2006. If you like getting caught up in the mayhem of a noisy, bloated string of resorts and beaches strewn with empty liquor bottles, music blaring from speakers across once-serene getaways, then by all means set off for one of the tiny villages within striking distance of Constanta. Or you can join the bourgeoisie in their upmarket playground of Mamaia, a collection of fancy hotels and designer luggage, leaving almost no room to erect your beach umbrella. Beach reforms are planned, but they will take a few years to kick in; until such time, you're advised to save your sun-worshipping for elsewhere.

The Danube Delta -- Heralded by some as the last great wilderness in Europe and the Continent's greatest wildlife sanctuary, the Danube Delta is a unique destination, affording nature experiences usually associated with Africa or South America. Only recently showing on the international tourist radar, this well-kept secret is developing into a top-class conservation area, protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Diversity is key; while there isn't the vast assortment of land animals and predator activity that one finds in Botswana's Okavango Delta, for example, the Danube is heaven for birders. Over 300 species of birds make their home in this unique ecosystem consisting of almost 250,000 hectares (617,500 acres) of waterways, lakes, reed beds, sand dunes, and subtropical forests as the 2,840km (1,761-mile) river splits into three main branches and flows into the Black Sea. And among the birdlife and the 1,150 species of flora are small fishing and farming communities that remain steeped in the culture of another, forgotten time. These include Russian, Lipovan, Greek, and Turkish communities with cultures and practices that are distinct from anywhere else in Romania.