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The castle is located on a cliff, on the West side of the Transfăgărăşan road in Argeş County (Căpăţânenii Pământeni village of the Arefu commune) on a canyon formed on the Argeş River valley, close to the Făgăraş Mountains. It was erected around the beginning of the 13th century by the rulers of Wallachia. Around the 14th century, Poenari was the main citadel of the Basarab rulers. In the next few decades, the name and the residents changed a few times but eventually the castle was abandoned and left in ruins.
However, in the 15th century, realizing the potential for a castle perched high on a steep precipice of rock, Vlad III the Impaler repaired and consolidated the structure, making it one of his main fortresses. Although the castle was used for many years after Vlad's death in 1476, it eventually was abandoned again in the first half of the 16th century and was in ruins by the 17th century. Due to its size and location, control of the castle was difficult to take, even by natural forces. However, in 1888, a landslide brought down a portion of the castle which crashed into the river far below. Nonetheless, the castle was slightly repaired and the walls and its towers still stand today. To reach the castle, visitors need to climb 1,480 steps.
His first major act of revenge was aimed at the boyars of Targoviste for the killings of his father and brother Mircea, and for their disloyalty to the Wallachian throne. On Easter Day in 1459, Dracula invited the boyars and their families to dine at his palace; guards then entered and seized them, impaling many forthwith while the remainder were marched off to work on his castle at Poeinari. This is the real Dracula castle. Situated on an abruptly rising rock north of the village, Poienari can be reached by climbing 1400 steps from the hydroelectric power station 4km north on the road from the village Arefu. The castle is small, one third having collapsed down the montainside in 1888. The prism shaped tower remains was Dracula's residencial quarters.
Claims that the Poenari Castle would be the "real" Castle Dracula as featured in Bram Stoker's famous Dracula novel have no basis in Stoker's book. Stoker never heard of the Poenari Castle. It is ca. 200 km away from the novel's place of action in the north-east corner of Transylvania. As discovered by the Dutch author Hans Corneel de Roos, Stoker's own handwritten research notes confirm that the novelist had a specific location in that region for the Vampire's stronghold in mind while writing his novel: an empty mountain top 2,033 m high, located in the Transylvanian Kelemen Alps near the former border with Moldavia.