Self-guided cultural trip in Transylvania, Maramures and Bukovina  

trip can be done year round

Cluj Napoca
Maramures
Maramures
Sapanta
Voronet
Sucevita
Red Lake
Lazarea
Brasov, old townhall
Bran castle
Risnov fortress above the village
Peles castle
Piatra Craiului
Sibiu, the large square 
Slimnic, Stolzenburg ruins 
Biertan
Sighisoara, one of the best preserved medieval towns isn Europe
Apuseni Mountains
de ice cave in Scarisoara 
wood sculpturer in Girda
In dozens of villages you find storcks
Rimetea

For this trip we have put the accent on the culture and history of Maramures, Bukovina and Transylvania.

Every day you can make longer or shorter hike in each region, or just stroll around by foot or car. You travel around by private car or rental car. 

You stay overnight in comfortable guestrooms and pensions, all the rooms have private bathrooms. You'll enjoy each night a typical hearty meal, in the morning is a large continental breakfast, and you make yourself a lunch-packet for noon. The Romanian kitchen is simple but tasteful, cooked mostly with home grown products or from the village. In Cluj Napoca and Sibiu you have bed and breakfast. There are in both towns dozens of restaurants to choose from. 

Access: all the places can all be reached with a normal car. You can leave each time your car there without problems.

The hikes and walks are made for the large public with a normal physical condition. Sportive people can extend the hikes. 

You travel in three regions in Romania, all three regions are very different regarding history, culture, architecture and folklore.

 

Maramures: is especially known for its wooden churches, (8 of them are on the World Heritage List). beautifully sculptured gates, its folk costumes, its traditions. You'll find here the last working steam locomotives in the country and there is the merry cemetery of Sapanta. 

 

Bukovina: 7 of the painted monasteries are on the Unesco World Heritage list. They were fortresses against invading Tartars and Turks. Special is that by several monasteries you find frescoes not only inside the churches, but also on the exterior walls. There is further famous pottery in the village Marginea and there is the historical town Suceava.  

 

Transylvania: The region was colonized in the Middle Ages not only by the Saxons, but also by Flemish, Dutch, Walloon, Luxembourger and Rhine and Mosel settlers. You'll find here the beautiful historical towns Brasov, Sibiu, Sighisoara and the fascinating fortified churches of which 7 are on the Unesco World Heritage list together with the center of Sighisoara. Unique is that during the Middle Ages, the inhabitants fortified the churches, built extra defense galleries on the naves, built fortified walls, towers and bastions to keep the Turks away.  There were more then hundred of them, most of them still stand, some restored, others almost in ruins. Besides that you find in the region larger and smaller museums, castles and fortresses. 

 

The nature: The biodiversity of the different mountains regions is very special. There are dozens of endemic plants and there is still brown bear, wolf and lynx in the mountains, but there is little chance that you will meet one. 

 

 

Practical: 

You receive the day of arrival an extensive road-book, addresses of the accommodations, tourist information, maps and described hikes or walks. 

The rental car: The car will be brought to the pension in Cluj Napoca at 9am on day 2. The car will be picked up at 6pm on day 14, again at the pension in Cluj Napoca. (totals 13 days) The warranty for the rental car can be paid with credit card. 

 

The distances:

You'll drive on the transfer days about 4-5 hours. You drive only on asphalted roads. We choose for the more quiet secondary roads and avoided as much as possible the busy E-roads. You find everywhere gas-stations, restaurants and shops along the roads so that extra provisions or restrooms are not a problem. 

 

 

Travel-period:

You're less bound travelling during the summer months as you most likely won't be hiking in the high mountains where you can still find snow. Basically you can have snow on the roads from December till end March. Romania has an efficient system to clean snow covered roads and snow hardly remains for more then a day on the road except with blizzard conditions. Snow might occur occasionally in November or April but never last long. The ideal travel period is 1 May till end October. The busiest tourist season is between 15 July and 15 August, but it is never that busy that you will have traffic jams or problems to visit something. 

 

 

 

A short description of the trip:

 

Day 1 Arrival in Cluj Napoca. If you come by train or plane, you will be picked up from the airport or train station and be brought to a cozy pension downtown Cluj Napoca. We'll introduce the program.

 

 

Day 2 You'll get the rental car and drive to Maramures. You'll drive through a pastoral landscape along some fine historical fortified churches, a roman site and several traditional villages. The Maramures region is especially known for the wooden churches and gates, its traditions. You stay overnight in guestrooms in Salistea de Sus on the Iza Valley. You near the wooden churches of Ieud and Poinile Izei, both World Heritage sites.

 

 

Day 3 Roundtrip Maramures. You can visit the monastery of Birsana, the little border town Sighetu Marmatei with ethnographic museum and the former prison where the communists locked and tortured political opponents can now be visited. Sighet was up to the second world war an important Jewish center. If you like steam trains you can travel along the Vaser valley with the only still working narrow gauge steam railway. You can also make a walk between the villages Botiza and Poienile Izei. You stay again  in Salistea de Sus.

 

 

Day 4 Transfer to Bukovina. You descend in the Bistrita valley and follow the "golden" Bistrita river almost till Bukovina. Bukovina is especially know for its painted monasteries. They are fortified monasteries, built to protect the region against invading Turks and Tartars.  Special is that the monastery churches are not only have painted frescoes inside, but also on the exterior walls. 7 of these monasteries are on the World Heritage list.

 

 

Day 5 Nearby Vatra Moldovita are the monasteries Voronet, Humor and Sucevita. Besides the monasteries, you can visit the village Marginea with its famous pottery, or the historical town Suceava with Zamca Monastery and the ruins from the princely court. Accommodation again in Vatra Moldovitei.

 

 

Day 6 Transfer to Miercurea Ciuc. You will drive through the narrow Bicaz canyon with 300m high vertical walls, you come along Lacu Rosu (Red lake) formed after a landslide in the 19th century, where you can make a walk around the lake.  You enter the Szekely counties where the ethnic Hungarians have the majority. Castle lovers should make a detour to the Lazarea Castle (Polish architecture) The castle is in restoration and there is a contemporary art gallery. You stay near Miercurea Ciuc for the night and enjoy a typical Hungarian dinner.

 

 

Day 7 Roundtrip in Harghita. You drive along Baile Homorod (known for its mineral water and hot springs), you cross the villages Satu Mare (nicely sculptured gates), Bradest, (known for its onions) and enter the little town Odorhei Secuiesc. The historic center remained preserved and there are 3 18th c, churches. Pottery lovers can make a detour to the village Cristuru Secuiesc where you find an excellent ethnographic museum with a special section about pottery and ceramics. You drive by Coirund, also known for its pottery and you can visit some workshops. There is a permanent artisan market all along the main road. You drive over Praid, known for the large salt mine (can be visited) and you end up in Sovata, a 19th c. resort with beautiful wooden villa's several salt lakes (you can take a bath, the salt water keeps you afloat)  Hikers and nature lovers can make a walk around Luci moor. Accommodation again in Miercurea Ciuc.

 

 

Day 8 Transfer to Bran and nature lovers can make a hike around St Anna Lake. St Anna Lake is the only volcanic lake in Europe. It lies at 944m altitude. Nearby is a secondary crater where a 10m thick peat. You continue to Brasov.  Just before you arrive in Brasov you can visit the fortified church of Prejmer (World Heritage List) Brasov is a beautiful medieval town at the base of the Carpathian Mountains. The historic town center is largely intact and you can visit the east and west wall fortifications. There is the large gothic black church and several museums. You can take the funicular up the Tampa hill. You continue to Bran, worldwide known for its castle. You stay overnight in a fine guesthouse at a few minutes walking from the castle.

 

 

You can visit a special page about Brasov:

Click here

 

Day 9-10 You can drive to the little town Sinaia to visit the world famous Peles Castle, the former Royal Castle. Its built in Bavarian style, and loaded with art and antiques. You find works from El Greco, Zurbaran, Murillo, Velasquez, Titian, Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Dyck, Clouet, Rafael, Brueghel, David, Correggio….There is Meissen and Rosenthal porcelain, There are 17-18c gobelins and much more. It is by far the most beautiful castle of the country. You can take the ski-lift up the Bucegi Mountains for a stroll on the 2000m high plateau. There is the medieval fortress of Risnov and there are the Piatra Craiului Mountains with a bear reserve. More then  enough to fill 2 fantastic days. You stay in the Bran guesthouse.

 

 

Day 11 Transfer to Sibiu. During the summer months you can make the transfer by the 2000m high Trans Fagaras highway. The other months you can mostly access the ridge by the northern access road. If you travel south-north you can visit the real Dracula fortress if you climb 1500 steps. On the ridge you can make a short hike to an alpine lake. There is the town Fagaras with it's beautiful castle (now museum). There are the ruins of a Cistercian monastery in Carta. Sibiu was cultural capital of Europe in 2007. It is a historical Saxon town and the medieval center is largely preserved. There are numerous historical buildings and many museums, the most important is the Brukenthal museum with important works from Flemish, Italian and Dutch school. To the south of the town is the Astra Open Air museum with more then hundred buildings and structures from all over Romania. You stay overnight in a stylish pension right outside the fortifications.

 

 

Day 12 Roundtrip to the Saxon villages and Sighisoara.

You can visit the ruins of the Stolzenburg fortress in Slminic, the beautiful fortified churches of Mosna, Valea Viilor and Biertan (World Heritage list). (besides numerous others) The fortified churches are unique in Europe. More then hundred churches were transformed to fortified fortresses during the middle ages. The have fortified walls, towers, bastions, defense galleries, even sometimes a moot. There are the ruins of a renaissance castle in Cris and the Medieval town Sighisoara. (the old town center is one of the best preserved in Europe).   You stay again in Sibiu.

 

 

 

More info about Sibiu:

Click here

 

 

 

 

Day 13 Transfer to the Bihor Mountains in the West Carpathians. You drive along the historical towns Sebes and Alba Iulia.  You continue to the village Girda de Sus, along the Aries River on the eastern border of the Apuseni Nature Park. The Western Carpathians offer a very varied landscape. Crystalline and volcanic mountain ridges interchange with limestone massifs.  The region is a large plateau where rivers or tectonic forces cut deep canyons. The altitude is generally between 600 and 1850m.

You can visit the famous ice cave of Scarisoara.  The cave lies at an altitude of 1100m and at the bottom of the cave lies and enormous bloc of ice, 75.000 m3 big. It is here since the last Ice Time. This cold mass of ice cools the air down and seeping water freezes up to beautiful stalactites and stalagmites. You can also choose to visit a woodcarver in the village Patrahaitesti. You stay in comfortable guestrooms in Girda de Sus.  

 

 

 

 

We've included a special page about the Apuseni Mountains:    click here

 

 

 

 

Day 14 Transfer to Cluj Napoca. You travel via the Aries Valley to Turda. Along the road you come along Lupsa monastery (with oldest church from the region) and a very interesting ethnographic museum about the gold mining of the region. You can visit the Roman Galleries in Rosia Montana. You can make a short detour to the ethnographic village Rimetea at the base of the Piatra Secuiului Mountains and there is the nature reserve Turda Canyon. The Turda Canyon offers more then 1.000 types of plants. The flora is very heterogeneous because of the geographic location, the limestone underground and the special micro climate. You stay overnight in the cozy pension in Cluj Napoca. 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 15 End of the trip after breakfast.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Maramures

2 Monasteries in Bukovina

3 Miercurea Ciuc

4 Brasov, Bran, Bucegi and Piatra Craiului Mountains

5 Sibiu, Saxon fortified churches

6 West Carpathians

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few guesthouses

Turlas guesthouse in Maramures

casa Ioana Sibiu
Cojanu guesthouse in Bran Danciu guesthouse in Girda de Sus

 

 

 


 

Price:

745 Euro pro person for 14 nights. 11 times full board, 3 times bed and breakfast + extra 2 x lunch-packet)

Rental car starts at 30 Euro/day. See at: http://www.rodna-trans.ro/en/rent_a_car/index.html

Single traveller: 110 Euro supplement has to be paid for single room occupancy.

 

How to get there: (for links to airliners etc, click here)

 

Direct flights from London Luton, Paris Beauvais and Dortmund to Cluj Napoca with Wizz Air. 

There are also direct flights between Paris Beauvais and Rome and Cluj Napoca. (Blue Air)

Lufthansa operates a direct flight between Munchen and Cluj Napoca.

Or 

Flights to Budapest (regular airlines and low-cost) and train to Cluj -Napoca: there are trains departing the airport Ferihegy at 08.43 (arrival Cluj Napoca at 16.40) and 13.43 (arrival Cluj Napoca at 21.33) Train connections: see at http://www.mav-start.hu/english/index.php  

Back: train leaving Cluj Napoca at 06.23 arrives at 12.16 and train leaving Cluj Napoca at 10.29 arrives 16.16. at the airport. (The trains depart at new trainstation at airport terminal 1 and you have to change trains in Szolnok, time between trains is somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes)