As Rick Steves said during his visit in Romania, "Maramures is the place where everyday life still feels like an open-air folk museum"!
Maramures, also called the "Land of Wood" as the craft of wood carving has been performed in this region for over 900 years, is one of the most amazing travel destination in Romania that you should visit at least once in a lifetime!
One of the last truly rural regions of Europe, Maramures is the place where ancient traditions are preserved to this day, where wood carving is still an occupation and where women still wash their woolen rugs in the natural whirlpools instead of a washing machine. Time really has stood still here, evoking the days when life was calmer, simpler, slower and richer! The entire region is world renowned for its wooden churches, the high sharp spires and shingle roofs, the splendid natural landscapes, welcoming cheerful people and delicious traditional food that is 100% natural and even organic. Once you reach the area, you must try traditional recipes such as "layered polenta", mouth-watering pies and desserts, all these sprinkled with a shot of "horinca" - the strong and local version of plum, pear or apple double-distilled brandy!
In the morning, around 09:00 am, you will meet your guide and depart from Bucharest.
We will head to Sighisoara, where we will spend our first night. On the way, we will also stop in Brasov medieval city for an optional lunch break and for a short sightseeing tour. The city provides a mix of wonderful mountain scenery and medieval history with German influences. We will take a walk in the Old Town (the Historical Centre), and discover its attractions: the Black Church, the Town Hall, the Black Tower, Ecaterina's Gate and the Rope Street - the narrowest street in Europe.
Depart Brasov to discover Europe's best preserved medieval town - Sighisoara! Designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, this perfectly intact 16th century gem with cobbled streets lined with pastel houses, ornate churches and well preserved defensive towers, rivals the beauty of Old Prague or Vienna. It is also the birthplace of Vlad Dracula, also known as Vlad the Impaler, who inspired Bram Stoker's fictional creation - Count Dracula. Highlights of the sightseeing tour will include: the Venetian House, Vlad the Impaler (Dracula) House, the House with the Deer Antler, the Wood Covered Staircase, the School Hill and Church on the Hill, the Clock Tower, the History Museum and the Torture Room.
Overnight in Sighisoara, in a 4* hotel located right in the medieval citadel. Dinner included.
Breakfast in the morning, then we depart Sibiu towards the superb northern area of Maramures, where we will spend our next days.
On the way, short stop for an optional lunch and sightseeing in Targu Mures - known as the "city of roses" because of its many flower-filled gardens. Once part of the Kingdom of Hungary and today with a 45% population of Hungarian origin, the city enjoys the best of both cultures: Romanian and Hungarian. The main attraction of the city is definitely the splendid Cultural Palace, but also the neighbouring old Prefecture Building, the Square of Roses, the neo-Byzantine Orthodox Cathedral, the Apollo Palace, the Palffy House, the Teleki Library or the Fortress walls.
In the evening, we arrive in the heart of rural Romania - the land of Maramures, where culture, traditions and the peasant life are still untouched!
For the following 4 nights, we will overnight in the town of Viseu de Sus (where the famous Mocanita Steam Train departs from), and experience the local living by spending the nights in a traditional wooden 4* guesthouse. Maramures region is also famous for its delicious food made with homegrown vegetables, fruits and local products so, be sure you will enjoy some delicious home-cooked dinners during your stay, plus the locals' hospitality at its best!
Delight yourself with a home-made breakfast in the morning.
The highlights of the day are the famous wooden churches, so unique in the world for their setting and history, being probably the most important landmarks of Maramures.
Wood is the primary resource of the region and has been used since a long time ago by locals to build houses, carve wooden gates and build churches. The skills of craftsmen are visible in the imposing roofs, the tall, narrow church towers, while the interior paintings are also impressive: they depict scenes of religious events combined with laic motifs that reflect people's everyday life and beliefs.
We will visit today: Barsana Monastery ensemble (a real wood treasure of Maramures county), Ieud Hill Church (dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin, one of the oldest wooden churches in Europe), Poienile Izei (or the Church of Holy Parascheva, a classic example of Maramuresean architecture with its double roof, a tower with three bells and two level windows; here you will find a collection of old books and wooden painted icons), Budesti (or the Church of St Nicholas, the largest church in the historical region of Maramures, being built on a hill and dominating the village) and Desesti Church (or the Church of the Holy Parascheva in Desesti, that fascinates with its wood art, original and breathtaking mural paintings), all part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Before our return to the accommodation in Viseu de Sus, we should not miss "Pastravaria Alex" Trout Farm & Restaurant where can have an optional stop for a delicious meal / late lunch break in Mara village, Desesti; if you are a fish lover, here is the perfect place to enjoy some delicious fresh trout dishes (and not only). Not to mention the view and atmosphere of this special place!
In the evening, return to our accommodation. Free evening to relax as you wish, traditional dinner included at the guesthouse.
After our delicious breakfast early in the morning, prepare for an unforgettable adventure with Mocanita Steam Train - the last remaining functional forestry train in Europe, still used for wood transportation! Prepare the cameras to capture the wild beauty of this Romanian treasure!
Built in 1932, the Vaser Valley railway is still working today, primarily aimed as logging wood from the forest for the wood processing factories from Viseu de Sus. Since 2000, there are regular steam trains also used for tourist purpose.
Starting at 09:00 am (from CFF Viseu de Sus Steam Station), we will take an old-fashioned train ride into the high Carpathian Mountains till Paltin Station, approximately 2 hrs from our departure point. We will be riding a narrow-gauge, wood-fired 1932 steam train from the last of Romania's old forestry lines along the Vaser River into the deep woods. The ride offers a delightful experience to tourists ready to leave the beaten path and relax in nature. So, just enjoy this green, incredibly picturesque journey and the peacefulness of nature, while you hear from time to time the train whistle and the hiss of the steam!
After 21,6 km, at Paltin Station (the turning point to Viseu de Sus), there will be a longer stop of 1-2 hrs. Here, we will enjoy a delicious lunch (optional), consisting of mixed grill plateau, sandwiches, salads, dessert, country-style salty cheese pie, hot drinks and cold ones and so on, catering service provided by the CFF team. Plenty of covered and open-air seating are available.
Before the train return, you can also discover the area more and take a short walk into the Carpathian forest, to visit an observation platform from where visitors can get a view over the Vaser Valley. Later in the afternoon, take the train back down to Viseu de Sus, arrival around 3:00 pm.
Return to our guesthouse and free evening to relax. Dinner included.
Breakfast in the morning, then prepare for today's visits.
We will drive to Sapanta, where we will discover the Merry Cemetery, an unique and peculiar cemetery where all the crosses are carefully decorated and hand-carved! It all began with one man's love for life - Stan Ion Patras, who carved the first oak cross here back in 1930 with his own hands, painting them in a special shade of blue that is known nowadays as "Sapanta Blue". This is the place where death is portrayed in funny words about the life of the dead. Unlike most graveyards in the world, the Merry Cemetery of Sapanta has an unique approach to death, seeing it as a celebration of a life that ended, rather than a tragic event.
We move further to another attraction nearby, Sapanta - Peri Monastery. This monastery complex lived-in by nuns is home to the tallest wooden structure in Europe, having 78 meters in height! Here, "The Psalm Book", "The Gospel", "Legend of Sunday", "Vorotean Codex" and "The Acts of the Apostles" were first translated and copied into Romanian.
Our last stop for today will be in Sighetu Marmatiei. Former capital of the region of Maramures, the city (also known as "Sighet") is known for its rich cultural heritage and the high number of museums reminiscing of the city's past. We will be able to discover some of them, among which: the Memorial to the Resistance and Victims of Communism (also named the Museum of Arrested Thought, as a reminder of the building's former function, that of prison), the Elie Wiesel Memorial House (the birth place of Elie Wiesel - the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize winner who grew up in Sighet with his family before being deported to Auschwitz) and Sighet Village Museum (an open-air section of the Ethnographic Museum of Maramures, with the structure of a traditional village).
Optional lunch stop in Sighet between the visits, then we return back to Viseu de Sus, for our last night in Maramures.
Savor the local gastronomy at dinner and overnight.
Breakfast in the morning, then we say Goodbye to the amazing land of Maramures!
We will head to Sibiu, but not before we stop in the city of Cluj Napoca, the heart of Transylvania and the second largest city in Romania. We will discover the history and most important sights of this dynamic city with a very youthful vibe - no surprise it was named European Youth Capital in 2015! Filled with both new and old squares, museums, parks and buildings that hide mysteries from centuries long-forgotten, Cluj impresses through its baroque style combined with picturesque architecture. Walking city tour downtown the main square will include some of the well-known landmarks, such as: St Michael's Cathedral, Matthias Corvinus Statue, Banffy Palace, then the Opera House and the Franciscan Monastery.
Optional lunch break, then we continue our way to Sibiu, where we will arrive late afternoon/evening. Sightseeing tour to enjoy the following day.
Accommodation in a 4* hotel, centrally located right in the medieval city, and dinner included at a local restaurant, where you will be able to discover the region's food culture - one of the main attractions here. No wonder why Sibiu was designated European Region of Gastronomy in 2019!
Breakfast in the morning, then we will enjoy a sightseeing tour of the medieval Sibiu, also known as Hermannstadt.
Being so well preserved, the city gained in 2007 the title of the "European Capital of Culture". Highlights of the city tour include: the Big Square, the Little Square, Huet Square, the Iron Bridge, the Council Tower, the old fortifications of the city, the Evangelical Church and the Orthodox Church.
After the city tour, we will return back to Bucharest, via the famous Transfagarasan Road - "the best road in the world" according to Top Gear team in 2009. The road is one of the most spectacular routes in Romania, crossing Fagaras, the highest mountains in the country, and reaches the maximum altitude of 2,042 m close to the Balea Glacier Lake, offering amazing panoramic views. So, prepare your camera for some breath-taking shots!
Optional, you can enjoy lunch in a special location, at the on-site restaurant & terrace at the Balea Glacier Lake!
In the evening, we arrive back in Bucharest; drop-off at your hotel or airport (if your flight departure is in the same day).
**Please note that Transfagarasan Road is usually open between 1st of July - 30th of October; when the road is closed or the weather conditions do not permit it, we will follow the Olt River Valley instead.
PRIVATE TOUR by car/minivan
1190 EUR/pers (group of 2 persons)
790 EUR/pers (group of 4-7 persons)
*the tour can be organized even for 1 solo traveler