Traditions & Crafts in Northern Romania
Start a unique cultural tour in Maramures and Bucovina, a land where people still follow their ancestor customs. It's a place of spectacular rural landscapes and long-lasting traditions. Woodcraft became an art in Maramures, where the wooden church towers rise slim reaching the sky. In Bucovina, a series of 13th-century monasteries are amazingly well preserved and their exterior frescoes keep telling the story of the Orthodox religion. Transylvania's Saxon heritage will impress you through its medieval feeling of urban and rural German architecture.
Day 1 - Welcome to Cluj Napoca!
Our cultural tour starts in Cluj-Napoca, the unofficial capital of Transylvania. The city is one of the largest in Romania, still keeping its authentic architecture, very much influenced by the large number of minorities living here together for centuries. After hotel check-in, together with your local guide, you start exploring the city, learning about its history, and admiring its most representative buildings.
We end the day with a delicious culinary experience in a restaurant located in the heart of the city.
Day 2 - Cluj - Dej - Surdesti - Maramures
Early in the morning, we start our tour towards the woodland of Maramures. The first stop of the day is in Dej, where you can admire an impressive Gothic-style 16th-century church and enjoy lunch in a local restaurant.
Further on, we stop to admire what was until 1997, the tallest wooden church in the world, at Surdesti. Although very tall, it has a harmony of proportions rarely seen in any other wooden church from our tour in Maramures.
In the evening we arrive at a traditional guesthouse in a fairy-tale landscape, at the edge of the forest. Dinner included, with local wines and brandy.
Day 3 - Discovering the rural areas of Maramures
On our tour today, we discover the wooden land of Maramures, one of the best-preserved areas in Europe, from the perspectives of cultural anthropology and ethnography.
Our cultural tour in Maramures starts with the Merry Cemetery, a unique place in the world where, according to an ancient belief, death is not seen as a tragic event, but rather as a normal moment in life, an extension of it in a far better place. Thus, a local artisan started creating in the '30s crosses for the local cemetery, painted in unusually bright colors from red to light blue and green. Each cross displays in the upper site a bas-relief with a scene that describes the life of the deceased. Most of the scenes are naive and are followed by a short poem, a few simple funny rhymes usually written as a message from the one who has passed away to the living world.
Continuing our tour, we stop at the Communism Memorial in Sighet, a prison where most of Romania's elite persons were killed in the early years of communism, including Prime Minister Iuliu Maniu.
After lunch, we take a walk through the villages, admiring the traditional houses and simply observing the calm way of life of the locals. Walking on our tour through Maramures, you will observe some very ingenious tools used by locals in their day-to-day life: manual washing machines, waiving devices, etc.
Home-made dinners with local products will be served at the guesthouse.
Day 4 - Maramures - Barsana - Bucovina
After departing from our small corner of heaven, we drive just for 30 min to stop in a unique location. Barsana Monastery is a collection of recently built houses that are serving different purposes within the monastic compound. You will for sure be amazed by the mastery of the woodwork and the sharp buildings.
Continuing our journey through the high-altitude Prislop mountain pass, you will have the chance to admire the wilderness of the Carpathian mountains. It is not always included in the tour, but it sometimes happens for bears or wolves to cross the street and say Hello to us.
Once we cross the mountains, we will stop for a short walk in Ciocanesti village, where you can see the local houses, with their exteriors nicely decorated with traditional motifs and shapes.
The area of Bucovina, where we will spend the following 2 nights, is unique in Romania through its famous painted monasteries. Their 14th-century architecture and the very well-preserved exterior frescoes made them part of the UNESCO World Heritage site.
In the evening we discover the local cuisine of Bucovina, so prepare for a delicious dinner.
Today we take a tour of the most representative monasteries in Bucovina.
The first stop will be at Moldovita. Here we will unravel the mysteries of frescoes dating back over 600 years. It is said that the highly-detailed exterior paintings of the monasteries were like a bible for the many Moldovian illiterate peasants in Medieval times.
Continuing with Sucevita, which is the only painted church that was not built by the ruling prince. It is the last representative and apex of exterior mural paintings in Bucovina and so, the number of scenes and characters is unsurpassed, as is the style and technique of execution.
In a land of Orthodoxy, we stop to visit one of the most renowned Catholic churches in Romania, Cacica. The church was built by the largest Polish community in Romania, who settled here at the end of the 18th century, for work in the newly opened salt mine. In the year 2000, the Sanctuary Cacica (Cacica Sanctuary) was officially designated a Minor Basilica by Pope John Paul II and besides its religious role, it attracts many tourists through its impressive Neo-Gothic architecture.
We kept our best for the end of this day. The church of St. George, in Voronet, is probably the most famous church in Romania. What made it well known around the world are its exterior frescoes of bright and intense colors, as well as its azurite background. The Last Judgement scene, painted on the west facade, is considered a masterpiece of Moldovian painting. It is best to see it in the evening when the sun illuminates the whole scene.
Dinner and accommodation in a nicely-restored local guest house.
Day 6 - Bucovina - Bistrita - Sighisoara
On our way back to Transylvania, our first stop is in Bistrita, one of the 7 Saxon medieval Seats in the region. Here we will visit the Evangelic Church, dating back to the 14th century and hosting the tallest medieval bell tower in Romania.
In the evening we arrive in Sighisoara, the last continuously- inhabited medieval citadel in Europe and part of UNESCO world heritage sites. Walking on its narrow cobbled-stone streets, and admiring its nicely-colored medieval houses will surely make you feel like in the 17th century.
Accommodation and dinner in a 4-star hotel.
Day 7 - Discovering the Saxon villages of Transylvania
An exciting day starts with a tour of the citadel, learning about glorious and dark episodes of its past.
Next, we dive into rural Transylvania and visit the remote village of Malancrav, a hidden gem of the area. It will impress you through its church's well-preserved interior frescoes, as well as the Apafi manor. Built in the 15th century by one of the most influential noble families in Transylvania, the mansion had a dark past, becoming a ruin during communist times. Recently it was bought by Prince Charles' NGO, was carefully renovated and now it is open to the public as a small hotel.
Second on our list is the former religious capital of the Saxon community in Transylvania, between the 16th - 19th centuries. Biertan also hosts one of the latest-built and largest rural fortresses in the region.
The day will end with a cultural exchange visit to a local Roma family. Thus, prepare your questions for an open discussion about Roma's traditions, history, nowadays way of life, and many other interesting aspects and insights.
Day 8 - Farewell Romania!
Departure in the morning from Sighisoara, for your afternoon flight from Cluj-Napoca Airport.
- Visit the wood-land of Maramures
- Admire the slim wood churches and Merry Cemetery of Sapanta
- Discover the painted monasteries of Bucovina
- Unveil the Saxon heritage in Transylvania
- Step back in time by visiting the medieval citadel of Sighisoara
- Small group (max. 16 persons)
- This tour involves a moderate amount of walking and hiking.
- Transportation by comfortable minivan
- Certified English-speaker guide throughout the program
- Pick-up and drop off to Cluj-Napoca International airport
- accommodation in 3-4 stars hotel or equivalent guest houses, in a double room
- Breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- Tasting of local wines
- Entrance fees
- Flights to Cluj-Napoca International Airport
- Beverages for all the meals
- Photo/video taxes
- Extra services
- Available dates: 22 - 29.Apr.2023 (8days) or 14-21.Oct.2023 (8days)
- For your flexibility, the tour is also available as a PRIVATE TOUR. Please contact us for more details.
- Children below 6 years old receive 50% discount when sleeping in their parents' room
- Booking this tour requires full prepayment at the moment of booking
- Flexible cancellation policy
- The below special price is applicable for bookings made until 31.Jan.2023, for a group of min. 16 persons