About Romania Self Drive 3 - The Undiscovered North
Highlights of northern Transylvania combined with off the beaten track places in Maramures and Moldavia.
Activity code: ROFD03
Duration: 10/11 Days
This holiday itinerary is a fascinating route through the ancient northern lands of Romania, definitely "off the beaten track" in the fascinating countryside of Maramures and Moldavia. Our suggested journey is a stunning drive into a region full of history and dramatic scenery; a wonderful opportunity to concentrate your visit in the unspoilt north and to really explore and enjoy the rural life and traditional hospitaility of Romania.
There are many flights into Romania so it is possible to mix and match arrival and departure airports to suit your plans. However, the emphasis on this itinerary is on the northern cities of Transylvania and the regions of Maramures and Bucovina so we would recommend arriving into Cluj or Targa Mures and then departing from Suceava, Bacau or Iasi and we will work the route around you.
Maramures in the north, tucked up against the border with Ukraine, is home to many villages where centuries-old traditions are still part of daily life; villages are distinguished by their unique wooden churches with tall spires and shingled roofs. Elaborate woodcarvings decorate the eaves, entryways and windows of houses and this truly is a place where the inhabitants have preserved the rural culture and crafts of their Dacian ancestors. In this region you have the opportunity to ride the historic steam railway through the forests of the Vaser Valley. A highly recommended experience on a working forestry railway, passing through the most spectacular landscape - narrow, rock lined canyons; fast-flowing, sparkling mountain brooks and looking out for the colourful wildlife of the mixed forests.
Bucovina's Painted Churches are one of the most unique, iconic and picturesque treasures of Romania. The painted exterior walls were originally decorated in the 15th and 16th century with elaborate frescoes featuring portraits of saints, scenes from the life of Jesus and images of angels and demons. Seven of the churches were placed on UNESCO’s Word Heritage list in 1993.
Rediscover's recommended fly-drive itineraries take you right into the heart of this fascinating country. We are sharing our knowledge and the experience of our staff and partners to offer not just important cultural sights, dramatic scenery and historic locations but the opportunity to spend quality time in the villages, often staying in rural communities as guests of local families, where local culture is at its strongest. The guest houses and hotels in this itinerary are generally small, independent or family-run, properties which add significantly to your travel experience in this fascinating country.
This popular route is a tried and trusted itinerary which allows plenty of time to enjoy the countryside as you travel. Whichever route you choose, you will almost certainly traverse the spectacular Carpathian Mountains, take in the mysterious history-filled towns of Transylvania and return following one of the genuine cultural encounters that travelling to Romania with Rediscover affords, leaving you with enduring memories of this truly unique and enchanting country.
If you would like to visit these wonderful places without driving then we can supply a private driver for the duration of the tour or even pre-book train tickets for you. All fly-drives are available with private English-speaking driver services; we can also pre-book many lunches, extra activities and visits in the itinerary to your preference.
Please contact us if you would like a completely tailor made fly drive itinerary. All we would need to know are approximate dates of travel, what standard of accommodation you would prefer, and if there are any particular areas or sights which you would like us to include (or to exclude!) in your itinerary. Your fly drive can be as active or leisurely as you please. Staying one night at each stop allows the maximum amount of sightseeing; two or more nights will allow you to do more side trips, whilst staying in one place will give you the opportunity to relax and explore the local area.
Ask about our fabulous bonus offers when you book this package with us:
Fly into Cluj Napoca International Airport; your driver will meet you on arrival for a private transfer to your hotel in the centre of Cluj, a city full of life and energy.
NB. you may prefer to collect your hire car at the airport, depending upon your flight arrival time.
You can enjoy a city tour including the Orthodox Cathedral in the Avram Iancu square, the Roman-Catholic Cathedral Saint Michael, one of the most importing Gothic constructions in the country, then Banffy Palace, the most representative Baroque building in Transylvania.
Further sightseeing in Cluj (particularly if your arrival on day 1 was late in the day).
Deliver hire car to your hotel and head south or west to visit the Apuseni Mountains National Park. As well as some stunning walks there are some fabulous caves (e.g. the famous Bears' Cave) and Karst scenery abounds. If you have time we suggest a visit to the incredible Salt Mine at Turda (just a short drive to the south on the new highway).
Today we suggest driving north through the Transylvanian hills to Dej and then continuing into Maramures county via its main town, Baia Mare. Afterwards the road takes you up into the mountains and then down to the frontier town of Sighetu Marmatiei on the border with Ukraine.
After breakfast head off to the west to visit the unique Merry Cemetery at Sapanta; on your return to Sighet you may wish to look in at the excellent Museum to the Victims of Communism, housed in the former prison in the centre of town. The afternoon is likely to be taken up with visits to the surrounding countryside to see not just the stunning scenery but also the wonderful wooden churches, primarily in the Iza valley. Don't miss a chance to see the impressive collection of buildings at the Barsana Monastery, known as the "Holy Mother's Entrance", and many other UNESCO listed locations such as Ieud and Rozavlea.
Today, you can experience the steam train from Viseu to Paltin Station, through the Vaser Valley. The railway line passes through the most spectacular landscape and we recommend a picnic lunch at Paltin (which can be included in your return train ticket).
In the late afternoon return to Viseu with a relatively short drive south via Nasaud to Bistrita, made famous partly by its association with the journey of Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker's Dracula.
After a short visit of Bistrita you have the day to travel slowly over the incredible Tihuta Pass, you may even consider a lunch break at the Dracula's Castle Hotel near the top. Coming down from the pass you will encounter Vatra Dornei a spa town which has not yet recovered from its communist days. Just a little further along you come to the simple and charming village of Vama where we recommend staying for 2 nights to allow you to explore the region at a relaxed pace.
You may have time today to visit some of the world famous painted monasteries but why not relax in the friendly surroundings of your guest house and leave the sightseeing for tomorrow.
From Vama it is easy to arrange a circuit of the main monasteries. Moldovita (UNESCO) dating back to 1532 has the aspect of a fortress and Sucevita, the last and the most magnificent monastic achievement among the painted monasteries in Bucovina is also a great place for a traditional lunch.
The next painted monastery you should visit is Voronet, the "Eastern Sistine Chapel" and the dominant colour is the famous "blue of Voronet"; then Humor Monastery, dating from 1530, which has red as its dominant colour.
In the afternoon it is possible to do some hiking or we could arrange for a demonstration of egg-painting – an old tradition from Bucovina and to take a horse-drawn carriage around Vama and meet the naturally hospitable local people.
A visit to Bucovina's capital, Suceava, and then head south to Piatra Neamt. Along the way you might wish to visit the Agapia and Varatec monasteries - Agapia is one of Romania's largest convents with 350 nuns, well known thanks to its carpet and embroidery workshops, which you can visit. The Varatec Monastery is a rather new monastic settlement, which has a museum that hosts many valuable religious objects and books mostly made by nuns. Your route could also continue its journey to Tarpesti, where you could visit the house of the popular artist Nicolae Popa, author of the famous ceremonial masks and enjoy a traditional lunch.
Your full free day in this area can be some walking in the Bicaz Gorge and Ceahlau mountains, enjoy a visit to Piatra Neamt and immerse yourself in the local cuisine and way of life.
A relatively short drive through the lovely Moldavian countryside will bring you to the capital of this region, Iasi. The city is full of historical treasures and a youthful atmosphere, just like Cluj Iasi is a big university town.
Iasi has an air of sophistication, its main sights include the Church of the Three Hierarchs, the huge Metropolitan cathedral, the Palace of Culture, the Museum of the Union and some fabulous monasteries overlooking the city from surrounding hills.
Depending upon flight time - free time to explore city and then drive to Iasi Airport for your flight home (direct or via Bucharest).
** The final vew days on this itinerary can be easily adjusted if your flight schedule works out better to depart from Suceava or Bacau.
Please contact us for up-to-date prices and special offers.
All prices are per person