Walking in Romania: Along the Enchanted Way
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When William Blacker first crossed into the snowy landscapes of northern Romania, he entered a world that many people would hardly have recognised. In just a few short miles he had been transported back centuries to a medieval Europe of flickering candlelight and Romany gypsies, where the remote Transylvanian landscapes still haunted childhood dreams. In his book ‘Along the Enchanted Way’, Blacker describes a world that was disappearing, with gypsy lovers and howling wolves, where ...
When William Blacker first crossed into the snowy landscapes of northern Romania, he entered a world that many people would hardly have recognised. In just a few short miles he had been transported back centuries to a medieval Europe of flickering candlelight and Romany gypsies, where the remote Transylvanian landscapes still haunted childhood dreams. In his book ‘Along the Enchanted Way’, Blacker describes a world that was disappearing, with gypsy lovers and howling wolves, where the cycles of the seasons slowed to the pace of a lumbering horse and cart.
This fascinating journey follows in his footsteps. Beginning in the foothills of the Gutai Mountains we journey to Blacker’s spiritual home, the village of Breb, near where our adventure begins. During the next few days we will walk among the rolling hills of the Maramures and the beautiful Iza valley and trek through the spectacular highlands of the Rodna Mountains National Park. These are landscapes filled with unique wooden churches and painted monasteries, dark forests filled with bears and wolves and remote Saxon villages that still retain a wonderful sense of feudal Europe.
For Blacker this was a world that offered an escape from the chaos of his modern existence. For us it is one that offers a chance to experience one of Europe’s last remote corners of medieval tradition.
At a glance
On this tour we will use a minibus and of course your own 2 feet!
As an overall ethos, wherever possible we aim to use characterful accommodation that enhances the overall travel experience, not just offers a bed for the night. This can obviously vary dramatically from country to country and from trip to trip.
On this trip we will mostly be in characterful homestays and guesthouses, whilst staying in a purpose built hotel near the Hasmas National Park. Please be aware that given the nature of the accommodation on this trip – small guesthouses – you may sometimes have to share bathrooms with other members of the group. In addition the group may on occasions be split between homes that are close together. However you will always eat in the main home. We have done this for a couple of years and it actually works very well – infinitely better than staying together in the few large characterless hotels!
Please note that the accommodation mentioned in the itinerary is intended as a guide only and is always subject to availability.
FITNESS RATINGLOW: You should be comfortable walking around towns and cultural sites. May include some optional walks (typically 1-2hrs).
LOW/MODERATE: May be of a long duration and/or involve numerous border-crossings. May include easy/moderate day walks (up to 2-3hrs/day). You should be relatively fit and lead a generally active lifestyle.
MODERATE: May include several easy/moderate day walks (up to 2-5hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You should be relatively fit and lead a generally active lifestyle. Previous experience of similar trips helpful.
MODERATE/HIGH: May involve several days of moderate hiking (up to 3-6 hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You must be a fit and active traveller with appropriate trekking experience.
HIGH: May involve several days of moderate/strenuous trekking (up to 4-7 hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You must be a very fit and active traveller with appropriate trekking experience.
Wild Miles Club
When you book a trip with Wild Frontiers you are awarded points, which are based on the return distance from London to the arrival city of your trip. Points are awarded for all our holidays, including both our escorted group tours and tailor-made trips. When you accrue points, you will qualify for the following discounts on all future bookings:
|Blue||More than 10,000 points||2.5% discount|
|Bronze||More than 30,000 points||5% discount|
|Silver||More than 45,000 points||7.5% discount|
|Gold||More than 60,000 points||10% discount|
Map & Itinerary
Individual departures may vary so please refer to the information in the tour specific links in the Dates and Prices section below
Day 1 Tour Starts in Cluj
Day 1 Tour Starts in Cluj
Our starting point for this journey is Cluj-Napoca, the traditional capital of the Transylvania region, considered one of Romania’s most important cultural, academic and commercial centres. Meeting at the airport we’ll head out for a spot of lunch and into the rural landscapes of northern Transylvania, making for the foothills of the Gutai Mountains and the picturesque village of Hoteni. When William Blacker first drove into this landscape in 1989 it was covered in a blanket of snow and he described entering ‘a country frozen in time’. One of the most authentic villages in the Maramures, Hoteni is still steeped in the customs and lore of this region, a place that harks back to a time of childhood fairy stories and travelling bands of gypsies. Depending on the availability of accommodation we will either stay in Hoteni or the close by village of Breb tonight.
Day 2 Day trip within Maramures
Day 2 Day trip within Maramures
We start this morning with a leisurely walk around Breb and then head through meadows and orchards towards Budesti village - a great introduction to village life in Maramures. Here we’ll have a good look around the village before walking out into the countryside where we’ll hopefully watch locals going about their work. We’ll have lunch on the way to the village of Sapanta, home to one of Romania’s most remarkable sights, the unique ‘Merry Cemetery’ of Ion Stan Patras. Patras was a local artist and poet who, during the 1930s, began carving a series of decorative crosses and tombstones that depicted in words and pictures the lives of the deceased. These colourful grave markers were covered in pictures and amusing anecdotes, instilling in the place a sense of celebration rather than sadness, a tradition that has been carried on to this day by Patras’s students. From here we’ll visit one of the most remarkable churches of the region before heading back towards Hoteni (or Breb) for a second night. Total distance 5km, 100m climb, 100m descent. Approx. 2-3 hrs. Please note that these times are averages and dependent on other factors, such as the pace of the group and weather. They also do not include breaks for picnics, photos and the like.
Day 3 Trek the Iza Valley
Day 3 Trek the Iza Valley
Today’s adventure takes us on a journey that spans centuries of cultural development in this region, as we make our way through the beautiful landscapes of the Iza Valley. Our first stop will be to a local workshop in the Sarbi village, before reaching the village of Barsana. Here we can see the locals going to church in their Sunday best before heading on to the wooden church at Poienile Izei, whose stunningly preserved frescoes have earned it UNESCO World heritage status. Dating back to the latter years of the 18th century, the paintings follow post-Byzantine traditions and depict a variety of themes, from the Last Judgement and the Old Testament to the life of Christ. We’ll have a picnic lunch and then continue on foot, walking across grasslands and through orchards en route to the village of Botiza. From here we’ll head for the village of Ieud, one of the oldest in the Maramures and home to the country’s second oldest church. All being well this evening we’ll stay in the house of an old friend, Liviu Ilea. Total distance 15.5km, 650m climb, 650m descent. Approx. 6hrs.
Day 4 Trek the Rodna Mountains
Day 4 Trek the Rodna Mountains
Rodna Mountains encompass a biosphere reserve that stretches across the Eastern Carpathians, providing a refuge for brown bears, wolves, eagles and lynx. As we follow the ridge the views out across the landscape include the dramatic cascades of the Cascada Cailor (The Horses Waterfall), a vertical drop of close to 100 metres. From here we’ll continue on to the Stiol Plateau where we’ll enjoy some stunning vistas towards the high mountains to the west. We’ll have another picnic by the lake or at a shepherd’s sheepfold. There is also the option of lengthening the walk a little to reach Bistrita Glacier Lake, or even up to the main Rodna ridge at almost 2,000m high, before returning to the Golden Bistrita path. After some relatively easy walking we come down to the Prislop Pass (1,417m), where we’ll rendezvous with our vehicle for the onward journey into the Bucovina district. An oasis of Romanian spirituality the area is famed for its painted monasteries and masterpieces of Byzantine art whose exteriors are adorned with elaborate 15th and 16th century frescoes. Seven of these remarkable buildings were placed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1993. From here the road takes us down the Golden Bistrita Valley and through some wonderful examples of typical northern Moldovian villages, whose houses are beautifully decorated with traditional floral and zoomorphic symbols. As our long day draws to an end we round the north-eastern part of the Carpates Orientals and head for our night stop in the small village of Sucevita. Total distance 6km, 250m climb, 150m descent. Approx 2.5-5 hrs. Not including optional walks.
Day 5 The Moldovita Valley
Day 5 The Moldovita Valley
This morning we’ll drive the short distance to Moldovita to visit the village’s Eastern Orthodox monastery, a wonderful 16th century building that blends Byzantine and Gothic influences and which holds the distinction of being one of the few churches around to be decorated with the famous Moldovian style of exterior painting. Afterwards we’ll walk up through grassland and forest heading towards the village of Runc, a small hamlet that lies encircled by dense forests of conifers and Europe’s largest population of large carnivores. This place perfectly encapsulates William Blacker’s first impressions of a land frozen in time. Sheltering some of the last traditional peasant communities left in Europe, this is a land where mythical beasts and fairies share the landscape with bear and wolf populations that number in the thousands. These northern Romanian villages provide a glimpse back to a Europe of legend and romance, and as we continue down through the intoxicating vistas of the Moldovita Valley we pass through a world far beyond our own. Our next visit is to the workshops of Glicheria Hretiuc, one of the most skilful exponents left in Romania of the traditional art of egg painting. Following a tradition that is meant to date back to the crucifixion, painted eggs are believed to bring luck and keep away unholy spirits, with each intricate colour and pattern dispelling a different form of evil. After a demonstration of her skill and a chance to see some samples of Glicheria’s work, we return to Sucevita for our second night. Total distance 11km, 550m climb, 550m descent. Approx. 4 hrs.
Day 6 The Bicaz Gorge
Day 6 The Bicaz Gorge
After breakfast we’ll visit Sucevita Monastery – probably the grandest and finest of all the regions painted monasteries – before heading south into the landscapes of Moldova, a route which takes us through a string of wonderfully traditional villages filled with original architecture. Around lunchtime we’ll arrive in the village of Tarpesti, one of the journey’s cultural highlights, affording us an opportunity to pay a visit to the house of the late Mr Popa - whose collection of archaeological artefacts spans years of work and encompasses more than 20 different sites - and still under the care of his family in their beautiful home. After lunch our journey continues west, driving through the villages of Varatec, Valea Arini and Valea Seaca – where we’ll be able to take a short stroll to truly appreciate these wonderful homes. From here, we will travel to our guesthouse located in the Damuc Village. If there is time we can go for a walk around the stunning Red Lake, a natural dam lake that formed at the beginning of the 19th century. Total distance 3km, 250m climb, 250m descent. Approx. 1.5 hrs.
Day 7 Explore Hasmas National Park;
Day 7 Explore Hasmas National Park;
Pull your boots on tight for the biggest and most rewarding, walk of the trip! Starting our trek in the mountains of Hasmas National Park, whose slopes are still full of pastoral life and ancient rituals, we’ll make our way to the White Meadow and on through vast open spaces to the top of the Hasmasul Pass, where we reach an altitude of 1,797m. Here we’ll have a truly awesome view over Eastern Transylvania and the Moldavian Carpathians: white limestone crags with green flat meadows dotted by little lakes and bordered by dark conifer forests. Numerous sheepfolds shelter at night the semi-wild horses and flocks of sheep which roam this land by day. In the afternoon we’ll continue down the ridge, through the lower meadows to where our vehicle will be waiting to transfer us to Transylvania and the Saxon village of Viscri (Deutschweisskirche), one of a number of German settlements that lie littered among the dense oak forests that blanket these hills, settled by German colonists in the 12th century at the invitation of the Hungarian king. These settlers brought with them a feudal society that thrived among the villages until the arrival of the Red Army in 1944. The German settlers are mostly gone now (although we do stay with one), but they have left behind a cultural legacy that is still very much in evidence in the region’s wonderful architecture, especially the medieval fortified churches that pepper the countryside. Total distance 15.4km, 800m climb, 1,200m descent. Approx. 6-7 hrs. As with all the walks on this trip, if today sounds a bit strenuous you can travel round in the minibus and enjoy lunch at a local café.
Day 8 Exploring Viscri
Day 8 Exploring Viscri
This morning we will take a tour of the surrounding districts by horse drawn carriage, and meet with some of the local cottage industries such as the blacksmith. We’ll then return to the village for lunch and enjoy a free afternoon before visiting Viscri’s beautiful 12th century fortified church, a building whose development mirrored that of its Saxon inhabitants. As the need arose, the church was expanded and fortified over the intervening centuries to include towers and defensive walls that were still being added to until the end of the 18th century. Blacker was keen to try to preserve something of this way of life during his time here and set aside time and money to try to renovate some of the old houses. It’s interesting to note that Prince Charles has followed a similar path, purchasing two old Saxon homes and having them restored to their former glory for the benefit of visitors to the area.
Day 9 Western Saxon villages
Day 9 Western Saxon villages
Leaving Viscri behind we continue on foot towards Messendorf village and into the regions Saxon settlements, where we will break for some lunch. From here we’ll head to Sighisoara, one of the best preserved medieval towns anywhere in Europe; a 16th century gem of cobbled streets, watch towers and ornate churches that positively exudes atmosphere and charm. Sighisoara is the birthplace of the infamous Vlad the Impaler (the progenitor of the Dracula legends), and the town was protected by a defensive ring of 14 watch towers and several bastions, each of which was maintained and defended by a separate guild. Total distance 14km, 400m climb, 350m descent. Approx. 4 hrs.
Day 10 Tour Ends in Cluj
Day 10 Tour Ends in Cluj
After a leisurely morning, those booked on our suggested group flights will be transferred to the airport with a stop for lunch en route.
ACCOMMODATION USED ON THIS TOUR
Pensinuea Marioara, Breb
Choose between the old or new house at the picturesque Pensiunea Marioara, a charming, rustic guesthouse within the village of Breb. The old, wooden structure transports you to a simple life of hunting and folk songs up in the Romanian hills. The 100-year-old house was moved to this location and transformed to harmoniously combine the traditional architecture of Maramures with comforts of the 21st century. There are four rooms, all featuring private bathrooms and a television, and the house is warmed by a wood-fire insulator for that special rustic touch. Head to the new house for a memorable dining experience on the terrace to enjoy Marioara’s, the “lady of the house”, homecooked delights amongst the fresh mountain air. There are also three bedrooms upstairs boasting panoramas of Breb village from the balcony. Wi-Fi is available, as well as bicycles for rent to explore the area.
Pensiunea Ilea, Iza Valley
The Pensiunea Ilea is situated in the Maramures countryside, within the village of Leud. The traditions of Romania are kept alive here to transport you back in time, from the terracotta wood stoves heating the house to the farmhouse architecture. Run by a local family, your hosts Maria and Liviu are teachers at the village school and will offer a wonderful insight into life in this area, not to mention some delicious homec-ooked food using locally grown ingredients. There are two houses with ten beds each, a shared television lounge which is cosy, whilst the summer terrace is airy and has lovely views of the garden. The accommodation is ideally situated for exploring the history and beauty of the region, including the Barsana Monastery, the Sighet Memorial and Vaser Valley.
Casa Cu Cerbi, Sucevita
Enjoy a mountain escape within the Carpathian Mountains at the Casa cu Cerbi, an authentic farmhouse on a real Bucovina farm. When you are not hiking through the area, you can sample some of the homegrown produce from the farm, cosy up to the resident cat or explore the old family photographs of the farmhouse. There are only five comfortable, en suite guestrooms within this welcoming guesthouse surrounded by a wonderfully rustic and peaceful setting. Local traditions are preserved through the restored furniture and architecture, and the family’s hospitality, serving traditional, homemade dishes using ingredients from the farm, the local market and the neighbouring forest.
Traditional Saxon House, Viscri
The village of Viscri in Brasov county hosts a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known for its traditional Saxon houses. Step back in time as you stay in one of the traditional houses in Viscri, complete with wooden furniture painted by hand by local woodworkers and a traditional Saxon bed. Enjoy a glorious rustic experience as you explore the town and the fortress, transporting you to ancient, rural Transylvania.
Accommodation displayed here should be taken as a guide only. *Please refer to the Detailed Itinerary of your individual departure for more information.
PRIVATE HOLIDAYS: DATES DON’T FIT?
All group tours can be taken on a private basis.
With local people, culture and eco-systems in mind, responsible travel and sustainable tourism are at the core of Wild Frontiers. We believe that a successful trip not only delivers a unique and unsurpassable journey for our travellers but also benefits the people and places we visit.
When designing our tours, we actively seek out experiences that have a positive impact on the communities and precious environments we visit - from supporting social enterprises; resting our heads in rural homestays; and eating at locally owned restaurants; to helping fund conservation projects that protect wildlife and their habitats.
Visit the Responsible Travel area of our website to read more, including the work of the Wild Frontiers Foundation through which we fundraise to aid community empowerment and education projects.
Supporting Community Tourism in Rural Romania
In Romania we have developed unique relationships with many of the mountain communities in the region. Through a successful form of interactive community-based tourism we are able to provide an important additional income to the people in this remote area. On this trip we travel through regions where conditions can be harsh and there is limited opportunity for earning an income. By visiting local families, we are able to put much-needed funds directly into the local communities. In addition, all foods are produced locally so several members of the village benefit financially, which improves several families’ standard of living. The wonderful thing about this kind of interactive tourism is that it benefits everyone – providing the local families with financial support and providing us with a truly wonderful and unique experience of their culture and country.
Using no-carbon forms of transport such as walking cuts down on environmental damage and tourist carbon footprint, which is more likely to be welcomed by locals. Slower forms of travel also allow for more chances to interact with people from another culture. Walking in the mountains of Romania provides an opportunity to not only take in the incredible views and ancient architecture, but to slow down and better connect with the people you meet along the way, from those in the villages you stroll through to your guesthouse hosts, whose families have lived in these remote regions for generations.
For this trip our suggested flights from the UK (subject to change) are shown below.
Unfortunately we are unable to book these flights on your behalf as Wizz Air is an online, low cost, airline so you will need to book these yourself. However, we can arrange any transfers or supplementary accommodation that you may require.
Please note that before making your own flight arrangements, we recommend that you first check with us to see if the trip is guaranteed. We then suggest that you purchase flights that are flexible and ideally refundable as due to the nature of adventure travel, itineraries and destination accessibility can change at any time. For more information, please refer to our booking conditions.
|W6 3302||London Luton (LTN) 08:05||Cluj Airport (CLJ) 13:00|
|W6 3305||Cluj Airport (CLJ) 19:00||London Luton (LTN) 20:05|
Visas are necessary for many of the destinations we travel to and while we aim to provide you with the most up-to-date information, requirements frequently change and as such for the latest advice we advise that you check with the relevant embassies or contact a reputable visa agency. More details can be found here - www.wildfrontierstravel.com/visa
For this tour UK passport holders currently do not require a visa for Romania.
Non-UK passport holders or non-UK residents should contact the relevant embassies for individual requirements.
Further details will be sent out to you on booking, however ensuring that correct and valid visas are obtained remains the sole responsibility of the client.
If you have more time available, why not arrive early to adjust to a new time zone or just to get a feel for the country before your tour starts? Or alternatively you might choose to allow a few extra days after the tour to relax or to undertake some further exploration.
The choice is completely yours and we can usually arrange anything from simply additional accommodation and transfers to full tailor-made itineraries.
Please contact the office for more details and to discuss your individual requirements.
Governmental Travel Advice
Many governments issue advice which highlights potential hazards their citizens might experience when travelling abroad. We strongly suggest you refer to your country’s particular advisory site before booking and contact us if you have any queries or concerns. Click to follow links to the advice of the British Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) or the US State Department.
Non-UK citizens should consult the travel advice of their respective governments.
Romania has a temperate continental climate characterised by hot summers with potential heavy storms, and cold winters. June is a good time to visit as the temperatures should be more pleasant, varying between 15-30C - although in the higher mountainous regions it can still sometimes plummet to 1C at times. Early morning and night times will be colder so you should pack some warm clothing.
IS THIS TRIP FOR ME?
It may sound obvious but Wild Frontiers tours are not always for everyone and it is important to us that the tour you choose is the most suitable. All our tours have a fitness rating as a guideline but you should check the day-by-day itinerary carefully. In certain instances we may ask you to complete a travel questionnaire before confirming your booking in order to ensure your suitability. Should you have any concerns about your ability to partake in any aspect of the tour then please contact the office.
KEY ASPECTS TO CONSIDER
Anyone in a reasonable state of health, with an open mind and a sense of adventure should be perfectly able to cope with this tour, as many of the activities are optional.
However, please note there are planned walks on most days, some of which are longish and which do take in some steep gradients. Therefore all participants should be sufficiently fit and both used to and comfortable with hill-walking.
Walking times and distances have been given in the itinerary, please note that times are averages and dependent on other factors, such as the pace of the group and weather. They also do not include breaks for picnics, photos and the like.
This tour has a couple of medium driving days, these will be no longer than approx. 4 hours driving time (around 230km), regular breaks will be provided.
Please note that the accommodation on this tour is, at times, quite basic.
Please be advised that on this trip vegetarians can be catered for but the selection and variety may be limited.
THE NATURE OF ADVENTURE TRAVEL
We feel that it’s worth pointing out that while we will always strive to stick as close to the stated itinerary as possible, it may be necessary from time to time to make changes to our itineraries or services (due to weather, political and religious influences etc.) and this can happen with little or no notice. This unpredictability can be one of the most exciting aspects of adventure travel and for many of our clients often leads to unexpected highlights as the tour-leader necessarily adapts the tour to the changing conditions. However we are aware that this lack of assuredness may not suit everyone. As such, with the greatest respect, if you are someone who needs to know that everything will happen exactly as planned, we would kindly suggest that perhaps our tours are not for you. Adventure travel can be infectious and once you’ve caught the bug, it is likely to never leave you, but especially if this is your first such tour we would strongly urge you to give us a call if you have any concerns whatsoever about your suitability for this trip.
TRAVELLING SOLO AND SINGLE SUPPLEMENTS
As a company approximately 70% of our clients are solo travellers, so it’s very unlikely you’ll be alone!
Our prices are typically based on twin-share accommodation but single supplements are not compulsory for any Wild Frontiers tour. If you prefer not to pay a single supplement we’ll pair you with someone else of the same sex for you to share with throughout the trip.
On this trip, if you do opt to pay for a single supplement then please note that it will cover you for all nights of the tour – but do remember in certain places you may have to share a bathroom with other people as not everywhere has en suite facilities.
Please note that paying a single supplement entitles you to lone occupancy of a single room. In many cases these rooms will be of the same size as a double/twin room, but in some cases they may be smaller.
Insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all tours. You should be aware that due to some of the geographical areas visited and some of the activities included on certain of our trips some standard insurance policies may not always provide adequate cover. As such we strongly recommend that you purchase a policy that adequately covers your trip. Please see the Insurance section for more details.
All our tours are priced on a land-only basis, giving you maximum flexibility when deciding how to get to and from your tour.
A 10% deposit is required to confirm your booking.
PROTECTION FOR YOUR MONEY
For further details please see our travelling with peace of mind page
This tour will earn you 2236 Wild Miles
WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED
We believe in a completely transparent approach to pricing with no hidden extras. As such, please note that the following are not included in the cost of the tour.
Visas & Travel Insurance: Visas will always be tour/nationality dependent but travel insurance is mandatory
Tips: Always optional but some guidance will be given in the pre-departure information documents
International Flights: Please ask us for an obligation-free quote for flights which originate in the UK
Airport Transfers: We include complimentary transfers if arriving/departing on the suggested group flights
Beverages & any costs of a personal nature: This will include items such as laundry and souvenirs
WILD FRONTIERS COMMUNITY
If you’re still not sure if this trip is right or just want to see get some different perspectives, then why not have a look at the wide variety of resources we have on our website? Browse our community section to read our blogs, watch videos and find out about our events.
WHY WILD FRONTIERS?
We are frequently asked what makes Wild Frontiers different from other tour operators. Visit our Why Wild Frontiers page to find out.