This Romania photo tour will take you on a voyage of discovery through the “forgotten world” of Maramures, Bucovina, and Transylvania. We will travel through some of the most famous regions in Romania, but we will spend more of our time in remote, rural villages where tourists are rarely seen.
You will have the opportunity to photograph local people including, Gypsies and Romanians dressed in beautiful, traditional costumes. You’ll see and photograph beautifully painted churches in picture-perfect settings, you’ll admire stunning sunrises and have the chance to capture the real beauty of nature as the countryside comes shifts into fall and harvest time.
Day 1: (Aug 15) Welcome to Romania! We will start the tour in the city of Cluj-Napoca which is the largest city in Transylvania, the central region of Romania. Our hotel for the night is situated in the very heart of the city – perfect for evening and morning walks on your own if arriving early.
In the evening we will have a first group dinner, an opportunity to get to know each other and be introduced to the Romanian cuisine.
Day 2: (Aug 16) Today we will make our way to Maramures region, a place where you can still witness the old way of life of the people. Our first stop will be at a potter and his fascinating workshop. He is famous for his meticulous clay artifacts inspired by Dacian roots. You will have the chance to photograph him while he gives shape to the clay. Maramures is particularly known for the wooden churches which were built several centuries ago, at a time when local Romanian Orthodox people were not allowed to build churches of stone. In order to stay true to the law, churches were built out of wood. These churches stand to this very day. Many have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites, and we will also stop by the tallest wooden church in the world, located in Surdesti.
In the afternoon we will have a walk in a traditional village to photograph the daily lives of the locals and the interesting wooden architecture. We might witness farmers doing traditional activities associated with the season of harvest. We may also be invited for a taste of the local apple, pear and/or blueberry brandy, called horinca, at a traditional brandy distillery. Overnight in Maramures region.
Day 3: (Aug 17) In the morning we will visit the Sapanta Merry Cemetery. It is one of the most interesting cemeteries in the world as the funerary crosses are painted in bright colors while the poems written on them tell about the life of the deceased, sometimes in a funny way. After photographing the cemetery, we will meet the man who makes the crosses and see him at work in his workshop. He is the apprentice of the one who carved the first oak cross of the cemetery.
We’ll then learn more about the centuries-old occupations from this region, still in practice today. So we’ll visit a blacksmith and learn about the importance of his craft for the local community. The demand for steel objects in the area, made it possible for this old craft to be preserved and practiced even today in rural Romania, as people are still working the land by hand and with the help of animals.
In the afternoon you’ll get the chance to capture once again the daily life of the people, this time during a photo walk at the local market in Sighet. Next, we will visit the Sighet Memorial of Communism Museum, a former prison where communists detained their political opponents and offers the possibility to learn about the communist times in Romania. Overnight in Maramures region.
Day 4: (Aug 18) In the morning we will have the opportunity to shoot Mocanita, the only fully-functional narrow-gauge steam train, as it goes through the deciduous forests of the Vaser Valley. You can marvel at the vividly colored hardwood forests, mingled with the deep green of the coniferous forests. In autumn the sight is quite spectacular and worth the stop.
Then we will leave Maramures behind and head to Bucovina, also called the “land of painted monasteries”. The road to Bucovina passes by beautiful mountainous passes and, with the fall colors at their best, we will make sure that we will stop and photograph the scenery of the Carpathian Mountains. Overnight in Vama, Bucovina region.
Day 5: (Aug 19) Today we will discover the painted monasteries of Bucovina. Firstly, we will visit, the painted monastery in Sucevita (pronounced: SU-che-vit-za), a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is the most impressive painted church in Bucovina, surrounded by a massive wall and towers. We’ll visit the interior grounds of the monastery and those who are interested can walk up the nearby hill for an interesting perspective of the settlement.
Then we will visit Molodvita monastery, one of the tallest in the region and featuring beautiful paintings and frescoes in predominately gold and deep blue colors. While in Moldovita we will also visit an egg painter and you will learn about this old tradition of decorating eggs for Easter.
As we return from Moldovita, we will pass through a mountain pass, an interesting place to photograph as the mountains slopes are covered with small wooden storage buildings for hay. For the afternoon warm light we will travel to the Rarau Mountains, where the mountains and beautiful nature form a mighty natural landscape. Overnight in Vama, Bucovina region.
Day 6: (Aug 20) Today we will leave Bucovina behind and head towards Transylvania. We will cross Tihuta Pass, where you can find one of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the Carpathians with picturesque traditional villages located in valleys and on hillsides. We will have various stops to photograph the beautiful fall landscape.
We’ll also stop at a local winery where we’ll have lunch with wine-tasting included. At that time of the year it is particularly interesting to be in a vineyard as the leaves also change colors and there may still be people harvesting grapes. Overnight in Biertan.
Day 7: (Aug 21) German-Saxons inhabited Transylvania alongside Romanians and Hungarians for almost eight centuries. They left a unique and lasting heritage evident in medieval towns like Sighisoara, Sibiu (si-BEE-u) and Brasov (bra-SHOV). Another part is the many villages built by them in a very distinctive architecture, each of them having a fortified church, which was then surrounded by a wall to shelter the community in case of assault. This is also the case of Biertan, a picturesque village dominated by a majestic fortified church located on a hilltop in the middle of the village.
In the early morning we will go to a nearby hill and photograph Biertan fortified church and the surrounding village in the warm light of the sunrise and hopefully surrounded by mist.
Our next stop will be at the home of a local gypsy family where we will learn about their origins and way of life. The man, the head of the family, is a coppersmith just like many of his predecessors and he makes alembic and other copper objects. You will see him at work and photograph the stages of making the copper objects. He lives together with his wife, children and also with his parents and they are all very welcoming and love interacting with visitors and being photographed.
Another German-Saxon village waiting for us to explore today is the well-preserved village of Viscri. We will take a horse cart and travel to a sheepfold located on the nearby hills (1h each way). Here you will learn about the life of the shepherds, how they milk and tend the sheep and how they make the cheese. Overnight in Viscri.
Day 8: (Aug 22) We will wake up early in order to catch the morning activity that takes place in Viscri as cows and goats gather on the streets of the village and are driven by the herdsman to the pasture. Besides this, the locals caring fresh milk in small carts going up and down the streets are contributing to the bustle. The atmosphere created in early morning as the village wakes up and the traditional colorful houses in the background offer great opportunities for cultural and people photography.Next we’ll pass by the bakery to see how traditional bread is made in this area and visit the fortified church which was originally built in the 13th century.
In the afternoon we’ll drive to visit the infamous Bran castle, the one which is often associated with Dracula. In reality it’s a fine-looking 14th century fortress most recently decorated by the Romanian queen Mary during the 1920s. Here you’ll find out the true story, what is made up and what is real, in the highly misunderstood legend of Dracula. We’ll then visit the castle itself which offers more great photo opportunities of the interior and surrounding area. Then we’ll make our way to a nearby spot to have a photo shoot from the outside of this formidable castle, a former customs point, standing grand on a cliff in a narrow gorge surrounded by mountains. Overnight in Bran.
Day 9: (Aug 23) We’ll start the day with a sunrise shoot in the Carpathian Mountains. From our location we’ll get to capture the peaks of both the Bucegi and the Piatra Craiului Mountains as they get illuminated by the warm morning light.
We’ll spend the rest of the day in a landscape dominated by rolling hills, winding roads and scattered wooden barns and fences. You’ll get to practice your composition skills as you’ll photograph the beautifully painted forests in hues of yellow, copper, orange or red. Overnight in Bran.
Day 10: (Aug 24) We’ll head towards Sibiu, stopping on the way at a workshop where you will see how glass objects such as glasses or decanters are made by the traditional technique of blowing glass. You will see all stages from picking up the melted sand all the way to polishing and packing the objects. This factory produces high quality glass used even for events of the British Royal Family.
Next we’ll drive on Transfagarasan Road (the northern side), one of the most scenic roads in Romania. The first part of the road takes you through dense forests and offers magnificent views of the snow-capped peaks of the mountains in the distance, while during the second part you’ll drive on a winding road until you reach the clouds.
In the afternoon we will have a guided walk in Sibiu, named by many to be the most beautiful one in Romania. Its charming old town with narrow cobbled streets, rich culture and buildings even from the 15th century made him be designated European Cultural Capital in 2007 and European Region of Gastronomy in 2019. We will stroll around the old town and photograph the beautiful squares and historic buildings during the blue hour. Overnight in Sibiu.
Day 11: (Aug 25) In the morning we will travel to Hunedoara, where we will visit the most imposing castle in Transylvania, the Corvin castle. It has a true fairytale appearance, as the tall defensive walls and towers are surrounded by a river and can be reached only by crossing a huge bridge. As you cross the entrance of the castle you will be introduced to the medieval times with its knights and legends.
Next, we will travel to the town of Alba-Iulia, one of the most important places for Romanians as it was here where 100 years ago Transylvania united with other two major regions and formed what we call today the country of Romania. Alba-Iulia is also home to a large and well-preserved Vauban fortress, so it is a good opportunity to enjoy a pleasant walk within the walls filled with history and photograph the majestic baroque entrance gates and other highlights of the citadel.
Back in Cluj we will have more time to explore the city, discuss the pictures taken during the trip and have one last group dinner. Overnight in Cluj Napoca.
Day 12: (Aug 26) We hope you’ve enjoyed this quite intense photo tour of Romania and that you will carry with you wonderful memories and great pictures to tell the story. You will be transferred to the airport in Cluj-Napoca from where you will take the flight back home.