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 in all of its glory.
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. Overnight in Cluj-Napoca.
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.
August is also the wedding season so we will try our luck and see if we can catch one of those traditional weddings.
As we return to the Maramures region we will more deeply get to know the tradition of making hay. It is a lengthy process that stretches over many days, involving cutting, turning the hay to dry, making small piles, building large haystacks and ultimately transporting it by horse-carts to the barn. Many of these stages are still done by hand and usually involve 2-3 people, or even entire families. We will stop in different locations to witness people working so we can photograph each of the steps and the people working on it. Overnight in Maramures region.
Day 4: (Aug 18) In the morning 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.
We will spend the rest of the day getting to know more of the local culture and history of Maramures, visiting a wooden church (UNESCO site) and exploring the countryside. Overnight in Maramures region.
Day 5: (Aug 19) Today 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.
We will then depart Maramures and head to Bucovina, also called the “land of painted monasteries.” The road to Bucovina passes by beautiful mountain passes and we will make sure that we will stop and photograph the scenery of the Carpathian Mountains.
As we arrive in Bucovina we will stop to visit a woman who paints eggs, a popular craft in this area. Overnight in Vama, Bucovina region.
Day 6: (Aug 20) Today we will discover the painted monasteries of Bucovina. First 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.
Next we will visit Molodvita monastery, one of the tallest in the region, featuring beautiful paintings and frescoes in predominately gold and deep blue colors.
As we return from Moldovita, we will stop at a mountain pass, an interesting place to photograph as the mountains slopes are covered with small wooden storage buildings for hay. This region has some notable differences in how hay is harvested compared to the Maramures region. We will pass by locals working in the fields and photograph the different ways they work with hay.
For golden hour, we will travel to the Rarau Mountains, where nature and the beautiful mountains form a mighty natural landscape to capture. Overnight in Vama, Bucovina region.
Day 7: (Aug 21) 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 scenes in the Carpathians, with picturesque traditional villages located in valleys and on hillsides.
We’ll also stop at a local winery, where we’ll have lunch (with wine-tasting included). It will be the day with longest drive, but we will make sure to make stops along the way as we will for sure see interesting things to photograph.
In afternoon we will arrive in the area where there was German Saxon fortification from Transylvania. The 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). The many villages built by them have a very distinctive architecture as well as each 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 Viscri and Biertan, two picturesque village dominated by majestic fortified churches located on hilltops in the middle of the village. Overnight in Viscri.
Day 8: (Aug 22) We will wake up early today in order to catch the morning buzz 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. The locals are also often seeing carrying fresh milk in small carts, 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.
In and nearby Viscri there are several things that we may be able to visit (dependent on availability): a blacksmith, charcoal makers, and a traditional bakery and a sheepfold. We will have time to explore some of them.
The blacksmith is still an important figure in rural Romania, as the demand for steel objects and horseshoeing makes it possible for this old craft to be preserved and practiced even today, due to people working the land by hand and with the help of animals.
Charcoal making is a fading craft and it will require a longer trip to get to see this craft in practice.
The sheepfold is located further away from the village and we will take a horse cart to get there and learn about the life of the shepherds, how they milk and tend the sheep and how they make the cheese.
The local bakery is special, using a technique to make big loafs of bread that they char on the outside so the bread is baked even more deeply inside. Once baked, they have to beat the breads to clean the char.
We will spend the evening and night in a typical rural Transylvanian setting. Overnight in Viscri.
Day 9: (Aug 23) We will have a relaxing morning in Viscri, visiting the bakery (if we didn’t get to visit the day before) and even the 13th century fortified church.
In the afternoon we’ll drive to visit the infamous Bran castle, the one 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 we’ll learn the real story in the highly misunderstood legend of Dracula. We’ll then visit the castle itself, which offers more photo opportunities of the interior and surrounding area. Then we’ll make our way to a nearby spot to have a shoot from the outside this formidable castle, a former customs point, standing grand on a cliff in a narrow gorge surrounded by mountains.
Bran can be quite crowded in late August and as an alternative we can drive on the Transfagarasan Road (the northern side), one of the most scenic roads in Romania and perfect for capturing the explosion of the fall colors. The first part of the road takes you through dense forests and offers magnificent views of the tall 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 evening we will arrive in another charming Transylvanian village where we will spend the night. Overnight in Biertan.
Day 10: (Aug 24) 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, 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.
In the afternoon we will have a guided walk in Sibiu, considered by many to be the most beautiful town in Romania. Its charming old town, with narrow cobbled streets, rich culture, and buildings even from the 15th century made it the 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 – 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.
Once we’re 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.