This Romania Springtime 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 alive after the cold winter—you’ll see the springtime at its best! Our photo tour will also include a journey into the mountains where you will have the opportunity to photograph a steam train at several locations under a full head of steam in the landscape.
Day 1: (May 2) We will start the tour in the city of Cluj-Napoca which is the largest city in the central region of Romania, Transylvania. 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: (May 3) In the morning 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.
Next 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.
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 3: (May 4) Today we’ll learn about the old and quaint crafts from across Transylvania. After breakfast, we’ll leave Sibiu behind and travel to the direction of Biertan, where a beautiful fortified church is located. On the way we will stop 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. Then we will meet some charcoal makers and photograph them at work. The charcoal is made in a traditional way by slowly burning wood for a long period of time. The smoke rising from the wood and the men covered with a black dust while working creates a surreal atmosphere very interesting to photograph.
The afternoon’s last 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. Overnight in Biertan.
Day 4: (May 5) 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. Another German-Saxon village waiting for us to explore today is the well-preserved village of Viscri. Firstly, you will visit the local blacksmith. 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. Then 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 will take a horse cart and travel to a sheepfold located on the nearby hills. 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 5: (May 6) We will start the day with a photo shoot during sunrise at the Rupea fortress. It is an imposing medieval citadel, located at the top of a hill and overlooking the surrounding area. It was built by the German-Saxons and has well-preserved architecture, therefore, while here, you will also have the opportunity to learn about Romania’s history. We continue with the town of Brasov, and upon arrival you’ll have time to explore the city’s old town on their own. By roaming the cobbled streets of Brasov, you will get to discover the charm of the old medieval town with its beautiful historic monuments and the German and Romanian quarters.
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 Viscri.
Day 6: (May 7) We will wake up early 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 with small carts in the streets contribute to the bustle. This early morning atmosphere as the village wakes up and the traditional colorful houses in the background offer great opportunities for cultural and people photography.
Then we will leave Transylvania and we will make our way to Bucovina, also called the “land of painted monasteries”. On our way, we’ll stop at a local winery where we’ll have lunch with wine-tasting. The road to Bucovina passes by beautiful mountainous passes and we will make sure that we will stop and photograph the scenery of the Carpathian Mountains. Overnight in Fundu Moldovei (Bucovina region).
Day 7: (May 8) 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 near Sadova, an interesting place to photograph as the mountains slopes are covered with small wooden storage buildings for hay. For sunset, we’ll travel to the Rarau Mountains where the mountains and beautiful nature form a mighty natural landscape. Second night in Fundu Moldovei.
Day 8: (May 9) This morning, we’ll drive to the Maramures region and plan to make some stops depending on what we will meet on the way. It might be a farmer working in the field, a horse-cart going on the road or an interesting landscape or building. We will arrive in the village of Ieud where we will have a walk through the village, meeting and photographing villagers as they go about their everyday lives. Ieud is also home to two wooden churches which were built in the 17th and 18th centuries, 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, including one of the churches from Ieud which is also considered the oldest wooden church in Romania. Overnight in Ieud (Maramures region).
Day 9: (May 10) 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. 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. Then we will visit the imposing monastic complex in Barsana, a grouping of buildings entirely built of wood and with high-pitched gothic towers, respecting the local architecture. There are also some interesting interiors here, and we may even have a chance to see nuns leading prayer service in the church. Second night in Ieud.
Day 10: (May 11) After breakfast, we’ll head out to explore one of the charming valleys just after sunrise for some morning photography as the region wakes up. Depending on the weather and light conditions we may stop on a hilltop to take in a view from above of this charming region dotted with haystacks.
We’ll then learn about one of the centuries-old occupations from this region, still in practice today. We’ll meet a wood-carver who is known for creating many of the distinctive wooden gates for which the Maramureș region is famous; he is also the inventor of the process for making a chain out of one block of wood, which we’ll get to see.
Next, 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 apprentices of the one who carved the first oak cross of the cemetery. We will spend the afternoon in the countryside hoping to see farmers cutting alfalfa. We will also see be invited for a taste of the local apple, pear and/or blueberry brandy, called horinca, at a traditional brandy distillery. Final night in Ieud.
Day 11: (May 12) As we travel back to Cluj in Transylvania we will also stop by the the tallest wooden church in the world, located in Surdesti and a UNESCO World heritage site. Upon returning to Cluj, everyone will have time to explore the city, discuss the pictures taken during the trip and have one last group dinner. Overnight in Cluj Napoca.
Day 12: (May 13) Participants will be transferred to the Cluj-Napoca airport for flights back home.