Walking and hiking holiday in the villages of Transylvania and the Carpathian mountains. 6 days private trip with English speaking guide.
Transylvania walking holidays: discover the charm of rural life on foot, during our private trip through the most beautiful villages in Transylvania
Private trip to Apuseni mountains from Sibiu, Cluj-Napoca or Timisoara. Discover the gold route, the isolated hamlets and the natural marvels of the Apuseni Mountains.
The most authentic from our list of Romania tours: a small group tour, specially designed for tourists willing to visit Transylvania with a hand-on approach: learn to cook, visit farmers, craftsmen or small factories.
The locals Rural architecure Rural cuisine Best rural areas to visit
Discovering the Romanian countryside: a concise handbook aiming to ease the planning of a trip to Romanian villages
Romania has gained international recognition for its castles, the painted monasteries of Bucovina, the medieval cities of Transylvania, and the breathtaking Danube Delta nature reserve. Additionally, the wooden churches in Maramures showcase the country’s cultural and historical richness. While these attractions are undoubtedly worth visiting, for travellers who yearn for a more profound and comprehensive understanding of Romania, we highly recommend venturing into the Romanian countryside.
Here, one can discover pockets of land that have remained relatively untouched by modern influences, where traditions have been meticulously preserved, and the way of life has undergone minimal changes over the past few decades. Exploring the Romanian countryside allows visitors to delve deeper into the country’s essence, providing an authentic experience that unveils the true spirit of Romania
The Romanian peasant
Although the average Romanian living in a city may not differ much from any other European inhabitant, the Romanian villager stands out due to their distinctive way of life. Their existence is rooted in the changing seasons, their faith in God, traditional customs and folklore, and strong values and beliefs.
Romanian peasants have a profound attachment to the land they cultivate. Agriculture plays a vital role in their lives, and many rely on farming as their primary occupation. While extensive farming predominates as the primary agricultural model, small-scale, semi-self-sufficient farms persist in numerous rural regions of Romania, particularly in mountainous villages. These farms employ a few mechanized tools, yet the presence of working horses remains a familiar sight in Romanian villages.
They are known for their hard work, strong work ethic, and resilience. Villages are centered around shared values, social gatherings, and collective activities, fostering mutual support and cooperation among neighbours and contributing to a sense of unity and solidarity.
Living in rural areas has taught Romanian peasants resourcefulness and self-sufficiency. They have practical skills in woodworking, craftsmanship, and home remedies, adapting to their environment and making the most of available resources. The Romanian countryside provides peasants with a profound connection to nature, which fosters an appreciation for its beauty and resources. Romanian peasants often lead simple lives and find fulfilment in the simplicity of their surroundings and the rhythms of rural existence.
In relation with strangers, I can tell from my own direct experience that the Romanian peasant is curious, yet hospitable and communicative. Yes, it is true that Romanian peasants can sometimes ask personal questions to strangers that might be considered more intimate or direct compared to other cultures. This can include questions about one’s marital status, family, and children. This inquisitiveness is often rooted in their communicative nature and genuine interest in getting to know others.
For Romanian peasants, asking such questions is seen as a way to establish a connection and show hospitality. By asking about personal matters, they aim to create a friendly and familiar atmosphere. It is not intended to be intrusive or offensive, but rather a way to engage in a deeper conversation and learn more about the person they are interacting with.
Regrettably, except for a few instances, Romania has not given adequate attention to the preservation of its architectural heritage, particularly in rural regions. However, in less accessible areas that have remained relatively untouched by modernity, we can still observe old houses constructed using locally available materials, showcasing beauty in their simplicity. Thus, one can still encounter dwellings in the Danube Delta covered with reeds, or in mountainous areas adorned with straw or shingles.
The Carpathian Mountains have been inhabited extensively since ancient times and exhibit diverse forms of village organization. Frequently, the densely populated village in the valley has a summer counterpart located at higher altitudes, around 1000 meters, known as the hay area. This summer locale is characterized by wooden huts of varying shapes and sizes, serving as shelters for hay and animals, and also serving as temporary homes for families who spend 2-3 months there each year during the summer season. As one can imagine, the electricity grid did not reach those temporary settlements and the water source is from a spring or a small well. Sometimes the access is on a narrow path, a few hours’ walk through the forest, horses or donkeys being the only means of transporting supplies.
Traditional architecture is also shaped by ethnicity, particularly in Transylvania, a region known for its multicultural environment where Romanians, Hungarians, and Saxons have coexisted for centuries. These various ethnic groups have influenced one another, adopting and adapting cultural elements that are reflected in architectural styles.
Saxon villages in particular exhibit a sense of order, solidity, and pastel colors. The centuries-old buildings have incorporated urban architectural features such as baroque or neoclassical decorations. The influence of Saxon architecture is evident in Romanian villages located near Saxon settlements. In these areas, one can observe the replication of the massive fortified style, characterized by imposing entrance gates and high walls, as seen in the villages of Marginime, for instance.
Similarly, the architecture of predominantly Hungarian villages shares certain similarities with Saxon architecture, albeit with some notable differences. The Hungarian-influenced houses lack the same level of solidity and pastel colors found in Saxon villages. Instead, white is often the predominant color of choice.
Exploring Romania would be incomplete without immersing oneself in an authentic culinary journey. While urban areas in Romania boast numerous restaurants offering traditional menus, it is important to note that the ingredients used in these establishments often come from supermarkets, and at times, even from imported sources.
To truly experience the genuine flavors of Romanian cuisine, one must indulge in a meal prepared by locals in the countryside, utilizing locally sourced ingredients procured from the village or their own farms. It is within the small rural households that one can savor a lunch that showcases vegetables harvested from their own gardens or meat sourced directly from their farms.
While city restaurants often offer similar menus, venturing into the villages provides a unique opportunity to savor dishes prepared using age-old recipes that have been nearly forgotten within urban settings.
Best rural areas to visit
The natural setting of the Romanian countryside is a picturesque tapestry of diverse landscapes, encompassing breathtaking mountains, lush forests, rolling hills, and serene meadows.
The fishing villages of the Danube Delta are enchanting and distinctive settlements, located in the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve. These villages, scattered along the complex network of canals and lakes, offer a fascinating glimpse into the traditional lifestyle of the local fishing communities.
The fisherman villages are characterized by their unique architecture and close connection to the surrounding waterways. Wooden and clay houses, covered with reed, and often painted in shades of blue colors, are blending harmoniously with the natural environment, dominated by reed and semitropical vegetation, specific to the wetlands. The complex system of canals serves as both a means of transportation and a vital resource for livelihoods, as fishing is the primary occupation of the villagers.
Herds of cows and semi-wild horses roam undisturbed on the edge of the canals, and the picture is completed by the hundreds of species of waterfowl, for which the Delta is known
As we ascend in elevation, we reach the Transylvanian plateau, where the rural landscape unfolds before us. Rolling hills, interspersed with clusters of forests, and tucked-away villages nestled within river valleys, greet our gaze. These villages are adorned with towering church spires, imparting a sense of grandeur to the surroundings. Adding to the picturesque panorama, vast stretches of farmland, orchards, and meadows paint a patchwork of lush green hues that extend as far as the eye can see. Enhancing this idyllic setting, the backdrop is graced by the majestic peaks of the Carpathian Mountains, their summits adorned with a snowy mantle that lasts from autumn through late spring.
The meadows come alive with the presence of sheep flocks, guided and protected by diligent shepherds and their watchful dogs. This pastoral scene evokes a sense of tranquillity and timeless harmony with nature.
Let us ascend further to the mountain villages of Apuseni. These villages can be found Nestled either along the meandering valleys of rivers or situated on open hillsides, gently perched or tucked away within wide forest clearings. While the valley-dwelling villages typically have access to electricity and asphalted roads, the ones located higher up rely on solar panels for electricity and their access roads are often navigable only by off-road vehicles. These challenging living conditions have led to a decline in these settlements. However, to the eyes of visitors, they appear as tranquil oases, resembling scenes from vintage postcards.
In the more remote areas, we will encounter houses adorned with thatched roofs, cows grazing peacefully with bells around their necks, haystacks, and summer pastures adorned with a myriad of wildflowers. For hiking enthusiasts, Apuseni offers boundless possibilities, with its karst terrain giving rise to numerous gorges, caves, and other captivating natural formations.
Let’s go further north, to Maramures. Visiting the villages of Maramureș is like stepping into a living museum, where time appears to have stood still. Located in the picturesque landscapes of northern Romania, close to the Ukrainian border, these villages offer a captivating glimpse into traditional rural life.
Maramureș villages are renowned for their well-preserved wooden architecture, with richly carved wooden gates and churches that showcase the craftsmanship and artistic skills of the local people.
One of the most iconic features of Maramureș villages is the wooden churches, 7 of them being recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These churches, with their tall spires and colourful frescoes, stand as architectural gems and spiritual landmarks, reflecting the region’s deep religious faith and artistic expression.
A trip to the Romanian countryside wouldn’t be complete without visiting Bucovina. The villages of Bucovina, situated in the northeastern region of Romania, are a true testament to the region’s rich cultural heritage and stunning natural surroundings. Known for their painted monasteries and picturesque landscapes, these villages offer a captivating experience for visitors.
We love the verdant meadows, serving as grazing lands or harvested for hay. In the haymaking season, the fences are adorned with newly cut grass, carefully arranged to hasten the drying process. The mountainous region of Bucovina is renowned for its abundant rainfall, adding to the lushness of the landscape.
For foreign travellers, the villages nestled in the Cerna Valley may not initially evoke much curiosity. However, embarking on an exploration of the mountain villages in this region proves to be highly rewarding. Situated atop the mountain peaks that guard the picturesque Cerna River valley in southwestern Romania, these villages boast an unrivalled charm. While already a popular destination for Romanian hikers, these villages have recently captured the attention of the public due to their secluded nature.
Access to many of these villages is granted via narrow paths ascending from the valley. In order to shorten the distance, locals have ingeniously constructed wooden stairs, allowing for easier traversal. A serene tranquillity permeates the area, with the only sounds heard during summer being the chirping of birds, the gentle buzz of insects, or the rhythmic hoofbeats of grazing goats and cows.
Hikers can partake in a unique local experience by purchasing honey or jams from the villagers. These products are placed along the hiking paths, nestled beneath a tree, and tourists leave payment in a small wooden box. Interestingly, the more remote a settlement, the more welcoming and hospitable its residents tend to be. Locals in the area are delighted to encounter tourists, exchanging a few friendly words. It is not uncommon for a brief conversation to lead to a heartfelt invitation for dinner at their homes.