If you’ve ever wondered how it is to explore the beautiful wilderness of Romania or how it is to experience the actual traditional life of the people, then you should visit Maramures. Situated in the northern part of Romania, this region it’s very well known for its welcoming people, amazing landscapes, and authentic wood architecture.
Maramures is a wonderful place to visit if you want to enjoy an active holiday. The best ways to visit this county are walking, cycling, and hiking. You’ll find dozens of hidden gems to see and plenty of new experiences to try every day. Ready to discover what this region has to offer? Let’s dive in.
Best things To Do In Maramures
Admire nature on a steam train ride: Mocanita
This is probably the most famous attraction in the region. Known as the only functional forestry steam train in Europe, Mocanita will definitely give you a fairytale experience. The train leaves from the little town Viseu de Sus and travels deep into the charming Vaser Valley, crossing the Maramures Mountains Natural Park.
The view is breathtaking as the train crosses green forests, steep rocks, and clear creeks. The ride takes 6 to 7 hours, including a few stops, so you can take as many pictures as you like. The last stop, in Paltin, takes an hour. On an observation deck, you should explore the surroundings, enjoy lunch, or admire magical landscapes.
Discover the traditional wooden churches
The county of Maramures is well known for its wood resources. The locals used the wood a long time ago to build homes, epic wooden gates, and traditional churches. With more than a hundred wooden monuments, only eight were chosen to be a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site due to their priceless value.
The traditional wooden churches are unique, given the different characteristics they have. You can admire a mixture of orthodox features with gothic influences. Also, the imposing roofs, high and narrow church towers, and the rare shape of the shingles highlight the craftsman’s precise skills. The interior paintings are also awe-inspiring. They depict scenes of religious events with secular motifs that reflect people’s everyday life and beliefs.
Enjoy peace and silence at Bârsana Monastery
If you want to take a few moments to release your spiritual self, then Bârsana Monastery should be on your list. Situated in the heart of Maramureș, this little piece of Heaven is actually a complex of traditional monuments decorated with various flowers.
The entrance is under the bell tower, on the side of which you will find the complex map. Take a leisurely stroll through the courtyard and visit the Museum, the Priory, the Voivodeship House, the Summer Altar, and the two-levelled Church.
At this monastery, you’ll find the proper space to meditate and enjoy nature’s sounds.
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Have a good laugh at The Merry Cemetery of Sapanta
Spirituality and religion are essential in Maramures. Yet, in one of its famous villages, Sapanta, you’ll find an extremely rare cemetery where you can actually giggle. Unlike most cemeteries in the world, the Merry Cemetery has a unique approach to death, seeing it as a celebration of a life that ended rather than a tragic event.
It all started in 1930 when one of the locals, Stan Ion Patras, carved the first oak cross. Since then, every cross in the cemetery has been painted in a special blue tone, known now as “Sapanta blue,” and it is also decorated with plenty of traditional motifs.
On the cross, you can see a painting meant to depict a personality trait or a significant moment from the life of the person who died and a short poem full of wit. One of the most famous crosses from the cemetery belongs to Stan Ion Patras himself. He died in 1977 and left the legacy of making peculiar crosses to his disciple.
While you’re here, take a few hours to explore the messages on each cross so you can take your dose of fun and laughter.
Find out the sad history of The Memorial of Suffering (Memorialul durerii) from Sighetu Marmației
The people of Maramureș are welcoming and full of warmth, even if history wasn’t always good to them.
In 1950, Sighetu Marmației lived the darkest year when many representatives of the Romanian elites, opponents of the new communist regime were imprisoned in the city prison. We are talking about ministers, members of the government, leaders of historical parties, generals, academics, men of letters, bishops of the Greek Catholic Church, and so on.
Nowadays, you’ll find The Memorial of Suffering instead of the old prison. This museum, the first-ever dedicated to the victims of communism, reconstructs and analyzes the painful past of those dark years of Romanian history.
You’ll be able to see collections of pictures, documents, objects, letters, newspapers, books, textbooks, albums, and oral history records– to give a complete picture of the struggle against communism.
Venture to Cailor Waterfall
Nothing compares to a good hike on a nice summer day. That’s why you should spend at least one night at Borșa. Near this resort, you’ll find the biggest waterfall in Romania, called “Cascada Cailor.” As a part of the Rodna Mountains National Park, this waterfall, about 90 meters long, is indeed one of the most stunning waterfalls Romania has to offer.
There are two ways to get there. If you love long walks in nature, surrounded by beauty and color, you can follow a path and go on foot. For those who like seeing the world from above, a chairlift might be the best option.
The trip is worth it since you’ll be impressed by the waterfall’s natural location and the legends surrounding it. It is said that the name of this place comes from a true event that happened in the past. The locals say there was a massive storm, and the horses from the local studs were cornered by a bear, precisely on the plateau where the waterfall is formed today. Scared and helpless, the only thing that horses did was throw themselves into the void, perishing under the eyes of the bewildered bear.
In the memory of that event, the locals named several places after the horses: Horse Bridge, Horse Waterfall, Horse Spring, and Horse Mountain, all fantastic places to visit.
Explore the traditional village of Breb
If you want to experience how Romanian people lived before modern times, then Breb village is a must. Praised by many as the most authentic village in Maramureș, Breb has a lot of traditional experiences to offer. The landscape is picturesque, as the village is located at the foot of the Rooster Crest in the Gutai Mountains.
This village is the symbolic place for all the things that represent Maramures: wooden houses, a church from the 16th century, hospitable people, and good food. Here you can experience the local culture by walking through the village, meeting the locals, hearing their stories, and also participating in traditional activities such as working the land or picking vegetables in the garden. If you’re lucky enough you can even attend a traditional wedding and take part in local customs and rituals.
In this part of Romania, people still dress in their traditional costumes whenever they go to church. You can even try these colorful clothes as the locals are more than happy to offer you an authentic experience.
So, if you are looking for a peaceful life in the village and you dream of relaxing moments in the middle of nature, then the land Breb is what you are looking for.
Experience a magical Christmas in Maramures
Maramures is beautiful every season, but wintertime is when all the magic happens. The first snowflakes that fall on the traditional houses, but also the old wooden fences and hills turn every village into a fairytale place.
People of this county care deeply about traditions and customs that take place around this time of the year. This is why you’ll have an unforgettable Christmas holiday, enjoying the hospitality and kindness of the people, tasting delicious dishes, and admiring the beautiful landscapes.
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As Christmas represents the most important holiday for Romanian people, every person no matter the age is going to participate in the preparations. Three main parts highlight the Christmas holiday.
● Preparation: here the locals clean their houses, the yard, and also the graves of their loved ones.
● Christmas Eve: Everyone is gathering to prepare delicious homemade food from pork meat, like sausages, lard, and the famous sarmale. After everything is ready, everyone will start caroling and visiting every house. They receive as a gift, coils, nuts, and apples.
● Celebrating Christmas: The celebration takes 3 days and during this time people attend the church service dressed in their traditional costumes. After learning how to sing Romanian carols you can go caroling yourself with the locals.
So, if you’re planning a trip to Romania soon, make sure you’ll have the time to explore the northern part of the country. Rich in traditions and costumes, the people of Maramures will be more than happy to welcome you into their lovely homes, giving you the most authentic experience of living in the countryside.