Guide to visiting Maramureș, Romania
There are not many regions in Romania full of so much natural beauty and well-conserved traditions as Maramureș. No matter the season, you will experience a unique encounter with ancestral Romania while visiting this fantastic place.
Situated at the north side of Romania, right next to the Ukraine border, Maramureș county is a perfect representation of Romanian traditions and rural life. People here still wear traditional costumes. Most of them are manually sewed, and local crafts are passed from one generation to the next.
Here you will find local communities in small villages. These peasants will sit you at their table and give you their very best meal, tell you their stories and make your stay really unique. Maramureș is home to some of the most representative wooden architectural, religious monuments of Romania and Europe. The wooden monasteries of the area are well known for their incomparable beauty all over the country. Many of them are internationally recognized as Unesco World Heritage Sites.
How to get to Maramureș
The county seat is located at Baia Mare. The city has an international airport, so you can get to Maramureș by plane. It takes approximately 1h to fly from Bucharest to Baia Mare.
If you wish to discover more of the beauty of Romania on your way to Maramureș, I recommend you try getting there by train or by car.
Going by train from Bucharest to Maramureș takes between 12 and 18 hours. You may want to depart from other cities, like Cluj Napoca, for example. It has an international airport and is very well connected to other international European countries, like the UK, Spain or Germany. From Cluj Napoca, you can take the train to Baia Mare, and your trip will last between 4 and 6 hours.
If you plan to go by car, you must know that from Bucharest until Baia Mare, there are around 619 km. Because of the diverse geography of Romania and unfortunately underdeveloped infrastructure, it can take you almost 8 hours to get there by car. However, the road is splendid, and you can take this opportunity to make a stop of 1-2 days on your way to see other beautiful locations such as Sighisoara or Sibiu.
When to visit Maramureș?
You may read different blogs or opinions telling you that a particular season might be the best for visiting the region. However, let me say that there are many specific experiences that you can have here in every season. The beauty and different local traditions that you will encounter are so diverse from one season to the other.
You will see fairytale snowfalls, horse sleighs going through the powder snow, and children singing traditional Christmas songs on the houses’ porches during wintertime.
In the spring, you will definitely enjoy the explosion of colors and flowers, green meadows and forests, and the mild temperatures just perfect for starting the hiking season.
The long hot summer days and the delicate autumn sun will offer you a different perspective over the hills, monasteries, and villages. You will nevertheless think about coming back and experience more of this fascinating area that has so much to offer.
Where to stay?
I really enjoy sustainable travel, and I never miss the opportunity to contribute to the local communities while traveling. Suppose you wish to combine sustainable travel with an authentic holiday experience. In that case, I advise you to look for small traditional guesthouses or local family-run businesses. Of course, you will also find nice hotels in Baia Mare with excellent conditions. Still, there’s nothing like the genuine rural experience you will have by choosing to stay at locals.
You will get to know them, hear the legends of these places, and thoroughly enjoy countryside life with all of its particularities and folklore. They will tell you about off-the-beaten-track mountain trails, areas that are not so well known to all tourists but filled with natural beauty and wilderness.
My recommendation for you is to check in at “Casa din Susani.” It is a lovely brand-new traditional guesthouse that will be the perfect place to stay while you discover more about Maramureș. It is located in Calinesti village, 50 km away from Baia Mare. It has a beautiful garden available for its guests.
You can see more about this location also on their Facebook page.
The Merry Cemetery is just 40 km away. You will also be able to visit some of the wooden monasteries and churches in the vicinity of the guesthouse: The Wooden Church of Poienile Izei, The Wooden Church of Budeşti, The Wooden Church of Deseşti, and Bârsana Monastery.
What activities can you do while visiting Maramureș?
There are many activities for you to choose from while visiting this area in Romania. Whether you are an avid hiker or adventure travel enthusiast, love photography or cultural travel, there is so much to discover for you in this region. Here are some of the activities you might want to try:
There are many sports you can try while traveling here:
- Paragliding near Baia Mare
- Rafting or kayaking in Lapușului Gorges, a spectacular natural area that you don’t want to miss.
- Mountain biking and cycling tours – there are many routes that you can try if you wish to discover the wilderness on a bike. The trails also include landmarks, villages and their difficulty varies. An easy cycling trail is Breb-Hoteni-Ocna Şugatag-Breb. It has only 11 km, and you can complete it in a maximum of 2 hours.
Hiking through the National and Natural Parks in the area
The area is hauntingly beautiful and has so many hiking trails for you to choose from.
“Pietrosul Rodnei” is the highest peak in Rodnei Mountains National Park, and it is 2303 m high. There are 19 mountain trails in Rodnei Mountains National Park waiting for you to discover their secrets. Here you will admire glacial lakes, spectacular caves, and gorges.
Here are some fantastic places that you don’t want to miss:
- Izvorul Albastru al Izei (Isa’s Blue Water Spring) – you will love the galleries of the cave, the waterfalls, and the surreal color of the water.
- Cascada Cailor (Horses Waterfall) – you will find this impressive waterfall near Borșa resort, situated at 1300m altitude. The water falls from over 90m on several floors, making it one of Romania’s biggest and most beautiful waterfalls. It is a famous landmark in Maramureș.
Maramureș Mountains Natural Park is another wonderful area you must see and the largest Natural Park in Romania. This Park has over 171 km of hiking trails, 3 cycling routes, and 4 thematic trails. You might want to visit:
- Lacul Albastru (The Blue Lake) – situated near Baia Sprie, the place is unique in Europe. It was created from the collapse of a mining gallery around 1920. The water contains a lot of sulfur, causing a bright blue and green color of the lake. The Blue Lake is a natural monument and a protected area. Its beauty will leave you speechless.
- Poiana cu Narcise Natural Reserve – (Daffodil Meadow) – May is the perfect time of the year to see the daffodil in full bloom. It is a sight that you will not forget too soon.
Visit the traditional villages in the area and the cultural heritage
There are so many beautiful places to see here! These are the places where time stood still and local people still live by the ancient customs. You must see villages like
- Breb and Preluca Noua – considered to be some of the most beautiful villages of Romania
- Bârsana – famous for the wooden monastery you will find here,
- Săpânța – also a lovely village, popular for the Merry Cemetery and the tallest wooden monastery in the world, Peri. The Merry Cemetery is a famous tourist attraction in Maramureș, one of a kind in the country. Everyone buried here has creative wooden painted crosses, a real work of art. You will read comic poetry about certain aspects of their lives on each cross.
- Vișeul de Sus, where you can take a ride with an old steam train, Mocanița. It’s an incredible experience you must try, no matter the season you visit Maramureș.
Don’t miss the famous wooden churches
If you like wooden architecture, you must visit the 8 wooden churches, marked as Unesco World Heritage Sites. They are representative pieces, dating from the VII and VIII centuries or even before, as many of these religious sites were built on the same spot of older churches. Their cultural value is invaluable.
For sure you will need more than a few days to discover all the natural and cultural treasures that this region is known for. Maramureș is one of the most beautiful and picturesque destinations that you will see. It is, in fact, a complete experience. You have to live it and sense it to get an idea of what it has to offer. Apart from all of the specific landmarks and activities listed above, you need to take the time to know the local people, experience their way of living, to taste the delicious food. Only then can you say that you have indeed discovered the secrets of Maramureș, Romania.