Things To Do In Maramures, Romania
Written by local travel writer Corina from secretromania.com and anothemilestone.eu
When you say Romania, most people think Transylvania is a major attraction here. Yes, Transylvania has its pluses, and nobody can deny that.
But once you start reading more about Romania and its other regions, you discover that each one of them has something appealing. Maramures, the northern part of Romania, will offer you more than one reason to come here. It is considered a place with unspoiled nature and well-preserved traditions, a place where people can enjoy food and landscapes as they were 100 years ago.
Before traveling here, it is better to do your homework and learn when is the best time to visit it, how can you get there, where to stay, and what things you can do in Maramures.
Three days are enough to check all the main attractions here. But if you need a relaxing holiday, plan a whole week, and you will have time to savor some walks in the forest, easy hiking, and traditional activities.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Maramures
When you decide to visit Maramures, consider that here, winter is winter (with snow and maybe freezing temperatures) and summer is summer (temperatures around 35 degrees Celsius). And that applies all over Romania.
If you are not a big fan of extreme temperatures, spring or autumn is probably a good choice. These seasons can be rainy but also full of beautiful colors. Autumn is even more colorful than Spring: all shades of red, yellow, orange, and green can be seen! To see the blossom trees and green gardens, book your trip in Spring. During Easter, you will have the chance to see some of this region’s traditions: painted eggs, traditional costumes, and delicious food.
Summer is the holiday season. It may not be as warm here as in a big city, but summer in Romania is hot, and Maramures is no exception! It may be a little more crowded than usual but only at the main attractions. But it is the perfect time to enjoy nature and mostly stay outside as much as possible! The hills, gardens, and forests will be just yours!
Winter can be tricky here. If you don’t like snow, I don’t recommend winter at all! But if you don’t have a problem with cold weather, Maramures will reward you with fantastic white views. Christmas is another great moment to experience the local traditions.
The only thing with winter is that if you decide to come in January or February, some attractions are closed, or their winter schedule is short. And once you have determined the best time to visit this exciting place, it’s time to choose how to get there.
Things To Do In Maramures, Romania
The best thing to do in Maramures is to relax. Enjoy the quiet life here, the nature charging your batteries, and the good, natural food. There are not many corners around Europe so well preserved, which is something Maramures can take pride in.
But besides relaxing, there are other things to do here and places to visit to have a complete experience.
Visit The Wooden Churches In Maramures
The wooden churches in Maramures are known for their impressive architecture and old history. Even though almost every village has a wooden church (more than 100 wooden churches in the region), only 8 are UNESCO heritage, and some were built 400 years ago.
These eight churches are very tall and narrow and were built using a specific technique to combine wood. Not all of them can receive visitors daily, so it is good to know which one to choose because getting to them takes some time. I recommend you visit the Barsana Monastery and the wooden church in Desesti.
Barsana Wooden Church
The most visited wooden church is the Barsana monastery (comuna Barsana, nr. 6, Romania). It was built at the beginning of the 18th century with oak wood and had a very tall bell tower (around 57 meters). It has an interesting story because it was moved twice from the original place it was built. Around 1806 it was moved to where it can be found today.
Local painters painted it inside; today, it is part of a group of buildings that form the Barsana monastery. You can visit it every Monday to Friday, 8 am – 9 pm.
Desesti Wooden Church
The most accessible wooden church is the one in Desesti, and you can visit it from Baia mare to Sighetu Marmatiei. It doesn’t have official opening hours, but if you get there and find the door closed, you can contact the person in charge by phone (his phone number is written on the door). The painting inside, very well preserved, illustrates scenes from the Bible (very interesting is the one about the fire in hell and the tortures suffered by the ones getting there).
UNESCO heritage’s other six wooden churches are in Budesti, Ieud, Plopis, Poienile Izei, Rogoz, and Surdesti. If you like these types of monuments, you can visit them all, but plan your trip carefully because not all the roads are accessible, and you will need more than a day to do that.
Take A Walk In The Merry Cemetery
Another popular attraction in Maramures is the Merry Cemetery in Sapanta. Once upon a time, there was a man who hated death. That man was Stan Ioan Patras, and he decided to continue Dacia’s lost tradition. This is how the story of this cemetery begins.
The Dacians (Romanians ancestors) believed that death was a happy event because they could meet their major God afterward. Stan Ioan Patras started to design colorful crosses when someone died, and he wrote a short poem on the cross about the life of the defunct. After Stan Ioan Patras died, his disciple continued his work. Today almost 800 painted crosses can be found here. The most important ones have a sign on them so they can be easily spotted. This is how the merry cemetery was created.
Some of the poems are very interesting (for the whole experience, ask someone to translate them for you), but the overall feeling is still sadness after visiting this place. The creator of the Merry Cemetery is buried here, just in front of the church.
Roam Around The Local Villages
The many villages in the Maramures region are very close to one another, so you can easily visit them during your stay. You can choose to walk in a leisurely manner, or you can cycle. There are many places to hire bicycles, so you’ll have no issues.
Seven villages weave through protected areas, covering 88km. All routes are marked, so you’re not going to get lost!
If you prefer to cycle, the Rooster’s Crest Trail and Rooster’s Trail are the most difficult, with the latter covering 22km. The Rails’ Trail is a good option for those who don’t want to break too much of a sweat, covering 20.8km.
Discover The History Of Communism At The Memorial Of Suffering In Sighetu Marmatiei
The Memorial to the Victims of Communism and Resistance was opened in the old communist prison in Sighetu Marmatiei. Here you can learn what communism meant in Romania, how it was established, and what happened to people that fought against it. At the entrance, you can read the same motto written in Auschwitz “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana.
For those interested in the history of communism, a visit here is a must. All notes are in Romanian, but you can find some printed materials in English. After you visit the prison, go in the backyard to see a sculpture: a group of people pushed by a headless body, representing the repressive system.
After checking out the Memorial to the Victims of Communism, the town of Sighetu Marmatiei is worth exploring further.
This town first came to prominence in 1325, and it’s thought to be the first and only town in the whole of Maramures. The town has certainly seen its fair share of history, with communism and Nazi rule scarring the area.
Be sure to check out the Village Museum, where you can learn about this beautiful town’s history.
Buy Handcrafted Goods
In the many villages, you’ll find craft stores and stalls that sell handmade goods. These are ideal for taking back home as gifts for loved ones. As a few starting points, you’ll find plenty to check out and purchase in Sarbi, Barsana, and Botiza.
Locals are also only too happy to let you watch as they go about their work and explain as well as they can what they’re doing. You will probably be mesmerized watching them!
Put On Your Hiking Shoes
It’s not only the local villages you should wander around, but the mountains too. You’ll surely need your walking boots, but don’t let that stop you.
The Rodnei Mountains are the second largest national park in the country, and if you’re up for a challenge, you’ll see some fantastic scenery by taking a day’s exercise. Otherwise, Maramuresului Mountains Nature Park will still give you amazing things to see but with less effort.
Take A Ride With The Steam Train
My favorite experience in Maramures is the steam train ride. Every morning, from Spring to Autumn, an old steam train called “Mocanita” departs from Viseu de Sus.
The trip takes around half day. After 2 hour ride in the wilderness of Northern Romania, you will arrive on a green meadow, where you will stop for another 2 hours.
Here you can visit the small train museum, have a traditional lunch, listen to some local music or lie down and breathe the fresh air – no restaurants, no cars, no phone signal, just a morning in the middle of nature to relax you. The steam train ride is a popular attraction, especially during Summer, so book your ticket in advance.
And while you explore this fantastic region, stop from time to time and admire the traditional villages and the old houses with their big, wooden gates, and take a walk on their isolated lanes.
Try Local Cuisine
You’ll undoubtedly enjoy filling up on local cuisine, although if you’re on a diet, you’ll probably want to take a day off! Dishes here are famously quite heavy but shouldn’t be missed, many including meat and cheese. Meat eaters will enjoy sampling Caltabos, Slanina, and Toba, while vegetarians have several options, including vegetables cooked in different ways or salads.
For lunch and dinner, consult the menu before choosing a particular restaurant. Some have only traditional dishes, while others also include salads and lighter things to eat.
How To Get To Maramures
Before planning your trip to Maramures, it is good to know that you will need a car to explore this area. Whether you rent one, come on your own, or book a guided trip, a car is necessary to reach the main attractions. Maybe that is why the region is unspoiled: it is not easily accessible.
Getting To Maramures By Plane
The closest airport is the one in Baia Mare (the central city of the region), named “Maramures airport,” but you won’t find international flights that land here (yet). Another airport is the one in Cluj Napoca. It will take you around half day to get from Cluj Napoca to Maramures, but the airport in Cluj is not very big either.
The two options with enough international flights are Bucuresti, Henri Coanda, or in Budapest. Of course, you will need a day by car to get from Bucharest/Budapest to Baia Mare or another flight.
But most tourists stay in Bucharest and tour Romania, including Transylvania and Maramures.
Getting To Maramures By Train
Another option is to take the train from Bucharest (or any other major city in Romania) to Baia Mare. The ride takes around 13 hours, so it is not your best option. But if you choose it, you can book your train tickets online.
Getting To Maramures By Bus
If you land in Bucharest, you can also take the bus, and after 13 hours, you will arrive at Baia Mare. The bus is also an option to explore the region for those who don’t like driving and do not want a guided tour.
It will only take you near the main attractions, but the bus schedule won’t allow you to see as many items as by car. Also, some attractions are not reachable by bus. It would be best to consider all these conditions before deciding the best way to travel to Maramures.
After establishing how to get there, you must choose where to stay in Maramures.
Where To Stay In Maramures
An excellent base to explore the region is Sighetu Marmatiei. Sighetu Marmatiei is a small town in the north, and from here, all the tourist attractions are easy to reach.
You can find good hotels and B&Bs. If you want to stay in the countryside, choose one of the many pensions. Most are traditionally decorated, but you still have some options if you prefer luxury accommodation. The best part about these pensions is that they have massive gardens. You can lie on the grass and listen to nature’s sounds all day long.
Not all of them offer breakfast, and not all of them have restaurants. If you want to start your day early in the morning, choose accommodation with breakfast included.
Nobody that visits Maramures comes back disappointed. Nobody.
Discover this land where it seems like time stood still.
People are astonished by its beauty and thrilled with the fact that it seems so isolated, so still. In a world full of gadgets, speed, and big cities, a visit here it’s like a breath of fresh air, a trip back in time.
Are you ready to take this trip? What will be on your things to do in Maramures list?
I would like to plan a trip to my mom’s birthplace. She was born in what was Tisa Vereshmort, in Maramures, Romania. I can’t find this on a map. her home had a well on her property. She called her home Mikif before she left in 1940. Any ideas or tips are appreciated. I tried googling the area, other than an old map nothing comes up for me.