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Hidden Gems
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Carpathian Mountains & the Painted Monasteries of Bucovina

Overview

Explore the mountains and villages of Transylvania and the Painted Monasteries of Bucovina on this unforgettable walking tour. Visit the legendary home of Count Dracula, the Carpathian Mountains, with their breathtaking alpine scenery, charming mountain villages and hospitable people. Piatra Craiului, meaning royal stone, is a dramatic limestone ridge, rising sharply from the forests and plains below, offering one of the most beautiful ridge walks in Europe. In these rural areas little has changed for centuries; you will see small summer lodges built for the hay harvest, sheep paths through forest and meadows, and shepherds riding on donkey carts.

The second part of the tour will take you to the Painted Monasteries of Bucovina – one of the most unique cultural landscapes in Europe. Covered in brightly coloured frescoes dating from the 15th century, the eight painted churches are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Visiting them is an aesthetically pleasing experience, as well as one that will bring you closer to Romanian history, culture and traditions. Apart from being important places of worship, the churches have a strong link to the area’s history. They speak of the region’s troubled past, which involved many battles with invaders that jeopardised the community’s very existence.

Highlights

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Itinerary

Day 1: Bucharest – Bran

Start your tour with a complimentary transfer from Bucharest airport to the Carpathian Mountains and the village of Bran. Visit the Bran Castle, believed to have once held Vlad the Impaler prisoner. The infamous Romanian ruler was immortalised as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, Dracula, and thanks to this, Bran Castle is known in the region and beyond as ‘Dracula’s Castle’.

  • Transfer: 2 hours, 160 km
  • Accommodation: 3-star Guesthouse Casa din Bran or similar

Day 2: Bran – Moieciu de Sus | 18 km

After breakfast, walk to the shepherd village of Simon, known for its special smoked cheese. Here, the sheep are milked twice into wooden buckets, ready to be coagulated with lamb rennet and cut into curds with rustic wooden tools. After forming balls of curd, the shepherds slice them into pieces and knead them back together. Wheels of finished cheese, ranging in size from softballs to beach balls, hang in canvas cloths outside. They are ready to eat after three or four days but can be aged weeks longer on wooden planks. Continue to Moieciu de Sus to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere by the wood-burning fireplace at your accommodation.

  • Walking for the day: 18 km, 5-6 hours, ↑790 m ↓620 m
  • Accommodation: 4-star Vlahia Inn or similar

Day 3: Moieciu de Sus – Măgura | 22 km

Today’s trek takes you to the Piatra Craiului mountain – a favourite of many lovers of mountain landscapes, for the jagged ridges, spectacular mountain views, the variety of trails and sights, and the silence that reigns in this stone fortress of the Carpathians. Visit Fundata – the highest village in Romania (1304 m). It is said that the cheese made in fir bark was invented in Fundata and that here is where you can find the best smoked cheese in Romania. Travel back in time while passing the village of Sirnea, where less than 300 people live in old homes wrapped with shingles, over which reigns a divine silence. At the end of the day reach Măgura village, located at an altitude of 1000 m above sea level, right in the middle of Piatra Craiului national park.

  • Walking for the day: 22 km, 6-7 hours, ↑760 m ↓690 m
  • Accommodation: Pension Nea Marin Guesthouse or similar

Day 4: Magura – Zărnesţi | 15 km

Walk through the spectacular Prapastiile Zarnestilor gorge up to Zanoaga Meadow, scattered with rocks, where you can already admire the imposing peaks of Piatra Craiului. The path to Curmatura hut enters the forest again, and the scenery is increasingly beautiful. Your way up goes to the rustic Curmatura mountain hut – the perfect place to have your picnic. Curmatura hut is located at an altitude of 1470 meters, in a glade where the view of the surrounding area is just like in a fairytale. Overnight in Zărnesţi in a 3-star guesthouse where you can enjoy the views of the Piatra Craiului Mountains from your balcony.

  • Walking for the day: 15 km, 5-6 hours, ↑620 m ↓840 m
  • Accommodation: 3-star Guesthouse Hora cu Brazi or similar

Day 5: Zărnesţi – Putna

Today a private transfer will take you across the Carpathians to the region of Bucovina, known for its famous painted monasteries. Scattered over a large swathe of Bucovina and dated mainly from the 15th and 16th centuries, a time when Orthodox Moldavia was battling for its life with forces of the expanding Ottoman Empire, eight of the churches have stood the test of time. The churches are part of the UNESCO World Heritage as the Painted Churches of Moldavia or commonly known as the Painted Monasteries of Bucovina. Overnight in Putna.

Day 6: Putna – Sucevita | 18 km

From Putna you take the old monastery path to Suceviţa monastery. In summer, the forest is full of berries and wild mushrooms. Suceviţa Monastery (built 1582–1601) is the largest Bucovina monastery, and some regard it as the finest. It’s perhaps best known for its exterior Ladder of Virtues fresco, with its 32 steps to heaven, near the main entry. It exhorts priests to righteous behaviour and to avoid the unfortunate fate of the clerics depicted tumbling from the ladder due to sins such as greed or vanity. Suceviţa was the last painted monastery built. The monastery’s museum exhibits various treasures and art pieces. Spend the next two nights in a welcoming guesthouse in Suceviţa with dinner included.

  • Walking for the day: 18 km, 5-6 hours, ↑180 m ↓250 m
  • Accommodation: Felicia Guesthouse or similar

Day 7: Moldoviţa and circular walk Suceviţa | 8 km

After breakfast, a short transfer will take you to the Ciumirna pass where you can enjoy the astounding panoramic mountain views. Visit Moldoviţa Monastery, built in 1532. The monastery occupies a fortified quadrangular enclosure with tower, gates and well-tended lawns. The central painted church has been partly restored and features impressive frescoes from 1537. The southern exterior wall depicts the siege of Constantinople in 626, under a combined Persian-Avar attack. Interestingly, the besiegers are depicted in Turkish dress – keeping parishioners concentrated on the contemporary enemy. Inside the sanctuary, on a wall facing the carved iconostasis, a pious Prince Petru Rareş offers the church to Christ. The monastery’s small museum displays Rareş’ original throne.

  • Walking for the day: 8 km, 3 hours, ↑110 m ↓110 m
  • Accommodation: Felicia Guesthouse or similar

Day 8: Voronet – Humor | 14 km

Short transfer in the morning to Voronet monastery. Built in just three months and three weeks by Ştefan cel Mare following a key 1488 victory over the Turks, Voroneţ Monastery is the only painted monastery that has had an internationally recognised colour associated with it. ‘Voroneţ Blue’, a vibrant cerulean hue created from lapis lazuli and other ingredients, is prominent in its frescoes. A 2011 restoration of frescoes in the entryway revealed the incredible quality of these paintings even more clearly. Continue your walk up to Objina with good views over the valley and villages scattered around until you reach Humor.

Day 9: Departure

After breakfast, we will transfer you to Suceava train station where you can get the train to Bucharest. Individual stay extensions available upon request.

What to Expect

Accommodation

3 and 4-star hotels or family-run guesthouses, as indicated in the itinerary. All places have been carefully hand-picked by us, and their quality is regularly monitored. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour.

Click to view default hotels

Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.

Meals

Breakfast on all mornings and 6 evening meals are included. When no restaurant location is available on route lunches and snacks should either be bought from local shops, or packed lunch can be pre-ordered from your accommodation the night before.

Difficulty & terrain

This tour would suit regular hikers who are generally fit. Moderate grade itineraries include longer walking days and some steeper ascents and descents. The longest day of this itinerary is 22 km. Some days are very relaxed, however, the first part of the tour could be more challenging as the second would offer a more relaxed pace with time to take in the views and surroundings (read more about difficulty grades). We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.

When to go

This trip is available from April until November. The weather is best in June – September. The flexibility of self guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates, and you can start your holiday on any date in the season. 

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

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By plane

Our recommended airport for this tour is Bucharest.

Inclusions

Included

  • 8 breakfasts
  • 6 evening meals
  • Holiday information pack including regularly updated route descriptions and road notes; maps with daily routes and optional hikes marked
  • Accommodation for 8 nights in hand-picked hotels or family-run guest-houses as listed in the itinerary
  • Daily luggage transport to next hotel
  • Transfer Bucharest airport – Bran
  • Transfer Sucevita – Moldovita
  • Transfer Zarnesti – Putna
  • Transfer Sucevita – Voronet
  • Transfer Humor – Suceava train station
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative

Excluded

  • Airfare and departure airport transfer
  • Entrance tickets
  • Train tickets Suceava – Bucharest
  • Lunches, 2 dinners, drinks and snacks
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Personal expenses
  • Local tourist taxes and entry fees (payable on-site)
  • Any items not explicitly listed as included

Options, extras & supplements

  • A supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room
  • This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
  • Extra nights along the trail are bookable upon request
  • Private airport transfers after the holiday (or before, in case you are flying to an airport different from Bucharest).

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