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 which rises 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 history of the area. They speak of the region’s troubled past, which involved many battles with invaders that jeopardised the community’s very existence.
- Bran Castle – also known as Dracula’s Castle
- The idyllic villages, shepherds’ huts and breathtaking views of the Piatra Craiului Mountains
- The taste of the freshly made cheese prepared according to an ancient recipe
- Moldoviţa Monastery and Prince Petru Rareş’ original throne
- Suceviţa monastery with its exterior Ladder of Virtues fresco and the 32 steps to heaven
- Voronet monastery, the only painted monastery that has an internationally recognised colour
Day 1: Bucharest – Bran
Welcome to Romania! 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
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: 5-6 hours, 17.5 km, ↑790 m ↓620 m
- Accommodation: 4-star Vlahia Inn or similar
Day 3: Moieciu de Sus – Măgura
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: 6-7 hours, 22 km, ↑760 m ↓690 m
- Accommodation: Pension Nea Marin Guesthouse or similar
Day 4: Magura – Zărnesţi
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: 5-6 hours, 15 km, ↑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.
- Transfer: 6 hours, 400 km
- Accommodation: Guesthouse Cabana Putna Dorina or similar
Day 6: Putna – Sucevita
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: 5-6 hours, 17.5 km, ↑180 m ↓250 m
- Accommodation: Felicia Guesthouse or similar
Day 7: Moldoviţa and circular walk Suceviţa
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: 3 hours, 8 km, ↑110 m ↓110 m
- Accommodation: Felicia Guesthouse or similar
Day 8: Voronet – Humor
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.
- Walking for the day: 4-5 hours, 14 km, ↑1240 m ↓200 m
- Accommodation: 3*** Guesthouse Pensiunea Maridor Manastirea Humorului or similar
Day 9: Departure or Onward Travel
After breakfast we will transfer you to Suceava train station where you can get the train to Bucharest. Individual stay extensions available upon request.
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.
Sample hotels: 3-star Guesthouse Casa din Bran, 4-star Vlahia Inn, Pension Nea Marin Guesthouse, 3-star Guesthouse Hora cu Brazi, Guesthouse Cabana Putna Dorina, Felicia Guesthouse,3*** Guesthouse Pensiunea Maridor Manastirea Humorului
*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.
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.
Our recommended arrival airport for this holiday is Bucharest.
Flight information can change rapidly, and not all flights run daily. Please do check directly with the airlines’ websites or Skyscanner before finalising any booking with us. Please do not book your flights before we have confirmed your booking.
Luggage transfer is included, and your bags will be transferred by your current hotel (or by private transfer) to your next hotel. Baggage limit 25 kg per bag.
We strongly recommend protecting the cost of your trip and other non-refundable travel expenses with travel insurance. Our Signature Travel Insurance allows you to insure all of your expenses. While a Signature Travel Insurance policy can be purchased at any time, purchasing a policy within 20 days of making your initial trip deposit gives you the widest range of policy options, including a Cancel for Any Reason coverage. For complete peace of mind, we also recommend enrolling with Global Rescue, the worldwide leader in field rescue, evacuation and security extraction services.
- Language: Romanian. In big cities, many people speak English, but in remote areas, this might not be the case. However, most of the hotel personnel where we stay speak English and are ready to help you. Road signs/markers are in the Latin alphabet – and you can always call our 24/7 helpline if there are any problems.
- Electric supply and plugs: 220V, 50hZ, two-pin round plugs.
- Currency: Romanian New Leu (RON) is the official currency in Romania (1 Euro equals 4.84 RON). We strongly advise taking adequate cash for your daily requirements. Banks and ATMs are available and credit/debit card payments are widely accepted in towns and cities and in big petrol station chains but might be limited at some of the villages we visit.
Up-to-date FCO travel advice on Romania is available here.
Difficulty Grade: Moderate
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 in 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 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. 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.
What to Bring
We recommend that you travel as light as possible – airlines might charge you an extra fee, and during ground transfers place might be limited. Ideally, you should bring one piece of luggage weighing not more than 25 kg (to be checked in) and a daily pack (15 – 20 l rucksack) for your daily essentials (snacks, drinking water, camera, etc.). Below is a non-exclusive list of what you should bring to this trip. More detailed info will be included in your holiday information pack. If you need further advice, please contact us or a reputable outdoor retailer.
- Good hiking boots
- Hiking socks
- Several t-shirts (preferably breathable/fast drying)
- Packable Waterproof and windproof jacket with hood
- Synthetic mid layer or warm fleece
- Trainers and/or sandals – to relax and wear inside the accommodation
- Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip salve
- Hat/Baseball cap
- Personal First Aid kit (wet wipes, flu remedies, stomach remedies)
- 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 itinerary
- 8 Breakfasts
- 6 Evening meals
- 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
Single Room & Solo Traveller Supplements
- Where individual members of a group require a single room, a single room supplement is applicable
- This holiday is available for solo travellers. As costs are not shared, a supplement is payable on the standard trip cost.
Options and Extras
- Extra nights before of after the tour
- Entrance tickets
- Train tickets Suceava – Bucharest
- Lunch meals and the evening meals not listed in the itinerary
- Personal expenses such as snacks, drinks, phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
- Any items not specifically mentioned as ‘included’ in the programme
- Travel insurance