Maramures or the ‘land of wood’ is a destination you should visit at least once in your lifetime. Located up north, on the border with Ukraine, Maramures is famous for its original wooden architecture. UNESCO-listed wooden churches, massive wooden gates, traditional houses, and installations are all wonderful results of its particular use of wood.
Even better, Maramures offers great outdoors, perfect for walking, cycling, and hiking, our favorite ways to visit Maramures.
Without further ado, here’s our list of the best things to do in Maramures, the ‘land of wood’.
This is the best way to visit Maramures, following the routes villagers used for generations. You can ask locals to show you the most beautiful shortcuts or you can follow one of the many trails from the Greenway Maramures network. The 88 marked km connect seven villages, seven protected areas, and two NATURA 2000 sites.
If you prefer cycling, there are six marked cycling trails:
If you need even more adrenaline, you can also try paragliding while you visit Maramures.
If you’re fascinated by the architectural style of the wooden churches, don’t miss a complete tour of these landmarks. They’re the best examples of how locals’ knowledge in carving wood ensured their survival for centuries.
Don’t forget to include trips to local artisans who bring to the present old crafts techniques.
Start in Sarbi where a themed itinerary connects the houses of artisans Vasile Borodi, Victoria Duma, Petru Pralea, and Gheorghe Opris. In the same village, you’ll see old installations powered by water, including a traditional whirlpool as the ones used until a few decades ago.
In Barsana, you can visit the workshop of the wood artisan Toader Barsan, while in Botiza you can admire carpets and embroideries in the small museum of Victoria Berbecaru.
The list of artisans doesn’t end here. You’ll find more talented locals that carry on creating beautiful artisan products with only their hands and simple tools.
The typical wooden houses of Maramures are, unfortunately, on a fast track to becoming exotic reminders of the past. Fewer and fewer, these traditional houses were made from oak and fir tree wood and had tall roofs covered with shingles. Still, you can still see enough if you take your time to walk around the villages.
If you have the chance to walk inside, admire the simple lifestyle locals had until just a few decades ago. The porch, a small hallway known as tinda, a room for daily family life, and a guest room used to display the hand-worked dowry of the girls usually made up the entire house.
Like the houses, the wooden gates, elaborate and imposing, were once the symbol of their owner’s social status and of the sculptor’s talent.
A big part of your experience in Maramures will depend on where you choose to stay. We always recommend the small guest houses where the hosts take their time to prepare delicious home-cooked meals, and where you, the tourist, are treated like a friend.
Mara Guest House from Desesti is one of these great options. Located on the shore of the Mara River, with a large garden and the best food, this guest house is our favorite when we visit Maramures.
First mentioned in 1325, Sighetu Marmatiei was for a very long time the only town in Maramures. Despite its provincial atmosphere, the small town witnessed the repercussions of the two dreadful extermination ideologies of the 20th century: nazism and communism. We recommend you save an entire day to visit the Village Museum and the Memorial of Victims of Communism organized in the former prison. Stop also at the Memorial House Elie Weisel and at the Jewish Cemetery.
The local dishes from Maramures are a mouth-watering delight not to miss. Moderation is, however, the keyword as some recipes are a bit too much if you’re on a light diet.
The most famous local dishes are meat and cheese-based. Try the local sausages and meat specialties like toba, caltabos, or slanina, the chicken soup, the local stew from a mix of meats served with polenta, and, of course, balmos, a nutrient meal from corn and sour cream.
Don’t forget to spice your meal with a shot of horinca, the strong local version of plum brandy. Don’t even try to refuse it, your hosts will feel offended as this home-made drink is their most famous specialty.
Founded in 1935 by Stan Ioan Patras, the Merry Cemetery from Sapanta became a world-unique attraction for its unique view of death.
This is the place where the end is painted in shades of blue and written in funny words about the life of the dead. It’s the ancestral peasant philosophy of viewing death, not as a tragedy, but as a normal phase of life on earth.
If you’d like to add a few hikes to your travel plans, you chose the right place. You have many options, from long and high-altitude routes to easy hikes for the entire family.
Go hiking in Rodnei Mountains, the second-largest national park in Romania, if you’re in search of a challenge. With altitudes above 2,300 meters and iconic glacial lakes, this is the highest area of the Eastern Carpathians. Choose Maramuresului Mountains Nature Park if you’re looking for less strenuous hikes. With lower altitudes, under 2,000 meters, this protected area has over 170 km of marked trails, including three cycling routes. For family hikes, explore Gutaiului Mountains and follow an easy route to their tallest peak, Creasta Cocosului.
The steam train Mocanita will take you on a wonderful journey, on the last forestry railway station in Europe, deep in the forests of Vaser Valley. The train, used since 1932 for transporting timber, runs on a narrow-gauge track of 760 mm, offering a memorable experience. And a unique one as Romania is the last European country where the forestry railways survived after WW2. In 1989, 15 routes still existed, but, except for Mocanita, all were closed down in the last decade of the 20th century.
For the schedule and more details, check on www.cffviseu.com
We hope our guide to the best things to do in the ‘land of wood’ will help you make the best of your time. To visit Maramures is one of the best vacation options in Romania if you want to combine an outdoor adventure with a more cultural journey.