Unlike the many other properties with this same name, Casa Olarului (The Potter’s House) is actually owned by a potter. Daniel Leș and his wife opened this rustic bed and breakfast in Baia Sprie to offer travelers a taste of traditional life. You can choose between four accommodations: The Stone House, The Clay House, The Wood House, or the Workshop House. Staying here is extra special as you not only can buy his pottery, but he also offers fun pottery classes, which can vary in length and experience level. Good to know: the fifth consecutive night is free of charge.
Casa din Vale
Casa din Vale was opened by Roxana and Florin Vale in 2015. Today, you have the option to choose between seven traditional houses, either perfectly restored or newly built. But what sets Casa din Vale apart from other cozy housings in the area is its cultural touch. The owners have created the Cultural Garden, where they host concerts, exhibitions, and screenings. They also organize the annual Cântec cu Miros de Țară Festival in August, bringing together musicians and local artists who sell their crafts.
The Village Hotel
Like a tiny village within a village, The Village Hotel consists of four traditional Maramureș houses, lovingly restored and improved by an English couple. Penny and Duncan Ridgeley have been described as ”perfect hosts”, and their property is nothing short of idyllic. Despite the ”hotel” in the name, you won’t find any TV sets or phones in these authentic Breb houses, but you’ll be surrounded by plenty of local tapestries and artifacts. There’s a self-service breakfast included in the price, as well as a well-stocked kitchen with fresh local produce. For a taste of the local cuisine, ask for a typical home-cooked dinner at a local’s house.
If you’re looking for a perfect blend between traditional, 100-year-old houses and modern amenities like walk-in showers and flat-screen TVs, Casa Moroșenilor is your answer. Opened by yet another Romanian couple who gave up their city life for the tranquility of rural life, this bed & breakfast is ideal for both families and couples. There is storage space if you come to ski here during wintertime, as well as a barbecue, should you choose summertime. Make sure to check out Casa Lu’ Dochia, their traditional in-house restaurant.
Casa lu’ Dochia
Everything screams “authenticity” about this small, wooden restaurant overlooking the blissful village of Breb. You know the food will be delicious and 100% traditional when the cook was born and raised in the village and learned the skills from her mother. Friendly staff, generous portions, and most importantly, the flavourful dishes and organic ingredients made delighted guests give Casa Lu’ Dochia a perfect rating. Be sure to try their traditional zamă (sour soup) and horincă (a very strong local brandy).
Bica Haiducu Restaurant
“The pig’s Adidas” (adidași de porc), “veal sweet cheeks” (obrăjori de vițel), and “bird milk” (lapte de pasăre) are just some of the many funny-sounding and delicious dishes you can enjoy at Bica Haiducul, in the village of Mara, a small village famous for its wooden gates. The menu is rather small because the owners want to ensure fresh food, but you will encounter both traditional food and modern reinterpretations here.
Casa Iurca de Călinești
This restaurant is located in Sighetu Marmației and belongs to the Iurca de Călinești family, a family with noble origins dating back to 1361. The restaurant combines traditional food and local culture to offer their visitors a true taste of Maramureș. The dishes are tasty, and the portions are quite generous. Try the traditional cheese pie, but only if you have someone to share it with, as it weighs 1 kilogram. Make sure to make a reservation and be patient with the service, as it tends to be slow on crowded evenings.
This is a perfect destination for those seeking a rural experience. Attracting visitors from all over the world, it will captivate you with its unspoiled natural beauty and slower pace of life. You’ll find houses are made out of wood – oftentimes with beautifully built wooden gates – and locals proudly wearing traditional outfits. Sunday mass is a cherished event, and women still weave carpets by hand while men carve wood and gather hay. Breb is also famous for its wooden churches, some of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites. We recommend sleeping a few nights in this village: it is well-equipped to host the foreign tourist.
There are many small villages you can drive through to get a feel for the authentic rural life. Such villages include Rozalvea, Strâmtura, Văleni, Bârsana, Săliștea, Botiza, and Leud, in no particular order.
Șurdești Wooden Church
Located on the road between Baia Mare and the Cavnic ski slope, the small village of Șurdești boasts a UNESCO World Heritage site: The Greek-Catholic wooden church. It recently celebrated its 300th anniversary and stands at 72-meter high, making it the second tallest wooden church in Romania and one of the tallest in Europe. The church has been recently renovated and restored, so you can still admire the 18th-century frescoes painted on the inside. While you’re in the area, make sure to visit the wooden church of Plopiș as well – it’s also an UNESCO monument and only 1 kilometer away.
Biserica de Lemn Saint Parascheva, Desești
The lesser-known UNESCO Biserica de Lemn Saint Parascheva Church, in Desești, is extremely charming. There is a certain feeling of spirituality which is heightened here, away from the tourist bustle. Once inside, admire the detailed stories painted on the walls: it has one of the best-preserved and unique murals, dating back to 1780. Admire the thick carpets rarely seen in other churches and walk up the narrow staircase to the second floor for a cozy inner view from the top.
Ieud Deal Church
Dating from the 17th century, Ieud Deal Church is austere on the outside, but beautifully painted on the inside. It’s considered the masterpiece of the famous church painter Alexandru Ponehalschi. Should you get there and find the church closed (even during its opening hours), call the number on the information sheet at the main entrance and the caretaker will come to open it for you. Good to know: there are two wooden churches in Ieud – this one, Ieud Deal (Ieud Hill), is set on a hill, hence its name, as opposed to Ieud Vale (Ieud Valley).
Church of The Holy Archangels, Rogoz
Built in 1663 by the villagers of Rogoz, on the site of a former church that was burned down by the Tartars, the Church of The Holy Archangels has beautifully preserved paintings, shockingly so since they have never been restored. The local guides speak English and are eager to tell you all about the church’s history and its paintings. If you’re not in a hurry, ask them to take you to the ethnographic museum, in the neighboring courtyard, as they can also provide a tour.
The Merry Cemetery
Death is almost always a reason for sadness. Not in the Merry cemetery (Cimitiru Vesel) of Săpânța, a place where colorful tombs poke fun at the dead. This cemetery was the brainchild of Stan Ion Pătraș, a local carpenter. In the 1930s, Pătraș started personalizing funerary crosses by carving satirical poems and portraits of the deceased on them. He ended up carving hundreds of such crosses in the next four decades, which are all covered in naive style, colorful paintings. The predominant color on the crosses is a special type of blue, also known as “Săpânța blue.” Take some time to stroll through its rows, but make sure you have a Romanian guide with you to translate all the epitaphs.
The Bârsana Monastery is a popular pilgrimage and tourist spot, run by 10 nuns and a priest. The monastic complex, entirely made of wood, is composed of the typical Maramureș gate, the belfry, the church (57 meters high), the summer altar, the nunnery, the chapel, the foreman’s house, and the artists’ house. There’s also a museum on-site where you can admire icons, books, and artifacts dating back to the 16th century, as well as a gift shop where you can buy handmade items. The entrance to the monastery is free of charge; you only need to buy a ticket if you want to visit the museum.
Worth seeing while you’re visiting the Merry Cemetery in Săpânța, the Peri-Săpânța Monastery is the third tallest church in Romania (78 meters high). Built in 1997, it is a replica of the old Romanian monastery of Peri (built in 1391) whose ruins are now on Ukrainian territory. The Peri-Săpânța church was plated with 8.5 kilograms of gold, and its 7-meter cross was also plated with 4 kilograms of gold – no wonder you can see it from 5 kilometers away. There is no entrance fee, so stop by to enjoy the architecture and the wonderful oak forest that surrounds it.
The Sighet Memorial
Together with The Auschwitz Memorial in Poland and The Peace Memorial in Normandy, the Sighet Memorial in Romania has been declared by the Council of Europe one of the main places to preserve collective memory in the continent. Built in 1897, the Sighet Prison became the place where the communist regime sent any intellectuals who dared to oppose them, including former ministers, teachers, economists, historians, journalists, politicians, and more. Some of them were not even put on trial, and most of them died in inhuman conditions. Today, the prison has been transformed into a museum. We recommend a visit if you want to learn more about the victims of the communist regime and the resistance movement.
Maramureș Village Museum
This open-air museum gives the impression of a typical Maramureș village. It’s actually a collection of traditional wooden houses and barns that were relocated from different corners of the county, spanning over four centuries. The original furniture and the carvings on the doors and gates, represent the finest craftsmanship of Maramureș, and are beautifully preserved. To avoid the large tour groups and to enjoy the place at your own place, we recommend visiting early in the morning.
The Blue Lake (Baia Sprie)
Three kilometers from Baia Sprie, there is a small lake that may seem completely ordinary at first glance, but is actually unique in the world. Lacul Albastru/The Blue Lake was formed in 1920 when a mining gallery collapsed and was then filled with rainwater. It was declared a natural monument in 1970. What makes it truly special is the fact that the lake changes color depending on the light, from emerald-green to blue or even brown. This color transformation is caused by the sulfur compounds from the mine – visit it in wintertime and it will appear emerald; visit it in summer and it’s turquoise. To access the lake, you can first drive up to a small parking area and then continue on foot along a steep path.
Rodna Mountains National Park
The Rodna Mountains National Park, the second largest national park in Romania, spans over 465 square kilometers across three different counties: Bistrița Năsăud, Maramureș, and Suceava. If you’re seeking to explore offbeat trails through breathtaking scenery, this is the place for you. Don’t miss Cascada Cailor (The Horse’s Waterfall), the largest waterfall in Romania; it’s on a 7.2-kilometer out-and-back trail from Borșa. Other natural attractions in the area are the spectacular caves, especially Grota Zânelor and Jgheabul lui Zalion, as well as the Lala Mare Lake (a glacial lake).
Creasta Cocoșului Nature Reserve
Creasta Cocoșului (the Rooster’s Comb) is a natural reserve in Maramureș, near the village of Desești. Its diverse flora and fauna comprise rare and beautiful species, but the main attraction of this protected area is the Rooster’s Comb peak (1,200 meters). Resembling, indeed, the comb of a rooster, this spectacular ridge is the only remains of a volcanic crater that erupted nine million years ago. There are several hiking trails you can take to reach it, depending on your accommodation location. If you’re not traveling with a larger group, locals recommend making loud noises along the trail to ward off bears.
Maramureș Mountains Natural Park
Located in the north of Maramureș county, close to the border with Ukraine, the Maramureș Mountains Natural Park consists of four different areas, each a national interest reserve. The Farcău Peak – Vinderelu Lake – Mihăilescu Peak area boasts floral rarities, such as edelweiss flowers, which, of course, you are forbidden to pick. Another part of the park, the Cornu Nedeii – Ciungii Bălășinii natural area, protects the black grouse, which is one of the most endangered species on the planet. The Tomnatec – Sehleanu Daffodil Clearing is a floristic reserve built to protect a special daffodil that grows at an altitude of 1,600 meters. Last but not least, Sălhoi Rocks – Zambroslavele is a geological, botanical, and landscape reserve.
This is a hiking and biking network of 43 routes over 700 kilometers, all marked. It is similar to the Via Transilvanica project, but not so well-known. It connects the region’s nature and culture throughout in a unique way, leaving you with many stories to tell. You can find trails of all difficulty levels.
To experience the best Romania has to offer, we encourage you to reach out to Ionuț Maftei, founder of Bike in Time. He offers carefully curated and guided tours through biking, hiking, and snowshoeing throughout the country which vary in duration (they can last a single day or even a week). In recent years, Ionuț has been involved in national projects to develop cycling infrastructure and tourism. Bike in Time has also become a cycling policy auditor and a cycling routes evaluator, certified by the European Cyclists Federation. By exploring with Ionuț, you will also be able to discover lesser-known spots, cuisines, vineyards, and secluded villages. In Maramureș, book in advance for him to guide you through specific trails, such as the “Orange trail” near Baia Mare, which consists of 22 kilometers of market trails through the forest, with a pit stop at Firiza lake.
Mountain Trail Website
No matter what outdoor activities you’re into (hiking, biking, climbing, trail running, etc.) – we recommend you visit Muntii Nostri, a platform dedicated to outdoor activities throughout Romania, consisting of detailed routes. You can choose a trail based on the region, difficulty level, and type of activity.
last updated: summer 2023