Welcome to Romania!

The Monasteries Tour will take you through the four major areas where spirituality and architecture have blended to leave behind an incredible heritage of religious structures over a time span of more than 750 years.

We will visit the famous Painted Monasteries of Moldova (the province, not the country), the Wooden Churches of Maramureș, the Fortified Churches in Transylvania and the southern monasteries known for the colorful pottery and mural paintings.

All the while, we will take time to see and do a lot of different things, from impressive architecture to gorgeous landscapes, try different foods and see how people traditionally live.

11 days

Not nearly enough to see all the wonderful religious architecture of Romania, but we did manage to put together a tour of the most relevant buildings from all areas and periods.

11 Monasteries

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Building a monastery was a popular way for rulers to thank God for victories in battles, and we have a lot to choose from. Seems like there were strong armies and many battles in this area.
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7 Medieval Churches

The centers of spiritual and cultural life, churches also took on the roles of administration, supply storage and defense when massive walls were built around them in the XIII-XV centuries.

The Merry Cemetery

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Citizens of Sapanta Town decided that they wish to be remembered through funny poems and anecdotes based on their lives, written on their specific blue painted, wooden crosses.
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During Medieval times, it was common among monks to leave their monasteries for more secluded places where they could find more peace and a stronger spiritual connection with God.

Authentic Romanian Cuisine

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We get to eat and sleep at two monasteries and in a traditional guesthouse. We will enjoy old and new recipes and taste the famous local wine and spirits, in several Romanian-themed restaurants.

Available dates:

05 - 15 August 2019

Day 1

Hotel Traian Iași
Historic Hotel in Iași

We meet in the afternoon in the Bucharest Airport and take a 1h flight to Iași, the main city in the historic region of Moldova. This is the Eastern part of the country and should not be confused with the Republic of Moldova, although they have been united and separated several times throughout history.

A historic hotel and evening walk await us.

Day 2

Having been the main economic and cultural center of Moldova Province for hundreds of years, Iași has a lot to offer. We will visit the marvelous Palace of Culture, decorated with vultures, griffins, dragons and lions, the clock tower and Metropolitan Cathedral.

In the afternoon, we will head out of the city and into the countryside, where we will find another Neogothic monument, a nobleman’s palace in the woods with a huge domain and its own monastery.

Palatul culturii Iași
The Palace of Culture is the largest Neogothic monument in Romania

Day 3

The Agapia Church
The Agapia Church was built in the XVII Century

We start the day with Văratec, an Orthodox Monastery that stands out because it was not founded by kings or barons, but by a group of nuns from a nearby one. To this day, it is the largest nun monastery, followed by its neighbor Agapia, which we will also visit.

In the afternoon, we reach the Neamț Fortress, a massive defense structure built on top of a 480m high cliff.

History: We don’t know exactly when it was built, but it was first mentioned in a document from 1395. The Fortress was partially demolished in 1718 by a ruler of the land who was loyal to the Ottoman Empire, as it was a critical stronghold for the defense against invasion.

Aerial view here.

A legend says that the well inside the citadel was dug by Turkish prisoners in the XV Century, who were promised freedom if they reached water. We will never know if they walked free…

Authentic: In the evening, we visit the Neamț Monastery, where we have dinner and find shelter for the night. Life in a monastery is quiet and simple, and we will try to live and eat like monks do.

Neamț Citadel
Neamț Citadel

Day 4

The first stop of the day is at the most famous Romanian monastery, Voroneț, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The outside paintings have lasted mostly unharmed and unchanged since 1488 and the special blue color is known as “Voroneț Blue”.

Voroneț monastery
When your color is so special that it is named after you: “Voroneț Blue”
The stone house of Daniel the Hermit
The stone house of Daniel the Hermit

Next stop, the Suceava Fortress. First mentioned in a document in 1388, it was heavily fortified in the XV Century and went through several invasions and attacks from Ottomans, Hungarians, Tatars and Poles.

History: In 1645, just like it will happen later to the Neamț Citadel, it was partially demolished by the local ruler who was loyal to the Ottomans. He sent soldiers to place gunpowder barrels at the base of the walls and light them up, but explosions only damaged the walls and none crumbled. So they proceeded to fill up the fortress with wood and hay and set it on fire. An earthquake in 1684 brought down the entire Northern wall and the main tower.

Here is what it looks like now.

Authentic: On the way to Putna Monastery, where we have dinner and stay over night, we also stop at the stone cave of Daniel the Hermit. He used to live in a monastery but withdrew from social life, went closer to the mountains and found a quiet place where he carved an altar and a small room directly into stone. Later in life, he became the abbot of Voroneț.

Day 5

Hand decorated eggs
Hand decorated eggs

First, we visit the Sucevița Monastery, another painted jewel, from 1581, also UNESCO World Heritage Site, then we head West, leaving Moldova and heading into Northern Transylvania, also known as Maramureș.

The WOW Factor: We stop on the way at the Egg Museum to see the amazing art that Romanians, but also Hungarians, Russians, Czechs and other people create to decorate eggs. It is an Easter tradition to dye eggs red or other colors and then knock two of them together at the table, while saying “Jesus has Risen”, but some people took this to another level.

Then we visit the Ieud Church, one of the tallest churches in Maramureș, made entirely of wood and very well preserved. Its age is subject to strong controversy and it has been assumed to go back as far as the XIV Century, but most historians date it somewhere in the XVII Century, with its paintings originating from the renovation undertaken between 1782 and 1785.

The specific slim and tall tower is often encountered in the area
The specific slim and tall tower is often encountered in the area

Day 6

The Merry Cemetery
The Merry Cemetery

If you lived a merry life and want people to remember you that way, you should think about buying a plot in the Merry Cemetery in Săpânța.

Fun fact: The cemetery is famous for its colorful painted wooden crosses and for the funny epitaphs written on them. Instead of sad words, the locals prefer to compose poems about the dead, evoking their lives, quirks, occupations or characters in a very amusing manner.

We then head to Bârsana Monastery, the largest complex of wooden structures in the area.

History: The church tower is 54m tall and is said to have been built as a token of gratitude for God’s protection against the plague that devastated the land in 1710 (it would hit again in 1742). The church has been moved twice before finally being settled where it is today.

Our tour takes us toward the Southern part of Transylvania, but we need to rest on the way. Tomorrow is a new day!

Wooden towers at Bârsana Monastery
Wooden towers at Bârsana Monastery

Day 7

The Clock Tower, Dominican Church and City Hall in Sighișoara
The Clock Tower, Dominican Church and City Hall in Sighișoara

We start the day with the visit of Sighișoara, the only inhabited Medieval City in Eastern Europe, with more than 100 national monuments and 9 out of 14 defense towers still standing (UNESCO World Heritage Site). The first Germanic settlers arrived here in 1191 and the town is first mentioned in a document from 1280.

We will take the guided tour (around 3h) and visit the Old Citadel. Among the landmarks are the Medieval Citadel, the Clock Tower, the Dominican Church and The Armory Museum.

As we continue our trip, we encounter our first fortified church in the village of Saschiz, built in 1493 in Gothic style and we find accommodation in Viscri, Prince Charles’ favorite place in Romania.

The Saschiz Evangelical Church and its massive defense tower
The Saschiz Evangelical Church and its massive defense tower

Day 8

The Fortified Church of Viscri
The Fortified Church of Viscri

Today we take a tour of Viscri (UNESCO World Heritage Center), a very well preserved Medieval village with a special statute.

History: There is evidence of an old settlement dating back to 1100-1120, but the first mention of Viscri dates from around 1400, as Alba Ecclesia (The White Church, Weisskirche in German), because of the small white chapel there. With time, the locals built a larger church, also white, with a defense wall and towers to protect it. Official documents show that in 1500 the village had “51 households, 3 shepherds, 1 teacher and 2 poor people”.

Viscri has never been part of a feudal domain, remaining a free town until today.

The WOW Factor: The Teutons built massive, 3m thick and 12m tall walls and fortifications around the church, as it was the first line of defense against invasion through the Buzău pass in the mountains. The Prejmer Citadel was never conquered by Ottomans.

We stop in Brașov to see the largest Gothic Cathedral in Romania, The Black Church, and find dinner and accommodation.

The Prejmer Citadel
The Prejmer Citadel

Day 9

The Roman Basilica in Cisnădioara
The Roman Basilica in Cisnădioara

Our day starts at the ruins of the Cistercian Monastery in Cârța. By comparing a series of old documents, historians have traced its origin to 1205, making it one of the oldest known churches in Romania.

Not far from it is the Cisnădioara Church, a Roman Basilica from the XII Century that was donated by the king of Hungary to the Cistercian Monastery in Cârța in the XIII century.

We then Proceed to Sibiu, (European Cultural Capital 2007), where we visit the Old Town, the Clock Tower and the Evangelical Cathedral. Not for the faint of heart, but the view from the top of the cathedral tower is amazing!

Sibiu, Old Town
Sibiu, Old Town

Day 10

Told you Transalpina was nice…
Told you Transalpina was nice…

Today we take it slow, starting with a drive on the highest road in Romania, the Transalpina. This is the perfect place to stop and admire the scenery, have a picnic and fill up the camera with pictures.

On the other side of the mountains, we reach the town of Horezu, famous for its colorful pottery. Nature, birds, trees, leaves, geometrical shapes, flowers and other icons decorate the traditional plates, water pitchers, bowls and pots, all done by hand.

The WOW Factor: In this area, archaeologists found traces of pottery originating from the Neolithic era (6500-3500 B.C.).

Authentic: We get a little dirty trying our talents at making our own pots or plates, but don’t worry, we can also buy souvenirs from professional craftsmen!

Kiln-dried Horezu plates
Kiln-dried Horezu plates
Horezu Monastery
Horezu Monastery

After cleaning up, we visit the Horezu Monastery, one of the most representative monuments for the Romanian Renaissance architecture that mixed Classic, Baroque and local elements. The original painting (1693) inside the church depicts dramatic scenes from the Biblical Judgment Day and the wall separating the altar from the rest of the church is made of sculpted lime wood with gold dust painting.

Close to the monastery, there is a small sanatorium for the priests, locals or travelers that fell ill and were taken care of by the monks (Horezu became a nun monastery in 1872 and still is).

Day 11

The last day of our tour takes us to the Turnu Monastery and the nearby stone hermitage. Such monk retreats can be found all around the mountains, as life in a far away, secluded area was thought to strengthen faith and the relationship with God.

Old picture of monk and his stone hermitage
Old picture of monk and his stone hermitage
Curtea de Argeș Monastery
Curtea de Argeș Monastery

In 1517, the ruler of Vallachia decided to build a wonderful church in the capital of his kingdom, Curtea de Argeș (translated literally as The Argeș Court, Argeș being the river that passes through the town). He chose a famous architect, Manole, and gave him the task of erecting something so beautiful that nobody in the world had ever seen or imagined.

The builders began work, but each morning they found that the walls had crumbled overnight and had to start over. Soon, Manole started having dreams where he would take the first wife that came to bring food to her working husband, put her inside the wall of the monastery, lay bricks around her and the walls would hold. He knew that the dreams were a sign from God and decided to do just so.

Next day, the first woman that brought food was Manole’s wife, Ana. As he sees her, he starts praying that she turns back, that rain or storm change her mind, but nothing happens. Heart-broken, he starts building the wall around her, as he weeps and her crying slowly fades away as the bricks get laid on top of another.

The Church gets finished and is a masterpiece of craftsmanship, of architecture, sculpture and painting. As Manole is laying the last pieces of the roof, the king takes away his ladders and leaves him there to die, so that he would never build another church so beautiful.

Manole makes a pair of wings from wood, canvas and clay and tries to glide from the roof of the church, but crashes to his death a few hundred meters away. A freshwater spring came out from where he crashed and pilgrims drink from it until this day. Manole had to sacrifice his love and his life to create something so beautiful.

Or so the legend goes…

We have seen a lot, done a lot and traveled a lot. It is time to return home, so we head back to the Bucharest airport or, if you choose to spend another day in the city, at your hotel.

Notes

All accommodation is at old mansions, boutique hotels and countryside guesthouses, refurbished and decorated to offer an authentic taste of traditional or noblemen life (except two nights at the monasteries, where simple, basic accommodation is provided).

Flowers and embroidery decorate the room
Flowers and embroidery decorate the room

Meals always include traditional local food and a choice of international and vegetarian dishes. Romanian food is represented by soups and broths; local cheese, bacon and salami; grilled pork, sausages, smoked ham and meat; vegetable stew, eggplant salad, mushroom salad and many other delicious dishes. Common sides include baked potatoes with butter sauce, rice and vegetables, bean or pea stew, grilled eggplant or pickled cucumbers, peppers and cauliflower. Spicy, sweet, garlic, onion or barbecue sauces are usually available.

Hungarian Goulash is very popular in Transylania
Hungarian Goulash is very popular in Transylania

Local drinks include hundreds of types of beer, world renowned wine and home brewed spirits made of plum, pear, apricot, sour cherry and other fruit.

Traditional cheese pie from Moldova
Traditional cheese pie from Moldova

The schedule of the tour is based on the guests’ arrival by plane on Day 1 in the afternoon and departure on Day 10 in the evening. For different flight schedules, please contact us and we will do our best to help with additional nights of accommodation in Bucharest, pick up or drop off services.

During the months of May, June and October, the weather can be unpredictable, with clouds, wind and possibly storms, therefore we recommend that you bring a warm and waterproof jacket and water resistant shoes. From July to September, it can be very hot, with temperatures rising to 37-39 degrees Celsius (around 100 Fahrenheit), therefore lighter clothing is recommended.

Check here if you need a visa to enter Romania: Country List.

The Monasteries Tour

2,395€ 2,850$

One place in your 11 day tour will get you

One seat in a comfortable Mercedes minivan, all costs covered

Accommodation in double or twin-bed rooms at hotels or B&B’s for 8 nights; accommodation at the monastery for 2 nights; the room will be shared with another trip companion; (for single room, please contact us – additional costs apply); breakfast included

All visitors’ fees for the landmarks to be visited (excluding photo or video camera tax).

 

 

The tour fee does NOT include

Airplane tickets to or from Bucharest

Lunches or dinners

Drinks during nights out or any other time of the day

Extra room requirements at hotels and B&B’s, aside from the standard double/twin rooms

Personal insurance, early check-in/late check-out fees, police fines, bail money, etc.

 

 

Extra

Infants under 2 years old travel for free

Children that can share a bed with their parents + $500

Children that require an additional bed in their parents’ room + $750

Single Accommodation + $725