Maramures is the best place in Romania to taste a wide variety of beautiful, old customs. Basically there is no week during one year without an interesting event, whether it's about wearing folk costumes, tasting local food or mastering wood. Add to that some of the most unique things to do in the whole world, the astonishing natural scenery or the second largest protected area in the country, and there you have it - the region in Romania that can offer a full experience!
Baia Mare is the seat of Maramures County, and houses a small international airport, unfortunately closed for rehabilitation. Until its reopening, you can either use the Satu Mare Airport 60 km away (currently operating daily flights from Bucharest and two weekly routes from London), or the larger airport in Cluj-Napoca, 2 hours away of driving.
Traveling by car is actually the best option to discover Maramures, as the region is pretty big and worth spending the night in different places.
Maramures is located in the north-western part of Romania, very close to the Hungarian and Ukrainian borders, easy to be reached from Budapest by car.
There are plenty of things to do in Maramures, most of which almost nowhere else to be seen on Earth!
Apart from that, Maramures is also widely known for the art of mastering wood: the brand of the region is the famous wooden gate, which for centuries used to guard every noble domain in this area. Nowadays almost every house has a signature wooden gate in front of it, with people from all over the world ordering such masterpieces to beautify their home entrances.
There is probably no other area in the world with so many unique destinations, and following landmarks are a must-see at least once in a lifetime:
The Merry Cemetery in Sapanta - where people are buried in the most unusual fashion: each grave is colorful and contains portraits and funny remarks about the decedent’s life; you may actually need a translator to truly have some curious fun in the place you’ve least expected to!
Blue Lake - the only lake in Europe that changes its color from blue to green, according to the sun light and the number of people swimming in it. Words cannot describe the beauty of the landscape - a perfect place for a quiet, relaxing afternoon, at the end of 1-hour charming trip through the forest close to Baia Sprie city center.
Mocanita - a 6-hour back-and-forth trip in the forest along the wild Vaser Valley, on the last remaining narrow steam railway in Europe. The train sends its passengers back in ancient Maramures times, with no cell phone signal and lots of local traditions on the way.
Lapus Gorge - "the hidden heaven of Maramures", 36 kilometers of waters full of canyons, rocky walls, caves, waterfalls, surrounded by villages offering traditional food and, of course, rafting and fishing opportunities. It is the perfect place to enjoy diversity, to lose yourself in the wilderness of the landscape, to taste the amazing local cuisine or homemade horinca (a 60%-alcohol plum brandy with a specific fermentation process).
Barsana Monastery - the so-called "Athos Mountain of Maramures", one of the most beautiful in Romania and representative for local architecture. Old traditions are still preserved nowadays, since only local craftsmen are responsible for building components and restauration. A walk in the garden is a must-do for any type of tourist, due to the incredible beauty of the whole monachal complex - a fabulous combination of Eastern and Western architecture, plus several impressive buildings constructed in the local, Maramures style.
Horses' Waterfall - Romania's tallest water fall (80 meters), one of the most spectacular I have ever seen! It is formed thanks to snow melting, slides along the most abrupt slope of the Piatra Rea Mountain, and spills over the Horses' Bridge in the most amazing fashion. It can be reached by chairlift from Borsa city center in about 20 minutes, and turning back should take approximately 1.5 hours through the beautiful mountain forest.
Rooster Ridge - a strange volcanic formation which attracts adventure lovers for escalading or paragliding. Not only extreme sports are mostly appreciated, but also the walk towards it through the beautiful Gutai Mountains. Starting point is the Breb village, the best preserved settlement in the area.
Ocna Sugatag - a balneo resort located in the center of Maramures, from where every important landmark is easy to be reached by car. It is the perfect place to relax, to enjoy the astonishing scenery offered by the Gutai Mountains and curing properties of the salty waters.
Baia Mare and Sighetu Marmatiei are the most important cities of the region, which are more than worth a short walk in their historical centers. There are a few interesting museums as well:
Baia Mare (a former important mining center) houses the biggest Mineralogy Museum in Europe, containing over 25.000 typical items for the mining industry in Maramures:
The Memorial of the Victims of Communism and of Resistance in Sighetu Marmatiei is one of the most interesting in the whole Romania: a former prison during communism regime, it is nowadays dedicated to the memory of former intellectuals imprisoned here during the 50s; it displays a great deal of communist oppressive methods, and, as far as I know, it is the best place to understand what communism really meant for Romania.
Also in Sighet, two other museums are worth a visit: Elie Wiesel Memorial House (dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust and life of Jews who lived in Sighet before World War II), and the Ethnographic Museum (showcasing a valuable collection of customs and traditional objects in Maramures).
At least 7 days are required to properly cover the whole area and to understand the finest of Maramures:
Day 1: Arrival in Baia Mare, walk to the Blue Lake; accommodation in Ocna Sugatag;
Day 2: Rooster Ridge & Breb village; accommodation in Ocna Sugatag;
Day 3: Relaxation in Ocna Sugatag;
Day 4: Sighetu Marmatiei, Sapanta, Barsana; accommodation in Viseu de Sus;
Day 5: Mocanita, Horses' Waterfall; accommodation in Borsa or back in Viseu de Sus;
Days 6&7: Lapus Gorge; accommodation in Tirgu Lapus, Razoare or one of the villages around the gorge.
Prices in Maramures are around 25-30 Euro per night for two persons in any top hotel or pension. However, it is worth trying rural tourism in order to taste local customs at their best, with rates significantly lower.
Maramures has beautifully blended Hungarian, German and Ukrainian influences into the local culture, and managed to keep its century-long Romanian identity: the majority of wooden churches are built in the same style; the wooden gates are true masterpieces and famous all over the world; the purity of local people have helped them preserve old traditions, extremely appreciated today.
From my perspective, no other region in Romania has a better defined image, and there is no wonder it attracts so many tourists and foreign investors looking to move here and cherish the singularity of Maramures!
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