Romania & Hungary
• Explore Bucharest highlights
• Visit the painted monasteries of Bucovina
• See ancient fortified Saxon towns
• Sample the cultural diversity of the Romanians, Seclers, and Magyars
• Hike through the last great wilderness of Europe
• Visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites
• Visit Maramures region and the tall wooden churches
• Sample Hungarian wines in Tokaj
• 20 land days
• Maximum 12 travelers
• Start in Bucharest, Romania, finish in Budapest, Hungary
• All meals included
• Activity Level: 3
FROM: $6,495 USD
Comfortable hotels with private bathrooms.
Some long drives.
Breathe the fresh air of coniferous woods in the country of Count Dracula, hike in the Carpathian Mountains, sample the famous wines of Hungary and gaze upon magnificent frescoes. Our trip to Hungary and Romania is an artful blend of culture, exquisite scenery, history and activity.
Our adventure in Transylvania begins in Bucharest, the capital of Romania. Onward through Transylvania, into the Carpathian Mountains, we encounter ancient pockets of European culture and sample the region's cuisine while sipping local wines in the ambience of a medieval castle. See the magnificent fortress-town of Sighisoara and walk through the grand square of Brasov. A true highlight is Bran Castle, a fortress atop a dramatic rock outcrop and more commonly known as Dracula's Castle.
We continue to the remote and unspoiled Maramures region, home to the tall wooden churches and continue on to Tokaj, where we will sample the famous sweet white wines. We conclude our adventure in the famed city of Budapest and the Danube Bend, the Pearl of the Danube.
Click the PDF icon to download the Transylvania detailed itinerary
DAY 1: ARRIVE BUCHAREST
Upon arrival in Bucharest, you are transferred to our hotel. Tonight we will have an orientation meeting followed by dinner.
Overnight in Bucharest.
DAY 2: BUCHAREST EXPLORING
We begin our morning with a guided city tour of Bucharest, seeing the historical downtown and the Parliament Building, which was designed and nearly completed by the Ceausescu Regime as the seat of political and administrative power in Romania. Constructing the Palace required demolishing much of Bucharest's historic district, including 19 Orthodox Christian churches, six Jewish synagogues, three Protestant churches (plus eight relocated churches), and 30,000 residences. This is the world's second largest building, after the Pentagon.
Overnight in Bucharest.
DAY 3: TO BRASOV VIA SINAIA, AND BRAN CASTLE
Departing Bucharest, we begin our journey to Brasov, crossing the Carpathian Mountains. This is our point of entry into Transylvania, the land of Magyar, Saxon, Secler, Romanian and Moc Peoples. Enroute, we stop in Sinaia, named after Mount Sinai in Egypt. It is a mountainside town with winding streets and colorful houses. We visit Peles Castle, a former royal residence. Built between 1875 and 1883, the castle contains many architectural styles, 160 rooms, and beautiful terraces. We also stop at Sinaia Monastery.
After lunch we drive to Bran Castle, one of the most famous castles in Europe, and the setting of the famous Bram Stoker novel. Falsely attributed as a residence of Vlad Tepes and the Dracula myth, it is still a very impressive castle even if it isn't connected with infamy! The castle was built in 1378 atop a cliff that served as a customs checkpoint and as a strategic point for protecting the pass. Its narrow stone stairways, the comfortable rooms and furnishings, give one a first-hand look at the life of nobles that ruled the region in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Overnight in Brasov.
DAY 4: BRASOV SIGHTSEEING, RISNOV
This morning we explore the downtown core of Brasov, one of the seven main Saxon cities. It has a well-preserved downtown square that is surrounded by beautiful buildings. (It is reminiscent of squares found in Prague.) We visit the Black Church, named so by a fire that blackened its walls. Erected in 1476, the Gothic cathedral has a 250-foot high tower and an organ with 4000 pipes. We also visit the first Romanian school with amazing old Slavic manuscripts.
After lunch, we visit the fortress of Risnov with its stunning panorama of the surrounding area. This enormous citadel was built around the year 1215 by the Teutonic Knights and was conquered only once in its history. The citadel is most famous for a well (470 ft/143 m deep) that was dug by Turkish prisoners of war during a siege and which sits today in the center of the fortress.
Overnight in Brasov.
DAY 5: PREJMAR, VISCRI, STORK VILLAGE
This morning we explore Prejmar, a former Saxon fortified church in a town outside Brasov. This church is exquisite in design and contrast, featuring thick walls with internal passages that were used to defend the inhabitants from attack. The Hungarian king, Geza the 2nd, first invited the Saxons to the area in the 13th century, mainly to develop and re-settle the area after the Tatar invasions. The Saxons lived in this area until the revolution of 1989, when most of the population left. The Saxon heritage is most valuable from both a cultural and architectural point of view.
After an hour drive, we will stop at the village of Viscri (UNESCO World Heritage Site), with one of the most impressive of all the Saxon citadels. From the tower, there is a view of the idyllic countryside and of the village, a classic Saxon Strassendorf, with a row of houses on either side of a single street and a brook running down the center. Hear about the history of the village from one of the last Saxon inhabitants as we learn about the traditions, culture and folklore of the local people. Enjoy a typical Saxon lunch with a local family.
We continue through the Homorod valley where we pass the official stork village of Romania, Sinpaul. The white stork is the national bird for most of the Eastern European countries and we will see the many nests built by the storks here.
Overnight in Odorheiu Secuiesc.
DAY 6: BIERTAN, SIGHISOARA
Today we will visit more Saxon heritage sites. Our first stop is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Biertan. The Saxons built this fortified church, which houses a magnificent altar made up of 28 panels, in the 15th century. We drive through picturesque countryside seeing other secluded Saxon villages before arriving at Sighisoara (Shassburg), the best-preserved medieval/fortified Saxon town in Europe. Walk up to Citadel Hill along narrow winding streets crowned with a 200-foot clock tower that watches over the main gate. This 14th-century building contains old documents, weapons, coins and glass icons. Atop Citadel Hill, there is a Gothic cathedral with strange stone sculptures on the buttresses. You can also visit the house where Vlad Tepes "Dracula" was born. It is now a pub!
Overnight in Odorheiu Secuiesc.
DAY 7: MT. HARGITA HIKES, SECLER GATES AND ENLAKA VILLAGE
This morning we drive up to Mt. Hargita, the sacred peak of the local Seclers, via the scenic Ivo-stream valley. There we have an hour-long hike to the very peak, where we can enjoy the landscape of central Transylvania with long-range views of the Carpathians. After lunch we continue on to the remote village of Enlaka. Enroute we stop in a small village, famous for its dozens of "Secler-gates", whose beauty adorns the streets. These gates were a sign of hospitability and showcased the skill of local woodworkers. Many of these gates are more than one hundred years old, and are deemed to be national monuments. Afterwards continue on to Enlaka, a traditional Unitarian village and a potential UNESCO World Heritage Site that preserves the ancient traditions and architecture of the local people. After sightseeing and dinner in a local barn cooked by a local family, we will return to Odorheiu.
Overnight in Odorheiu Secuiesc.
DAY 8: CHARCOAL MAKERS, PRAID SALT MINE, TO BUCOVINA VIA BICAZ GORGE AND LACU ROSU
We drive to another part of Romania today called Bucovina. Our first stop will be a small pass to see the work of a traditional charcoal maker before continuing on to the village of Korond, whose inhabitants are the most famous handicraft makers in the country and where more than 5000 families make a livelihood from producing ceramics and wooden crafts.
Afterwards we continue with a visit to the Salt Mine at Praid. Traveling by bus, we descend down into the mine far below the surface. Today the salt mine is a sanatorium for children who suffer from asthma. They come here to live and sleep for several weeks while they receive care for their condition. This virtual underground city is complete with a hospital and underground church.
Afterwards we continue on to Voronet, our base to explore the famous Painted Monasteries of Bucovina. Our journey today has us crossing the Bucsin-Pass of the Eastern Carpathians. Enroute we will pass through the narrow Bicaz Gorge, with its hundred meter high walls, and Lacu Rosu (Lake of Murder), with its unique landscape and which is oftentimes referred to as the "Switzerland of Transylvania". Above the lake is the Tunder (Fairy) Rock, which offers stunning views of the area. We will finish the day in Voronet, the center of Bucovina.
Overnight in Voronet.
DAY 9: PAINTED MONASTERIES OF BUCOVINA: GURA HUMORULUI, SUCEVITA, MOLDOVITA, EGG MUSEUM
Among the most picturesque treasures of Romania are the Painted Monasteries of Bucovina. Their painted exterior walls are decorated with elaborate 15th and 16th century frescoes featuring portraits of saints and prophets, scenes from the life of Jesus, images of angels and demons, and heaven and hell. Deemed masterpieces of Byzantine art, these churches are one-of-a-kind architectural sites in Europe. Far from being merely wall decorations, the murals represent complete cycles of religious doctrine. The purpose of the frescoes was to make the story of the Bible and the lives of the most important Orthodox saints known to villagers by the use of images. Their outstanding composition, elegant outline and harmonious colors blend perfectly with the surrounding landscape. Some of Romania's most beautiful countryside is to be found in Bucovina, whose rolling green hills nestle villages and monasteries within their valleys. Horses decked with red-tasseled bridles travel country lanes, as villagers crowd churchyards in traditional folk dress on Sundays and holidays. Seven of the churches were placed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1993. The eighth, Sucevita, is awaiting sanction to be added to the list.
Today we will explore the Painted Monasteries of Gura Humoruli, Sucevita and Moldovita. We also stop at the abandoned Jewish cemetery near Vama and visit an egg museum. Later we will stop at the Polish village of Cacika to see its cathedral and the Soviet war cemetery of Solca.
Overnight in Voronet.
DAY 10: PAINTED MONASTERIES OF BUCOVINA: VORONET, ARBORE, SUCEAVA
We have a second day to explore the painted monasteries, this time visiting the monasteries of Voronet, Arbore, as well as the Coronation Church of Suceava and the nearby Suceava Fortress. There will be plenty of photo opportunities to capture the beautiful landscape of Romania, and see local people travelling on horse carts, surrounded by hundreds of handmade haystacks.
Overnight in Voronet.
DAY 11: BUCOVINA TO ROZAVLEA
Today we begin our long drive through spectacular and traditional mountain scenery through one of the more remote parts of Romania. Our first stop today is the village of Ciaconesti, noted for its decorated Hutul houses, which form an outdoor living museum. Most of the houses bear traditional motifs with Ukrainian influence, similar to painted Easter eggs. The village is on the shore of the Bistrica River, which is known as an excellent fly-fishing river and where an annual trout-festival takes place.
We leave behind the historical area of Bucovina, and cross the highest pass of Northern Romania, Prislop Pass (1400m); a beautiful alpine region, known to house the last population of Romanian Black grouses.
On our way towards Sighetul Marmatei, we will have our first glance at the Maramureş style of church, with the beautifully decorated wooden churches of Borsa and Leud. The whole Maramureş region is home to the extremely hospitable Moroseni people, who are known for their unchanged way of life and for their well-preserved wooden villages and churches. About 30 churches belong to this architectural style, mostly built in the 17th-18th centuries, with 8 of them belonging to Unesco World Heritage. It is perhaps one of the well known regions of Romania but due to its remoteness is seldom visited. We will also stop at the Museum of Peasant Woman in Dragomiresti village, which is dedicated to the celebration of the role of the woman as mother, wife and her role as ‘engine of life - the one who keeps the traditional customs, folklore and language alive’.
Overnight in the Rozavlea region.
DAY 12: MARAMURES
Today is dedicated to visiting the most famous examples of the Maramureş monasteries and churches, including the Rozavlea, Poienile Izei, Barsana, Budesti and Desesti wooden churches. They are mostly Romanian-Orthodox (with a few exceptions of Greek-Orthodox), built by thick timber, as a response to the prohibition against the erection of stone orthodox churches by the Catholic Austro-Hungarian authorities of the era. Most of them share similar characteristics of being tall, having slim bell towers at the western edge of the building and painted inside with beautiful Biblical scenes.
We will stop at the traditional water mill workshop and whirlpools of Sarbi village, a place for washing clothes, rugs and blankets. The village also well-known for its hat-makers, which is a common part of male traditional dress, and there are plenty of wool rugs for sale.
Overnight in Sighetu Marmatiei.
DAY 13: MARAMURES
On our tour today we will visit two local sights in Sighetul Marmatiei. The first is the Memorial House of Elie Wiesel, which also houses the Museum of Jewish Culture in Maramureş. Elie Wisel, a Nobel-prized writer (1986) was born and raised in this region and is a descendant of a Hungarian Jewish family who was deported to Auschwitz for 11 months, and then liberated as the only survivor of his family. Later he emigrated to the US and Canada, and died in Manhattan, NY in 2016.
Later we visit the Communists Victims' Memorial, before continuing to the Sapinta Merry Cemetery, known for its brightly colored tombstones which depicts interesting or funny moments of the deceased, many with greatly written epitaphs. The cemetery also functions as an open-air museum and is known as one of the so-called "Seven Wonders of Romania."
Our last stop today is the tallest wooden church of the region, the Peri-Sapanta church, located in a beautiful Dendrological park. The original church was built in 1391 but decayed significantly and so was rebuilt in 1997. The tower is 78 meters tall and the building is considered the tallest wooden church in the world, as registered in the Guinness Book of Records.
Overnight in Sighetu Marmatiei.
DAY 14: TO TOKAJ, HUNGARY
We leave the Carpathian region of Romania, entering Hungary along the Hungarian Great Plain and its floodplain of the Tisza and Bodrog Rivers. A longer morning drive takes us to the world famous wine region of Tokaj.
The small town of Tokaj has less than 4000 inhabitants (of six different religions) and is situated on the shore of the Bodrog river at the foot of Tokaj Hill. The area is world-renowned for its famous white dessert and ice-wines wines, such as "Aszu", "Szomorodni." We will visit and dine in some of the local cellars where we learn about the history and technology of this very special way of wine making. Of course, we will have ample opportunity to sample and buy them as well.
Overnight in the Tokaj area
DAY 15: ZEMPLEN HILLS - FUZER AND REGEC FORTRESSES
We have a relaxing day to drive around and visit Zemplen Hills, the most remote and tranquil part of Hungary, with its small villages, gentle hills and huge forests, inhabited by wolves and eagles. The area is dotted with several beautiful hilltop fortresses built during the medieval times, when most of the old Hungarian kingdom was under Ottoman rule, and only a small section, including Zemplen Hills was left alone. After the Tatar invasion of the 18th century, the Hungarian king, Bela the 4th, ordered all the local landlords to build this type of fortress which would provide the local population a better chance of survival and help defend the roads and the country. The dozens of fortresses survived several centuries and functioned as shelters later in the Turkish era. Many of them saw the largest battles of the era of the 18th century.
We hike up to the fortresses of Fuzer and Regec villages, the first is known for its extraordinary scenery and location. The second was home to one of the most famous Hungarian freedom fighters, Ferenc Rakoczi 2nd, who led the national uprising against the Austrian Habsburgs at the beginning of the 18th century. We will get an overview into the last 1100 years of the history of Hungary, which also shaped the history of Central Europe and the Balkans up to the 15th and 16th centuries.
Overnight in Tokaj.
DAY 16: MEZOKOVESD (MATYO-MUSEUM), GODOLLO ROYAL PALACE
We start our drive towards Budapest this morning, we follow along the foothills of Bukk and Matra Hills toward the capital of Hungary. Enroute we stop at Mezokovesd city to visit its local museum of embroideries. Hungary and Transylvania have several areas with very distinctive and incredibly ornate local customs and cloths which are decorated with beautiful embroideries. Probably the most well-known and recognized is the "Matyo" style, which is mostly done in and around Mezokovesd town. We visit the local museum where we learn about the history of embroideries.
After lunch, we continue to travel westward to see the former royal palace of Godollo. Godollo was a palace of Emperor Franz Joseph, King Charles IV (the last Hungarian king), and Nicholaus Horthy, Regent of Hungary between the two World Wars. Partially restored over the last two years, the building and garden provide a glimpse into the Austro-Hungarian Empire's regal past, highlighting the life of the famous Sissi, wife of Emperor Franz Joseph. After our visit, we continue on to Budapest.
Overnight in Budapest.
DAY 17: BUDAPEST SIGHTSEEING - BUDA HIGHLIGHTS
The broad Danube River runs through the middle of this stunning metropolis, dividing hilly Buda from the Pest plain, with nine beautiful old bridges and romantic islands. Although Budapest was first populated 50,000 years ago, its current name dates just over 140 years old and came into existence when Old Buda, Buda and Pest all united in 1873. It boasts 80 thermal springs which supply 12 spa baths, 237 historical monuments, 23 museums and galleries, 40 theaters, and seven concert halls.
Today we explore the hilly Buda side, with a guided walking tour through the Castle District. We have the opportunity to see the Royal Palace and National Gallery, followed by a visit to the Matthias Church which has a magnificent view of the beautiful bridges just below. Later we visit the unique Memento (Statue) Park, which was set up after the 1989 revolution, and where the governments collected all the communist statues that determined the landscape of cold-war Budapest. The afternoon is free, with endless opportunities to visit famous sites of your choice, including a nearby synagogue, which is the 2nd largest in the world, the Opera House, The Terror House, the National Museum, or art galleries, just to name a few.
Following dinner we will enjoy an unforgettable city view with a drive up to the Citadel Hill (aka Geller Hill) to see Budapest illuminated at night.
Overnight in Budapest.
DAY 18: BUDAPEST SIGHTSEEING - PEST HIGHLIGHTS
Today, we begin our exploration of the Pest side on foot and by bus. First, we drive to Heroes' Square to see its grand statues, museums and the lovely park, where we stop and learn about Hungarian history. We drive along Andrassy Street (a World Heritage Site), and see its most important buildings, including the famous Opera House. We then visit the Basilica, the greatest of the Hungarian churches. After lunch we have a guided tour in the Parliament Building, which is ranked as one of the most beautiful in the world. With 691 rooms, this neo-Gothic palace stretches 880 feet (268 meters) along the embankment of the Danube River. Lunch will be in the famous Market Hall. At the end of the day we will have our dinner in one of the oldest and most renowned restaurants of Budapest (Matyas Cellar), where we will enjoy live Roma music and traditional folk dancing with the famous Csardas.
Overnight in Budapest.
DAY 19: DANUBE BEND: VISEGRAD, SZENTENDRE
Today, we travel north from Budapest to the very center of the Danube Bend, visiting the Royal Palace of Visegrad City. Completed in 1330, Visegrad was the largest building ensembles in medieval Hungary and was declared as the capital in the 14th century. "From Visegrad, from an earthly paradise" - thus wrote an ambassador of the Pope, guest of King Matthias (1458-1490), and a person well used to glitter and pomp. We travel to the Serbian city of Szentendre to explore this legendary old museum town. With its winding streets, church towers and colorful houses, Szentendre is probably the Danube Bend's most visited tourist center and is a fascinating place to explore. It is a perfect place for shopping, including gorgeous embroideries and other so-called "hungaricums". Tonight, we enjoy our farewell dinner.
Overnight in Budapest.
DAY 20: DEPART BUDAPEST
Our adventure in Eastern Europe concludes today as we depart for Budapest Airport to board our international flights home.
HOW BIG ARE THE GROUPS?
Each group is limited to 12 participants. Small groups are an important ingredient in adventure travel. They allow for more interaction and more personalized service throughout the itinerary.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE TOUR PRICE?
All accommodations throughout; all meals, starting with dinner on day 1 and finishing with breakfast on departure day (i.e. the last day of the ElderTreks tour); bottled drinking water throughout the trip; all internal transportation; airport transfers on day 1 and departure day (i.e. the last day of the ElderTreks tour); all day trips and entrance fees as outlined in the itinerary; tips for hotels (porterage), bus driver, restaurants, national guides, and spot guides; services of a trip leader.
WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED IN THE TOUR PRICE?
International flights, tips to ElderTreks tour leader, alcoholic drinks, visa’s and travel insurance.
ARE THESE “EDUCATIONAL” TOURS?
Yes, in the broadest sense of the word, “educational”. We visit churches and historical sites and have talks and discussions on many aspects of history, culture and nature. We believe that it is equally educational to meet local people on a non-commercial basis, visit their homes and even try to learn a few words in the native language. Sometimes the most “educational” moments are spent walking through an old quarter of a city.
HOW DO WE TRAVEL DURING THE TOUR?
All local transportation is included in the land price of the trip. All transportation is in 1 or 2, 9-seater vans with a/c.
WHAT ARE OUR ACCOMMODATIONS LIKE?
We stay in good accommodations that range from mountain view lodges and small hotels to larger city-based hotels. All nights have private bathrooms.
WHAT ABOUT THE WEATHER?
Our adventures in Transylvania take place in the spring and summer. Temperatures can vary between the low 70’s °F (21°C) in the Carpathian Mountains to the high 80’s°F (32°C) on the plains of Hungary.
WHEN IS PAYMENT DUE?
A non-refundable deposit of $500 USD (plus insurance if you require it) is due at time of booking and will reserve your place on the tour. Payment of the full land cost is due 120 days before departure. Cancellation charges are applicable and are outlined in the “Terms and Conditions” section of our brochure.
IS MEDICAL INSURANCE REQUIRED?
Insurance coverage is not included in the cost of your trip. Please note that medical insurance is not required for this adventure but is recommended. ElderTreks offers comprehensive travel insurance with Manulife for Canadian guests, and John Hancock for American guests. Please CLICK HERE to view and purchase your insurance policy today. If you are purchasing insurance elsewhere, please ensure you provide the details to ElderTreks as soon as possible.
WHAT SHOULD I TAKE ON THE TOUR?
There is a detailed “What to Take” list in our Trip Kit, which we will send to you after you have booked the trip.
WHAT MEALS ARE INCLUDED?
All meals during the itinerary are included, starting with dinner on day 1 and finishing with breakfast on departure day. We eat a variety of local and international foods prepared in a wide range of settings. In many cases, we simply order a number of dishes and share, allowing you to sample new foods and decide what you enjoy best.
CAN YOU ARRANGE MY FLIGHTS?
We would be happy to take care of your air arrangements. ElderTreks offers personalized flight itineraries — not group flights. Stop over en route, come in a few days early, or extend your stay. Call us for a customized itinerary.
WHAT IF I WOULD LIKE MORE INFORMATION?
If you have any further questions about the adventure, please call our office for more details. A Trip Specialist will be happy to answer your questions. A Trip Kit containing further details on the destination will be sent to you once you have booked the trip.
Dates & Prices
All prices are currently listed in USD
*Single Supplement is the additional amount applied to the cost of the trip to those who are travelling solo and do not wish to share.