Romania is on the rise as a tourist destination. But when tourists come here, they are usually drawn to Transylvania. Yet not far from there is a region that is much more pristine and traditional than overcrowded Transylvania: it’s called Maramureș. Wooden churches with pointed towers, Orthodox monasteries, cheerful cemeteries and a steam train that still works like in the old days – all this can be discovered in the north of Romania. Therefore, here we present you the best things to see and do in Maramureș.
Wooden churches in Maramureș
Nothing stands for Maramureș like the wooden churches. In almost every village there is one of the typical pointed churches. Eight of them have been put on the World Heritage List by UNESCO. Here you can find a list of UNESCO World Heritage churches. Even though only eight of them are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, some of them are still very distinctive. Incidentally, the characteristic buildings have prevailed because Orthodox churches in the region were not allowed to be built of stone. Therefore, the construction technology has continued to improve until today. Even today, new churches are being built all the time. During my visit, I saw three alone that were still under construction.
It existed since the Middle Ages, but then fell into disrepair and was demolished. Since 1993, however, the Bârsana Monastery has been rebuilt. And it looks fantastic. Several wooden chapels, the characteristic pointed church towers of the region, a pond in between. The monastery is a place of rest and serves many day visitors to rest on a trip to the most beautiful Maramureș sights. At the time of my visit, the monastery was virtually deserted. Nevertheless, I was able to enter the open buildings and look around in peace.
Merry Cemetery Săpânța
That life does not end with death was probably already believed by the ancient Thracians, who settled the region of today’s Romania even before the time of the Romans. Therefore, it is not necessary to be sad, thought the wood artist Stan Ioan Pătra. As early as the 1930s, he began to carve artistic tombstones that tell beautiful or funny episodes from the lives of those buried here. A beautiful idea that continues to this day. Today, the Merry Cemetery in Săpânța already has more than 800 of these tombstones, which makes it one of the curious Romania sights. Also, in the meantime, a very beautiful church with one of the pointed roofs typical for the region has been built at the cemetery.
Peri Monastery Săpânța
The Săpânța Peri Monastery, located only about two kilometers from the Happy Cemetery, is also worth a visit. The monastery is still partly under construction and is constantly being expanded. However, one can visit the premises at leisure and see everything. Only the rear part of the monastery is private property where only the nuns of the monastery live.
Maramures Forest Railway
To this day, the locomotives of the Maramures Forest Railway puff through the water valley to bring the trees to the sawmill in Vișeu de Sus. Even though today only diesel locomotives run for the factory railroad, it has been decided to let one of the old steam locomotives run for tourists. With her it goes on a six-hour excursion, always from 9 o’clock in the morning until the afternoon. Tickets now cost 65 lei, which is almost 14 euros. On my last visit in 2016, they still cost around 40 lei, which was a bargain for an excursion of this duration.
Those who, like me, are unlucky and unfortunately come outside the season or the operating hours or simply miss the train, can either wait for the work train that returns from the woods in the afternoon or at least look around on the grounds of the Maramures Forest Railway. That’s what I did then. Especially since there are also the carriages of a small hotel there, where you can rent in and sleep in railroad carriages. You can also watch the loading of the logs here. So it’s best to book tickets in advance via the provider’s website to be sure of your place in one of the most beautiful Maramures sights.
Blue Lake Baia Sprie
The Blue Lake of Baia Sprie is the chameleon among the lakes in Romania. Formed only in the 1920s by the collapse of a mine, a sulfur content gives it a turquoise to blue color in good light. On my visit, however, the light was unfortunately not particularly nice and the water was a rather green broth. Nevertheless, the hike from Baia Sprie through the forest to the Blue Lake was a nice march.
Sighetu Marmației is located right on the border with Ukraine and was therefore the first place I visited in the region when I arrived in Maramureș from Ukraine. Sighetu Marmației, or simply Sighet, was the birthplace of Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel, whose former house you can still visit today. The memorial commemorates the victims of communism. There is also a synagogue in the town, which is worth a visit. The marketplace is also quite nice. The city is also a good base to discover the other Maramureș sights – see the travel tips.
The capital of the Romanian Maramureș County is also the surprise in Maramureș sights. Thanks to my wonderful Couchsurfing host Ioana, I spent three nights here and used the time to explore the city and the area. And lo and behold, Baia Mare is much more interesting than I thought. Not only does one have a fantastic view of the surroundings from the Stephen’s Tower.
There is also an interesting art museum, as well as original houses from the villages of Maramureș in the Museum of Folk Art. You should also visit the Mineralogy Museum. If you are interested in the architecture of socialist modernism, you can see many interesting buildings in Baia Mare.
Maramureș travel tips
Many Maramureș sights are quite easy to travel around. Local transport is cheap and there are many accommodation options for the region.
Transport in Maramureș
There are also several ways in which you can visit the sights of the region quite easily.
Car rental in Maramures
The easiest way to drive in Romania is definitely by rental car. There are gas stations everywhere. The fuel is cheaper than in many other countries in Europe. The traffic rules are about the same (but beware 0.0 alcohol limit!). You can easily book a rental car for your trip through Maramures and Romania. Here you can book a rental car at Billiger Mietwagen.
Hitchhiking through Maramures
I hitchhike a lot and this time I hitchhiked almost my entire trip through Romania. Only once I took the bus. Hitchhiking in Romania is widespread and very safe. Even older people, especially in the villages hitchhike. Romanians usually also give a little money. However, I was asked for money only twice – in certainly almost 100 rides.
Nevertheless, it is advisable to ask beforehand and also to have a few small bills (5 or 10 lei) with you. I was able to see much more by hitchhiking than I would have been able to by bus. I was often on the road later and still got there earlier. I also managed to hitchhike all the sights around Sighetu Marmatiei in one day. So no problem.
Buses in Maramures
Buses in Maramures are reliable but not always frequent. It is best to ask local people about the times, they usually know about it and how much it costs. In the cities there are city bus lines, with which you can go to the outskirts and thus also come to some of the Maramures sights.
Trains in Maramures
There are several railroad lines from Sighetu Marmatiei, among others to Viseu de Sud to the Forest Railway. The railroad line from Sighetu to Cluj-Napoca is said to be particularly beautiful. Baia Mare is also well connected to the railroad network in Romania. More information on travel times is available in German from Deutsche Bahn, which has embedded the entire European timetable there.
Overnight stay in Maramures
Übernachten in Sighetu Marmației
I personally did not stay directly in Sighetu Marmatiei, but in nearby Vadu Izei in Casa Muntean. Owner Florin is also a tour guide and had many interesting tips ready for me and also helped me plan my day. The house is very comfortably furnished and was also the cheapest in the area. For a small extra charge, Florin also likes to pick up his guests. I paid two euros extra for this, so cheaper than a cab. You can book a room at Casa Muntean here via Booking.com.
Overnight stay in Baia Mare
I have heard good things about Pensiunea Marioara. It also has one of the best ratings on Booking.com and is supposed to be very family friendly. Here you can book a room there via Booking.com.
Restaurants in Maramures
Restaurants in Sighetu Marmatiei
I ate at Casa Iurca and can highly recommend it. To drink beer I was in the evening at Friend’s Pub.
Restaurants in Baia Mare
Since no one of my friends there really goes Romanian food, we were instead in a pizzeria. We ate at the pizzeria Il Padrino (Scolii No. 9 in the new town). And the good thing is that unlike in Ukraine, here the pizzas are really quite good. I had anchovies and salami on the pizza – an amazingly good mix.
Romania book tips
You want to travel to Romania or get to know the country through literature? Then our book tips are just right for you!
This classic tour guide presents Romania and neighbouring Bulgaria in all its variety.
- Remus, Joscha (Author)
This well written books tells you everything you need to know about Romania’s troubled history.
- Remus, Joscha (Author)
Who was the real Count Dracula? This book tells you what he was really like!