It is unsurprising that the Maramures region in Romania is uncharted territory for you. Romania is still a developing tourist area, and Maramures is situated quite far from the popular tourist route in Transylvania. Maramures is known for its unique wooden structures, such as wooden churches, big wooden gates and typical houses. The region also offers a wide variety of natural beauties like mountains, caves, vibrant forests, waterfalls, lakes and thermal springs. Furthermore, the traditional customs and culture of the region are still highly respected and preserved. Are you intrigued? Then check out my list of places to visit in fantastic Maramures and plan your next trip to this region of Romania.
Romanian Peasant Museum in Dragomiresti
The Romanian Peasant Museum is located in the village of Dragomiresti in a 300-year-old building. It is the only museum in the country dedicated to the life of Romanian peasants. One can recognise the building from a distance by its imposing carved gate, the frozen figures of the women waiting in the yard and the tree with pots. The last inhabitant of the house was a woman named Ileana Chisului; hence, the house is commonly known as the Woman Museum. It is said that she remained unmarried, which explains why a red pot still sits atop the pot tree in the yard. The transformation of this house into a museum was the initiative of Nicoara Timis, a relative of the last owner of the house. The transformation helped to preserve the most representative traditional Romanian house in the centre of Dragomiresti, where women were in charge for generations.
Address: Strada 1 Decembrie 1918 103, Dragomiresti
One of the highlights of the museum was the tree with pots. You can also find similar trees in the yards of traditional houses in Maramures. Here is a story about this tradition.
Tree with pots
The tree with pots in front of Maramures' homes is a widely recognised tradition. The tradition involves a peculiar way of drying the pots on the tree, but in the past, it was also meant to demonstrate the family's wealth and status. Another feature of this tradition is if the highest pot on the tree is red, it signifies that a young woman from the household is ready for marriage.
Mocanita steam train
Situated near the Ukrainian border and alongside the Wasser River, the Mocanita railway provides a unique opportunity to experience the last remaining forestry narrow gauge steam train ride in Europe. Constructed in 1933, the Mocanita railway has been running daily since then and has been used by multiple generations of people in Viseu to travel to and from work in the forest. Initially, many steam locomotives were in operation, but only a few remain today. The Mocanita railway line covers 60 km through the Maramures forests, yet the scenic route is only 21.6 km. Viseu de Sus is the departure station, while Paltin station is the last stop. The round trip takes 6 to 7 hours. There is no road to Paltin station, so a round trip is the only way to visit.
Address: Cerbului 5, Viseu de Sus
Ieud wooden churches
Ieud is home to two fascinating churches. The Church on the Hill is one of the earliest structures in Maramures, erected in 1365, and The Church on the Plain was built in 1699. Both were constructed in the Maramuresan style from pine. Inside, visitors can marvel at the paintings depicting Abraham, Isaac and Jacob welcoming people with open arms, as well as glass icons. The wooden churches in Ieud kept some of Romania's most significant historical records, such as the ancient manuscripts from Ieud, which date back to 1391. The Church on the Hill is listed on UNESCO's World Heritage list. It is recommended that you visit both churches.
Attractions in Barsana
Teo Barsan traditional woodworking workshop
The workshop of Teo Barsan specialises in creating objects out of oak and other types of wood. From small trinkets to churches and houses, the masters at the workshop have crafted many works. It is not surprising that this craft has flourished in Barsana, a village in Maramures that has more woodcarvers than any other village. This village is known for its old wooden gates, wooden houses and two stunning wooden churches. UNESCO has acknowledged Teo Barsan as a Living Human Treasure for embodying the spirit of his nation's traditions. Unfortunately, the master has passed away, but his family has chosen to continue the admirable craft.
Address: BARSANA 520, Bârsana 437035
Barsana Monastery is a remarkable example of Maramures wooden church architecture. It was reconstructed in 1993 on the original site of the former monastery. The entire structure is made up of wood, and the church itself stands 57 metres tall. Visitors can enter the compound through a wooden gate, where they can see the nuns' cells, chapel and other buildings. The monastery hosts a museum exhibiting religious artefacts, old icons, documents and items from the Maramures region. The museum is split into two levels: the ground floor displays religious objects, and the first floor is dedicated to traditional household items.
The Church of the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, is situated approximately five kilometres from the newer Barsana monastery. Surprisingly, the old Barsana church receives fewer visitors than the newer monastery as many people confuse them and end up visiting Barsana Monastery rather than the church inscribed on the heritage list.
Pension Niculai Mill in Vadu Izei
At Pension La Moara la Niculai, a popular tourist destination, visitors can view the traditional whirlpool washing tub, which local women still use for washing carpets and blankets, as well as visit plum brandy distillery and mill.
Address: DJ186, Vadu Izei 437365
Attractions in Sighetu Marmatiei, commonly known as Sighet
The Memorial of the Victims of Communism and of the Resistance was originally built as barracks during the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy and later served as a prison from 1945 to 1955, functioning as a detention and extermination centre for those who opposed communism and the Romanian intellectual elite. It eventually opened in the 1990s with one room, known as the Black Room, which was purported to be a torture chamber. Other cells were also reconstructed. To preserve the original prison structure and atmosphere, the iron stairs and walkways were renovated and the small cells were converted into exhibition spaces.
Address: Strada Corneliu Coposu 4, Sighetu Marmației
Museum of Elie Wiesel
Elie Wiesel, a Romanian Jew, was born in Sighetu Marmatiei and experienced the occupation of his hometown by the Hungarians during the Second World War. In May 1944, the Jews in the area were put into cattle wagons and sent to Auschwitz. Wiesel survived the Holocaust and went on to become an acclaimed author and human rights activist. His book Night, which recounts his experience as a teen in Auschwitz, is a widely-recognised work of Holocaust literature. In 1986, he was granted the Nobel Peace Prize, with the Nobel Committee recognising him as a 'messenger to mankind'.
Address: Strada Tudor Vladimirescu 1, Sighetu Marmației
New Great Synagogue
In 2021, a new synagogue was inaugurated in Eastern Europe, one of the largest in the region. The initiative to build the synagogue came from Aaron Teitelbaum, the chief rabbi of the Hasidic community in New York. The synagogue was built in Sighet, a town that has a significant history with the Jewish community. Jews have been living in Sighet since the 17th century, and the population grew significantly in the 19th century when they were granted permission to own land. During World War II, there were around 14,000 Jews living in the town. Sadly, a large portion of the population was deported, put in forced labour or sent to concentration camps. Nowadays, only a few Jewish families remain in Sighet.
Address: Strada Gheorghe Doja 71, Sighetu Marmației
Attractions in Sapanta
The Merry Cemetery in Sapanta is renowned for its bright and vivid depictions of the lives and occupations of the individuals laid to rest there. It all started in 1935 when the local artist Stan Ioan Patras carved the first wooden cross and added a humorous inscription in celebration of life rather than in mourning over death. On some of the crosses, there are even humorous verses about the deceased. Additionally, some of the monuments are painted on both sides, with one side depicting the person's life and the other side containing the cause of his/her death. The cemetery now contains over 800 brightly painted oak wood crosses, making it a unique open-air museum that draws visitors from around the globe.
Address: Str. Ioan Pătraș, Săpânța 437305
The village of Sapanta is home to the Peri Monastery, which holds the record for the tallest wooden structure in the world. The original wooden church was constructed in 1391, but by 1783, the monastery had declined. The new Sapanta Peri Monastery was founded in 1997 in Sapanta village to revive the historical tradition of the ancient monastery of St. Archangel Michael in Peri, Maramures, found today on Ukrainian territory. The new church is made of oak and has a stone foundation. With its 78-metre tall tower, the building is the tallest wooden church registered in the Guinness Book. Currently, the monastery is home to six nuns.
The Church of St. Paraschiva in Desesti
The Church of St. Paraschiva in Desesti is one of eight Maramures churches included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. The church, built in the late 19th century and restored in the 90s, is in excellent condition and decorated with artwork along the walls of the three chambers. Similar to most wooden structures from the area, Desesti Church originated in the 18th century when the majority of churches in the region were rebuilt following a series of destructive Tartar raids.
Since 1988, Charles III, the current King of Great Britain, has developed strong ties with Romania. The King has purchased more than ten properties in the country, one of which is in Breb. As a result of this, the village has become a popular tourist attraction. In 2018, the King made a financial contribution which allowed for the Wooden Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel in Breb to be saved from disrepair. This structure is one of the oldest in Romania and is listed as a national cultural heritage site.
The Church of St. Nicholas of Budesti Josani is situated atop a hill in the middle of a cemetery. The church was built in 1643, while the wall paintings were created in 1762. The entrance is through a traditional Maramures gate, which is guarded by the graves of the forebears. Inside, there is a stunning selection of wooden and glass icons from the 17th and 18th centuries, notable for their use of colour and minimalistic lines. Additionally, there are artefacts that belonged to Pintea the Brave, a local hero of the 17th century, similar to Robin Hood.
Built in 1721, four years after the last Tartar invasion, the Greek Catholic Church of the Holy Archangels in Surdesti was constructed by a local carpenter, Ion Macarie, using oak wood. Its 54-metre tower, two-level portal and mural paintings, inspired by the Old Testament and the Book of Revelation, make it an impressive and graceful addition to the traditional Maramures churches that have been around for centuries. Since 1999, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Check out the map of places to visit in Maramures.
You will need at least two days to visit these attractions in Maramures. The best places to stay while visiting Maramures are Sighetu Marmatiei or Vadu Izei village. I strongly believe in DIY trips, but in the case of Maramures it might be wise to book an organised tour. In order to access some of the locations on this list, you must call the phone number placed on the door. If you do not speak Romanian, this could be challenging and possibly result in a missed opportunity. I booked the Holiday to Romania private tour and recommend it to you as well. If you have more time, take the Bukovina and Maramures Treasures tour with them.
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Author: Anita Sane
About the author
Anita is a part-time traveller, passionate photographer and a retired career woman from Latvia, travelling mostly solo for more than 15 years. She is a skilled travel planner who plans and executes her travels by herself. Anita wants to show you how to travel the world and open your mind to new experiences. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Bloglovin.