I knew that there are a lot of things to see in Maramures, but my first few tries to visit it failed, always having some misfortune as we were about to head that way. It took about three tries before we finally made it.
It simply happened that whenever we planned a trip to Maramures, the stars would align, something would come up, and we would have to postpone leaving. And the same thing would have happened this time as well, had we not said decidedly: whatever happens, tomorrow we leave for Maramures, even if only for some days.
Honestly, to drive all the way from Bucharest to Maramures and only stay a few days is mostly a hassle, but if that’s the only way to do it, we’ll make it work. A better option is to plan a longer trip around Romania and to stop along the way. So, if you have decided to visit Maramures Romania, here are some things you should know before:
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How to get to Maramures Romania
Usually people land in Bucharest and from there they access the major regions in Romania by car, by train or by plane. If you plan to discover Maramures by car, you must know that the road Bucharest Maramures is almost impossible to be done in one day.
You can split it in two and stop to visit Cluj Napoca or even in 3 and enjoy also some things to do in Sibiu. And for a complete Romanian experience, when you come back, use the route Maramures Bucharest through Targu Mures and Sighisoara.
If you want to get to Maramures by train prepare for a long journey of over 12 hours. You can take a night train, but you will still need a car to explore the area.
Maramures airport is located in Baia Mare. It has few flights, so the best options are to buy a plane ticket Bucharest-Maramures. And once you are in Maramures the fun begins!
Places to visit in Maramures Romania
Although you can find a wooden church in pretty much every village, a lot of them are newly built. Out of all these wooden churches, Maramures has 8 that have been included on the UNESCO Heritage List: Barsana, Budesti, Desesti, Ieud, Sisesti, Poienile Izei, and Targu-Lapus. The wooden church is Barsana is the most visited; having a very interesting history (it has been moved here from somewhere else).
The Desesti and Targu-Lapus churches are easily accessible since they are located on the road between Baia Mare and Sighetu Marmatiei. The other wooden churches are more isolated, so you need to head into the Iza Valley in order to visit them. They don’t all receive many visitors and therefore, some of them are not permanently open. It’s possible to get there and find them closed, and if you’re unlucky, the person responsible for them may not be available to come open the door for you. However, you can still admire them from the outside.
On the inside, being very old, the paintings of Maramures wooden churches may be somewhat faded, almost washed out, and the representation of the biblical scenes is quite naïve.
One of the best-known attractions in Maramures is the Merry Cemetery in Sapanta. It is open every day from 10AM to 6PM and in order to visit it you will need to buy an entrance ticket from the gate and arrive within the opening hours. The Merry Cemetery of Sapanta is recognized internationally for its blue crosses with messages about those sleeping their eternal slumber there, some funny and some quite sad. The more important crosses (the forest ranger, the cyclist, the one with the mother-in-law) are marked with a green dot, so they are easy to find. Although it is famous for its merry attitude regarding a sad moment, the cemetery is after all a place of death and needs to be visited respectfully.Read also: Top 10 tourist attractions in Romania
You can find the visiting hours and entrance fees of the Memorial of Suffering of Sighet on the official website. The museum built in a former prison is a space dedicated to the horrors that took place during the time of the communist regime in Romania. It is truly a history lesson and it deserves at least one hour of your time for a short recollection.
Some of the most beautiful things to see in Maramures are the traditional villages. Maramures is known to be the keeper of old traditions and customs. And the Maramures wooden gates and the traditional clothes are just a few of the many symbols of this region. They can best be admired by taking a trip through the villages on the Iza Valley (Breb, Poienile Izei, Botiza, etc.). There you will not only find beautiful landscapes, but also old houses with large wooden gates and less travelled roads – the true Maramures!
One of the best things to do in Maramures is a ride with a 100-year old steam train called Mocanita. The hours of operation and prices for the steam train can be found on the official website. You can book the tickets online or buy them when you arrive.
I find this to be one of the most interesting activities you can do in Maramures, because it’s like traveling back in time. You ride a steam train, crowded into the carriages that are tiny by today’s standards, and for a few hours’ time you don’t encounter any people, cars, or signs of their existence except for the train rails. During the trip, the steam train makes two stops: a short 10-minute pit stop and a longer lunch break. The longer, 2-hour stop is in a meadow, by the river, where you can enjoy your lunch to the sounds of traditional music. The ride back seems longer than the ride there, but once you get back you are bound to feel a little sad at the thought of being back in civilization. In the train station of Viseu de Sus the steam train rests until the next day when it will once again take tourists into the mountains.
Since it is a very beloved region in Romania it is easy to find accommodation in Maramures. Hotels are not so common, but there are plenty of traditional B&Bs and even some luxury ones that can offer you an authentic experience. It is important to decide is you want to stay in one place and explore the whole region, or to move every day so you can be closer to the main attractions.
Book accommodation in Sighetu Marmatiei if you want to have a single base for the whole tour in Maramures. Check here* my favorite hotel in Sighetu Marmatiei.
Choose a hotel in Baia Mare if you prefer to stay in a larger city. This is the hotel I like in Baia Mare*. This way you will be close to the wooden churches, but it will be very hard to be on time for the steam train ride.
If you want to be closer to Viseu de Sus, where the mocanita ride starts, you can enjoy excellent conditions at this B&B* located only 30 minutes away from Viseu.
Read also: Where to stay in Maramures? Best B&Bs
These are the main places to visit in Maramures Romania. However, if you have more time you can visit the various museums and watch the masterful demonstrations by old artisans. Maramures is a land that can show you what a peaceful life means. You can visit it on your own or, if you need someone to plan your trip there or to show you the important attractions and the secrets of this region, try a custom made tour or our private tour in Maramures: