|View of the Saint Anne lake||
This tour starts from Budapest, Hungary and covers the heart of Transylvania - Transylvania's 'First City', Cluj - Napoca, the amazing Szekler-Land and the Saxon's Land.
Click on the map to get an overview of the daily program.
To see pictures from the visited places, check out our Pictures page.
1st day: Budapest – Huedin – Cluj-Napoca (410 km)
After crossing the Hungarian-Romanian border, our fist stop is in Huedin, the most important town of the Kalotaszeg region. The Calvinist Church was originally built in the 12th century and extended during the 14th-15th centuries. The ceiling of the church is a wonderfully painted wooden masterpiece from the 17th century.
In the afternoon we arrive to Cluj-Napoca.
Transylvania’s ‘first city’, as Cluj has been called since the Middle Ages, hosts numerous buildings and monuments, dating back to the 14th-15th centuries: St. Michael’s church, Transylvania’s second biggest church built in gothic style, the house where Mátyás Hunyadi, famous king of Hungary was born as well as the Calvinist church, repaired, after the wars of the 17th century by masters brought from the shores of the Baltic sea.
During the evening, we can admire the panorama of Cluj from the citadel’s hill.
2nd day: Cluj-Napoca – Manastireni – Valeni – Izvoru Crisului – Cluj-Napoca (100 km)
This day is dedicated to a special region of Transylvania, Kalotaszeg, famous for its rich folk art and popular craftsmanship. We’ll pay a visit to the gothic fortified churches of Manastireni and Valeni, followed by a visit to a traditional house in Izvoru Crisului, the region’s biggest village. There are also several craftsmen’s shops offering local products, such as pottery, woodcarvings and homespun.
In the afternoon we return to Cluj-Napoca.
3rd day: Cluj-Napoca – Turda – Salciua de Sus - Cluj-Napoca (190 km)
Our first stop is Turda, funded by Romans. It was due to its salt mines that it played a significant role in the history of medieval Transylvania: it was the host of the ‘Dieta’, the Parliament of Transylvania. It was in this city that the freedom of belief was first declared in 1568. We’ll pay a visit to the Calvinist church built in the 13th century as well as to the House of Princes from the 15th century – the palace where the prince of Transylvania was living during the sessions of the Parliament.
The most important sight of Turda is though the Salt Mine, open to visitors since 1993. Romans first used it and now hosts a complicated system of caves with rooms featuring 10-15 times magnified echoes.
Nearby is the Canyon of Turda, a spectacular 200 m deep gorge formed when a cave collapsed. The flora and fauna are really unique – there are several hundred, often very rare, species living here. Today is canyon is geological and botanical national park.
In the afternoon we take a ride along the Aries River. After 40 kilometers, we take a walk into the wonderful Salciua valley with a water-stream surfacing from an underground cave.
In the evening we return to Cluj-Napoca.
4th day: Cluj-Napoca – Corund – Zetea/Odorhei (210 km)
In the morning we leave towards Szekler-land, stopping on our way in Corund the most important centre for popular pottery production in Transylvania. We’ll pay visit to a local craftsman’s workshop where we’ll be acquainted – and will have the chance to try out - the traditional techniques of preparing and painting the different pottery products. We’ll also have the possibility to buy pottery and other folk art products from local craftsmen’s shops.
In the afternoon we’ll arrive to our next base – depending on the chosen type of accommodation, either at Zetea or Odorhei, at 8 km distance from each other.
5th day: Zetea/Odorhei – Sighisoara – Zetea/Odorhei (110 km)
The whole day is dedicated to the visit of Sighisoara, included on the World Heritage list. Sighisoara’s old town developed to its present form during the 12th-14th centuries; this medieval cityscape is exceptionally well preserved and amazes the visitor with its unique atmosphere.
Out of the most important sights, we will visit the Clock Tower, the cloister church (richly decorated with Turkish carpets from the 16th-17th centuries) and the fortified church in gothic style from the 14th century. The most famous – or, to be more exact, the most notorious – person born in Sighisoara is Walachia’s prince Vlad Tepes, who served as the model for Dracula’s character.
In the afternoon we return to Zetea/Odorhei.
6th day: Zetea/Odorhei – Gheorgheni – Békás Canyon – Killer Lake – Zetea/Odorhei (250 km)
After crossing the scenic Harghita Mountains, we’ll arrive to Gheorgheni, one of the most important Székely towns, where we’ll visit the Armenian Church. The Armenians settled in Transylvania during the 17th century and established several flourishing trade centers. During the centuries, they became Hungarians, only retaining the memories of their origins through their specific traditions.
After Gheorgheni, we will visit two of the Székely-land’s most astonishing natural features: the Killer lake (Lacu Rosu), formed in 1838 when a collapsing mountain blocked a nearby creek (the top of the pines covered as a result by water are still visible today) and the narrow Békás Canyon, snaking through huge rocks – even the road was built employing several tunnels and neck breaking zigzags.
In the evening we return to Zetea/Odorhei.
7th day: Zetea/Odorhei – St. Anne Lake – Turia ‘Stinky Cave’ – Zetea/Odorhei (240 km)
Crossing again the Harghita Mountains, we turn south and stop at the scenic Saint Anne Lake and the Mohos muskeg; both formed in the 950 m high calderas of long-inactive volcanoes. The ‘Mohos’ hosts some rare species of flowers not found anywhere else.
During the afternoon, we’ll visit the ‘Stinky Cave’ of Turia. It draws its name from the sulfur gas emanations, used in treating different diseases.
We’ll return to our Zetea/Odorhei base.
8th day: Zetea/Odorhei – Izvoare – Harghita Madaras – Zetea/Odorhei (60 km)
We drive to Izvoare, situated high up in the mountains. Those ready for a rougher ride can take a tractor all way up to the 1800 m high Madaras peak, with a breath-taking view of the Eastern Carpathians. Upon return, a copious lunch is awaiting us with fresh trout, followed by an afternoon spent either bathing in the nearby lake or taking short walks in the surrounding forests.
In the evening we’ll return to our Zetea/Odorhei base.
9th day: Zetea/Odorhei – Biertan – Medias – Sibiu (135 km)
Our first stop is Biertan, where we’ll visit one of the most imposing fortified Saxon churches, built on top of a hill, in the middle of the village. Along with six other similar churches, it was included on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The church is home to Transylvania’s largest winged altar in gothic style, made up of 28 pieces.
Our next stop is Medias, one of the ‘seven Saxon cities’. Its fortified church is perhaps the most striking example of fortified town churches, featuring its own defense walls and bastions.
During the afternoon we arrive to Sibiu, our next base.
10th day: Sibiu
This day is dedicated to Sibiu, the ’capital’ of the Saxon region and one of the biggest and wealthiest medieval cities in Transylvania. In the morning we will take a walking tour through the well-preserved medieval old town, paying a visit to the Saxon Lutheran Church built in the 14th century as well as to the Brukenthal palace displaying a rich art collection and to the town’s museum. It’s also possible to visit Transylvania’s largest open-air folk art and architecture museum.
11th day: Sibiu – Sebes – Hateg – Densus – Hunedoara – Deva – Sibiu (315 km)
We set off westwards, making a short stop in Sebes to visit the Lutheran church, built in roman and gothic style. Passing through Hateg, we arrive to Densus, home to the oldest and most mysterious church of the whole Romania. There is still no consensus on the origin of this small-sized church, built entirely using ancient roman statues, gravestones and obelisks, sometimes between the 4th and 12th centuries. Some assume that the church originally served as the mausoleum of a Roman general and was only later transformed into a Christian church.
Our next stop is Hunedoara, dominated by the majestic gothic castle of the Hunyadi family, built during the 14th –15th centuries. The Hunyadis are best remembered through Janos Hunyadi, the famous defender of Europe in front of the advance of Turks after the fall of Istanbul (and whose victories prompted the Pope to order that all the church bells shall be rang each day at noon – a tradition still observed everywhere in the Christian world) and by his son Matyas Hunyadi, one of Hungary’s most important kings during the Renaissance period.
In Deva, we visit the ruins of the castle, connected with a beautiful legend about the artist’s devotion to its work and offering a splendid view of the Mures Valley.
In the evening we return to Sibu.
12th day: Sibiu – Cert – Bilea Lake – Sibiu (160 km)
In the morning we’ll visit in Cert, few kilometres east of Sibiu, the ruins of the first gothic building in Transylvania, a church built in 1202 by the Cistercian Order. This church had obscure connections with the presence of the Templar Order in Walachia and Transylvania during the Middle Ages.
In case of suitable weather, in the afternoon we’ll visit Romania’s highest mountains, the Fagaras, peaking at over 2500 meters. We begin our approach on the Transfagaras road, climbing up to the scenic Bilea Lake, situated at 2000 meters attitude. We’ll explore on foot some of the surrounding peaks, which offer a breath-taking view of the mountains and Sibiu County.
In the evening we return to Sibu.
13th day: Sibiu – Alba Iulia – Aiud – Rimetea – Cluj-Napoca (190 km)
We leave Sibiu heading north, towards Alba Iulia, former capital of Transylvania. The city was founded by the Romans under the name Apollum and was one of the most important cities of the Dacia province. The medieval city was built on top of the ruins of the old Roman city during the 10th -11th centuries, soon becoming the seat of the Bishop of Transylvania and later, during the 16th – 17th centuries, the seat of the princes of the Transylvanian state. In the 18th century, during the Habsburg dominance, the biggest fortifications of Transylvania were built, most of which is still visible today. Inside the medieval citadel, we will visit several significant monuments: the cathedral built during the 11th-13th centuries and the 20th century Orthodox Church.
Our next stop is Aiud, home to one of Transylvania’s oldest, still functioning schools, dating back to the 16th century. Right in the centre of the town we find the fortified church, comprising the Calvinist and Lutheran churches. Aiud is also an important centre of the Transylvanian wine region.
Through a beautiful canyon, we approach Rimetea, the most important centre of iron mining during the Middle Ages. The village is located in a wonderful setting, in a valley ending in canyons on both ends. The centre of the village, with houses dating back to the 18th century, was built in a uniform, very characteristic style. Due to its location – between two high-rising rocks – the sun is ‘rising twice every day’. We’ll also pay a visit to the local museum presenting an exceptionally rich folk art collection.
During the afternoon we arrive to Cluj-Napoca, our last base.
14th day: Cluj-Napoca – Budapest (410 km)
We’ll arrive to Budapest in the early afternoon.