Photo Explorer Tours:
Custom Tours for Independent Photo Explorers

Explore Romantic Romania

Considered by many to be the most beautiful country in Eastern Europe, Romania offers a dazzling display of cultural and artistic treasures, and outstanding landscapes,. Its bastions of a medieval past long lost elsewhere includes numerous majestic castles and towns preserved and unspoiled.

Highlights of this tour include:

* Spectacular Bicaz Canyon & the Colorful Painted Monasteries of Bucovina
* Maramures Region's 17th Century Village Life
* Medieval Sighisoara, Birthplace of 15th Century's Vlad the Impaler
* German style city of Sibiu, Cultural Capital of Europe in 2007
Peles Castle, summer residence of Romania's Kings and a masterpiece of carved wood
* Famous sites of Transylvania
* Bran Castle, Home of the Dracula Legend
* Scenic Carpathian Mountain Landscapes & Natural Formations
* Black Sea Coast at the 2,500 Year Old Port of Constanta
Danube Delta, Wildlife Reserve & Bird Watcher's Paradise

Price for this economical tour sharing double rooms or as a single with supplement includes all meals, land transportation, admission fees, cruise by boat on the Danube Delta, and services of an English speaking photo guide throughout. Price depends on size of group, but is estimated at under $3000 for minimum of four participants. Tour availability subject to schedule of guide.

Explore Romania Photo Tour Itinerary

Day 1 Arrival in Bucharest with transfers to hotel near Otopeni airport for accommodation overnight.

Day 2 Morning departure northeast towards the famous Bucovina Monasteries with a bypass to visit Bicaz Canyon gorge, one of the most spectacular places in Romania, located in the northeast part of the country. The canyon was dug by the waters of the Bicaz River and it serves as a passageway between the Romanian provinces of Moldova and Transylvania. It is a noted location to see the wallcreeper, an uncommon cliff-dwelling bird. The road along the 8 kilometres of ravines, often in serpentines with rock on one side and a sheer drop on the other, is one of the most spectacular drives in the country. Also within the Chei is Lacu Rosu (the Red Lake), with its traditional cabins, hotels, and its famous lake (situated at 980m altitude) caused by a landslide in the 19th century.

Overnight in hotel in the monasteries area.

Day 3 Two hour drive to visit the four Painted Monasteries of Bucovina, among the most picturesque treasures of Romania and a UNESCO World Heritage site, where we will spend approximately 45 minutes photographing each: Voronet (dominant blue background), Humor (brown-red), Sucevita (green) and Moldovita (yellow-brown). The painted exterior walls of the monasteries 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 site in Europe.

Three hour drive to Maramures in the afternoon with overnight at hotel in the area.

Day 4 Morning visit the Maramures (pronounced mara-moorish) region to photograph the wooden Greco-Catholic church in Leud, built around1450; Barsana monastery complex; the water mill and water whirlpool; and village of Sapana where we'll visit "The Merry Cemetery" famous for paintings and poems personalized on each cross. Located in north-northwestern Romania, the historical Maramures region of less than 500 square kilometers is in four valleys to the south and southeast of Sighetu Marmatiei (known locally as Sighet): the Mara valley with the Cosau valley heading off to the southeast at Feresti and the Iza valley with the parallel Viseu valley just over the mountains to the northeast. The inhabitants consider themselves descendants of the Dacian tribes which inhabited the area beginning around 1000 B.C. The Roman emperor Trajan, conquered the region that is now Romania in 106 A.D., but the Romans never crossed the range of mountains which protected the Maramures villages. Because of this, their culture remains free of Roman influence. They were invaded from the north by the Tartars with the last invasions taking place in 1717 from the Russian Steppes. The mountainous region, being unsuitable for mechanized farming, was untouched by the collectivism of the 1940s and Ceaucescu's systematized plan to eliminate Romanian villages in the 1980s. Perhaps nowhere in Europe has a culture remained so untouched by the twentieth century, or the eighteenth and nineteenth! The traditional life here is startling to most westerners. Traditional gender roles hold firmly to the past. Men, women, boys and girls all have their special places in the society. In several villages, traditional clothing is worn every day. Budesti is one such village where nearly all of the men wear ridiculously small straw hats that look like an inverted straw funnel. The women wear boldly striped woolen aprons front and back. Each village has its own colors for aprons and style for hats, some straw, some felt. The wooden architecture of Maramures is amazing. The churches, most dating from the sixteenth century are maintained today exactly as they were built. New wooden churches and houses are built using the same style and construction techniques that have been used for hundreds of years.

Accommodations for the night at hotel in Baia Mare.

Day 5 Morning drive (approximately 5 12 hours) to Sighisoara. Founded by Transylvanian Saxons during the 12th century, Sighisoara (Schassburg in German) still stands as one of the most beautiful and best-preserved medieval towns in Europe. Designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, this perfectly intact 16th century gem with nine towers, cobbled streets, burgher houses and ornate churches rivals the historic streets of Old Prague or Vienna for atmospheric magic. It is also the birthplace of Vlad Dracula, father of Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler), ruler of the province of Walachia from 1456 to 1462. It was he who inspired Bram Stoker's fictional creation, Count Dracula. His house is just one of the many attractions here. Others include the Church on the Hill with its 500-year-old frescoes, the 13th century Venetian House and the Church of the Dominican Monastery, known for its Transylvanian renaissance carved altarpiece, baroque pulpit, Oriental carpets and 17th century organ. Sighisoara's citadel was built in the 12th century, when it was known as Castrum Sex (Fort Six), and was further strengthened and extended in the 15th century. The name of Sighisoara was first noted in a written document issued by Vlad Dracul, Vlad the Impaler's father, in 1431.

Overnight at a hotel in the city.

Day 6 Morning drive of about two hours to Sibiel, a village in the Cindrel Mountains of Transylvania, for a visit to the Glass Icons Museum with its nearly 600 masterpieces, representing all the main types of icons on glass along with works by some of the most famous icon painters. A unique fusion of Eastern tradition and Western technique, icons on glass emerged and spread throughout this extensive region of Romania in the first decades of the eighteenth century. For the remainder of the day, visit the German style city of Sibiu, home of an outdoor museum of traditional technology.

Overnight at a hotel in Sibiu.

Day 7 Morning drive of 2 1/2 hours to Prejmer, noted for its fortified church, one of the best preserved of its kind in Eastern Europe which was carefully restored it to its present condition by the Romanian government between 1962&endash;1970. The Teutonic Knights constructed the fortress Tartlau in 1212&endash;1213 as part of their colonization of the Burzenland region. The town of Prejmer near the castle had begun development by 1225, and was the eastern-most settlement of the Transylvanian Saxons. Prejmer was repeatedly invaded throughout the Middle Ages by various groups, including the Mongols, Tatars, Hungarians, Ottoman Turks, Cossacks, and Moldavians. However, the castle was only captured once, by Gabriel Báthory in 1611. Most of Prejmer's German population fled the town during World War II. After photographing the fortress it is a 15 min trip to Brasov to see the Black Church, the largest gothic edifice built in Southern Europe with its six ton bell, the biggest in Romania, and impressive 4,000 pipe organ built in 1839 which is played during weekly concerts, as well as a rich collection of Anatolian carpets (donated in the Middle Ages by Transylvanian Saxon merchants). Following a brief stop in the Medieval Saxon city of Brasov, travel on to Bran to visit Bran Castle, commonly known as "Dracula's Castle", the home of the titular character in Bram Stoker's Dracula, which has led to persistent myths that it was once the home of Vlad (the Impaler) Tepes, ruler of Wallachia. The castle is now a museum open to tourists, displaying art and furniture collected by Queen Marie. At the bottom of the hill is a small open air museum park exhibiting traditional Romanian peasant structures (cottages, barns, etc.) from across the country.

Lodging for the night at a hotel in the area.

Day 8 Travel for an hour this morning to Busteni for an approximately 3 hour cable car trip up the Carpathian Mountains ("the Romanian Alps") to the Bucegi Heights to photograph two natural cliff formations, the Carpati Sphinx and the Old Ladies. Then make a stop in Sinaia, the pearl of mountain resorts in Romania, to visit Peles Castle, one of the most beautiful royal residences in Europe.

Day 9 Leave this morning for a one hour drive to Targoviste to the Chindia Tower, another site of the Dracula legend, built by the order of Vlad the Impaler to serve as a watch tower and prison. Then drive for 1 12 hours to Curtea de Arges Monastery, one of the most famous buildings in Romania. It resembles a very large and elaborate mausoleum, built in Byzantine style, with Moorish arabesques.

Following a two hour drive, overnight in a Bucharest hotel.

Day 10 Thirty minute drive this morning 10 kilometers to Mogosoaia Palace, a building representative of the Romanian architecture at the end of 17th century built from 1698-1702 in a splendid park on the shore of Mogosoia Lake.The Palace is an architectural monument having the façade dominated by traditional staircase balconies, and by arcades and columns with capitals, specific to the "Brancovenesc" (Brancovan) style. Mogosoaia Palace also has some Byzantine decorative features and adornments which join stylistic elements characteristic both of the Italian Renaissance and the Baroque. Then visit the Peasant Museum with its 90,000 exhibits constituting the richest folk art collection in Romania. Finally, continue on to the infamous Palace of the Parliament, a multi-purpose building designed and nearly completed by the Ceausescu regime containing both chambers of the Romanian Parliament and, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the world's largest civilian administrative building (and second in size only to the Pentagon), most expensive administrative building, and heaviest building.

Travel to Slobozia for the night's lodging.

Day 11 Depart for a one hour journey to Adamclisi to visit the monument built in 109 by the Romans. Then travel on to the Black Sea coast to Constanta, ancient metropolis (originally called Tomis, legend has it that Jason landed here with the Argonauts after finding the Golden Fleece) and Romania's largest sea port (fourth largest port in Europe). Constanta traces its history some 2,500 years and is named for the Roman emperor Constantine. The Roman Mosaics and the National History & Archeology Museum, which houses an impressive collection of artifacts from the Greek, Roman, and Daco-Roman civilizations, will be visited. Photography in the Old City Centre of Constanta, with its many Roman vestiges, historic buildings, facades and mosques, caps the day's activities.

Day 12 Drive this morning past traditional villages on the way to Histria, Romania's oldest city dating from 657 BC and a Greek/Roman ruin where the original streets of the ancient fortified can be explored. In the afternoon, drive one hour to Cetatae Enisala (often referred to as Heracleea), a 12th to 14th century medieval Genovese fortress sitting high on a hill overlooking Lake Razim.

Lodging this night in a hotel in the Tulcea area.

Day 13 Morning cruise by boat in the Danube Delta, one of Europe's leading wildlife sanctuaries. The Delta is a 2,200-square-mile wildlife reserve designated by UNESCO as a 'Reservation of the Biosphere'. Its tree-fringed lakes, reed islands, marshes and oak forests are home to more than 3,400 animal species, along with over a thousand varieties of plant life. The Delta's waters teem with some 160 species of fresh- and salt-water fish. Bird-watchers will be especially enthralled here, with opportunities to spot more than 300 species of migratory and permanent birds including eagles, egrets, vultures, geese, cranes, ibises, cormorants, swans and pelicans.

Five hour drive in the afternoon to Bucharest for overnight at hotel near Otopeni airport.

Day 14 Tour ends with transfers to the Bucharest airport for departing flights.


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May all your journeys be care free,

And may all your days be filled with wonder.