Transylvania: A Journey through Romania & Hungary
Based on the expeditionary nature of our trips, there may be ongoing enhancements to this itinerary.
Below please find the day-by-day itinerary for this expedition. Unless otherwise noted, daily excursion options are included in the cost of the trip. We do our best to adhere to the scheduled itinerary, but in the spirit of our expeditionary style of travel we may deviate slightly to take full advantage of encounters with the destination and its people, culture, and wildlife.
Depart USAMay 6
Board your independent international flight to Romania.
Bucharest, RomaniaMay 7
Arrive in Romania’s capital city, Bucharest, and transfer to our hotel with the afternoon at leisure. Gather this evening for welcome cocktails and dinner.
Spend a full day exploring Bucharest, whose spacious shady parks, broad avenues, and gracious architecture once lent the city its nickname, “Paris of the Balkans.” Today, city-wide renovation efforts are aimed at restoring this former elegance, and the classic 18th- and 19th-century buildings blend with new styles as neighborhoods regain their former regime-suppressed dignity. Begin at the Palace of Parliament, the largest administrative building in the world, then continue to Revolution Square, the former Royal Palace, the Romanian Philharmonic, and the Opera House. After lunch, visit the outdoor Village Museum in Herastrau Park, where life-size dioramas represent every type of folk village in the country. This evening, sample traditional Romanian dishes at a local restaurant and enjoy a fascinating folklore show.
Bucharest / SibiuMay 9
After breakfast, visit the Museum of the Romanian Peasant, which showcases traditional clothing, embroidery, and wood carvings. Then drive northwest toward Sibiu through the pastoral Olt Valley and into Transylvania. On the way, make a stop in Curtea de Arges to visit a 16th-century monastery whose fantastical legends explain the multiple architectural styles that decorate the exterior. Visit the 14th-century Cozia Monastery, which sits majestically on the banks of the River Olt. Arrive in Sibiu and check in to our hotel for dinner and overnight.
Sibiu / SibielMay 10
One of seven walled cities founded by the Saxons, Sibiu was at the crossroads of invasions, conflicts, and wars during the Middle Ages. Through the centuries, its boundaries expanded to encompass a network of streets lined with Gothic arcades, Renaissance houses, and Baroque churches that lead into the beautifully-preserved medieval center. Enjoy a walking tour of the old town before driving to the colorful village of Sibiel, a rural village that seems frozen in time. Visit the small, superb museum of glass-painted icons, and enjoy a rustic meal of typical peasant dishes, accompanied by homemade wine and plum brandy. Return to Sibiu for overnight at our hotel.
Sibiu / BrasovMay 11
From Sibiu, drive through the fertile plateau of the Tarnve River to Sighisoara, one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval walled citadels, with nine towers, narrow passageways, cobbled streets, brightly painted houses, and ornate churches. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sighisoara is also the birthplace of Vlad Draculea, nicknamed Vlad the Impaler, ruler of Walachia from 1456 to 1462. It was Vlad who inspired Bram Stoker’s fictional creation, Count Dracula. Make a visit to the infamous Bran Castle, built as a fortress in 1212 by the Knights of the Teutonic Order. Continue to Brasov and check in to our hotel for dinner and overnight.
Brasov / SinaiaMay 12
Tour the lively city of Brasov with its expansive main square, elegant architecture, and narrow streets that wind through the medieval center. Visit the Old Town Hall Square and the magnificent 15th-century Black Church, the largest Gothic cathedral in Romania. Take a lovely drive through rolling, forested hills to Sinaia with a stop en route at the Halewood Sparkling Wine Company for a tour, tasting, and lunch. This afternoon, tour the fairy-tale-like Peles Castle, built by King Carol I in the 19th century. Return to Brasov for dinner and overnight.
Brasov / Piatra NeamtMay 13
Set out for a morning drive to Prejmer Fortified Church, completed in 1225. Continue through the fir-clad Carpathian Mountains to Miercurea Ciuc for lunch and a tour of the Franciscan Monastery, an important site of pilgrimage. The scenic highlight today is the drive through breathtaking Bicaz Gorge, which twists and turns through sheer, 900-foot-high limestone cliffs. Arrive in Piatra Neamt and check in to our hotel in time for dinner.
Piatra Neamt / Gura HumoruluiMay 14
After breakfast, depart for the region of Bucovina. Make a stop at the Agapia Monastery (currently a nunnery) to observe the outstanding paintings of Nicolae Grigorescu. Then visit a small, private museum in the village of Tarpesti, before a rustic lunch of homemade specialties in a local home. Continue to Gura Humorului, your base for two nights while exploring the painted monasteries of Bucovina. Check in to our hotel for dinner, a wine tasting, and overnight.
Gura HumoruluiMay 15
Today is dedicated to the beauty of the forest-carpeted countryside and the exquisite painted monasteries, seven of which are World Heritage Sites. Built in the 15th and 16th-centuries, these “albums” of sacred art are breathtaking to behold, both for their natural settings, and the vibrant colors of their frescoes—which cover every square inch of exterior space. First, visit the exquisite Voronet monastery nicknamed the “Sistine Chapel of the East,” renowned for its extraordinary blue-colored frescoes. Moldovita brings Sunday school lessons to life, and offers a famous depiction of the Siege of Constantinople. After lunch discover “a poem in green and light” at Sucevita, boasting thousands of images, and reflecting its splendid verdant setting with a lush background of emerald green. Return to our hotel and enjoy a folklore program during dinner.
Gura Humorului / Sighetu MarmatieiMay 16
The steeply rolling terrain of Maramures, Romania’s northernmost province, is poetically picturesque, dotted with haystacks and tiny villages whose uniquely carved wooden gates and overflowing gardens are regional hallmarks. Here, time stands still, traditions are unique, and the warm hospitality is boundless. Many locals still wear traditional dress, including the distinct opinci—yarn-laced slippers worn over thick socks. Visit colorful local villages, and the tall, wooden-steepled churches that are World Heritage Sites. In the town of Sighetu Marmatiei visit the excellent Museum of Ethnography, and the unique Merry Cemetery, famous for carved and brightly painted wooden grave markers that tell the story of the individual’s life in words and pictures. Stop for lunch in the lovely Iza Valley, where folk art has been part of village life for centuries, before arriving in Sighetu for dinner and overnight.
Sighetu MarmatieiMay 17
Visit the Ethnographic Museum this morning, before a visit to tiny Sieu to learn about rural life. Enjoy a typical peasant lunch with a traditional show from the village children. Explore the picturesque Mara Valley making stops in small hamlets and a local distillery for a plum brandy tasting. Return to Sighetu for dinner and overnight.
Sighetu Marmatiei / ClujMay 18
This morning depart for Cluj, with a stop en route in Baia Mare, the capital of the Maramures region, for a short city tour. After lunch, browse the glass-painted icons of Nicula Monastery. Arrive in Cluj, the cultural capital of Transylvania, and check in to our hotel for dinner and overnight.
Cluj is a 13th-century Saxon city notable for its university and impressive architecture, which you will discover on a city tour. Highlights include the gothic-style Church of St. Michael, Teleki and Banffy Palaces, and the lovely Botanical Garden. After lunch, enjoy free time to explore on your own.
Cluj / Oradea / Debrecen, HungaryMay 20
After breakfast drive through rolling countryside to Oradea. Admire the mélange of medieval, baroque, Art Nouveau, and neoclassical buildings on a city tour. After lunch at a local restaurant, cross the Romanian-Hungarian border in Bors and enjoy sweeping views of the Pusta, or Great Hungarian Plain. This afternoon, arrive in Debrecen, the second-largest city in Hungary and an important cultural capital. After checking in to our hotel, there is time for a short orientation tour of the city before dinner.
Debrecen / BudapestMay 21
Begin the day with a trip to Hortobagy National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the largest salt plain in Central Europe. A unique shepherding culture evolved here over the centuries, evident in the distinctive styles of clothing and architecture. Visit a horse farm to observe a superb demonstration of Hungarian horsemanship, and enjoy traditional snacks accompanied by local wine. Continue to Hungary’s capital city and check in to our hotel. Dinner tonight includes wine tasting at a venerable wine cellar, accompanied by lively folk music.
Budapest, the capital of Hungary, was formed when two cities on the opposite shores of the Danube (Buda and Pest) joined together in 1873. After breakfast, join a city tour that begins on the Pest side, with a drive along UNESCO-protected Andrassy Street to Heroes Square. Continue to the Buda side for a short walking tour past the Matthias Church to the Fisherman’s Bastion for fabulous views over the city. Take a stroll through the atmospheric lanes of the Castle District before lunch at a local restaurant. In the afternoon, visit the Synagogue, Hungarian Jewish Museum, and Ethnographic Museum. This evening take a dinner cruise along the Danube for wonderful views of Budapest by night.
Budapest / USAMay 23
Transfer to the airport for your independent flight, arriving in the USA the same day.