Winter in Romania
Discovering an older way of life and celebrating the holidays in Romania. Part of the fun will be traveling in a few 4-wheel drive cars and stopping for photographic opportunities in the winter countryside. The overall plan is to begin in Cluj-Napoca and head to the Maramures to explore the region's bucolic villages.
Our travels will take us to the Moldova region to experience "The Dance of the Bear," a festival featuring people dressed in bear skins dancing through the town. Moving back into Transylvania, we photograph the Christmas markets and festivals. The medieval architecture and fortified churches bring character to the Romanian landscapes and the tour of the majestic Bran Castle is on everyone's list. Working our way back to Bucharest, we leave Romania after 12 days of discovering the intriguing customs of the holiday season.
The drive times listed for each day will give you an idea of how much time we will be in the car traveling to the next adventure. Our final schedule could be altered due to weather, transportation difficulties or other reasons beyond our control. You can be sure that we will be flexible enough to find unique photographic opportunities on each of our days experiencing winter in Romania.
Photo by Dan Burkholder
Meet you in Cluj-Napoca, Transylvania
- Arrive at the airport and be picked up outside the baggage claim area.
- You will be taken to your hotel in the heart of the city.
- Exploring the Christmas markets in the historic city center.
- Evening introductions and meeting with your fellow travelers in Romania.
Day 2: Friday, Dec 23, 2022
Photographing along the road to the Maramures (4 hrs drive)
- We start by traveling to Maramures, the most authentic region of Romania where there will be plenty of opportunities to photograph the daily life of people, winter landscapes and local traditions. There will be lots of opportunities to stop and photograph the countryside.
- En route, we visit the tallest of the famous wooden churches unique to the Maramures. This UNESCO World heritage site is located in the village of Surdesti. This impressive structure is set in a peaceful location surrounded by a small cemetery with trees.
- Further on we will have a walk in a typical village in the Maramures. You will witness the village way of life, the style of the houses and may see horse-drawn carts.
- Check in for a three-night stay at a family-run, rural guesthouse in the Maramures.
Day 3: Saturday, Dec 24, 2022
Prison Museum, Local Market, the Merry Cemetery of Sapanta and door-to-door Caroling (2 hr drive)
- We travel to Sighet, a nearby town known for its large Jewish community that lived there in past centuries and the location of one of the largest communist prisons. Visiting the prison, now an interesting museum, we'll learn about the communist times and how they impacted the culture of Romania.
- We will walk through the local market and see locals making some last minute purchases before Christmas.
- The next stop is the Merry Cemetery of Sapanta, with its crosses decorated in lively colors and featuring funny poems about the lives of the deceased.
- In the evening you will meet carolers wandering from house to house, some of them dressed in traditional clothes. Caroling is a charming custom, recently listed as part of Romania's UNESCO Intangible World Heritage.
- Return to guesthouse.
Day 4: Sunday, Dec 25, 2022
Experiencing the Magic of a Rural Christmas (2 hr drive)
- The first part of the day will be spent capturing the magical atmosphere of Christmas as villagers go to church for the Christmas Mass. For mass we will go to a monastic complex made of wood. Maramures is called “the land of wooden churches”. The churches are made entirely out of wood, using traditional building techniques and some are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We'll look for interesting compositions with the wooden churches, the villages, valleys and mountains hopefully covered in snow.
- Being very close to the border with Ukraine, on past trips we have walked across a bridge and spent a couple of hours in the small Ukranian town on the other side of the border. We will watch the world situation and decide at the time if this is an outing that we want to do. It's an opportunity to have one more stamp in your passport and see just a tiny bit of the country that we have all been watching on the news. Our guide, Daniel, will give us up-to-date guidance on this.
- Return to guesthouse.
Day 5: Monday, Dec 26, 2022
Steam Train and a Village's Traditions (2 hr drive)
- Today you will take part in one of the highlights of the trip, namely shooting the only narrow-gauge steam train in Europe which is still functional today, Mocanita. The train passes through a spectacular landscape of mountains and valleys and with the winter snow adding a touch of magic, you will be sure to get beautiful photos.
- On the way back, we'll stop in a village to see people coming out of church. On this day, there will be the highest number of people dressed in traditional clothes, a lot of the men wearing thick white wool jackets and sheepskin hats.
- A break in the afternoon and a class with Dan.
- Last evening in this guesthouse.
Christmas Festival in Sight-Marmatiei (5 hr drive)
- Each year in the nearby town of Sighetu-Marmatiei the local customs come to life as part of a festival, which you will attend. People from villages all around Maramures gather to display their unique Christmas traditions, by way of caroling, dancing and putting on interesting performances. There will be lots of opportunities to shoot people. Daniel will have excellent suggestions on how to be in the right place for the best photos.
- We will leave the Maramures behind and head to the Bucovina region.
- Accommodation in Bucovina.
Day 7: Wednesday, Dec 28, 2022
Painted Monasteries and a Steam Train (2 hr drive)
- You can start the day with a sunrise shoot from the hotel's balcony overlooking the town in the valley and the mountains.
- Next, we'll explore the Painted Monasteries for which Bucovina is so famous. Most of them date from the 15th and 16th centuries and are majestic examples of Byzantine art. You will visit two of the most famous ones, also UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Moldovita Monastery and Sucevita Monastery. Not only will you be able to capture the impressive architecture and colorful exterior frescoes of the churches, but also their locations in a beautiful natural settings.
- Later in the day you will have a shoot of Mocanita Hutulca, another of Romania’s steam trains. As the train travels through villages, forests and by the river, you can capture it in motion.
- Accommodation in Bucovina
Day 8: Thursday, Dec 29, 2022
Voronet Monastery and Travel Through Moldova (3 1/2 hrs drive)
- A visit to Bucovina’s most famous Painted Monasteries, Voronet Monastery, known for its unique shade of blue. Worth-admiring are also the stunning paintings, which gave the monastery the nickname of “the Sistine Chapel of the East”.
- We will then travel through the region of Moldova so the next day we can be in position to attend one of the most fascinating winter festivals in Romania.
- In late afternoon we will have another class with Dan.
- Accommodation in Bacau/Darmanesti.
Day 9: Friday, Dec 30, 2022
Dance of the Bear (4 hrs drive)
- Every year on this day, groups which perform various winter holidays rituals gather at this lively popular festival. You will be able to witness and photograph people bringing to life customs from all across the country, including the impressive “dance of the Bear." During the bear dance both men and women, young and old, put on bear skins, dance and stroll through the town in a surreal display of color and liveliness. You will have abundant opportunities for taking unique shots and learning about this very special custom.
- In the afternoon we will travel to Brasov over a mountain pass and look for interesting landscapes and photo stops.
- Accommodation in Brasov.
Day 10: Saturday, Dec 31, 2022
Bran Castle and New Years' Eve in Brasov (2 1/2 drive)
- What a better way to end the year than by visiting the famous Bran Castle, known for its association with Dracula. You will now have the chance to learn its true story and uncover its mysteries. Due to its location, perched on top of rocks and surrounded by the forest, you will also photograph the imposing medieval monument from a distance for a stunning winter opportunity.
- Later in the day you will have the opportunity to capture the picturesque natural landscape in the vicinity of Bran and Brasov, an area with many traditional houses scattered around the hills and country roads bordered by wooden fences.
- Evening will bring more shooting to capture the beautiful architecture in the city of Brasov and to explore the Christmas market with its festive atmosphere.
- We will gather with thousands of people in the main square and count down to the New Year, welcoming 2023 with live concerts and fireworks.
- Accommodation in Brasov.
Day 11: Sunday, Jan 1, 2023
Traditional Transylvanian Village and Time for Photo Editing (2 1/2 hr drive)
- On the first day of the new year we will travel through the countryside to a traditional 800 years old Transylvanian village. We will wander through the streets, admire its colored houses and visit its UNESCO World heritage site fortified church.
- Accommodation in Brasov.
Day 12: Monday, Jan 2, 2023
Landscape near Sinaia and Return to Bucharest (3 hr drive)
- We will return to Bucharest. On the way we may stop for landscape shots of the Carpathian Mountains and to photograph one of the most beautiful castles in Romania, located in the town of Sinaia.
- In Bucharest, you will have some time to explore the city in the afternoon and having a final celebration dinner with the group.
- Accommodation in Bucharest.
Day 13: Tuesday, Jan 3, 2023
Bucharest and Time to go Home
- You will be transferred from your hotel to the airport in Bucharest. Time for your flight home. What a great beginning for the year!
Making Fotos, Friends and Memories....
Winter in Romania — DEPOSIT (full price is $4850)
Dec 22, 2022-Jan 3, 2023 — Winter photo workshop to rural Romania and Transylvania with Dan Burkholder. Explore the charming villages as they celebrate a traditional Christmas and New Year's. The full cost of the trip is $4850. Balance is due Nov 18, 2022.