Tour Of Transylvania
Transylvania is a mythical land of vampire legends, gypsy bands and bandits with castle ruins of former kingdoms surrounded by the formidable Carpathians.
Visit Transylvania, this remote corner of Europe, a region trapped in time. There are hardly more destinations in civilized Europe that can still be be called’ Exotic”. Dine at Dracula’s house, meet the proud local Szekelys who still populate their ancient homeland despite forceful Romanization during communist times. Have dinner with local families tasting traditional hearty meals, enjoy warm hospitality during your village stays, marvel at alpine peaks, bathe in caves and volcanic lakes, immerse yourself in Transylvania.”
Join us on this tour to a remote corner of Central Europe exist a region trapped in time. It is a land known to the West for its colorful folklore, fairy tales and vampire legends. Transylvania, is the birthplace of count Dracula and Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler), later prince of Wallachia, a vassal to the Hungarian kings. It is the ancient land of the 1000 year-old Hungarian Kingdom with numerous castle ruins perched on imposing hill tops. Colorful Saxon villages, fortified churches, great historical estates are embraced here by the wild Carpathians, the easternmost frontier of civilized Europe during past centuries. Transylvania was part of the Hungarian Kingdom established in the year 1000 A.D. It later became home to Saxons from the Moselle Valley, who established several prosperous cities during the 12th century A.D.
Being a region of several ethnicities, Transylvania was progressive in ethnic and religious tolerance. In 1566 when most of Europe was still engaged in religious wars, Prince John Sigismund enacted the Edict of Religious Toleration at the Diet of Torda. Under the Ottoman Turkish occupation during the 16th and 17th Centuries, Transylvania was a semi-independent principality. Transylvania was awarded to Romania by the Allies at the end of WW1. Romania was formed in 1859, with the unification of the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia and became independent in 1871.
Day 1: From the Gate of Transylvania to the “Capital” of Transylvania
The city of Oradea, 15 kilometers east of the Hungarian/Romanian border, is the gateway to Transylvania. The city of St Ladislaw was first mentioned in chronicles in the 12th century, when its citadel was built. It is the most Hungarian-looking among all cities of Transylvania with its open spaces, Art Nouveau buildings and savvy intellectual life. We start our tour with visiting the Episcopal Palace, a replica of the Belvedere Palace in Vienna, and the Roman-Catholic Cathedral housing St Ladislaus relics. After a short walk between the famous “Art-nouveau” style buildings we arrive to the Black Eagle Palace and to the Moon Church Cathedral with the unique mechanism showing the phases of the moon. Continuing on to Cluj, (Kolozsvar) we cross the Occidental Carpathians and pass lake Dragan. After a short brake in Kalotaszentkiraly, a region with colorful folklore and live traditions, we arrive at Cluj, capital of Transylvania late in the afternoon. We will then visit the main attractions in the city center: the Saint Michael’s Roman-Catholic Church as well as the birth-house and equestrian statue of King Matthias Corvinus, considered Hungary’s greatest king. Overnight in Cluj.
Day 2: A Glance to the Transylvanian History
Visit the city of Alba Julia, the medieval capital and executive center of the region with its 16th century princely palaces of the former governors of Transylvania. Visit the Roman Catholic Cathedral with the tombs of Transylvanian rulers and of John Hunyadi, father of Mathias King; the funeral place of the I. Hungarian prince Zsigmond as well as the Union Hall where the Union of Transylvania with Romania was declared. Continue on to the majestic Corvin Castle in Hunedoara with the beautiful Knights Hall. In the afternoon we arrive in the former capital of the Saxon region: Sibiu. The city of Sibiu was founded on the site of the Roman city of Caedonia, during the 12th century. It is the most important city build by the Transylvanian Saxons. During the middle ages it rapidly evolved into a powerful economic and political center. Sibiu housed the “Academia Saxorum”, the German Parliament of the seven Saxon citadels of Transylvania (in fact, the German name for Transylvania – Siebenbürgen – means “seven cities”). During the communist times, Sibiu has suffered a major loss when its citizens were sold one by one to Western Germany by the Romanian dictator, Ceausescu. Despite all this ethnic cleansing and 45 years of communism, much of the historic center has been preserved looking like a colorful medieval German town from a Grimm fairy-tale. Overnight in Sibiu.
Day 3: The Famous “Dracula Castle”
Visit the city’s Craftsmen’s Square, Huet Square, the Evangelical Church, Bridge of Lies, Great Square and the City Hall Tower. Continue on to Bilea Cascade following the Transzfogaras serpentine road under the peaks of Fogaras Mountain (2, 500m/ 8202 feet) up to the glacier, lake Balea. Then we visit the “Dracula Castle” built in 1377 and served as a summer residence to Queen Maria in 1920. Then we visit the richest Saxon town, Brasov, with its famous Turkish carpet collection of the Black Church, the Old Town Hall (15th century), and the narrowest street in the town followed by a break in one of the cafés. Refreshed, drive to the XIII century fortified church of Prejmer listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It will be a unique experience walking inside the fortified walls of the church. Leaving the Saxon region we arrive to Székelyföld. The Szekelys are Hungarian speaking people settled at the Eastern end of the Hungarian Kingdom to protect the lands from foreign invasions. They are a very proud persistent people considering themselves the descendants of the Attila, the Hun. Székely traditional costumes are presented by 247 dolls at Kezdivasarhely. We spend our night in the heart of the mountains in serene mountain surrounding at Best Western Hotel Balvanyos.
Day 4: The Land of Fairies. This day is dedicated to the delightful nature of the Szekely Land. In the morning we take a gas-bath in the “stinky-cave” of Torja, a small cave with sulfuric gas, used as a treatment for rheumatic disorders). After a swimming in the volcanic Lake Saint Ana we “hunt” for carnivorous plants of the Mohos peat moss swamp. This area is the only volcanic formation which preserved its original form in Central Europe. We spend the night in the largest Szekely city: Csikszereda.
Day 5: Mixing with locals, Meet the Real Szekely Peoples
Whole day program with cart-tour, traditional crafts, tasting the traditional ordas pancake and polenta with soft cheese. After the tasty dinner we return to Csikszereda.
Day 6: The Unique Szekely Landscape
This day is also reserved for the beauty of the nature. We’ll visit the Gyimes region, the former border of Hungary and the 300 m high walls of the Frog Gorge (Bekas Szoros) and of course the Red-lake on the river Bicaz, connecting Transylvania and Moldavia. The gorge consists of three main parts: the ’Gate’, the ’Portico’ and the ’Throat’ of Hell. It is one of Europe’s unique natural phenomena with its 200-300 meters long, vertical cliffs, a paradise of rock climbers. The gorge with is winding road attracts many tourist every year. Why they call “Killer” lake or Red Lake? The mountain, when it tumbled down, buried a herd with its shepherd and it was these creatures’ blood that kept seeping into the water and colored the lake red. The pine trunks sticking out of the lake make it mysteriously unique. These trunks are the remains of an old pine forest that used to occupy the valley. We return to the Armenian city of Gheorgheni.
Day 7: Pearls of the Szekely Folk Art
In the morning we will visit the Renaissance castle of Szarhegy with its knight hall, the fine art and painted eggs exhibition. It used to be an important military and administrative center of Székely land in the 1600s. The village has been attacked and burnt by Tartars and Turks numerous times. In 1658 Cosack-Tartar troops broke into the area from Moldova. The people of Gyergyó fought them and defeated them. According to legends only 15 people from Gyergyó died whereas the enemy lost more than 500 soldiers. The bodies were buried just outside of the town in a pile which is called ’Tartar hill’ to this day. We will stop at the beautiful painted wooden Szekely gates at Marefalva and at the Gate Exhibition of Szejkefurdo. Leaving the Szekely land we are going to the best preserved living medieval town in Europe: Sighisoara, birthplace of count Vlad Tepes, Dracula. The most interesting places in town are the Clock Tower, the wooden covered staircase, the Monastery Church and the Torture Instruments Museum. We will have dinner in Dracula’s birth house
Day 8: The English Connection
Near Sighisoara we will visit the most famous of the fortified Saxon churches, Biertan. It was the seat of the Lutheran bishops for 300 years and now is enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage site. At Erdőszentgyörgy we will discover the Transylvanian relatives of the British Royal family. See the ancestral home of Claudia Rhedey, the great-great grandmother of Queen Elisabeth II of England. In the afternoon we will arrive to the famous Bear salt-lake.
Day 9: Farewells to Transylvania
We start our last day in this unique region with shopping at the most famous folk art market in Korond. You will find here hand-painted pottery, hand-carved decorations, weaved textiles, etc. In our way back to Oradea we will stop at the capital of Szekely land: Tirgu Mures. The legends of the Szekely people are presented in the Palace of Culture, a building with remarkable painted stained-glass windows. We arrive back to Oradea in the evening and here ends our trip of Transylvania. transfer to the train station or optional overnights. We can also arrange optional transfers to Budapest, Cluj, Bucharest, etc
- 8 nights accommodation at 4 and 3star hotels (see hotel list below) with 2 meals per day
- Transportation in AC private car or minibus depending on number of passengers
- Services of a private guide throughout the tour (for 9days)
- All entrance fees
- Land taxes and service charges
* US$ rate varies depending the exchange
Hotels used for the tour:
Cluj: Hotel Agape4* or Hotel Deja Vu4*
Cheile Gradistei: Hotel Gradistei***
Balvanyos: Grand Hotel Balvanyos****
Miercurea Ciuc: Huenguest Hotel Fenyo***
Gheorgheni/Borzont: Pension Dorka**** or pension Rubin***
Sovata: Danubius Hotel Sovata****