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13 / 11 / 2016 provides everything you need to plan your holiday - unbiased travel information based on extensive, personal travel and an unparallelled network of local specialists.

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Romanian Moldavia "Treasures and Tranquillity"
The Painted Monasteries are one of Romania's most important cultural attractions,
nestled between the beautiful crests of Bucovina, just one corner of historic Moldavia

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Sucevita - one of the famous 'Painted' Monasteries of Bucovina

"This is just to say what a wonderful guide Sorin was for the Painted Monasteries; he really made our trip. His technical knowledge of the icons as well as his enthusiasm was wonderful. Alll the meet and greets went well so it was very unstressful. HH (East Sussex)

"The main purpose of our visit was, of course, to visit the Painted Monasteries of the Bucovina. This surpassed all expectations. We found the monasteries marvellous. Our visit was greatly enhanced by Sorin Fodor, our guide and driver, of whom neither my wife nor I can speak too highly. Quite apart from being a skilled driver and a good English speaker his enthusiasm and knowledge of the area and the monasteries waqs excellent and we would be grateful if you would pass on our thanks to him for the wonderful time he gave us. The friendliness of all the staff at Casa Elena also added to our enjoyment of the area." JH (Dorset)

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Much of the former Romanian province of Bucovina, previously part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was lost to the USSR (now the Ukraine) in 1945 together with its capital, Cernauti. The southern part which falls away to the east in a series of steep, wooded ridges, the "crests (obcinie) of Bucovina" comprises the present day county of Suceava.

NEW FOR 2014: why not tag a couple of extra days onto your sojourn in Bucovina to travel over the border into Moldova? It is a fascinating small country known for its excellent wines; you can visit the vineyards and cellars including the extensive caves at Milesti-Micim or furher afield to visit the fascinating Orhei Vechi Monastery carved into the limestone cliffs of the Orhei region. Your gateway is the historic cultural city of Iasi (Jassy) though there are also good flights to and from Chisinau. We can provide accommodation and car and guide servces from iasi or Suceava.


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Bucovina can easily be combined
with other regions such as
Maramures, Cluj or with
the Touch of Class holidays.
It is also featured in holidays
with Roving Romania and
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The "Painted Monasteries":


Marginea Pottery
Cacica Salt Mines
Moldovita Forest Railway
Rarau Mountain
Vatra Dornei Spa

Other Monasteries in Bucovina:

Southern Bucovina & Neamt
Neamt Monastery & Fortress
Agapia Monastery
Varatec Monastery
Secu Monastery & Sihla Hermitage
Secu Vanatori-Neamt Natural Park
Lake Bicaz & Mt.Ceahlau
Bicaz Gorge
Piatra Neamt

Trei Iehari Church
Palace of Culture
Cotnari Vineyards
Ruginoasa Palace


UK to Bacau, Iasi and Suceava

Tarom flights from
Bucharest to Iasi (daily), or
to Suceava via Bacau
Carpatair from Timsoara to Iasi

Austrian Airlines
from Vienna to Iasi
xonnecting from Heathrow

Overnight Sleeper train from
Bucharest to Suceava,
Gura Humorului, Vama &
Campulung Moldovenesc.
Other daytime trains connect the
region with Iasi, Cluj, Brasov,
Timisoara & Bucharest.

Transfers can be organised from
local rail station to hotels, & from
Maramures & Bistrita areas.
Personal guided tours
of Painted Monasteries
from Bucovina, Bistrita or Iasi

Beds - Beds - Beds - Beds - Beds - Beds - Beds - Beds - Beds - Beds - Beds

Our personal recommendations for the best accommodation in Bucovina, Neamt & Iasi
Luxury 5-star hotels to family run guesthouses

Hildes Residence, Gura Humorului - delightful family run Eco-guesthouse in a leafy garden in an ideal central location
Dragomarna Monastery Guesthouse - unique opportunity to stay with the nuns and sample their way of life; simple but comfortable accommodation with en suite facilities and balconies overlooking the beautiful abbey
Putna Monastery - basic guesthouse run by the monks of Putna outside the monastery
Popas Bucovinei - comfortable private guesthouses near Sucevita monastery
Casa Elena - comfortable 4-star hotel complex near the monastery at Voronet
Hotel Unirea Iasi - 4-star city hotel with good facilities
Conac Polizu - restored manor house providing comfortable accommodation and good food near Cotnari vineyards
Hotel Lacu Rosu - modern resort hotel, convenient for an overnight if travelling into Transylvania


The Painted Monasteries & Northern Bucovina

he 'Painted' Monasteries of Bucovina are true masterpieces - their outer walls covered with byzantine frescoes, stories from the bible. They were founded in the 15th and 16th centuries and, together with the church of Arbore form an important part of UNESCO's patrimony.

The ruling princes still found the respite to erect true religious architectural gems despite being compelled to submit to Ottoman domination. Stephen the Great of Moldavia (1457-1504), was responsible for Putna (1466-1468), Patrauti (1487), Neamt Monastery (1497), and the painted church of Arbore. His descendant, Petru Rares, continued his work by setting the foundations for the famous 'Painted Monasteries' - Humor (1530), Moldovita (1532), Sucevita (1584) and Voronet (1547).

The principal 'Painted Monasteries' are:

Voronet - the 'Sistine Chapel of the East', with remarkable frescoes of an intense shade known as 'Voronet Blue', including the fascinating 'Final Judgment' on the back wall.

Moldovita - of particular interest is a depiction of the Siege of Constantinople with the Christians winning!

Sucevita - the largest, and perhaps the most impressive nestled between the scenic, wooded hills. The church is covered by frescoes, including a well-preserved representation of Jacob's Ladder, and is surrounded by massive defensive walls.

Humor - smaller, than the other complexes, with prevailing hues of red-brown and a depiction of the Devil as the 'Scarlet Woman'!

There is also a painted church at Arbore with equally impressive frescoes.

Northern Bucovina also has several other fortified monasteries, notably Putna (where Stephen the Great is buried), and Dragomârna near Suceava, with its unusually tall church. We recommend spreading a visit to this region over several days to gain the most from the experience. There is a tendency to rush around the key Painted Monasteries in a day which rather defeats the object as the danger is that after a few hours the frescoes become muddled in the mind and the visitor is left confused about what they have or haven't seen. In realirty each of the churches is very different so it is wise to take time and divide the visits between other attractions. For example the saltmines at Cacica near Solca, the unusual smoked black pottery at Marginea, the ruined fortress at Suceava, or even a walk up one of the hills around Sucevita Monastery to fully appreciate the scale of the fortifications and the pastoral setting of this monastery. It is also possible to visit both Humor and Voronet on foot if you are staying in accommodation in or near Gura Humorului. Voronet is a pleasant walk across the valley floor for example. The rush for the 'Painted' Monasteries also risks missing ourt on some of the other fascinating historic and workinmg monasteries dotted around this region, some of which can be appreciated best with an expert guide who has an indepth knowledge of the region and can opens doors for you. These can include Balinesti, Bogdana, Patrauti or Slatina, in addition to other attractions in the region which are not limited to its spectacular scenery. For example Marginea, mentioned before and known for its curious smoked, black pottery, which is sold along the roadsides or at the studio where it is made. Moldovita is also home to a forestry railway which rarely sees any use nowadays - however a preservation groups sometimes runs a sepcial train for tourist and enthusiast groups.

Northern Bucovina provides a convenient link in the circuit between Cluj or Maramures and the eastern Carpathians. There are useful rail services from Timisoara or Cluj which cut between the beautiful Suhard, Rodnei and Bargau ranges of the Carpathians to reach Campulung Moldovenesc, Vama, Gura Humorului and Suceava. All of them are useful stepping off points for Bucovina though Gura Humorului is especially useful as it is well situated also for the monasteries and attraction of southern Bucovina and Neamt to the south. Suceava is a useful hub with trains going onwards to the former capital of Moldavia, the cultural ad university centre of Iasi, in addition to connections north into the Ukraine or south to Bucharest. We can also organise personal tours with professional guides to explore the region of Neamt to the south or take you onwards through the Ceahlau Massif to pick up the useful afternoon intercity train to Brasov, gateway to southern Transylvania.

Bucovina forms the northern part of what was once the principality of Moldavia, and extends over the border into what is now the Ukraine. Unlike other parts of Moldavia it was under Austrian control until the First Word War. Most of norrthern Romania east of the Carpathians was part of Moldavia which also extended eastwards over the River Prut, the current border between Romania and the Republic of Moldova. This territory with its capital at Chisinau was, until independence, the Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldavia. It is better known as Bessarabia and has always been an important region for agriculture - specifically cereals and wine. The remaining part of Moldavia that lies on Romanian soil extends south from Bucovina as far as the Danube Delta and the Baragan Plain . The Moldavian landscapes are typified by long straight river valleys with steep-sided, rolling hills such as those of the Siret and the Prut, or the smaller Moldova which flows south from Bucovina. Apart from Bucovina the most interesting regions from a touristic point of view are the Neamt region which extends westwards from Piatra Neamt into the eastern Carpathians, and the cultural city of Iasi. There are also significant wine regions within Moldova, probably best known for their sweet white wines including Cotnari near Iasi and Odobesti and Panciu in Vrancea, Moldova has always been a cradle of the Orthodox church from the early days of the monasteries set up by Stephen the Great (Stefan cel Mare) and Prince Petru Rares to more recent times - for example the fascinating story of Vladimiresti near Galati which was set up following a vision in the 1930sand played an important role in sheltering people from both the Nazis and the Communists. Much of this region is also very rich in Jewish heritage and there are still significant synagogues in places such as Piatra Neamt, Iasi and Botosani, despite the pograms by both the Romanian Iron Guard and the Germans during the Second World War.

Southern Bucovina and Neamt

Much of the region of Neamt can be visited in a comfortable day trip from accommodation in Bucovina, or if you are heading south or west into Transylvania or the Szekelyland. There are numerous important monasteries scattered throughout this region including Rasca, Probota, Varatec, Agapia and Neamt. Deeper in the mountains there is Secu and the unusual hermitage nearby at Sihla. Further south is the main regional town of Piatra Neamt and Bistrita Monastery. Accommodation is rather sparse here though there are several village houses and also hotels at Durau and Ceahlau beside Lake Bicaz. Piatra Neamt has a few non-descript high-rise hotels which might suffice but the charms of this town which was vandalised by bulldozers and concrete during the communist era are limited. We would also recommend avoiding the hotels at Lacu Rosu. a small lakeside resort above the spectacular (not to be missed) Bicaz Gorge. Despite the pretty lakeside setting, Lacu Rosu is little more than a scruffy truck stop blighted with the litter that is an increasing problem in other beauty spots. If you are heading south or east hold out for the nice pension by the castle at Lazarea or teh bright lights of Miercurea Ciuc!

The western side of Neamt is dominated by the huge Bicaz reservoir, and the rugged Ceahlau Massif, known as the 'magic Mountain' and reputedly the home of the Dacian Gods. If you are in this region at midsummer you could join the pilgrimmage to the summit for the sunrise. There are also several spas in the mountains to the west including Borsec - a name you will see time and time again on bottles of mineral water. There is also the Vanatori-Neamt Natural Park which covers a region of deciduous woodland and rolling hills stretching southwards from Neamt Monastery to Agapia and Varatec and west towards the Bistrita Aurie valley. These forests which include the Dumrava Oak Reserve, are certified in recognition of good, sustainable, forest management and are home to red deer, bears and wolves in addition tro a wide range of animal and bird species. The centre for the park is in Varatec , while the village of Vanatori-Neamt contains what remains the Dragos-Voda Bison Reserve, a conservation project aimed at reintroducing the European Bison to the Neamt region.

Warning for Drivers: there are several roads in this region which appear, mainly on older maps, but which should be avoided at all cost:

1. Direct link from Humor Monastery to Sucevita: was presumably planned during the Communist era as it began to appear on maps. However, leaving Humor the road divides and both small, unsurfaced tracks peter out in the wooded hills.
2. Road along the west side of Lake Bicaz from Durau to Bicaz: usually barricaded at the southern end by boulders this 'track' has been blocked and deestroyed by successive rockfalls and erosion. Inaccessible.
3. Rotunda Pass from the upper Bistrita Valley near Carlibaba to Valea Mare and Sant in the upper Somes Valley. Very convenient shortcut which appears to eliminate the long Borgo or Prisop Pass routes between Bucovina and northern Transylvania. This pass is not surfaced and, although the Bucovina end is reasonable, it is regularly torn apart by forest tractors and is best avoided unless you have a 4x4.

It should also be noted that the Prislop Pass Road is in a bad state of repair and should be avoided if possible and definitely at night; successive severe winters and heavy logging vehicles have taken their toll and reduced parts of this road to stretches of hazardous potholes; the alternative route to Maramures is via Vatra Dornei, the Tihuta Pass, Bistrita then the Setref Pass to Sacel.

Useful Links: Bucovina Resources

We have included a few links to some useful websites to assist you further in planning your stay in Bucovina.
If you have an interest in any chucrhes oir monasteries you can spenbd hours here learning about all the working monasteries in Bucovina, and further afield.

Painted Monasteries - the ultimate guide to the monasteries of Bucovina
Map of the Bucovina Monasteries
Neamt Monasteries - guide to the monastries of Neamt county
Vladimiresti - well off the beaten track in southern Moldavia, but the story of this monastry is worth a read!
Vanatori- Neamt Vanatori Wildlife and Nature Park, Neamt

Suggested tours and itineraries

A wide range of bespoke holidays can be arranged in this region, using overnight sleeper trains, stayng in delightful private hotels or pensions and taking personal tours of the monasteries with a car and professional licenced guide. Check out the links above for travel agents who can organise these for you. They have access to fluent english speakng guides with an excellent in depth knowledge of the region. The following example is typical and can be taken at any time of the year based around Tarom or Austrian Airlines flight schedules.

Painted Monasteries & Beyond - 5 days/ 4 nights

Departures throughout the year.

An introduction to the Painted Monasteries and other treasures of the region, ideal for a long-weekend break. This tour combines a night and morning in the cultural centre of Moldavia, Iasi, with the Painted Monasteries of Bucovina, and the beautiful monasteries of Dragomârna, Agapia, Varatec and Neamt. The tour can easily be extended or combined with other regions such as the Maramures. Comprises return flights with quality accommodation and excellent guided tours by car which are flexible enough to be modified to meet your own personal interests.

Flight: Austrian Airlines and TAROM connect from Heathrow; Tarom arrive late evening, Austrian early afternoon
Accommodation: range of 3-4 star hotels in the city centre

Full day with professional guide and car. Collect from hotel after breakfast; tour of the highlights of Iasi including the Trei Iehari church and Palace of Culture.
Visit the lovely monasteries of Agapia, Varatec and Neamt, or Ruginoasa Palace and the Cotnari vineyards en route to Bucovina.
Accommodation: recommend Gura Humorului, Voronet or Humor as a base, though Suceava would also work. Check our Beds section for recommendations.

Full day with professional guide and car exploring the Painted Monasteries with a professional guide and car: Voronet, Moldovita and Sucevita. If time permits also visit the black pottery of Marginea, the Cacica saltmines or take a stroll up the hill overlooking Sucevita. Voronet could be saved for Day 4.

Full day with professional guide and car.exploring the Painted Monasteries, Humor and Arbore, followed by the graceful tall abbey at Dragomârna, and if time permits, Suceava town and Putna Monastery close to the frontier with the Ukraine. Alternative: free day to walk to Humor and Voronet without a guide. txis for these relatively short distances are also inexpensive and can be arranged by most hotels.

Transfer to the airport for your return flight; if travelling by TAROM the transfer would be to Suceava as they have an early morning connection from Suceava to Bucharest for the onward international flight. If Austrian Airlines the flight to Vienna leaves mid afternoon. Allow one hour to reach Suceava and three to four hours for Iasi.

Painted Monasteries & Southern Bucovina; 3 nights brief tour to be incorporated into an independent or extended tour

Departures throughout the year.

This is an excellent introduction to Bucovina which can be fitted into a wider Romania tour, or as a side trip from Transylvania, for example as an add-on to the Touch of Class holidays. It works well between Cluj / northern Transylvania and Brasov / southern Transylvania or Bucharest. It is designed to work well with existing rail services. If works best in this direction due to the rail connection throgh the southern Carpathians to Brasov. It can also be used a link in a personal Dracula circuit with Cluj as a start and finish point. The first part of the tour would take in the realms of the fictional Count Dracula around Bistrita (see Dracula pages for ideas) while the second part could take in the Transylvania of Vlad the Impaler including Brasov and Sighisoara.

Arrive Bucovina
Suggested routes:

1. Maramures to Gura Humorului by car and driver (allow 5 hours from the Iza Valley via Prislop Pass and Bistrita Aurie Valley)
2. Maramures to Gura Humorului by train or car to Salva, then train to Gura Humorului (2 hours from Viseu de Jos over Setref Pass, then 3-4 hours on the connecting train)
3. Bistrita or Hotel Castel Dracula to Gura Humorului by car and driverby car and driver (allow minimum 4 hours from Bistrita or 3 from Castel Dacula/ Bargau Pass)
4. Cluj to Gura Humorului by day time train (approx 6 hours)
5. Bucharest to Suceava (day time or overnight trains)
6. From Miclosoara (Touch of Class holidays); best by road through the eastern Carpathians as a full day trip

Full day with professional guide and car exploring the Painted Monasteries with a professional guide and car: Voronet, Moldovita and Sucevita. If time permits also visit the black pottery of Marginea, the Cacica saltmines or take a stroll up the hill overlooking Sucevita. Voronet could be saved for Day 3.

Full day with professional guide and car.exploring the Painted Monasteries, Humor and Arbore, followed by the graceful tall abbey at Dragomârna, and if time permits, Suceava town and Putna Monastery close to the frontier with the Ukraine. Alternative: free day to walk to Humor and Voronet without a guide. txis for these relatively short distances are also inexpensive and can be arranged by most hotels.

Full day with professional guide and car to explore southern Bucovina and the eastern Carpathians. The tour ends at the railway station at Toplita in the upper Mures valley where you catch the convenient mid-afternoon inter-city train to Brasov, arriving there at about 7pm. An early start is recommended to fit as much in as possible. The journey would take 3-4 hours before stops and sightseeing. A logical route could include one or two of the monastries of southern Bucovina or Neamt such as Rasca, Agapia, Varatec, Neamt or Secu. You then pass lake Bicaz and the Ceahlau massif before crossing the mountains through Borsec to reach the Mures valley. The train takes you over teh watershed and descend the upper reaches of the Olt through the Szekelyland and teh spa town of the Eastern Carpathians. The train connects in Brasov for Bucharest or Sighsioara, or even with the overnight sleepers to Vienna and Budapest.

This itinerary can easily be extended by adding extra days with, or without, a guide. It can even be curtailed by taking the overnight sleeper train back to Bucharest from Suceava. However, please notice that this is a relatively short overnight service (6-7 hours) so not ideal for a good nights sleep! Accommodation and guide services are also availble in conjunction with car hire and self-drive itineraries.

Bistrita Aurie Valley & Dorna Basin

The Bistrita Aurie "Golden Bistrita" rises in the Rodna mountains and flows down from the Prislop Pass through a beautiful valley comprising the folkloric villages of Cârlibaba and Ciocanesti, to the spa town of Vatra Dornei. The turn-of-the-century spa buildings are presently being renovated so this is a pleasant resort town in both summer, and inj the winter when it is popular with ski enthusiasts. Nearby, in the Dorna Depression, at the foot of the Bârgãu pass, is the scattered community of Poiana Stampei and an interesting botanical nature reserve. This is a region of great beauty and fascinating folk architecture, ideal for rambling, trekking, riding or, the ultimate stress-free holiday: pottering around flower-filled meadows or tranquil woods or absorbing the atmosphere and appreciating the hospitality of the Romanian village.

View over Sadova, Bucovina / Voronet Monastery / Mestecanis Pass

Siege of Constantinople, Moldovita / Sucevita Monastery / Ciocanesti

Sucevita Monastery / Last Judgement, Voronet / Paltinu near Vatra Moldovitiei

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