For a glimpse at every part of life in this area and to understand why it is such a special place, try hiking along The Maramureș Heritage Trail.
Opened to the public in 2006 by Ecologic (a local association and custodian of Rooster’s Crest Nature Reserve), with support from the Foundation for Partnership and WWF-Romania, it is the first trail in Maramureș designed as a green way. What is a green way? A tourist route dedicated to non-motorised transportation which provides the opportunity to discover the area slowly and with respect towards nature. Hence, the trail is perfect for cyclists, photographers and hikers interested in recreational and educational activities with a minimum impact on the environment. The trail connects:
Trail length: 88 km of which 53,7% forest roads, 9,3% country roads and 37% asphalt roads.
The Maramureș Heritage Trail souvenir-map can be bought from the guesthouses listed on this website. All proceeds from its selling go into the Conservation and Sustainable Development Fund. For more details, access this page.
In 2004, the tourism county office unveiled a network of cycling tracks across Mara-Cosău-Creasta Cocoșului which can take visitors even outside the borders of this area, to such places as the Maramureș Mountains Nature Park, Mocănița steam train, to handicraft workshops and hydraulic installations in Vadu Izei or to the stone churches of Costiui. The tracks vary in length and difficulty, the shortest one having 6 km, and the longest 60 km.
1. Routes in Mara-Cosău-Creasta Cocoșului
2. Routes stretching outside Mara-Cosău-Creasta Cocoșului
If you bring your own bicycles and need a lift to the starting point of the circuit(s) or from the finish point to the guesthouse you can use the services of several transportation companies which have their vehicles properly equipped for bike transportation. In Mara-Cosau-Creasta Cocosului, these companies are Greenway Tour, based in Ocna Șugatag and Lena & Alex Trans, based in Breb (Mărioara Guesthouse) – one of the most authentic and hearty villages in the area.
If you wish to hire bicycles on the spot, you can do so in Ocna Șugatag (from Popasul din Deal guesthouse), in Desești (from Irina guesthouse) or in Breb (from Babou Maramureș camping, The Village Hotel or from Mărioara guesthouse).
These rides are not yet a very well developed tourism activity in Mara-Cosău-Creasta Cocoșului, but they can be arranged at request by the owners of the guesthouses. The advantage of this type of spontaneous arrangements is that they will offer you a unique experience.
Mara-Cosău-Creasta Cocoșului is the perfect place for all types of hiking; going for a walk around the village, across meadows full of wild flowers, to see more or less popular tourist attractions or to visit protected areas. This is definitely an experience worth trying.
Take a walk along the cobbled alleys of Breb to see the traditional wooden houses, which unfortunately are slowly disappearing from the entire area; go to Călinești, on the side alleys, to see the typical Maramureș gates with ancient symbols carved in wood (the sun, wolf teeth, the tree of life or the rope). In fact, the valley of the Cosău river is one of the best preserved areas in terms of traditional architecture.
For a rich experience, try the Maramureș Heritage Trail, the 88 km green way, specially created for hiking and cycling, which includes all important tourist attractions in Mara-Cosău-Creasta Cocoșului; it can be done over several days, by taking different circuits that are part of it.
When you venture outside the villages, in the heart of nature, watch out for the sheep dogs and do not go too close to sheepfolds – the dogs are indeed beautiful, but they are also fierce in their conscientious protection of the sheep. Ask the owner of your guesthouse (or a staff member) for information or advice; they usually know the surroundings like the back of their hand and can make appropriate recommendations based on the time you have at your disposal, your physical condition and your preferences.
Another option is to contact in advance the authorised guides who can arrange a personalised circuit for you, considering your requests.
Climbing can be practiced in Creasta Cocoșului Nature Reserve. On the first section of the rocky area of the Crest there are 37 certified climbing tracks. Contact the tour-operator Greenway Tour as they can make all the necessary arrangements for an exciting and safe experience: an instructor authorised by the National Climbing and Mountaineering Federation and the specific equipment, plus transportation, lunch and pictures/videos of your experience on DVD.
Paragliding can also be tried in the Creasta Cocoșului Nature Reserve. The activity is also facilitated by Greenway Tour. This is a safe and enjoyable alternative for those who want to experience the free floating sensations without going through the long training process. Greenway Tour offers flights in tandem with an authorised instructor, plus transportation, lunch and pictures/videos on DVD.
Sacred places and gathering points for debates and important decisions for the community, but also strategic points for the surveillance of the village surroundings for invasions, fires and other dangers – the churches have occupied a central place throughout history in the village life and they are present in every settlement in this area. Some small and humble, unknown to many, such as the one in the village Mănăstirea, others imposing, but snug on the inside, part of the UNESCO World Heritage, the churches of Mara-Cosău-Creasta Cocoșului are definitely places worth a couple of hours of your staying here, your patience and attention in order to understand the entire world they conceal and disclose at the same time.
In Mara-Cosău-Creasta Cocoșului there are two churches which have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage: Josani in Budești and the church from Desești; there are also churches which are hystorical monuments, such as the wooden church of the Holy Archangels located in Breb, the wooden church „The Birth of the Virgin Mary” from Călinesti Căieni or the wooden church Saint Nicholas located in Ferești. You can find more information about the churches in the section Wood civilisation.
Please be aware that besides regular visiting hours, the churches can be visited on request, by asking the key “keeper” from the village. Usually this person is the priest or someone in his family; to find out who the person is, simply ask anyone in the village or close to the church.
Travelling through the villages of Maramureș, you can still see craftsmen making clay cups and dishes, adornments and working tools, rugs, bed linen and shirts, wooden spoons and wooden gates. These are just a few of the craftsmen who have the gift and skill to perpetuate the Maramureș art.
Wood art: Petru Pop, from Breb
Textiles and traditional adornemnts: Maria Pop from Deseşti, Pălăguța Bârlea from Mănăstirea
Traditional hats: Vasile Borodi, Ionuc Bârlea, from Sârbi
Sheepskin coats: Dumitru and Sultănica Bledea, from Sat Şugatag
Ask the owner of the guesthouse or a staff member what it is that you have to do to pay the craftsmen a visit. Alternatively, the tour-operator Greenway Tour offers a one day trip to visit them: choose to spend your day with local craftsmen and they will teach you how to make the products that carry the local identity: adornments worn with the traditional costume, traditional hats, wool clothing and small wood carvings. You will take home these self-made objects along with the local stories attached to them, as a testimony of a day full of joy and creativity. The trip includes visits and lessons from two traditional craftsmen, professional guidance, transportation, lunch and photographs/videos of your experience on DVD.
Christian holy days and celebrations, kept by the book by the faithful Maramureș people by fasting and prayer, intertwine with the folklore, with rituals, superstition and popular beliefs and with pastoral traditions frequently accompanied by popular dances. Besides the old traditions of the New Year, Easter, Christmas and other important religious celebrations, there are also some traditional laic events organised every year.
Tânjaua of Mara – one of the oldest traditions in Maramureș, Tânjaua takes place on the first Sunday of May in Hoteni village and celebrates the man who ploughed the field first. The first mentioning of this tradition dates from 1870.
Village Dance – After the 15th of August (the holy day of Saint Mary), three Sundays in row there are festivities involving traditional music and dances in the villages of Breb, Sat Șugatag and Hoteni respectively.
Nevermind I’m small, Budeşti – in this beautiful village located on Cosău Valley, on the day of the Whitsun, children’s ensembles from all the areas in the region of Maramureș are invited to sing and dance.
Goulash Festival – In August, in Ocna Sugatag, there is a competition between amateurs and professional chefs for the most tasteful goulash – a Hungarian traditional food. The word “goulash” in Hungarian means “shepherd of cattle”. The first recipe explaining how to make this dish dates back to the XVIII century. Since then, the preparation of goulash didn’t suffer major changes, the ingredients used and their combination remaining the same. After the tasting of the goulash the winner is announced and people enjoy the traditional drink, horincă.
Festival of winter customs and traditions, Sighetu Marmaţiei – it takes place every year since 1968, between Christmas and New Year, on the 27th of December. The event is held in order to preserve and pass along the specific winter customs and traditions. Alongside representatives of villages in the whole of Maramureș other people who also cherish ancient habits, coming from other regions (Bistriţa-Năsăud, Ţara Oaşului, Bucovina, Banat, Dobrogea, Oltenia and also Ukraine), participate in the festival.
For the annual calendar of religious and folk ceremonies, visit the Events section.
The tour-operator Greenway Tour offers a one day trip to a traditional sheepfold from Mara-Cosău-Creasta Cocoșului. You will have the chance to taste fresh cheese and to learn more about the life in the heart of the mountains alongside large carnivores directly from the shepherds.
The villages where you can still find functional old peasant’s installations (traditional whirlpools, mills, threshers, liquor making machines etc.) are:
Sat Şugatag – traditional water-powered whirlpool, mill, liquor (horincă) making machine
Fereşti – mill, traditional water-powered whirlpool
Călineşti – traditional water-powered whirlpool, liquor (horincă) making machines
Sârbi – wool processor, traditional water-powered whirlpool, thresher, mill, liquor (horincă) making machines
Budeşti – traditional water-powered whirlpool, mill, liquor (horincă) making machines
Ask the owner of the guesthouse or a staff member for the visiting hours and other practical information.
Ocna Şugatag is a balneal resort with a diversified offer of tourism services. The little town was a centre of salt mining; as the mines collapsed, they made way for 8 lakes ranking high in Europe from the point of view of their salinity. Gavril Lake is 30 meters deep, while Tăul fără fund (meaning the bottomless pond) is 33 metres deep – the deepest one in the area. Some of the guesthouses in Ocna Șugatag, which are listed in the section Accommodation, have salt water pools that you can use regardless of whether you are staying there or not; if you come from another guesthouse to use their pool you have to pay a fee, and it is recommended that you give them a phone call prior to your arrival.
The simple countryside life is one of the most enticing components of the world of Mara-Cosău-Creasta Cocoșului. Going to the fields or getting involved in activities around the house is usually very easy for visitors; most of the people who own guesthouses also have small plots of land, which they cultivate or scythe to collect hay, and they raise animals in order to obtain food for their own consumption and for the meals they cook for visitors. Thus, if you are interested in becoming a local for a while and in seeing how things are done around there, talk to the family members and tell them you would like to join them in their daily activities. They will be very happy to have you alongside and they will share with you, in the good old Maramureș style, stories and anecdotes which will make your day very different.