Visit Maramures

The land of wooden churches, mythological richness, impressive landscapes and very ancient customs

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The Way of Wooden Churches - Day 1

Baia Mare => Tăuții de Sus => Baia Sprie => Mara => Deseşti => Hărniceşti => Sat Şugatag => Giuleşti => Berbeşti => Vadu Izei => Sighetu Marmaţiei => Iapa => Câmpulung la Tisa => Săpânţa

Distance: 88.7 km
Duration: 2 hrs, 30 min driving time

This route focuses on the UNESCO World Heritage wooden churches in Maramureş County, but can be enjoyed simply as an excursion throughout the county in order to bask in the great outdoors and take in the stunning landscapes of the countryside. Additional times and distances are provided between UNESCO sites on the route.

Baia Mare => Deseşti (42 km, 1 hour)

The route begins with a steep and winding ascent into forest covered mountains. At the top of the Gutâi Pass, the picturesque landscape opens up before you. The road, then continues its winding journey down in the rolling countryside on the way to Deseşti.

The first World Heritage site on this itinerary is Deseşti, where, in 1717, according to the legend, the wooden church was set ablaze by a Tătar invasion. Many villagers died trying to save the church. With only a stone pillar remaining of the original church, the villagers could not, according to tradition, build a new church in the same location. This place was not considered good, because of the many deaths that occurred here, trying to save the original church. The villagers selected another location and attempted five times to roll an altar stone into place. When the stone finally remained erect, the new church foundation was establish and was called "Pious Paraschiva."


     dealiu desesti desesti 

Deseşti => Sighetu Marmaţiei (33 km, 45 min), Săpânţa (from Sighet - 15km, 35 min)

The remainder of the day's itinerary does not feature another World Heritage church, but allows for ample time to explore some other prime attractions, while on route to the village of Săpânţa. Vadu Izei it will be the last village that you pass through, before reaching Sighetu Marmaţiei. 

As you arrive in Sighetu Marmaţiei, simply continue along, until you reach the center of town. Before entering the central part of town, keep an eye out for the Sighet Village Museum located on the right hand side of the road. This museum provides visitors with a snapshot of traditional life in a Maramureş village.

     muzeu siget  muzeu

Sighet, as the locals call it, is small enough for visitors to explore in a few hours on foot. A few hours can be spent exploring the sights of Sighet, before travelling the short distance to Săpânţa or one can see the sight in Sighet in the morning. Be sure not to miss the Sighet Prison and Museum of Arrested Thought, the Elie Wiesel Memorial House, and the Maramureş Ethnographical Museum among other sites. Click here for more information about tourist activities and objectives in Sighet.

Following a pleasant morning in Sighet, the route continues on to Săpânţa, located very close to the Ukrainian border.

     cimitirul vesel sapanta 

Săpânţa is a pleasant village, which is well-known throughout Romania for its "Merry Cemetary" or Cimitirul Vesel in Romanian. The cemetery and its iconic grave markers are the result of a local wood carver named Ioan Stan Pătraș, who carved the first wooden marker in 1935. The markers are unique in that, each one is inscribed with a witty epitaph and picture describing something relevant to the deceased life and/or death. Each marker is different and reflects the life to whom the cross belongs. Pătraș died in 1977 and is buried in the cemetery, directly opposite to the main entrance to the church. His legacy can be seen in the large cross, which he carved and painted for himself prior to his death. The creation of the markers continues to this day and is carried on by Pătraș's apprentice, Dumitu Pop, who lives and works in Pătraș's former home and workshop - which is also a museum. The number of new markers annually averages around 10, but depends on the death rate in the village.