The fierce individuality of the Maramures mountain valleys in the north-west of Transylvania is legendary. Their inhabitants are of Dacian descent and their independence as a State reached its peak under Decebalus in the first century AD, before the Roman conquest. Wave after wave of invasions followed.

A unique lifestyle

Nonetheless the villagers here continued to vividly assert the independence of their customs and their folklore. Today you can visit and admire their unique lifestyle. Few other parts of Europe have developed so distinctive a rural culture.

Traditional headscarves during an outdoor religious celebration

An inheritance of folklore

Agriculture has always been the lifeblood of existence in the mountains. Local traditions reflect this, as there are festivals in April, May, August and December.

The one in December is held at Sighetu Marmatiei, with carnival parades and revellers wearing animal masks.

Sighetu Marmatiei

Sighetu Marmatiei is a typical Maramures town, famous for its markets, peasant costumes and lively atmosphere.

The Museum of Maramures has many carnival masks among its exhibits. Herefrom you may easily drive to the mountain resort of Borsa and such villages as Bogdan-Voda and Rozavlea, renowned for their wooden architecture.



Creativity in wood and costume

Woodcarving skills are the dominant feature of Maramures crafts. Particularly characteristic of the villages are wooden churches, with tall steeples and shingled roofs, some dating back to the 14th century.

A typical high-steepled Maramures church

Highly developed too is the embroidery of traditional costumes. On Sunday afternoons both women and men often parade and dance as they have for centuries.

Women wear colourful headscarves and flowered skirts with black sheepskin jerkins; men wear black trousers and white jerkins, though costumes vary from village to village. The Easter festivals are a particularly good time to see them.

Touring the valleys

Baia Mare lies at the heart of this region. Its modern hotels make it the point of departure for many tours. A popular local expedition is to Surdesti, which has the tallest of the region's wooden churches.

Another is the one to Sapanta, famous for its "merry cemetery", where carved tombstones and humorous epitaphs are a remembrance of the dead.

The "merry cemetery" in Sapanta - the "gravestones" are carved in wood depicting the deceased's role in life and humorous epitaphs.