Suggested flight (not included in the cost of the tour) British Airways BA 886 departing London Heathrow at 11.40 hrs arriving Bucharest at 17.00 hrs.
On arrival transfer to Bran and check in at the Inn on Balaban Hotel where one night is spent. The hotel is set in a splendid hilltop location with dramatic views of Transylvania’s mountains. The Inn has three hand-crafted houses with traditional elegant peasant-styled architecture and antique furniture. Dinner at the hotel enjoying local home cooking and the best of Romanian wines.
This morning, following a walk in the picturesque countryside around the Inn at Balaban, depart for Zabola.
Lunch at a local rural restaurant en route. Stop for a short walk in the old Saxon town of Braşov with its medieval streets, famous Council Square and Black Church, Europe’s most eastern Gothic church. Continue to Zabola Estate Hotel where two nights are spent. The hotel is set in acres of wild forest and manicured park estate in the grounds of Zabola Castle at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains.
Rooms are in a converted 16th-century building, the half-timbered old Saddle and Machine House, and combine a shabby chic ambience with sumptuous interiors fitting for a royal estate. Using family cookbooks dating back to the 18th century, traditional feasts are cooked using ingredients like wild mushrooms, venison and trout from the estate. Afternoon tea by the lake on arrival. Late this afternoon, visit a bear hide or the log cabin sauna, set deep in the woods.
Experience the thrill of seeing and photographing wild Carpathian mountain bears in their natural habitat which is also home to wolves, lynx, deer, stags and exotic birds of prey. Palinka tasting in the forest pavilion followed by a roast lamb dinner cooked and eaten under the stars around a roaring fire.
This morning, depart for a photo safari in the grounds.
Cooking demonstration of a typical local dish with Carolyn and a local chef followed by lunch at a chosen location on the estate. Take a cart ride to a local village and visit the blacksmith, barrel maker and castle church, followed by a late visit to the bear hide or the log cabin sauna. Tasting of a different variety of local liqueur in the forest pavilion with dinner at a different location on the estate.
Morning departure (with luggage). Drive to Viscri via Bethlen Castle in Racos (to be confirmed) and check in at Viscri 125 guesthouse where two nights are spent. The guesthouse comprises a converted village house and adjoining apartment. Rooms are all decorated with traditional furniture, hand woven carpets and natural materials. The village is renowned for its traditional Saxon architecture which has been preserved by the few Saxons who remain here. With the help of the Mihai Eminescu Trust, several of Viscri’s traditional houses have been restored and, following a visit by Prince Charles in 1997, the village was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1999.
Picnic lunch with local family in village pastures where you can watch the harvest and hay stacking and see wildflowers. Return, to watch the cows coming home, with sundowners. Dinner at the hotel.
Morning tour to Viscri’s white fortified church. The central church dates from 1100, and the encircling fortifications of sturdy walls and watch-towers were added around 1525. This is followed by traditional bread making at the village bakery. Short drive or alternatively walk or cycle to Mesandorf via Crit village with stops for bees and buffalo farm to buy produce for lunch.
Picnic lunch in Mesandorf. Horse drawn cart trip to visit local shepherds and to watch the sheep milking and shearing and to taste the local cheeses. Dinner at the hotel.
Morning departure (with luggage) to Sighisoara birthplace of Vlad the Impaler and a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. Take a walking and photo tour through the untouched Old Town which is a huddle of ancient crooked houses and alleyways with looming battlements and spires, considered to be ‘the most beautiful inhabited fortress in Europe’ and ‘the most beautiful and complete site of Medieval architecture in Romania’. Visit 14th century medieval Clock Tower which dominates the town. Stop for a drink and watch the cooking of traditional soup or enjoy the local shops.
Lunch at the kitchen restaurant of local chef Monica Popovich. Continue to Copsa Mare, an unspoiled Saxon village which owned the largest vineyards in the ‘Tara Vinului’ (Wine Land), the most important wine region of Transylvania. Check in at the Copsa Mare Guesthouses where two nights are spent. The guesthouses have been restored according to the traditional architecture, decorated with local furniture and provided with modern comforts creating a cosy and comfortable environment. Visit the nearby village of Biertan with its famous fortified church perched on a hill and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Home cooked local dinner.
Morning departure for full day of rural activities in Copsa Mare.
Picnic lunch. Visit the Copsa Mare’s fortified Saxon Church which rivals that of Biertan. Home cooked local dinner.
Morning drive to Sub Piatra and check in at Ravens’ Nest, where two nights are spent. Raven’s Nest is located high up among the forests, open wildflower meadows and limestone caves of the Apuseni Mountains. Wooden village houses spread out around a natural hilltop dell with a huge log cabin-open plan restaurant, cool cocktail bar and fireside lounge. There is an open-air bean bag cinema in the woods, hammocks in the trees, wood fired hot tub and sauna and a fire pit under the stars. Hidden sun decks provide stunning views of rivers of swirling mist rising from the valleys below at dawn, a perfect spot for mojito sundowners with golden lit mountain views.
Lunch at Raven’s Nest. Walk to the nearby bat caves and local cheese producer. Sundowner cocktails on the hotel’s elevated observation deck with hot tub and sauna. Dinner at Raven’s Nest.
Optional dawn photoshoot with coffee to capture the rivers of swirling mist rising from the deep valleys between limestone peaks as the sounds of farmers and livestock starting a new day drift up through the clear air gently breaking the morning silence. Morning activities at Raven’s Nest including a walk to a waterfall and cave below the property.
Cooking demonstration and lunch. Afternoon drive past villages to local food producers. Dinner at lodge with Romanian wine and cheese tasting followed by open air screening of Nosferatu or similar. Palinka and local wine tasting in the open-air fire pit under stars with music on traditional pan pipes.
Morning at leisure.
Early lunch at the hotel. Transfer to Cluj Napoca for a Tarom flight to Bucharest Airport. Suggested flight (not included in the cost of the tour) British Airways BA 887 departing Bucharest at 18.00 hrs arriving London Heathrow at 19.30 hrs.
Of your various competitors, Ayesha stood out a mile ahead with her advice, decisiveness and willingness to help- RW, India, 2014