Transylvania - meadows, mountains and bears
Exploration of one of the last remaining areas in Europe where traditional management of hay meadows is still practised on a large scale and the local wildlife includes iconic species such as bear, wolf and lynx.
15 – 22 June 2020
Single Room Supplement – £175
Return flight London Heathrow to Bucharest. Local transport for transfers and excursions as specified in the itinerary. Seven nights’ accommodation on a full board basis.
Refreshments. Drinks with evening meals. Entrance fees for optional sightseeing. Gratuities. Travel insurance.
Minimum 6, maximum 14.
We have designed this tour based on our previous trips to the Transylvanian Plateau and Carpathians over many years. It has been adapted to combine the hay meadows, pastures and wood pastures around the ‘Saxon’ villages of Viscri and Crit with the limestone gorge and valleys of Piatra Crailui National Park and the high altitude alpine meadows of the Bucegi Massif in the Carpathians.
Staying in two centres you will have the chance to explore the natural history in the company of local ecologists who can help you understand the history and culture of the local area and its effects on the management of the habitats and see some of the characteristic species of the area. The holiday will include time for botanising and birdwatching, as well as the opportunity to look for other animals including butterflies and other insects, amphibians and reptiles.
A highlight of the trip should be an evening visit to a bear hide where Brown Bears can be seen as they emerge from the forest at dusk (and where Wolves are not usually expected but are also possible, as in our visit in 2013). The area has a rich cultural heritage including Saxon architecture such as fortified buildings reflecting this Germanic influence. The village of Viscri is one of several to be awarded World Heritage status.
Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.
Day 1 Our flights take us to Bucharest, from where we transfer (about three hours) to the rustic hamlet of Măgura set amongst the majestic Piatra Craiului mountain range.
Day 2 A morning walk takes us along the limestone gorge near the village in search of more of the local specialities including the colourful Wallcreeper. We should see many flowers and butterflies as we walk slowly along on an easy track. During the afternoon there will be time to explore the local meadows and pastures around Măgura.
Day 3 We visit the mountain town of Sinaia and travel by cable car to the higher slopes of the Bucegi Mountains, up to 2,000m altitude to explore the alpine meadows. Back down at Sinaia, we visit the grounds of the attractive royal palace, before we head to a hide in the forest to wait for Brown Bears to emerge.
Day 4 We bid farewell to Măgura and head westwards into Transylvania, where we will stay in the village of Criț for four nights. Along the way we will stop to visit the wetlands of Dumbrăvița where we will spend some time enjoying the birding, with Squacco Heron, Ferruginous Duck, Whiskered Tern and Penduline Tit all likely.
Day 5 The landscape of Transylvania is rich in meadows, forest and wood-pasture. We start our exploration at an area of steppe vegetation near Apold, home to some special plants including the impressive Siberian Bellflower Campanula sibirica, thistle-like Jurinea mollis and Nodding Sage Salvia nutans. In the afternoon, we move to the nearby wood-pasture at Breite.
Day 6 We visit Mercheașa. Ancient oaks stand sentinel on the grassy hillside, Great Grey and Red-backed Shrikes hunt from the lower bushes, with grazing Water Buffalo wallowing in pools that are home to Yellow-bellied Toads and the rare Tadpole Shrimp. We will spend the day exploring the area and learning about the history of these important habitats.
Day 7 We travel to the Saxon village of Viscri, famous for its fortified church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. White Stork nest in the village, while Black Redstarts sing from the rooftops. Nearby we visit species-rich meadows, including another outcrop of steppe vegetation. Back at Criț, we will have time to explore the village and the flowery hay meadows on the hillside behind.
Day 8 After breakfast it will be time to travel southwards once more to Bucharest airport and our flights home.
Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.
For the first three nights the group will stay at Pension Pepino in Magura. The last four nights will be in the Pensiuna Elena in Crit. This village has many of the medieval buildings preserved. All rooms have private bathrooms.
Meals during the trip will include Romanian dishes, with an emphasis on local food. Picnics will be taken for lunch.
Transport will be by small coach/bus.
The group flights are with British Airways from London Heathrow:
15 June Depart London Heathrow 11.40, arrive Bucharest 17.00
22 June Depart Bucharest 17.55, arrive London Heathrow 19.25
Romania is two hours ahead of UK time
There are very limited flights direct to Bucharest and this is by far the best option. It may also be possible to fly from Manchester and Edinburgh, connecting in London.
If you hold an EU passport, you do not need a visa to travel to Romania. If you do not have an EU passport, please check with your local consulate.
It should be pleasant, mostly warm, even hot, although rain and cooler weather are possible. There can be strong sun especially on higher slopes and sun protection is needed.
None of the itinerary is planned to be strenuous. Most people will have no fitness problems for the planned activities of this holiday but please see the notes in the General Information Leaflet. You will be out for much of the day on most days. Please note that facilities for less able travellers in Romania are not to the same standard as those provided in the UK. Access to the bear hides can involve steps and walking up small (steepish) banks and, therefore, may not be suitable for people with limited mobility (please check with us for more details).