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Bucovina's Via Transilvanica

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Over five days and five nights, tackle the northern stretch of Romania's Via Transilvanica, travelling on foot and by bike, way off the beaten track, along rugged trails and across majestic peaks that take you into the heart of a region that very few get to explore.

Duration
5 nights
Type
Electric biking & walking
Price
£1,500 per person
Group size
Maximum 12
Good To Know

This is a Slow Cyclist Expedition and as such, a little different to our Classic journeys. There will still be exceptional attention to detail and you'll travel in comfort with the support of two guides. But it will be challenging at times. You'll end the week with a true sense of adventure and accomplishment.

Welcome to The Slow Cyclist

We have been welcoming Slow Cyclists to Transylvania since 2015. For the past few years we have been trying to design another journey in Romania. The recent creation of the Via Transilvanica - that you can read about as you scroll down these pages - seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to blend our passion for designing superb experiences with high impact sustainable travel. Connecting Romania's farmsteads, historic sites, villages and wildflower meadows, the trail aims to open up rural Romania and to give its communities a fresh lease of life. I think the Bucovina section, with extraordinary landscapes, friendly people and of course its famous painted monasteries, is one of the highlights of the entire trail. There is no doubt it's more challenging than many other Slow Cyclist journeys, although the inclusion of electric bikes always makes things much easier than they could be. I hope you give it a go and have the most incredible time.

Photo of Oli Broom
Oli Broom's signature Oli Broom
Founder, The Slow Cyclist

Introduction

The Journey

Our journey takes us along the beautiful Bucovina stretch of the Via Transilvanica, a new long-distance trail that runs the length of Transylvania. Bucovina itself is known for its stunning landscapes, friendly people and 15th and 16th century painted monasteries, which are listed by UNESCO. During our time exploring Bucovina's wild places, we will walk and cycle on an amazing variety of trails, paths and roads, passing remote villages, as well as shepherds and local characters eager to share stories of local traditions. This is the great Romanian outdoors at its very best, somewhere we feel very lucky to know and that we're are excited to share with you.

Is It For Me?

Our journeys are built around friendship, exceptional hospitality and the great outdoors. Slow Cyclists are curious travellers with a bit of juice in their legs, approaching our time on bike or on foot as an opportunity to explore, often distracted by the food, history and people that make a place special. When we see something interesting, we tend to stop and take it in rather than race by. That said, our Expeditions with The Slow Cyclist have challenging elements and you'll need to have a good level of fitness to make the most of your time travelling with us through Bucovina.

When to Go?

Late May to early October are the best times to visit Bucovina. Spring is beautifully green and lush while autumn brings a rainbow of colour to the mixed deciduous and evergreen forests. In spring and autumn daily temperatures are usually between 18 - 25°C while summer can be hotter. Even then the mountain breeze is often refreshing and there are plenty of forests that provide shade. The trail is in its best condition from late spring to early autumn, when rainfall is less common.

On the Move

The Via Transilvanica

The Via Transilvanica is Romania's answer to the Camino de Santiago. It opened in 2022, traversing 1,400 kms across Transylvania from Bucovina in the north east to the Danube and the Serbian border in the south west. The mission of its creators is to bring sustainable tourism to rural communities, whilst celebrating Romania’s varied landscapes, communities and cultural heritage. As the trail is still in its infancy, it is not well-known, so don't be surprised if you don't see anyone else on it.

The Walking & Cycling

We provide full suspension electric bikes as they are the best tool for the job. On cycling days we will cycle between 40 - 55 kms, mainly on mountainous dirt and gravel roads but also along quiet tarmac roads and narrow trails. The walking sections of the journey include long and steep ascents with varying conditions underfoot, including dirt tracks and loose gravel roads. In order to enjoy this journey you should be confident on a bike and ready for adventure. Regardless of whether you are a mountain biking beginner or an experienced cyclist, our guides are skilled at spotting your ability and level of confidence and reacting accordingly.

Food & Drink

Romania is not Italy so please do not arrive expecting to have discovered world-leading cuisine. That said, our friends along the way produce delicious food; their methods are traditional, their produce is fresh and, although they would never call it so, the very definition of organic. Generally we will eat breakfasts and dinners lovingly prepared by our guest house hosts. A typical breakfast might include homemade cheeses and cured meats as well as eggs, bread and local jams. Dinners often begin with soup and are inevitably accompanied by a local liqueur. For lunch we’ll have simple picnics along the trail or stop at local a restaurant. During the day we provide local fruit and snacks.

Itinerary

We take a less-is-more approach to the itineraries we provide. We do this because we think travel is at its best when plans remain flexible and when, as travellers, our guests don't always know what's coming next. So, please treat this itinerary as a guide to how your time with us is likely to unfold. You will have experiences, meet people and see places that we have not listed here. There may also be occasions when, for good reason, we cannot fulfill every detail here. Finally, please treat distances as estimates because the routes we take may vary slightly.
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Day 1 - Sunday 16 June - Arrival, Putna to Sucevița

Transfer 1 hour 20 minutes, Cycling 17 kms

The flight we recommend lands in Suceava at noon. We’ll pick you up at the airport and drive to Putna, where we’ll visit the burial place of Stefan the Great which is also the starting point of the trail. Then, in the late afternoon, we will hop on the bikes for a short ride over into the neighbouring valley to Sucevița, where we will spend the night.

Day 2 - Monday 17 June - Sucevița to Vatra Moldoviței

Walking 20 kms

Today's steep terrain means it is more suited to walking than cycling. First we will visit Sucevița's painted monastery, built by three brothers in 1583. Then we will head through the forest into the mountains, where we’ll enjoy fabulous views over the terrain we'll cover in the following days. After a picnic lunch in a mountain meadow, we’ll make our way along the ridge before descending into Vatra Moldovitei, where there’ll be the opportunity to visit the Museum of Painted Eggs, which exhibits over 11,000 intricately painted pieces of art that are traditional of the Bucovina region. Dinner is at our guest house.

Day 3 - Tuesday 18 June - Vatra Moldoviței to Fundu Moldovei

Cycling 18 kms, Walking 10 kms

During our third and final painted monastery visit in Vatra Moldovitei, we’ll see the predominantly gold and blue exterior murals, one of which depicts the Siege of Constantinople. Then it's onto the bikes across alpine flower meadows where cattle graze. At some we will leave the bikes behind and walk up into a spruce forest, climbing over a mountain that sees us at our highest altitude of the entire journey. We will have a picnic by a small lake before jumping on the bikes again and cycling all the way to Fundu Moldovei, where we’ll have a hearty dinner washed down with local homemade spirits. Our guest house is La Moara.

Day 4 - Wednesday 19 June - Fundu Moldovei to Poiana Negri

Cycling 52 kms

After breakfast we will set out from our guest house up and over the rim of the valley, passing fairytale meadows, old wooden barn and classic Romanian haystacks. Aside from a quick coffee stop in a small town, we will stay off-road all the way to a remote mountain cabin where we will stop for lunch. We’ll continue on quiet tracks through an ancient forest, home to brown bears, deer and even lynx. We will pass through Vatra Dornei and end the day with a steady climb up a ski hill with rewarding views of neighbouring valleys. We’ll spend the night in Poiana Negri, which is situated in a tranquil valley and known for its mineral spring water.

Day 5 - Thursday 20 June - Poiana Negri to Piatra Fantanele

Cycling 41 kms

This morning will begin with a gentle roll out of Poiana Negri before we ride an excellent singletrack trail through the forest. We will stop in Lunca Ilvei to have lunch at a small restaurant owned by some friends. This afternoon we will once again head off-road, this time leaving Bucovina's borders and entering the fringes of the Rodnei Mountains. We'll cycle through a beautiful mix of meadows and forests to Piatra Fantanele whilst surrounded by stunning views. This evening we’ll be treated to a feast and live music to celebrate completing our journey along Bucovina's section of the Via Transilvanica.

Day 6 - Friday 21 June - Departure

We’ll say our goodbyes and drive you to the airport in Cluj Napoca, which is just under 3 hours away.

Practical Information

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Guiding & Support

You will be looked after by two of our local guides throughout. Each is fluent in English and very familiar with the region you'll be travelling through. Sergiu, one of our team since 2015 and your lead guide for these few days, was responsible for designing part of the Via Transilvanica and wrote the trail's guide for cyclists. We’re sure you will become firm friends well before it is time for you to leave Transylvania. In addition, there will be an English-speaking driver, who will be there to support your journey and transport your luggage.

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Accommodation

We avoid big, soulless hotels, preferring intimate guest houses and homes that offer charm, comfort, fantastic hospitality and often a beautiful location. Most will be exclusively ours, but in one or two there may be other guests. Rooms are en-suite where possible and although hot water and water pressure are generally reliable, we are occasionally let down. Wi-Fi or a good 4G or 5G connection is available each night. If accommodation is listed in this itinerary it is as a guide; where required any substitutes will be of similar quality. Lodging is based on twin or double sharing although a single supplement is available.

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Bikes & Safety

We take your safety seriously. You must wear a helmet when cycling and we cannot accept bookings from anyone unwilling to wear one. You will be riding electric bikes and you will be given a brief lesson on how to use them effectively before we start cycling. If you have any technical issues during your time with us, from squeaky brakes to punctures, please let us know and we’ll fix it. And finally, please don’t worry if you feel you are too slow or too fast for others in the group. We have a guide at the front and one at the back precisely for that reason. Please remember, we're not here to race; this is a journey to take time over.

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Packing & Reading

Well in advance of your travels we will send you an online Information Pack including various details you need to know in advance. This will include a suggested packing list. You may also wish to start reading about Bucovina and Romania. While Romania has a notable and rich literary tradition stretching back centuries, we have chosen this selection of books as providing a varied insight into Romania before, during and after communism. It is a list that includes Romanian, Hungarian and foreign authors.

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Pricing & Booking

Price

£1,500 per person

Extras

Single occupancy supplement £250

We are often told how nice it is that almost everything is paid for up front. So, while you are with us you can forget about your wallet, relax and enjoy yourselves. Included are:

  • Group airport transfers (1 x arrival, 1 x departure)
  • Two English-speaking local guides
  • Support vehicle and luggage transfers
  • Five nights accommodation
  • All food, snacks & drinks
  • All activities
  • E-bike & helmet hire
  • 100% financial security
  • 1% donation to local causes aligned with our values
  • Flights
  • Personal costs
  • Tips (optional, of course)
  • Travel insurance
  • Visas (if required)

Our pricing is based on the size of your party. In other words, if you tell us you are likely to be a party of 10, we will send you a booking form based on that group size. We ask for a 30% deposit from at least two people in order to book. If you end up being a larger or smaller group than expected, we will amend your balancing payment accordingly. Balance payments are due 8 weeks before the start of your holiday. Please make sure you are familiar with our Standard Terms & Conditions before booking.

You will receive two emails shortly after booking. First, a payment receipt, then a second email explaining next steps. Within two working days you will be contacted by a member of our Guest Services team who will look after and advise you in the lead up to your travels.

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Getting there

Flights

You are responsible for booking your own flights. They are not included in the cost of the trip. We usually recommend arriving in Suceava on a Wizz Air flight from London Luton. If you get the 06.50 you will arrive at 12.00 and be able to fulfill the itinerary we have described here. On the way back it's best to fly from Cluj Napoca, again with Wizz Air. You can get the 11.35 or 19.15, which will both get you back to Luton.

Transfers

We will provide one airport transfer for the group on arrival and another on departure. If you need to look at alternative transport options because you are arriving or leaving earlier or later, we recommend contacting Liz Rees, who helps many of our guests with their supplementary transport requirements. Her contact details are liz.rees@travelcounsellors.com or +44 7816 936876.

Protect the Planet

We are thrilled that increasing numbers of our guests are choosing to travel to Romania by train, often for environmental reasons. We understand that this may not be practical, but urge you to consider doing so if you can make it work. bahn.com is the best place to begin your research. Alternatively, Liz Rees can organise your journey for you.

History of Bucovina

Bucovina, in the Eastern Carpathians, has been sparsely populated since Paleolithic times, yet shaped by countless civilizations. In the 10th century, it found itself under the dominion of Kievan Rus, a powerful state stretching across Eastern and Northern Europe. With the march of time, Bucovina became a pivotal part of the Principality of Galicia, subsequently finding its place within the Moldavian realm during the 14th century. Bucovina's southern region has been an integral part of Romania since the end of the First World War in 1918. Its famous painted monasteries, dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries, stand as magnificent Byzantine masterpieces. Adorned with external and internal frescoes that vividly depict religious events, these monastic sanctuaries brought Bible stories to life for local people, and still do for visitors from around the world, especially since seven monasteries earned UNESCO status in 1993.

Our Ethos

Slow travel is about savouring the journey, the people, the sights, smells and sounds along the way. It encourages deeper connections, friendship and lifelong memories. It is local, thoughtful and sensitive to its impact. It is an antidote to mindless mass tourism. A bicycle journey – indeed, a journey with The Slow Cyclist – is a wonderful way to travel slowly. With an open mind, an open heart and a little juice in the legs, it can provide the ultimate slow exploration of new lands, their food, history, landscapes and people. But although it's our focus, we don't just want to run great trips. In fact, we spend much of our time thinking about how we can run great trips, while benefiting people and planet. Our values guide us to this end.
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Exceptional Quality

Our passion for creating exceptional shared experiences in places we love is reflected in the journeys we design. We don't rest on our laurels, seeking continued improvement and innovation so that you, our guests, are enriched around every bend in the road.

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Community Driven

The Slow Cyclist was born as an antidote to mass tourism. All stakeholders, from our guests and team in the UK to our local guides, from food producers we work with to the communities whose lives we touch, must feel our influence and impact is positive.

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Future Focused

We travel with a light footprint but that’s not enough. We can always do more. We are part of a generation that must act responsibly in business and in tourism; one that begins to restore our planet's biodiversity and delicate ecosystems.

Have more questions? +44 1865 410 356