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Enchanted Saxon Transylvania

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An exceptional guided journey by electric bike and on foot through the wild landscapes, timeless Saxon villages, ancient oak and beech forests and famous wildflower meadows of southern Transylvania. This is a journey to take time over.

Duration
5 nights
Type
Electric biking & walking
Price
£2,985 per person
Group size
Maximum 12 guests
Good To Know

Depending on the size of group, in Malancrav guests may be split between the manor house and slightly simpler village houses. We share the best rooms out during the week in a way that we feel is fair.

  • "Prepare yourself for a treat – in the quality of the guides, the food, the wine, the places you stay and the history and antiquated rural landscapes of Transylvania. I would go back in a heartbeat."
    Pamela Goodman, House & Garden
  • "The most perfect trip. I don't know how you've managed to find all the incredible behind-closed-doors secrets that you have, but there were just neverending delights. Wonderful."
    Eliza B
  • "One of the best holidays we have ever had. Pure magic from beginning to end. We have been riding on a high since returning home and telling everyone."
    Nigel S

Welcome to The Slow Cyclist

In 2015 & 2016 I spent much of my time living in Mesendorf, one of the villages you will travel through on this journey. Since those early days of The Slow Cyclist, Transylvania is a place that has got well and truly under my skin, and I hope it does yours. The Saxon villages of southern Transylvania are home to a magnificent, unspoilt land dotted with imposing medieval castles, fortress-churches and crumbling ruins. Its villages are extraordinarily atmospheric monuments to the people who called them home for over 800 years. In fact, tens of thousand Saxons still call Romania home today, inhabiting a land that should not be experienced from behind a car windscreen, but on foot and from the saddle of a bicycle. Thank you for choosing to travel with us to this special place that means so much to us. I hope you have a wonderful time.

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

Introduction

The Journey

The Saxon villages of southern Transylvania are set in a bucolic landscape in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in central Romania. Led by our passionate and thoughtful team of two local guides and a host, we will travel through a land that has been called an 'outpost of medieval Europe', staying in beautifully restored guest houses, eating at some of the best private tables in Romania, enjoying table picnics in remote forests and electric biking and walking along quiet back roads, tracks, trails and meadows. This is an opportunity to step back in time and move at your own pace through a unique land of fascinating cultural traditions and staggering natural beauty.

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 a bike - or on foot - as an opportunity to explore rather than test our fitness. That’s not to say we don’t pedal hard sometimes, just that we are 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. If this sounds like you, we're pretty sure you'll love your time exploring Transylvania with us.

When to Go?

Each season has its charm. In April and early May the forests burst into life. Around mid-May, depending on the harshness of the winter, the celebrated wildflower meadows emerge, lasting for much of June and often into July. Throughout September and October there is less rainfall than in the spring and the quality of the light gets better and better as, simultaneously, the forests explode into oranges and reds with abundant orchards bearing ripened fruit that local people use to make palinka, wine and all manner of cakes. The climate is temperate, with daytime temperatures in April, May, June, July, September and October typically between 18 to 30°C.

On the Move

The Walking & Cycling

The walking sections of this journey take us through a mix of pastoral and wild landscapes, from deciduous forests to high pastures and wildflower meadows. The cycling offers a wonderful mix of quiet tarmac roads, gravel roads, cart tracks, meadows and narrow forest trails. Take a look at the itinerary for daily cycling distances. Transylvania is hilly and the distances we cover, although not huge, are still not inconsiderable so it is important that you have good general fitness and are comfortable riding a bicycle on dirt roads and paths, up and down hills. Whether you are a novice or experienced cyclist, our guides are skilled at spotting your ability and level of confidence and reacting accordingly.

E-Bikes & Forest Trails

We use hardtail (front suspension) electric bikes because of the mix of terrain. They are a revelation, opening up more of the countryside to our guests. Here in Transylvania it means we are able to fully appreciate a network of subtly designed trails, particularly between Sighisoara and Viscri. Some of our guides were involved in their construction a few years ago and still maintain them for our guests. They connect several villages, often taking steep hills out of the equation, and enabling us to see the best of the Transylvanian landscape. They can take a little getting used to, but Slow Cyclists of all ages and abilities almost always find them the cycling highlight of their time with us.

Food & Drink

This is not Italy so please do not come to Transylvania expecting to have discovered world leading cuisine. That said, our friends who will cook for you produce delicious food. Their methods are traditional, their produce is fresh and, although they would never call it so, the very definition of organic. Sometimes we will eat out in the open (always at a table) and at other times in private homes, traditional kitchens and small guest houses. Romanian wines are underrated and you will taste carefully chosen labels during your stay. You will also be served plenty of homemade wine, plum and pear brandies. During the day we provide local fruit and snacks. Allergies and other preferences are noted at the time of booking.

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 - Friday 5 September - Arrival

Transfer 3.5 hours

A member of the team will meet you at the airport and drive you to Copsa Mare, a tiny village in the heart of Saxon Transylvania. There we will stay in a beautifully restored series of houses throughout the village. In the main house, a traditional dinner will be prepared for us by our friend Giovanna, the owner.

Day 2 - Saturday 6 September - Copsa Mare to Malancrav

Cycling 25 kms, Walking 2 hours

We will set off from Copsa Mare to Nou Sasesc either by foot or by bike, depending on the weather conditions. There we'll have a picnic. In the afternoon we will walk over a series of forested ridges to Malancrav, where we will stay in a sumptuous 15th Century Hungarian mansion. The property sleeps only 8 so, depending on the size of the group, a couple of village houses may also be required (we endeavour to share the best rooms fairly throughout the week). Our evening will be spent dining at the manor house.

Day 3 - Sunday 7 September - Malancrav to Sighisoara

Cycling 39 kms

After visiting the fortified church in Malancrav, home to some of the best frescoes in Romania, we will spend the morning cycling to Stejarenii for a picnic lunch in the meadows. In the afternoon we’ll climb to Breite, a sprawling Saxon planted oak forest, and continue to Sighisoara’s celebrated citadel, the alleged birthplace of Vlad the Impaler. Supper is close to the citadel and we will stay at an elegantly restored Gothic townhouse.

Day 4 - Monday 8 September - Sighisoara to Crit

Cycling 30 kms, Walking 2 hours (or 17 kms cycling)

We will walk through Sighisoara in the morning, exploring the citadel’s history, before setting off on trails to Saschiz for lunch with our friends Anca and Charlie, some of the first members of Slow Food Transylvania. The trails give way to a long descent through forests into Crit, for dinner in the simple home of Rozi, Nicu and family. Nicu will cook a mean barbeque in their apple orchard. Another restored Saxon house is our home tonight.

Day 5 - Tuesday 9 September - Crit to Viscri

Walking 2 hours, Cycling 20 kms

We will walk to perfectly situated Mesendorf for lunch with Adi and Oana in their barn. Then it is back in the saddle for an incredible ride across Transylvania’s finest sheep grazing country. Our last night is in a comfortable traditional guest house in Viscri, the village that first attracted King Charles to the region, and where he still owns a house.

Day 6 - Wednesday 10 September - Departure

After a morning spent exploring Viscri’s UNESCO fortified church we will head for a farewell lunch before we say goodbye and send you on your way to the airport.

Practical Information

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Guiding & Support

Our attention to detail sets us apart. You will be accompanied by a member of The Slow Cyclist team from the UK who will act as your host. In addition, you will be looked after by two of our local guides throughout. We've developed a fantastic line-up in Transylvania over the years, each guide a local, fluent in English and with skills and interests ranging from European history to anthropology. We’re sure you will become firm friends by the time you leave. Finally, your bags will be driven ahead each day and a support vehicle will be on hand (although never too close) in case you need a lift.

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Accommodation

We avoid big, soulless hotels, preferring intimate guest houses and homes that offer charm, comfort and a beautiful location. Most will be exclusively ours, but in one or two there may be other guests. To help you get a good night's sleep we provide luxury pillows in addition to those provided by the guest houses. Rooms are en-suite where possible and although hot water and water pressure is generally reliable, we are occasionally let down (these are medieval properties, and tourism is still in its infancy). 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. The bikes you'll be riding with us are electric bikes. You will be given a brief lesson in 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 Transylvania and Romania. While the country 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. Should you wish to buy any, we recommend doing so from our favourite bookshop, Mayfair's Heywood Hill.

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Pricing & Booking

Price

£2,985 per person

Extras

Single occupancy supplement £405

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)
  • Support vehicle and luggage transfers
  • TSC host & 2 x English-speaking local guides
  • All accommodation, meals, snacks & drinks
  • All activities
  • Electric bike and helmet hire
  • 100% financial security
  • Donation to a local cause that is aligned with our values
  • Flights
  • Personal costs
  • Tips (optional, of course)
  • Travel insurance
  • Visas (if required)

For private groups a 30% deposit is required from the group leader and, thereafter, from each member of the party. A minimum of 50% of the party are required to book and pay their deposit within one month of the group leader. The balance is due 8 weeks before the departure date.

If you are travelling on one of our Scheduled Journeys, we require a 30% deposit on the core trip price (i.e. not on any extras) at the time of booking. The balance is due 8 weeks before the departure date.

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 then 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 into Cluj Napoca on a Wizz Air flight from London Luton, although sometimes we are able to recommend flights into and/or out of Sibiu or Targu Mures, which are closer. We will let you know when the flight schedule is released.

Transfers

We will provide one 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 Transylvania 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. The most popular route is London - Brussels - Frankfurt - Vienna - Budapest - Blaj - Cluj Napoca - Sighisoara, but there are others and bahn.com is the best place to begin your research. Alternatively Liz Rees can organise your journey for you.

History of Transylvania

Transylvania formed the eastern-most reaches of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918, when it was absorbed into modern Romania. It may be famous as the home of Bram Stoker’s Dracula but we suggest you leave your fanged preconceptions at home. Transylvania is home to some of Europe’s most beguiling and wild landscapes. The Saxon Villages of Tarnava Mare (many of which you will be visiting) were first colonised by Germans - or Saxons - from the 12th Century, when King Geza II of Hungary asked for protection from invading Ottomans and Tatars. The Saxons built fortifications. The most important towns were duly strengthened and smaller communities started by fortifying their church. Up to a quarter of a million Saxons remained for more than 800 years, retaining their language and customs. But the population began to decrease after World War II, when many returned to Austria and Germany. The migration continued under Ceausescu and today fewer than 35,000 Saxons live in Transylvania. They still speak a dialect that is distinct from modern German and follow many of the religious and cultural customs that their families did for centuries. Their ancestral villages are shared with new neighbours: Romanians, Hungarians and Gypsies are breathing new life into abandoned houses, fields and vineyards and the result is an exhilarating fusion of cultures. It is a land of architectural, cultural and natural riches, where traditions, food and family are celebrated and visitors are welcomed with genuine warmth.

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