Fortified Churches of Transylvania

Fortified Churches of Transylvania

The tour is based in the heart of Transylvania, a place with mythical resonance, where nature and history colluded to create one of the most surprising landscapes in Europe. From Sighișoara, its old town center being in itself a UNESCO World Heritage site, daily trips take you to some of the most beautiful landmarks in Transylvania, from the famous fortified churches of the Saxon villages to peasant fortresses and cities combining modern life with their medieval past in absolute harmony. Although centered on the sites in the UNESCO World Heritage list, this tour takes you off the beaten path to some exquisite objectives that will make your holiday truly memorable. The tour's variety of activities is furthered by the trip to the highest mountains in Romania (Făgăraș) on the famous Transfăgărășan highway.

Day 1: Transfer to Sighișoara
On this day you will be transferred to Sighișoara, a small town in central Transylvania and the central point for our daily trips to the saxon villages that house the fortified churches. The town itself is an architectural gem in itself and its historical center has been placed on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1999. Founded by German craftsmen and merchants known as the Saxons of Transylvania, Sighişoara is a fine example of a small, fortified medieval town which played an important strategic and commercial role on the fringes of central Europe for several centuries.

Day 2: Sighișoara - Criș - Mălâncrav - Dumbrăveni - Șaroș pe Târnave - Copșa Mare - Biertan - Sighișoara
The first day out takes us west to the villages between Sighișoara and Copșa Mare, villages that are rich with historical and architectural wonders. Our first stop in Criș, only 17 km from Sighișoara, brings us to the Bethlen castle, considered the most beautiful Renaissance castle in Transylvania. From here we head to Mălâncrav, a small village that has been extensively renovated by Prince Charles' trust and now is a touristic attraction in the area. Our next target is the Museum of the Armenians in Dumbrăveni, housed in the Apaffy castle. A short distance from Târnăveni, in Șaroș pe Târnave, we encounter for the first time one of the fortified churches from Transylvania. All of these churches have their own history and every visit will bring up the most interesting facts related to each specific location. From here we head south to visit the villages of Copșa Mare and Biertan. The fortified churches in both villages are well preserved, the one in Biertan being one of those included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. The village of Biertan is the major attraction of the day, and its rich history and customs, together with the beautiful landscape in which it is located add to an amazing experience for the day.

Day 3: Sighișoara - Richiș - Alma Vii - Pelișor - Dealu Frumos - Stejărișu - Iacobeni - Brădeni - Apold - Sighișoara
The day is dedicated to a circuit tour of about 140 km in which we will visit the fortified churches in Richiș, Alma Vii, Pelișor, Dealu Frumos, Stejărișu, Iacobeni, Brădeni and Apold. Although none of these churches have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage list, they are all magnificent examples of saxon architecture from the 12th to the 16th centuries. The road this day also takes us to the geographical center of Romania near the village of Dealu Frumos (which literally translates to Beautiful Hill).

Day 4: Sighișoara - Buzd - Ighișu Nou - Valea Viilor - Mediaș - Moșna - Ațel - Sighișoara
Another day on the road taking us to several gems of medieval architecture typical for the Transylvanian area, one of which has also been included in the UNESCO World Heritage list - Valea Viilor. The trip takes place to the west of Sighișoara, in the surroundings of the beautiful town of Mediaș, in a charming hilly region where vineyards and pastures alternate from one village to the other. We begin the day with a visit to a couple of fortified churches that are not usually on any touristic brochures but will give you exciting insights into the path taken by these architectural wonders throughout their history. Then we will have a longer stop to fully discover the World Heritage site in Valea Viilor, before heading to Mediaș, the second most important hub for tourists looking to visit the fortified churches in Transylvania.

Day 5: Sighișoara - Transfăgărășan Highway - Sighișoara
The fifth day takes us out of the hilly region of central Transylvania and to the high mountains to the south, aptly called by French geographer Emmanuel de Martonne "the Transylvanian alps". We will be heading up the Transfăgărășan Highway, a road which is in itself an intriguing historical and architectural wonder. On our way from the foothills to the 2034 m of altitude of Bâlea lake, the road meanders its way up steep slopes that offer fascinating views both uphill to the barren granite cliffs of the Făgăraș Mts. alpine region and downhill, past Bâlea waterfall to the Transylvanian plateau. Upon reaching the highest point of the road trip at Bâlea lake, we can choose from several short trail hiking options that take us on genuine alpine terrain.

Day 6: Sighișoara - Slimnic - Sibiu - Cisnădie - Axente Sever - Sighișoara
We keep our southward heading on this day too, this time towards the major city of Sibiu, an amazing historical, cultural and architectural hub for the entire southern Transylvania. On the way we take a short breather in Slimnic, a small village housing the remains of a large peasant citadel from the 15th century. A short distance from Sibiu we swing by the town of Cisnădie, where another awesome citadel awaits our visit. One of the seven listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, the fortified church was built in the 13th century in honor of Saint Walpurga. Moving back to Sighișoara we stop at yet another charming little fortified church in the village of Axente Sever, formerly known as Frâua (Franderf).

Day 7: Sighișoara - Saschiz - Bunești - Viscri - Făgăraș - Sighișoara
Two World Heritage sites are on the roll today, as we head toward the town of Făgăraș and its splendid citadel. the first one on our way is the fortified church in Saschiz, beautifully restored and preserved it is complemented by the presence on a nearby hill of the Saschiz peasant citadel ruins. From here we move out of the main transportation routes to the secluded village of Viscri which shelters a gem of a fortified church and a beautifully restored village complex.

Day 8: Farewell
Photo sharing sessions, delicious breakfast and see you next time.

Click here to view photo album

For those of you that would like to visit all the sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list we added two more days for the last two sites on the list which are located eccentrically from the others, one to the west (Câlnic) the other to the east (Prejmer).

Day 9: Sighișoara - Prejmer - Hărman - Brașov - Râșnov - Bran - Sighișoara
Located about 130 km south-east of Sighișoara, the fortified church in Prejmer stands out in an area full of historical and natural landmarks. Started in 1211 and finished after 29 years, the church has a unique Greek cross plan which can only be found in the Saxon lands here and in a dew churches in northeast Germany. Just a short drive away lies the city of Brașov with its famous Black Church and medieval old center. A short visit to either Râșnov peasants citadel or Bran castle is a must for anyone visiting the area.

Day 10: Sighișoara - Câlnic - Alba-Iulia - Sighișoara
The last fortified church on the UNESCO list lies in the Transylvanian south west, close to the town of Alba Iulia. Besides the marvelous 13th century church and fortifications, a short walk uphill takes us to a splendid Lutheran church and its ancient cemetery. From here we move on to the Vauban citadel and fortifications of Alba-Iulia, also known as "the other capital", the place of the unification of the Romanian principalities in 1918.

Tour Pricing:
Prices start with 875 EUR/pers. (minimum of 2 persons) and they have a 50 EUR/pers. discount for group bookings (for example if you book for 3 persons the price will be 825 EUR/pers.; if you book for 5 persons the price will be 725 EUR/pers. etc.); the 10-day option incurs an extra fee of EUR 100/person payable on site.

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Our proposed tour is intended to give you a comprehensive knowledge of the area and its people. However it can be tailored to suit your needs regarding the length of the tour and of each specific day it is made of. The tour is available from all major Romanian airports (Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Timisoara, Sibiu, Oradea, Iasi) and also from Budapest and Belgrade (these last two incur an additional fee of 30 EUR/person). The tour price includes return airport transfer to the tour location, any entrance fees required, all accommodation expenses and guiding fees. The price does not include flights, visas and travel insurance.