Calata, and ethnographic region, sits between Cluj and the city of Huedin, and it’s a place where Hungarian culture, including its old traditions and folk dances, is still alive. The region is also renowned for its painted coffered Protestant church ceilings, which you can admire in the churches of Valeni, Sancraiu and Manastireni.
In Sancraiu, you will find the cultural centre of the region. You can spend the day amongst the locals and discover the Calvinist church, traditional costumes and houses or take a horseback riding tour to revel in the charming landscapes. All year long, the region boasts cultural manifestations such as ‘Pine Bud Picking’ in May, ‘International Kalotaszeg Folk Music and Dance Camp’ in July, ‘Grape Harvest Festival’ in October or ‘Traditional Pig Killing’ around Christmas. Check out the events calendar and be part of the local celebrations.
North of Cluj, hidden beauty and thrilling legends are awaiting you in the Sic village. You have probably heard of the Danube Delta, but near Cluj, you can explore the Transylvanian (Ardeal) Delta, a territory covered with floating reeds and a remote area where you can admire the wonders of nature from the pavilion or the watchtower while enjoying the silence. After visiting the delta, you can take a walk through the scenic Sic village and visit the reformed church and the Dance Museum, which features an exhibition of traditional clothes, furniture, music instruments and photography from the local celebrations.
Afterward, continue your journey north to Sacalaia Lake, the deepest lake in Romania and home to legendary giant luce and monsters. You can have lunch at the Lacul Stiucii restaurant, just next to the lake.
South of Cluj, there is a village where fascinating folk artistry and breathtaking scenery lure travellers. Rimetea village sits in the heart of a traditional Szekler region. You can learn more about the town, which is an old mining centre, and its history at the Ethnographic Museum. Stroll on the village’s streets and start exploring its peculiar houses and the wonderful ironwork that decorates the buildings.
West of the village, the Szekler’s Stone rises magnificently and entices travellers to climb its steep slopes. While it will take a bit of effort to reach higher ground, the amazing view is worth it. You can go back to the village or follow the crest and end up in Coltesti village. There, the stunning Conacul Secuiesc waits for you, complete with classic food served by waiters dressed in traditional Szekler costumes.
If you still have energy, you can take the road that goes to Coltesti Citadel, a medieval fortress that belonged to the Torocko family. From there, new horizons open before your eyes.
Close to Cluj lies the coolest underground place on earth, the Turda Salt Mine, which used to be a pearl of salt mining in Transylvania. Today, it is a unique attraction at 120 metres (400 feet) underground, featuring a Ferris wheel, an amphitheatre, football terrain and a golf course. Below is the Ghizela subterranean lake, where you can take a boat ride.
After enjoying the spectacular mine, go to Turda Gorge, a natural reserve perfect for nature lovers who like hiking and climbing. With more than 1,000 species of plants and 67 species of animals, the Turda Gorge is a natural wonder, and all of this is only 30 kilometres (18.6 miles) away from Cluj.
If you’re interested in discovering rural Romanian life and taking long walks, then you should head towards the Bride’s Veil Waterfall. From Cluj, take the road towards Rachitele. The village sits next to the Apuseni Mountains, surrounded by green hills and magnificent landscapes. The area has become quite popular with tourists, but the villagers have kept their traditional lifestyle. From Rachitele, go by foot and follow the red marked trail that leads to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Romania. Enjoy the water’s murmur and the fresh air. In winter, the waterfall freezes, metamorphosing into a gorgeous ice wall.
Marisel village’s location is 1,200 metres (3,937 feet) above sea level and sits on a plateau in the Apuseni Mountains. The fairytale landscapes, the centuries-old customs and the local stories will take you to a more profound Romania. You can explore the village by foot or take a wagon or sleigh ride from Cabana Motilor, where you can also have a traditional lunch. Visit the Village Museum and discover the traditional crafts, or march to the Tacla Gavrii and witness a panoramic view of Zamolxis’ kingdom (the old god of the Dacians), a stunning valley between two majestic peaks.
The drive to Rosia Montana will reveal the gold-mining history of Transylvania; it is like discovering another part of Romanian heritage. The village is best known for its gold deposits, captivating scenery and history. The location sees underground mine galleries dating from Roman times surrounding it, and it’s the oldest mining village in Romania. A visit to the Mining Museum will take you through different rooms and unveil the history of gold mining. The place was subject to a huge gold-mining project that raised serious concerns among Romanians, but fortunately, the citizens didn’t stop fighting and put an end to it.