Vişeu & Vaser Valleys
Wooded mountains rise to dizzying heights around the picturesque Vişeu Valley (Valea Vişeu), which tracks the Vişeu River on its journey south. Regular buses and maxitaxis link the valley to Sighet, making it more accessible for travellers without private transport.
Vişeu de Sus
Essentially a one-street affair dotted with a few banks, cafes and restaurants, the town's narrow lanes radiate towards the Vaser Valley railway station. If you're headed into the rural wilds of Maramureş this is a good stop to fuel up on gasoline and lei, and there are a couple of solid hotels.
En route to Budesti from Ocna Sugatag, rustic Breb is an isolated village replete with ancient wooden houses and a 16th-century wooden church. A famous woodcarver (Patru Pop) lives here, and this tiny traditonal village is also home to the culturally immersive Somewhere Different tour company. For a price, owner Duncan can pick you up from Sighet.
The Mara Valley (Valea Marei), with its beautiful rolling hills, is the heart of Maramureş. Villages here are famed for their spectacular churches and carved gateways. Private rooms and homestays are fairly plentiful; the website www.pensiuni.info.ro has a good selection of pensiunes (pensions) in this valley.
From Botiza a road leads west to Poienile Izei, home of a church with the most dramatic frescoes of hell you are ever likely to encounter. The early-17th-century church's frescoes eerily depict infernal visions of torments inflicted by the devil on sinners. Visit on a stormy day and it'll scare the pants off you.
Continue south to Şieu, then take the turn-off right for the sleepy village of Botiza, one of the prettiest in all of Maramureş and site of the some of the region’s best homestays. Botiza’s old church, built in 1694, is overshadowed by the giant new church, constructed in 1974 to serve devout Orthodox families. The 9am Sunday service is the major event of the week in Botiza.