Driving Tour: Bucovina Monasteries
Length 231km; eight hours
Bucovina's painted monasteries are Moldavia’s top cultural draw. Dazzling frescoes run from top-to-bottom in churches where monks and nuns follow traditional Orthodox vigils and services. On either a round-trip circuit or organised tour from Suceava, visiting the five most spectacular monasteries is achievable in a day. For a more leisurely tour, and to visit additional monasteries like Putna and Dragomirna, overnight at a rural guesthouse.
Leaving Suceava, take the southwest road for 50km (one hour) towards Gura Humorului village and Humor Monastery. Along with elaborate frescoes, this fortified monastery's tower offers nice views.
Continue on the south side of the Gura Humorului road for 10km (20 minutes) to Voroneţ Monastery, a spectacular structure known for its unique blue paint and detailed fresco of The Last Judgement.
From here, head west and then northwest (35km, 45 minutes), passing through Vatra Moldoviţei for Moldoviţa Monastery, a pretty place known for its frescoes The Story of Jesus’ Life and The Siege of Constantinople.
Backtrack to Vatra Moldoviţei and continue northeast on a winding mountain road, peaking at 1100m at Ciumârna Pass, dubbed ‘Palma’ (a giant human-palm statue stands here). You'll find great views, refreshing breezes and local vendors selling crafts and natural products.
Continue northeast for 10km to Popas Turistic Bucovina, an excellent lunch stop (it also has a hotel). Local forest mushrooms are used here in traditional sauces for chicken and pork dishes, and in hearty soups.
Another 4km north is Suceviţa Monastery, with paintings including the Ladder of Virtues and The Genealogy of Jesus.
Travel 6km on the road back to Suceava to pass through Marginea, known for its unique black pottery, available at AF Magopat Gheorghe, where potters work on traditional wheels from Monday to Saturday. On the return to Suceava (50km, one hour), don't forget tiny Arbore Monastery, whose smaller scale allows for a closer inspection of the beautifully preserved internal frescoes.