Exploring the area surrounding Huedin brings fascinating insights into Transylvanian Magyar culture.
Driving west from Cluj-Napoca towards Huedin, you can't fail to notice the famous 'souvenir village' of Izvoru Crişului (Körösfő to Hungarians). Shops are stacked along the main road running through town, peddling traditional ceramics, linen womenswear and menswear, beaded jewellery (from 15 lei), baskets, embroidered tablecloths (800 lei and beyond), and plenty of cheap souvenirs and toys too. It's a fun and largely hassle-free browsing experience (though goods vary wildly in quality).
Continue west for 7km to Huedin, then take the southbound route 1R for 5km to Sâncraiu. Davincze Tours can arrange hiking guides (€55 per day) and horse-drawn carriage rides (€20 per hour) into the sweeping hills here. But most compelling are the authentic cultural and gastronomic experiences on offer: cooking and tasting kürtőskalács (Hungarian funnel cake; €3), folk costume and dance shows (€50), and instruction in local crafts including embroidery, wood carving and weaving (€7 per hour). Also run by Davincze Tours is a stay in welcoming guesthouse Püspök Panzió, which brims with charm thanks to unique hand-painted decoration, firm beds and spotless white linens.
Twelve kilometres southwest of Sâncraiu lies Mănăstireni (Magyargyerömonostor in Hungarian), a quaint village noted for its 13th-century church. During the 1848 revolution, 200 Hungarians died at the battle of Mănăstireni; you can see bullet holes from Turk guns in the church. Twenty-three kilometres south of here is a dam-flooded village submerged beneath Lake Beliș-Fântânele – at very low water levels, you can see the church tower come up for air.
From Mănăstireni you can continue 9km north to rejoin route 1 back to Cluj.
Main town Huedin might seem like an obvious base for exploring the region, but accommodation here is uninspiring and thin on the ground. Pensiunes in Sâncraiu or Răchițele are much more comfortable.
Restaurants are not to be found in much of the area; plan on stocking up at supermarkets in Huedin, or opt for half- or full-board at your guesthouse.