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Widely regarded as Romania's most traditional region, dotted with steepled wooden churches and farmhouses fronted by ornately carved gates, Maramureş feels as if you are climbing into a horse-drawn time machine and heading back a couple of centuries. Indeed, Maramureş' tapestry of pastureland, peopled by colourfully garbed peasants, jumps straight out of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. Welcome to the heart of folkloric, medieval Romania, where the last peasant culture in Europe continues to thrive. But don't wait forever to visit: even here the 21st century is making inroads, as young ‘uns eschew embroidery for Twitter and tending flocks to waiting tables in London.

Medieval Maramureş exists in the Mara and Iza Valleys and eight of their churches are on Unesco’s list of World Heritage sites. Among the best are Deseşti in the former and Poienile Izei in the latter, not just for their architecture but for their well-preserved interior wall paintings.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Maramureş.