The Ecotourism Destination Mara – Cosau – Creasta Cocosului is part of the historical region of Maramures.
It spreads between the Mara and Cosau Valleys. At the south is being limited by the volcanic ridge of Cocosului. Among the gentle hills and the traditional landscape scattered by pastures and orchards, the people of Maramures have built here a civilization of wood.
Firstly, we can see here the wooden churches from the 16-17th centuries the narrow steeples. Some of them are even in the UNESCO World Heritage. Secondly there are the ingenious technical peasant inventions, like water mills and the whirlpool. Also integrated harmoniously into the landscape are the massive wood gates with pre-Christian symbols engraved.
This island of traditional authentic life, in the heart of the Creasta Cocoșului Reserve and is the ideal place for the active tourism.
Due to the location there are many cultural and sport activities that you can do here:
- strolling along the street villages.
- watching the people of Maramures.
- cycling, hiking, climbing, and also paragliding.
In 2014, the region Mara – Cosău – Creasta Cocoșului became an Ecotourism destination. It is here that the first green itinerary in the north was available.
The Heritage Route of Maramures is certainly an itinerary that you can do by wagon, bike or on foot.
The itinerary links 7 traditional villages, 2 Nature 2000 Sites – Igniş and Gutâi-Creasta Cocoşului and also 7 protected areas along 88 km. 48 km from the entire length represent certified mountain routes.
Out of this itinerary 54.7% represent forestry roads, 9.3% village roads and 37% asphalted roads.
The 7 villages, all very representative for the Maramures culture are: Breb, Budeşti, Hoteni, Hărniceşti, Deseşti, Mara and Ocna Şugatag.
In each village you can visit wood churches, specific to Maramures, high but narrow, with clapboard covers.
The churches from Deseşti and Budeşti Josani are part of the UNESCO World Heritage.
Deseşti church was built in 1770 and was renowned for its interior paintings. It’s one of the best preserved interior paintings sites from Mara Valley. The most significant fresco represents the Judgement Day, the sinners being represented in specific folk costumes. In the graveyard you can find ancient crosses framed by circles, very similar to the Celtic cross. For visiting ask at the parish house.
Budeşti Josani church was built in 1643 and first of all is famous for the 17th century icons, paint on glass and wood. The narrow tower measures 38 m and has 4 small towers. The 4 ones are placed at the base of the central one, attesting the existence of a council of the elder in the village. For visiting ask for the key, at the tourist point near the school.
If you wander along the bypaths you will discover traditional houses covered by clapboards. On the many monumental gates you will see solar symbols, the tree of life (symbolising the eternal life) or the stranded rope (symbolizing the infinity).
You can also admire fences weaved with walnut rods or peasant technique tools – whirlpools and fulling mills. On the walls of the stables there are sleighs, forks, wagons, ploughs and harrows.
Where and what to visit in the villages:
- Hărniceşti village: the monument-house-Iurca House, a preserved noble 18th century house (1792).
- Deseşti villlage: Museum of Traditional Houses and Farriery.
- Budesti village: Ethnographic Centre in the local school.
In Sârbi village, on the Cosăului River visit the Peasant Technique Centre. Here, 5 panels will explain the way each mechanism found here it functions. You can read about the washing of the big wool fabrics in the whirlpool and the fulling of the wool. Another one explains the steps of distillation of fruits when making the local brandy (horinca). The threshing and grinding of the cereals with the mill or the thresher is also an interesting story.
In Breb village, for discovering by bike the peasant households and the craftsmen workshops follow the road marked with a blue C.
If you enter a house you will discover a room where peasants display on a wooden rod their wool blankets, hand-made towels and also embroidered clothes.
In the first Sunday of May, in Hoteni village, there is the Tânjaua of Hoteni Festival. This is an ancient ritual for celebrating the first man who goes out for ploughing.
Don’t miss the local craftsmen, carpenters, coopers, blacksmiths, seal makers, hatters. Many people make bead jewelry, wool blankets, shirts or sheepskin coats.
People still wear folk costumes every day not only on holidays. You can see women in the streets wearing flowery scarves and skirts up to their knees. Similarly, the men, respecting the tradition are wearing specific hats (small straw hats that barely cover the top of the head).
Most importantly taste the local food! The local cuisine is very substantial so as to have enough to work hardly on the fields or in the forests.
The food is based on meat, dairy, polenta, potatoes and also beans. There is almost no meal without the local brandy, horinca or afinata, an alcoholic beverage based on blueberries.
Certainly, the most famous and tasty local meals are:
- sarmale, named also curechi umpluți (stuffed cabbage)
- polenta with cheese and scraps named also mamaliga
- mushroom stew
- cheese and potato pies or pancove (local donuts).
You will also see the changes that eventually take place here as well. The young that left the country to work abroad have built modern houses, leaving the old ones in ruin.
Due to the small-scale agriculture, with small parcels, limited by live fences or trees the area shelters an impressive number of plant and bird species.
Due to the biodiversity in the Ecotourism destination Mara – Cosău – Creasta Cocoșului there are 7 protected areas:
Creasta Cocoșului (The Rooster’s Comb) Nature Reserve. Is a holdover of a volcanic crater that erupted 9 million years away. It is a crenelated ridge of 200 m in length at around 1200 m in altitude.
Near the ridge you can see Chendroaiei lakes. Are two water pools with a specific vegetation of moss, wolf’s claw, common sun-dew, blueberries and also cow-berries, great horsetail etc.
The region shelters species of European interest: the golden eagle, the lesser spotted eagle as well as the Eurasian lynx, the stag or the bear.
Access to Rooster’s Comb from:
- Mara village is made on the blue cross marked trail
- Breb village on the red cross marked trail.
Lake Morărenilor Nature Reserve – located at 882 m altitude, the lake was formed as a result of a landslide. With a 20 m depth, the lake is supplied by a brook and also by underground springs.
You can see here:
- humid area plants such as the moss, the wolf’s claw (carnivorous), the buckbean or the common bladderwort. .
- the mallard, the yellow-bellied toad, the little grebe, the European grass frog and also the viviparous lizard.
The nature reserve Lake Morărenilor is accessible from Breb or Creasta Cocoşului on a red cross marked trail.
Tăurile de la Hoteni (Hoteni Lakes): includes three lakes and a swamp.
It is a perfect environment for the carnivorous plants and also for over 150 species of algae that lend the colour to this water – a specific brown.
The access is made on the red cross marked trail from Hoteni.
Pădurea Crăiască (Crăiască Forest) – is a forest and landscape reserve, declared a seed reserve.
There are samples of the pedunculate oak and also an the ancient Cornish oak. Furthermore, we find here larches that are 100-140 year old and attain heights of 20-30 metres. The endemic species are represended by: Melampyrum nemorosum and Phyteuma tetramerum. The first one is a flower with yellow and violet petals and the second one a plant with blue flowers.
Cheile Tătarului Nature Reserve (The Tatars Gorges Nature Reserve).
Are carved by the waters that crush over the stones of andesite volcanic rocks. The steep gorges have rocks covered by golden-yellow lichens but also hide a rare luminous moss Schistostega pennata.
The gorges are accessible through Mara, on the red cross marked trail.
Turbăria Iezerul Mare (The Big Iezerul Bog) Nature Reserve. Is found on the Mountain Igniş Plateau.
The site is certainly the best preserved oligotrophic swamps (poor in minerals and nutrients) in the Maramures County. It spreads on 20 hectares with a 7 metres depth turf. It is situated at 1000 m altitude.
The swamp flora is represented by osiers, common sundews, Ligularia sibirica and also crowberries. Further more there are hare’s-tail cotton grasses, bog-rosemary, purple moor-grasses and sedges.
Access to Big Iezerul Bog: from Deseşti village, on red triangle marked trail.
Other places you can visit:
- Swamp Poiana Brazilor Nature Reserve. Is firstly a place where the mountain pine can be found at only 970 m altitude.
- 8 salty lakes near the town of Ocna Şugatag, situated on an ancient salt mine that crushed. Due to the way that they are formed the lakes are among the first in Europe regarding the degree of salinity. The deepest one is Tăul fără fund and has 33m.
Beside The Heritage Route of Maramures there are also 90 km of bike trails, marked with a red C.
The six bike trails have different difficulty degrees. They cross the nature reserves taking you also to the representative objectives for the culture of Maramures. Due to the trails you can discover the diverse landscape of Gutai and Ignis Mountains.
Access in The Ecotourism destination Mara – Cosău – Creasta Cocoșului:
- from Baia Mare, 45 km on the national road DN 18 through the Gutâi Pass.
- from Sighetu Marmaţiei, 15 km on the county road DJ 184.
Both towns have railway station as alternative to driving.