The Ecotourism Destination Mara – Cosau – Creasta Cocosului is part of the historical region of Maramures and it spreads between the Mara and Cosau Valleys, being limited at the south 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. One can see here the narrow steeples of the wood churches from the 16-17th centuries, some of them in the UNESCO World Heritage. There are also ingenious technical peasant inventions to see here, the water mill and the whirlpool. Also integrated harmoniously into the landscape there are the massive wood gates with pre-Christian symbols engraved.
This island of traditional authentic life, in the heart of the Creasta Cocoșului Reserve is the ideal place for the active tourism. There are many cultural and sport activities you can do here: strolling along the street villages watching the people of Maramures, cycling, hiking, climbing, and 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, it was called The Heritage Route of Maramures, an itinerary that you can do by wagon, bike or on foot.
The itinerary links 7 traditional villages, 2 Natura 2000 Sites – Igniş and Gutâi-Creasta Cocoşului and 7 protected areas along 88 km, of which 48 km represent certified mountain routes. Out of this itinerary 54.7% represent forestry roads, 9.3% village roads and 37% asphalted roads.
The 7 villages connected, 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.
The church from Deseşti built in 1770 is renowned for its interior paintings; one of the best preserved ones on the Mara Valley. The most significant fresco represents the Judgement Day where the sinners are 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.
The church in Budeşti Josani built in 1643 is famous for the 17th century icons, paint on glass and wood. The narrow tower that measures 38m has 4 small towers placed at the base of the central one, attesting the existence of a council of the elder in the village. Inside the church there are the chainmail frock and the helmet that supposedly belonged to the heroic outlaw Pintea Viteazul. For visiting ask for the key opposite, 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.
In Breb the road for discovering the peasant households and the craftsmen workshops by bike is 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 embroidered clothes.
In Hărniceşti visit the monument-house-Iurca House, a preserved noble 18th century house (1792).
In Deseşti you can visit the Museum of Traditional Houses and Farriery. In Budesti you can visit the Ethnographic Centre in the local school.
In the village of Sârbi, on the Cosăului River, at the Peasant Technique Centre there are 5 panels that explain the way each mechanism functions. You can read about the washing of the big wool fabrics in the whirlpool, the fulling of the wool, the steps of distillation of fruits when making the local brandy (horinca) or the threshing and grinding of the cereals with the mill or the thresher.
In the first Sunday of May, in Hoteni, there is the Tânjaua of Hoteni Festival – 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 or the people that make bead jewelry, wool blankets, shirts or sheepskin coats.
People still wear folk costumes every day not only on holidays. You can still see women in the streets wearing flowery scarves and skirts up to their knees or men wearing specific hats (small straw hats that barely cover the top of the head).
Please 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 and dairy, polenta, potatoes and beans. There is no meal without the local brandy or afinata, an alcoholic beverage based on blueberries. Very tasty and famous are these meals: sarmale, named curechi umpluți (stuffed cabbage), polenta with cheese and scraps, mushroom stew, cheese and potato pies and 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.
The small-scale agriculture, with small parcels, limited by live fences or trees shelter 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:
The Creasta Cocoșului (The Rooster’s Comb) Nature Reserve – 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 Tăurile Chendroaiei, two water pools with a specific vegetation of moss, wolf’s claw, common sun-dew, blueberries and 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. From Mara the access is made on the blue cross marked trail and from Breb on the red cross marked trail.
Lake Morărenilor Nature Reserve – located at 882 m altitude, the lake was formed after a landslide. You can see here humid area plants such as the moss, the wolf’s claw (carnivorous), the buckbean or the common bladderwort. With a 20 m depth, the lake is supplied by a brook and by underground springs. Here you can see the mallard, the yellow-bellied toad, the little grebe, the European grass frog, the viviparous lizard. The nature reserve is accessible from Breb or Creasta Cocoşului on a red cross marked trail.
Tăurile de la Hoteni (Hoteni Lakes) that includes three lakes and a swamp is a perfect environment for the carnivorous plants and 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) – a forest and landscape reserve, declared a seed reserve has samples of the pedunculate oak, the ancient Cornish oak and the larches that are 100-140 year old and attain heights of 20-30 metres. There are also some endemic species: Melampyrum nemorosum a flower with yellow and violet petals and Phyteuma tetramerum a plant with blue flowers.
The Cheile Tătarului Nature Reserve (The Tatars Gorges Nature Reserve) – are carved by the waters that crush over the stones of andesite volcanic rocks, rocks covered by golden-yellow lichens. The steep gorges hide a rare luminous moss Schistostega pennata. The gorges are accessible through Mara, on the red cross marked trail.
The Turbăria Iezerul Mare (The Iezerul Mare Bog) Nature Reserve on the Mountain Igniş Plateau, situated at 1000m it is one of the best preserved oligotrophic swamps (poor in minerals and nutrients) in the Maramures County. The swamp surface spreads on 20 hectares with a 7 metres depth turf. The swamp flora is represented by osiers, common sundews, Ligularia sibirica, crowberries, hare’s-tail cotton grasses, bog-rosemary, purple moor-grasses, sedges. You can arrive here by the red triangle marked trail from Deseşti.
The Swamp Poiana Brazilor Nature Reserve where the mountain pine can be found at only 970 m altitude.
Near the town of Ocna Şugatag, on the ancient salt mine that crushed, there are 8 salty lakes; the deepest one Tăul fără fund has 33m. These lakes are among the first in Europe regarding the degree of salinity.
Beside The Heritage Route of Maramures there are also 90 km of bike trails, marked with a red C on white background that links with the latter. The six bike trails have different difficulty degrees and cross the nature reserves and the objectives representative for the culture of Maramures, making you discover the diverse landscape of the Mountains Gutai and Ignis.
Access in The Ecotourism destination Mara – Cosău – Creasta Cocoșului:
–from Baia Mare (the town has a railway station), 45 km on the national road DN 18 through the Gutâi Pass
-from Sighetu Marmaţiei (the town has a railway station), 15 km on the county road DJ 184