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Rustic and Rural Romania: September 3-16, 2017


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On this tour we’ll visit some of the most picturesque regions of Romania where an abundance of people, architecture, landscape, food, animal and other photo opportunities abound.

After a short glimpse of Bucharest, we’ll make our way to the region of Maramures, one of the last truly rural areas in Europe. We’ve timed our trip to put us in this unique part of the country during the “hay season” so we’ll be able to see the locals, young and old, cutting hay with a scythe, piling haystacks many meters high, and transporting the final product by horse drawn carts as has been done for centuries. This region is also famous for its wooden churches so we’ll be sure to visit several of these architectural marvels. We’ll also witness locals cleaning large blankets in a unique “washing machine” powered by the water of the local river. We’ll meet a man who makes traditional hats, and a craftsman building wooden gates that are seen throughout this area. In nearby Sighetu Marmatiei, we’ll visit a local market, as well as a Memorial to the Victims of Communism and learn how Communism came to Romania and the lasting impact that it’s had.

From Maramures we’ll cross the Carpathian Mountains into Bucovina. In this region we’ll visit the world famous painted monasteries in Moldovita and Sucevita, discover the art of meticulously hand-painting eggs, and learn the process of making quality pottery from local clay. The hills and winding roads of Bucovina offer breathtaking landscapes and are a great place to view and photograph the beginning and end of the day, and we’ll be sure you have several opportunities to do just that. On one of our evenings in this area, Ralph will schedule an image review and feedback session for the group so participants can share their images from the trip so far.

Next we’ll explore the often-misunderstood region of Transylvania, where we’ll find charming medieval towns and villages such as Brasov, Sighisoara, Sibiu and Viscri. A highlight of this area will be a chance to visit the simple hamlet of a working shepherd and his family, high up in the mountains at the time when they’re herding and milking the sheep. At the end of our visit we’ll have an opportunity to taste some of their delicious homemade cheese and milk products, right on site.

One of the main reasons people travel to Romania is Bran castle, the so-called “Dracula castle,” which is in reality, a wonderful medieval castle set in a picturesque valley. (We’ll learn what is real and what is legend.) We’ll not only get to visit the interior, but also to shoot the castle during the warm evening light from a nearby field with a commanding view from below.

Finally we’ll wind down our tour by spending time in a pleasant hotel set among some of Romania’s most beautiful nature. This area is surrounded by imposing mountains, rolling hills, lush forests, endless haystacks, grazing animals and people of all ages working the fields. We’ll have plenty of free time to explore this area on our own and as a group.

We hope you’ll join Ralph on what is sure to be a unique trip filled with beauty and impressive photo opportunities in Rustic and Rural Romania.

Itinerary Rustic and Rural Romania
Day 1:
(Sep 3)

In the early evening, we’ll have a Meet & Greet so that you can get to know your fellow tour participants, your tour leader, Ralph Velasco, and tour guide.  It’s during this meeting that we’ll also discuss the itinerary and our trip ahead.   After, we’ll enjoy a short walk to our welcome dinner at one of the oldest and most beautifully decorated restaurants in Bucharest, a brewery established 1879 called Caru’cu Bere. There we will experience traditional Romanian music and dancers followed by ballroom and tango dances.  Participants are welcome to stay and enjoy the festivities.  Our hotel for the night is situated in the very heart of Bucharest - perfect for evening and morning walks. Overnight in Bucharest.

Day 2:

Today we’ll leave behind the hustle and bustle of the big city and travel by airplane to what is probably the last truly rural region in Europe, Maramureș (pronounced mar-a-MUR-esh). We’ll have a late lunch after arrival, then drive through the countryside where you’ll have your first glimpse of people working the fields and locals traveling by horse-drawn carts and other traditional means. In the evening we arrive at a rural guesthouse in the village of Breb where we will spend the next 3 nights. In each of the evenings we will enjoy traditional, home-cooked dishes. Overnight in Breb.

Day 3:

After breakfast, we’ll head out to explore one of the charming valleys just after sunrise for some morning photography as the region wakes up. We’ll then make our way to the imposing monastic complex in Barsana, a grouping of buildings entirely built of wood and with high-pitched gothic towers, respecting the local architecture. There are also some interesting interiors here, and we may even have a chance to see nuns leading prayer service in the church. Later, we’ll learn about some of the centuries-old occupations from this region, still in practice today. We’ll meet a wood-carver who is known for creating many of the distinctive wooden gates for which the Maramureș region is famous; he is also the inventor of the process for making a chain out of one block of wood, which we’ll get to see. Next we’ll move on to a nearby village where we'll learn about and photograph the flourishing wool-fulling process, a man-made washing machine set to work in the current of the nearby river, and a man who makes traditional hats, called clop (pronounced: clop), often seen on the men in this region.

Later that morning, we’ll be invited for a taste of the local apple, pear and/or blueberry brandy, called palinca, which will surely whet the appetite for the lunch, which we’ll enjoy back at our hotel.
In the afternoon we’ll take a walk around the village we will stay in. We’ll be able to pick apples and pears right off the trees as we walk down winding, tree-lined lanes, meeting and photographing villagers as they go about their everyday lives.

Later we’ll have dinner back at our guesthouse where a key ingredient will be the voluptuous porcini mushrooms which are widely available (if good weather conditions) and expertly harvested in this region by the ton at this time of the year. Overnight in Maramures region.

Day 4:

Once more, we set off on the road early to capitalize on the gorgeous morning light as it comes up on in the valley. We’ll photograph the local people as they work with the hay, cutting it with sickles. Fog often settles in these valleys giving optimum conditions for creating wonderful photos. Later, we’ll also visit the vegetable and cheese market in the town of Sighetu Marmatiei where we’ll get a taste of the local culture, what people eat, and how they trade. Next we’ll explore Romania’s communist past at the Memorial of the Victims of Communism. The museum is located in an actual prison which will help you understand how Communism first arrived in Romania and the damage it did to the country until 1989.

We’ll have lunch in this area before returning to the guesthouse for a rest.

As the light improves, we’ll visit an impressive wooden church in Budesti, built in 1643, at a time when local Romanian Orthodox people were not allowed to build churches of stone. In order to stay true to the law they built this and many other churches from wood, and they were so good at it that these churches stand till this very day, many of which, including this one, have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites. Be ready for some low-light photography as we photograph in and around this unique and fascinating structure, including the cemetery, which surrounds it. After visiting the church we will also go for a walk in a nearby, very traditional village.

We’ll enjoy our last dinner at the guesthouse in Maramures as the next day we will move to another region. Overnight in Maramures region.

Day 5:

After breakfast we’ll have a short visit to the Thursday live animal market on our way out of Maramureș to the Bucovina region. The sights and sounds of the market are full of rich photo opportunities. Our journey will take us over a high mountain pass and through one of the many ski regions in Romania. Along the way, we’ll visit the temporary camps of porcini mushroom pickers. Here, we’ll learn how these famous and delicious mushrooms are picked, sorted, sold and finally end up on our plates at restaurants throughout Romania.  Late in the afternoon we’ll arrive in the town of Vama, where we’ll spend the next 3 nights. Dinner will be at our hotel. Overnight in Vama.

Day 6:

We’ll have an early start to capture the sun as it trickles through the fog during this very picturesque time of the day.  Next our itinerary takes us to the studio of a true artist, a woman who’s world renown for intricately painting eggs, a craft specific to this region. We’ll have the opportunity to observe and photograph her working dressed in traditional clothes. We’ll return to the hotel where we will have lunch and rest for a few hours before going out for a walk in the village to get a feel for the life in the village.  Finally, this evening we’ll be treated to dinner on the property of a centuries-old, traditional wooden house. This meal will be cooked by a wonderful local woman named Larisa who will take good care of us. Overnight in Vama.

Day 7:

We plan another morning shoot and then we’ll have the chance to witness the local blacksmiths at work either in their fiery dens making horseshoes in the traditional way or putting on horseshoes. Then it’s on to visit the UNESCO World Heritage site, the painted monastery in Sucevita (pronounced: SU-che-vit-za), the most impressive painted church in Bucovina, surrounded by a massive wall and towers. We’ll visit the interior grounds of the monastery and those who are interested can walk up the nearby hill for an interesting perspective of the settlement.
Lunch will be cooked by the nuns and usually the meal is very hearty and delicious.
In the evening we’ll photograph last light in the valley. Afterwards, we’ll have dinner at our hotel, followed by a group image review and critique session in a private room reserved just for us. Overnight in Vama.

Day 8:

Today we leave Bucovina behind and make our way to the magical, but often most misunderstood region of Romania: Transylvania. On the way we’ll plan to stop at a local church to observe how people attend Sunday mass and practice the Romanian Orthodox faith, often dressed in traditional clothes.  We’ll have lunch at a local winery, with wine-tasting included, and in the late afternoon we’ll arrive in the village of Sighisoara (pronounced: SIG-e-SHWA-ra), one of Transylvania’s many points of interest, where we’ll spend the next two nights. The old town is a well-preserved medieval citadel enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and offers a great opportunity for participants to explore on their own, wandering the narrow cobbled streets and along the defensive towers and walls.  Enjoy dinner on your own at one of the many nearby restaurants, and exploring the town at your own pace, after the tourist crowds have gone. Overnight in Sighisoara.

Day 9:

The German Saxons inhabited Transylvania alongside Romanians and Hungarians for almost eight centuries. They left a unique and lasting heritage, one evident in medieval towns like Sighisoara, Sibiu (si-BEE-u) and Brasov (bra-SHOV). Another part is the many villages built by them in a very distinctive architecture, each of them having a fortified church, which was then surrounded by a wall to shelter the community in case of assault.

We’ll head out today to explore one such well-preserved village, namely Viscri, a short distance away from Sighisoara. We’ll visit the fortified church in Viscri which was originally built in the 13th century and you’ll have some free time for a walk through this picturesque village to discover it on your own. After lunch in the village, we’ll discover another traditional occupation of making bricks and roof tiles by hand from local clay, water and sand, and a wonderfully welcoming local family will show us how this is done. Overnight in Sighisoara.

Day 10:

After a late breakfast we’ll leave Sighisoara behind and travel to the wonderful town of Sibiu. But first we’ll be transferred high up in the nearby mountains to the vast property of a family making a living from shepherding. They’ll welcome us with a home-made meal at their electricity-free hamlet, and before their sheep go to pasture, you’ll witness the simple but fascinating way they gather and milk the sheep. You’ll also have a chance to try the rich sheep’s milk, along with homemade sheep’s cheese, all the while getting a lesson of how they make it and a unique look into this traditional way of life that still survives throughout this area.

After capturing the last light we’ll be transferred back in Sibiu where we’ll stay for two nights in a wonderfully charming hotel situated right on the main square, dinner will be on your own at any of the many nearby restaurants. Overnight in Sibiu.

Day 11:

Today will be dedicated to exploring, both with a guide and on your own, the charming town of Sibiu, designated European Cultural Capital in 2007. In the morning we’ll have a guided walk through the old town so you get to know the history and background of the place, then you’ll have plenty of free time to explore and photograph on your own. In the afternoon we’ll have an optional visit to the nearby outdoor village museum which offers a very good perspective on the traditional rural architecture from Transylvania region. For dinner you’ll have plenty of options in town, and Ralph will organize a night shoot for those interested in capturing the golden and blue hours in one or both of the nearby squares. Overnight in Sibiu.

Day 12:

From Sibiu we travel to Brasov, and upon arrival you’ll have time to explore the city’s old town and to enjoy lunch at one of the many nearby restaurants on your own.  In the afternoon we’ll drive to visit the infamous Bran castle, the one which is often associated with Dracula. In reality it’s a fine-looking 14th century fortress most recently decorated by the Romanian queen Mary during the 1920s. Here you’ll find out the true story, what is made up and what is real, in the highly misunderstood legend of Dracula.  First we’ll make our way to a hidden spot nearby to have a photo shoot from the outside of this formidable castle, a former customs point, standing grand on a cliff in a narrow gorge surrounded by mountains.  We’ll then visit the castle itself which offers more great photo opportunities of the interior and surrounding area. Later this evening we’ll drive up a short dirt road to the charming hotel where we’ll stay the last two nights of our tour. The property is peacefully situated in the mountains with wonderful views, plenty of hiking opportunities, and a nearby monastery that is out of a postcard. Overnight in Bran.

Day 13:

We’ll have a full day to enjoy the wonderful nature of the Carpathian Mountains from our hotel. Ralph will organize early morning and afternoon photo shoots that should allow us to capture the locals cutting down, raking and gathering hay into piles to feed their cattle over the long, potentially harsh winter. The place is ideal for walks, hikes and landscape photography, or just relaxing as our trip winds to an end.  This evening we’ll enjoy a farewell group dinner at our hotel. Overnight in Bran.

Day 14:

(Sept 17) On our final day of the tour we’ll drive once again over the Carpathian Mountains before reaching the southern plains back to the capital city of Bucharest. We’ll have one last group lunch before transferring to the airport for flights back home.



Ralph Velasco

Ralph Velasco

Ralph Velasco, (trip leader), is an international guide, photography instructor and author. He has led cultural photo tours around the world, including to Turkey, Romania, the Adriatic, Egypt, Central Europe, Bhutan, Nepal, Mexico, Spain, Morocco, and throughout the United States. He helps photographers of all skill levels to bring back a more well-rounded and varied portfolio of images from their travels, one that truly captures the essence of a place. In addition to leading photo tours, Ralph has taught travel photography courses at the University of California at Irvine Extension, Saddleback College, Santa Ana College, the Irvine Fine Arts Center, as well as other institutions.  Two years in a row Ralph was recognized by the Professional Photographers of Orange County as "Open Photographer of the Year". Additionally, Ralph has written two travel photography eBooks. He currently is based in Chicago and travels globally most of the year. His website is

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Cost includes: All airport transfers, 13 nights hotel accommodations, all ground transport, all breakfasts, 8 lunches, 8 dinners, all entrance fees, internal flights, English-speaking guide.

Cost does not include: International flights, passport & visas fees, travel insurance, vaccinations and medical cover/treatment, meals not specified, tips to guides, drivers and bellboys, and personal expenses such as beverages/snacks, internet access fees, laundry fees, etc.

Deposit and Final Payment:  A deposit of $800 per person is required at time of booking. Full payment is due 90 days prior to departure.

Cancellation:   On cancellations more than 120 days prior to departure, all monies are refunded less a $275 administrative fee and less any monies spent on participant’s behalf such as airline or other tickets.

  • Less than 120 but at least 90 days prior, total deposit amount is forfeited.
  • Less than 90 but at least 75 days prior, 50% of trip price is forfeited.
  • Less than 75 days prior to departure, 100% is forfeited.

Notification by phone or email is acceptable, but please follow with written notice. In the unlikely event we have to cancel a tour, a full refund will be given.


Jim Cline Photo Tours LLC, and their agents act only in the capacity as agents in all matters pertaining to hotel accommodations, sightseeing tours, and transportation, and are not responsible for any loss, damage, theft, or injury to person or property resulting from a defect in any vehicle, or the actions of any persons who provide services for this tour or for the action or inaction of any third party. Baggage is at the owner’s risk entirely. The tour operator reserves the right to withdraw the tour at any time, to decline any person as a member of the tour for any cause at any time. All prices are based on current rates of exchange and, while every effort will be made to hold them firm, they are subject to change. All participants are required to submit a signed Assumption of Risk and Release of Liability form prior to the tour’s departure.


It is the responsibility of each tour member to inform the tour operator of any possible health problems or handicaps upon registration. By forwarding a signed reservation form and trip deposit, you certify that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions of disability that would create a risk for you or other trip participants. Once a trip has been confirmed, medical circumstances will not be considered as exceptions to our cancellation policy. We assume no responsibility for medical care or for special dietary requirements.


To allow for any unexpected contingencies, all participants are strongly urged to purchase trip cancellation and interruption insurance.


While Jim Cline Photo Tours LLC endeavors to make the itinerary as accurate as possible, it should be considered as an approximate schedule of activities rather than a rigid schedule of events. Trip itineraries are subject to revision due to weather, ocean or trail conditions, government restrictions, and other reasons beyond our control. The tour leader has the right to make changes in the published itinerary whenever in his sole judgment conditions warrant, or if he deems it necessary for the comfort or safety of the tour.

Country Info



Health Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website.  The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

Money: In Romania the only legal tender is the leu (plural: lei), though in Romania you’ll see many prices quoted in euros.  ATMs are everywhere and give 24-hour withdrawals in lei using various cards. Some banks, such as Banca Comercială Română, give cash advances on credit cards in your home currency.  To change dollars, euros or pounds, you often need to show a passport.  Count your money carefully, and don’t change money on the street. Currency exchange rates 

Internet Access:  This topic is being researched

Electrical  Converters & Adapters Required

VISA ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:  All visitors must have a valid passport to enter Romania and foreigners are required to carry identification documents at all times.


What advice does tour leader, Ralph Velasco, have about equipment preparation? If you're thinking about buying new gear, do so well in advance and practice with it, that way you can focus on learning more about how to make photos rather than how to use your camera. • Label your gear with your email address in case it's lost. • Bring plenty of clean memory cards, it’s always good to bring more than you think you’ll need • Be certain you’ve got all cords, chargers, adapters and anything else you might need for both your camera gear and other electronics.
Do you have a suggested list of equipment I should bring? • Main D-SLR camera body • Extra camera body for backup (optional) • Primary zoom lens covering the 18 - 120 mm range or so (up to 200 mm is good, too) • Fast 50 mm fixed lens • Set of lens cleaning supplies • Gorillapod w/ ballhead • Lightweight tripod (completely optional) • Extra camera battery, always charged (more than one is better) • Camera battery charger with cord • Instruction manual for all your gear - save as a PDF on your laptop or iPad/iPhone • Quality power strip – VERY important, especially if you're rooming with another photographer • 2 GB flash drive for additional backups of best images and files from home you'll need • Point and shoot camera or smart phone with charger and extra battery(s) for back up • Extra AA & AAA batteries • Memory cards: 2GB to 8GB each for a total of 50% more than what you think you'll need. • Netbook/laptop plus charger and cord • Card reader for downloading, if necessary.
Packing Ideas

"I can't say enough good things about this trip......wonderful opportunities in this land that feels like you have woken up in another century......the local guide, Daniel, is outstanding and the food is divine comfort food ! And the countryside is incredibly beautiful and pastoral!" ~Nina H. 2016

"I’m delighted that I was able to travel to Romania with Ralph. It was a fantastic trip, exposing us to a way of life that existed a century ago. I enjoyed the wide variety of experiences we enjoyed. And, the porcini mushrooms…a magnificent culinary delight." ~Marilyn C. 2016

A great trip. A highlight was visiting the small villages and the craft people in their home environments. There were great photo opportunities. Ralph was open and receptive and provided direction and advice on photos and things to do.” -Nancy S., 2015

“This was my third major tour with Ralph.  He has been consistent with providing tours of very great value.  Trips have been well-planned, purposeful and well-priced.  His passion for travel is evident in making sure the tour participants have great accommodations and experience a realistic sense and taste of the culture.”
 -The Hills

“I learned more about my camera and photography in the last three days with Ralph than I did in the last three years.”
 -Jim B.

 “I’ve taken 2 trips with Ralph now, one to Spain and one to Cuba. He leads wonderful trips with a great mix of structured activities and plenty of free time to do your own thing. He is very knowledgeable in finding great locations for shooting as well as giving excellent technical advice.  I can definitely recommend one of his tours for anyone whether they are interested in photography or not.” -Connie T. 

“Thanks for a fun and informative tour!  I tend to get lost in the mechanics of taking photos, so I particularly appreciate that you actively check results, give advice on photo opportunities and composition, and organize posting of participant’s photos afterwards so we can see other’s work and read your critiques.  Thanks again for sharing your photographic expertise and regional knowledge.” -Keith G.

"I don't think there is any photo/cultural trip anywhere that could compare to this one. All of the photo ops and cultural encounters were unique and could never be duplicated by a normal tourist. I would urge anyone considering this trip to sign up immediately". ~ Linda H. 2016

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