Christmas traditions & the Bear Dance Festivals in Romania Photo Tour

Christmas traditions & the Bear Dance Festivals in Romania Photo Tour    December 22,2023 – January 3, 2024, 13 Days

Romania’s Christmas and New Year’s traditions are very rich and intriguing to photograph. The bear dance festivals from Romania are a one-of-a-kind tradition which we have included in this photo tour of Romania. But there are a lot more, from carolers in traditional clothes, religious theater, “The Goat”, people dressing in folk costumes when going to church and more. And Romania’s charming castles, rural life and Christmas markets are also very interesting to capture, especially if there is snow. Join us at this fascinating time of the year for this Christmas traditions & the Bear Dance Festivals in Romania Photo Tour. The tour is a go for 2023/24 even if one more person signs up.
Suggested Itinerary

Day 1:     22nd of December 

Welcome to Romania! Upon arrival you will be transferred from the airport. In the evening we will meet, visit the Christmas market and have dinner. The local guide will welcome you to this eventful Photo Tour of the Christmas Traditions & Bear Dance Festivals in Romania.


  • Accommodation in Cluj Napoca.

Day 2:   23rd of December  

In the morning we will travel towards the Maramures, one of the most authentic regions of Romania where you will spend the first 4 days of this tour.

On the way we will stop by the tallest wooden church in the world, UNESCO World Heritage site built in the 18th century. It is an impressive structure located in a peaceful location surrounded by a small cemetery and trees.

Further on we will have a walk in a typical village from Maramures. This will give you the opportunity to familiarize yourself with the way of life, the style of the houses and we may even see locals traveling by carts pulled by horses.

As we will pass by Cavnic, we will also try to find brondosii, men specially dressed for this time of the year in huge metal bells.Romania Christmas customs

You have been to this region in the summer. Now you will experience it in the winter and it is especially interesting if we will have snow. In the last decade 1 in 2 or 3 Christmases had snow in this area.


  • Accommodation in Maramures.
  • Drive time: 4 h


Day 3:  24th of December  

We will start the day with a visit to prison-museum where you will learn about the communist era, its impact on the people and the culture and where the country now more than 30 years after transitioning back to democracy. This place is optional, we can skip it if you want. We will then walk through the local market and see locals doing some of the last purchases before Christmas. Then we will go to the Merry Cemetery, a one-of-a-kind place. In the evening you will meet carolers wandering from house to house, some of them dressed in traditional clothes. Caroling is a fascinating custom, recently listed as part of Romania’s UNESCO Intangible World Heritage.

Christmas traditions & the Bear Dance Festivals in Romania Photo Tour


  • Accommodation in Maramures.
  • Drive time: 2h
Day 4,  25th of December 

The first part of the day will be spent capturing the magical atmosphere of Christmas as villagers go to church for the Christmas Mass. For mass we will go to a monastic complex made of wood. Maramures is called “the land of wooden churches”. The churches are made entirely out of wood, using traditional building techniques and some of them are even UNESCO World Heritage Sites. So we will look at creating interesting composition with the wooden churches, the villages, valleys and mountains hopefully covered in snow. After the religious service in several villages in the region children play Viflaim, a religious theater about the birth of Jesus. We will attend one of those and capture this unique tradition. If considered safe at that time, we will cross the border to Ukraine and walk for about an hour in a small town near the border, have lunch and return to Romania a few hours later.

  • Accommodation in Maramures.
  • Drive time: 2h

Day 5,  26th of December 

In the morning we will be shooting the narrow-gauge steam train, Mocanita. The train passes through a spectacular landscape of mountains and valleys and with the winter snow adding a touch of magic, you will be sure to get some beautiful photos. Interesting pictures can be taken also in the train station as the trains prepare for departure.

As we return to our hotel we will stop in one of the villages to see people coming out of church. On this day you will be able to see the highest number of people dressed in traditional clothes, a lot of the men wearing thick white wool jackets and sheepskin hats.


  • Accommodation in Maramures.
  • Drive time: 2h
Day 6,  27th of December 
Each year in the nearby town of Sighetu-Marmatiei the local customs come to life as part of a festival, which you will attend. People from villages all around Maramures gather to display their unique Christmas traditions, by way of caroling, dancing and putting on interesting performances. There will be lots of people photography opportunities, you just need to be quick and position yourself in the right place. Then you will leave Maramures behind and travel to Bucovina region where we will spend the night.

  • Accommodation in Bucovina region.
  • Drive time: 4h
Day 7,  28th of December 

Bucovina is famous for its painted monasteries and we will visit one of them in the morning. The exterior frescoes are 500 years old and are very well preserved and impressive. In the coming days we will be in the North and Eastern part of Romania which is the richest in traditions related to the New Year and which are different from the Christmas traditions in Maramures. At this time of the year in almost every good-size town there is a festival in one of the days between Christmas and New Year. The exact dates vary from year to year and are known some months before. So on December 28 and 29 we will look for festivals in this region. It is in this region where the bear dance tradition is popular but also “The Goat”, “The Stag”, “The Horses”, “The Plow” and many more.

 comanesti bear dancer


  • Accommodation in Comanesti.
  • Drive time: 2h
Day 8,  29th of December 

We will the day in the Eastern part of Romania, a region which gets very little visitors. The rural life gives the feeling of stepping back in time and we will explore for a few hours the countryside, especially people traveling by horse-drawn carts. We will also consider any of the local festivals which will scheduled closer to the date. And in the afternoon we will have a private encounter with a group of bears dancers. We will have the chance to see them perform in a nice environment and get to learn about this tradition and ask all the questions you may have.

comanesti bear dancer


  • Accommodation in Comanesti.
  • Drive time: 4h 30’
Day 9,   30th of December 

Every year on this day, groups which perform various winter holidays rituals gather at lively festivals, we will attend the biggest such festival. You will be able to witness and photograph people bringing to life customs from all across the country, amongst which “The dance of the Bear” is the most impressive. During the bear dance both man and women, young and put on bear skins, dance and stroll through the town in an impressive and surreal display of color and liveliness. This will offer abundant opportunities for taking really unique shots and at the same time learning about this very special custom.

comanesti bear dancer

There will be 300 to 500 people dressed in bear skins; they will parade through the town and then perform on stage as part of a contest. We will spend the entire day at the festival until the last group performs and the winners are announced and it gets dark. If the bear dance festivals from Romania is what draws you to Romania at this time of the year, then this will be the richest day in action.


  • Accommodation in Comanesti.
Day 10,  31st of December

We will leave the area of the bear dance and festivals and head back to Transylvania. We will photograph from the outside the famous Bran Castle, known for its association with Dracula. You will now have the chance to learn its true story and uncover its mysteries. Due to its location, perched on top of rocks and surrounded by the forest, it makes for interesting photography, especially if there is snow. If interested, we can also visit it; though it may be crowded.


Later in the afternoon we will arrive in Sibiu, probably the most charming town in Transylvania and the location of the best Christmas market in Romania. We will participate in the New Year festivities at midnight and enter the new year with a glass of champagne in the main square of the town.


  • Accommodation in Sibiu.
  • Drive time: 5h
Day 11,  1st of January  
On the first day of the new year, we will look into another tradition, this time in Transylvania region. It is called “Calusarii” and young men perform it also for the winter holidays. We will go to one of the small villages in the area and hopefully see them performing it in the courtyard of a local family. Such traditions are not exhibited only at festivals, they are actually performed in parts of Romania from door to door. We will also visit the town of Alba Iulia where the biggest fortress in Romania is. And in the evening we will do some blue photography at the Christmas market in Sibiu.

  • Accommodation in Sibiu.
  • Drive time: 3h
Day12,   2nd of January  

We will have a day trip to the beautiful countryside near Sibiu. We will visit a Roma coppersmith family, the fortification in Biertan and the medieval citadel of Sighisoara (both UNESCO world heritage sites). The next day the tour will end and you will fly out of Romania. You can look into flights out from Sibiu or from Cluj. If your flight is from Cluj, you will be transferred to Cluj this evening or next morning (depending on when your flight takes off).

Transylvania Roma coppersmith



  • Accommodation in Sibiu.
  • Drive time: 3h

Day 13,  3rd of January 2024 – Wednesday 

This will be your departure day. We hope you thoroughly enjoyed the Photo Tour  of the Christmas traditions & Bear Dance Festivals in Romania and had a great start of the year.
Why travel with us
Suggested Itinerary Viewed On Map
Suggested Accommodation

Hotel Beyfin 4* – Cluj-Napoca

Known for its commitment to quality and attention to details, Hotel Beyfin offer to its guests accommodation in 31 rooms and apartments decorated with charming Italian furniture and having a high level of comfort. From some of the the rooms windows you can enjoy the views over the most important attractions of the city as the hotel is located in the very center of Cluj-Napoca. The distinctive elegance of the hotel can be also found in the restaurant and the upper terrace where you can delight with dishes from the Italian cuisine accompanied by local and international wines.
Teleptean Guesthouse

Teleptean Guesthouse 3* – Vadu Izei

This rural guesthouse set in the village of Vadu Izei is decorated in a rustic style, specific to the region of Maramures. Each of the 10 rooms is large, with wooden traditional adornments on the walls and a private bathroom. The delicious homemade food and the hospitality of the owner are the guesthouse’s greatest treasure!
About The Tour 
This is a cultural tour which focuses on photography by putting you in contact with interesting locals and also planning visits around interesting events and the good times of the day to take pictures. This means that on some days you might wake up early for sunrise or stay up late for sunsets and the blue hour, it is up to each participant though. It also means that the tour plan is flexible and can be changed depending on weather conditions and photography opportunities found on the way. Besides the planned visits at places of interest and people we’ve also planned time for 2-3 stops/day as we drive around the countryside as there are always unplanned very interesting photo opportunities, especially focused on people. It will be the tour guide or tour leader who will make the call where and when to make those additional stops.
 Christmas traditions & Bear Dance Festivals in Romania Photo Tour Services included:
  • Trip planning and assistance before and during the tour by email and phone
  • English speaking tour guide services throughout the program (accommodation and meals are included)
  • Accommodation for 12 nights in standard single room with breakfast (B) included
  • Transfer by 4 wheel drive car on the itinerary mentioned above
  • Entrance tickets to tourist sites mentioned in the itinerary
  • Meals

1 lunch on Christmas day in Maramures 4 dinners in Maramures Services which are not included in the tour price

  • Private session with bear dancers on December 29, to be confirmed closer to the date
  • Meals, except those included above. On average you can pay for a meal 12-15 EUR
  • International flights
  • Travel and medical insurance
  • 4850 EUR/person
  • Payment is expected to be made by bank transfer. Payment is also possible by credit card or PayPal, in this case an additional 5% will be added to cover the transaction fees.

comanesti bear dancer1

comanesti bear dancer

comanesti bear dancer

comanesti bear dancer

comanesti bear dancer

maramures people in traditional clothes

Christmas traditions & the Bear Dance Festivals in Romania Photo Tour

Christmas traditions & the Bear Dance Festivals in Romania Photo Tour

Christmas traditions & the Bear Dance Festivals in Romania Photo Tour

Christmas traditions & the Bear Dance Festivals in Romania Photo

Christmas traditions & the Bear Dance Festivals in Romania Photo



Traveler’s Reviews
Chuck from USA “I had a great  time on our trip in winter through Romania and wanted to thank you for being such a wonderful guide. The trip was informative and fun – it has left me with memories for a life time. I doubt that I will ever duplicate the experience of traveling through Romania with the 2 “Dans”.”  
Tracy from Canada “If you thought I got back home and soon forgot about Romania, you’d be WRONG! I’m still looking at the pics on a daily basis.  I know I’m definitely going to go back.”  

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