Wandering around Maramures region with a camera in your hand you are likely to come across fantastic photo opportunities: locals working in the fields, children playing by chasing geese, picturesque meadows and valleys or huge carved wooden gates protecting the entrance to a house.
Besides this, photographing the Wooden Churches of Maramures as they compete to reach the sky is one of the highlights of any photo trip in the region.
Wooden church in Budesti
Why should you capture the Wooden Churches of Maramures
These iconic landmarks have a strong significance to the local community – they were built at a time when the Romanian Orthodox people were not allowed to build churches out of stone. In order to not break the law, they built these churches out of wood, which could be found in abundance in mountainous northern Romania.
Wooden church in Surdesti, UNESCO site
They are remarkable examples of the creativity of local craftsmen, who, through employing special techniques, gave life to these high and narrow constructions. They have a characteristic tall and slim clock tower, as well as a single or double roof covered by shingles.
At the Barsana Monastic complex all other buildings besides the church are made of wood, here is the building where nuns live
The churches stand to this very day and they are so valuable that amongst the hundreds of wooden churches built in Maramures – and in some other small areas across the country – eight of them were chosen to be UNESCO World Heritage sites. They can be found in the villages of Barsana, Budesti, Desesti, Ieud, Surdesti, Poienile Izei, Plopis and Rogoz. If you are interested to know more facts about them, head over here.
The wooden church in Barsana, UNESCO site, in the background
Wooden churches can be found in some other small areas across the country, but the ones in Maramures are the most famous.
Wooden church in Romanesti, Timis country, Banat region
When to photograph the Wooden churches of Maramures
There are no hard and fast rules regarding the best time to capture them. They look spectacular in all seasons, either covered in winter snow or surrounded by the yellow-reddish-copper color of the trees in fall.
Wooden church in Borsa
Wooden church in Ieud
During the cold months you can get some moody shots, often with morning mists, while in spring or summer the cloudless blue skies will give you rich and saturated colors.
Sunrise at the Wooden chuch in Ieud. This picture was taken during a trip with American photographer Kathy Adams Clark.
Barsana Monastery in spring
If you want to try something different than the standard shot, try vising the churches on a Sunday morning or during an important religious holiday. You’ll get to capture the locals dressed in their colorful traditional clothes in the foreground, while the architectural masterpieces stand out in the background.
Locals going to Botiza Wooden Church during Christmas
Easter celebrations at Desesti Wooden Church
Local going to Easter Mass at the Wooden Church in Sarbi
Local mowing the hay at the Monastic Complex in Barsana
What are the best spots from where to take your pictures
Most of the wooden churches are situated on a hilltop, usually in the middle of the village or right outside. Due to their height, they are easy to spot, but this also makes it difficult to properly capture them if you are standing too close to them. However, you can aim for an interesting perspective and shoot them from below.
Wooden church from Budesti
If you are looking for more of a standard shot, it is recommended to try to photograph them from an elevated point, either a nearby hill or another church, the way it’s possible to do at the monastic complex in Barsana.
Monastic complex in Barsana
Wooden church in Ieud
Other churches (like the Church in the Valley from Ieud, not to be mistaken with the Church on the Hill in Ieud, a UNESCO site) are situated in a valley, which makes it easier to photograph them.
Once you’ve got your classic views of the wooden churches of Maramures, take time to explore the inside as well. You might not usually be allowed to photograph them, but you can admire the spectacular frescoes that cover the interiors of the church.
Interior of Calinesti Wooden Church during Easter
We hope you enjoyed our tips on photographing the Wooden Churches of Maramures. Check out our photo gallery for more pictures of beautiful Romania or join us in a photo tour that takes you through authentic Maramures.
Wooden church from Dragomiresti during the celebration of its patron, Saint Elijah
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