Fly to Bucharest. On arrival we are transferred by minibus to our private guesthouse at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains (approx. 3 hours). Food and refreshments will be served during the transfer.
After breakfast we spend the day walking around the area surrounding the unique Kalibash villages of Magura and Pestera, where the houses are built all along the mountain ridges with deep ravines and valleys in between.We will visit these traditional houses and learn about the history of the settlements, which were built against the mediaeval invasions of Mongols, Tartars and Turks.
In the morning we will visit 'Libearty', a sanctuary for bears who have been rescued from captivity, where they had been used as dancing bears. This sanctuary was founded with the help of the British society for the protection of animals, WSPA. We then transfer to Bran Castle, the castle associated with Vlad Tepes, the Duke of Valachia who was better known as 'Count Dracula'. From mediaeval times this castle was used as a toll and customs station until it was donated to Romania's royal family in 1920. It became the summer residence of Queen Maria, a granddaughter to Queen Victoria. From Bran we will hike back to the guesthouse.
Today we go on a day trip to Viscri, a village founded about 800 years ago by the Transylvanian Saxons who immigrated from the Rhine-Moselle region. After the massive exodus of the Saxons in the early 1990s, some of the remaining families tried to rescue what had been left. Their efforts were soon supported by the Prince's Trust foundation. Under the name of 'Mihai-Eminescu Trust' the initiatives were bundled and a network started to grow. Today the focus lies on architecture, the development of tourism and agriculture. We will visit this village (which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site), including its fortified church, hike in the area and enjoy lunch in one of the traditional farmhouses. In the evening we return to the guesthouse.
We are taken by a horse-drawn cart into the Birza Valley, the former research area of the Carpathian Large Carnivore Project (CLCP). For 10 years CLCP was the biggest conservation project in Europe for wolves, bears and lynx. We walk up through the forests to a hermitage with a chapel in the rocks, where monks have been living since the Middle Ages. In the afternoon we return to the guesthouse and those who want to go wild bear watching set out to meet the forester and accompany him to a hide deep in the forest.
In the morning we visit the old medieval town of Brasov. Since its foundation in the 12th Century it has been a melting pot of nations. In the early afternoon we eat at a good traditional restaurant before we meet staff from ICAS, the Romanian Wildlife Institute, whose beaver reintroduction programme has been running successfully for over 10 years and set out for a field excursion with members of the ICAS staff. As some beavers have been radio-collared there is a good chance to see them.
In the morning we walk through the spectacular Prapestile Zarnestilor Canyon; a gorge formed in Jurassic times. Some rare species of birds like the Wallcreeper and Tengmalm's Owl are breeding in this gorge. We walk higher up through the forests to the summer shepherd's camps. In Transylvania the old system of transhumance is still practiced. It means that the sheep are driven through the forests and across the pastures during daytime, only coming home to the camp for milking. At night the flock is guarded against bear and wolf attacks by a fierce crowd of dogs. The shepherds will serve us some of their delicious dairy products, which are produced in the camps. We start walking at 1050m, ascending to 1500m.
Transfer to Bucharest airport; fly to London.