Pentecost mini-vacation – Tour through the country, to monasteries in Moldova and beyond!


The Pentecost mini-vacation gave us the opportunity to travel around the country, mostly visiting the monasteries in Moldova, the trip proving to be highly energetic and full of unique moments. Below you can find our itinerary structured by days.

Day 1

So, we set off with our friends by car on the route Baia Mare – Piatra Neamț, on the route Dej – Reghin – Toplița – Gheorghieni – Lacul Roșu – Cheile Bicazului – Bicaz – Piatra Neamț.

I took my first coffee break at Pension Regal, in the town of Coldău, near Beclean. The guesthouse is nice, even nicely decorated, both inside and on the terrace, and the staff made a good impression on us.

Refreshed, we continued on the route, so we arrived in the town of Toplița.

The monastery of Saint Prophet Ilie from Toplița

Here, I stopped at The monastery of Saint Prophet Ilie from Toplița.

The monastery impressed us a lot. It is located in a splendid garden, with countless flowers, carefully tended, fitting perfectly into the landscape given by nature. I learned about it that it was founded by the first patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Miron Cristea, who was born in Toplița, in Harghita county and whose bust can be seen in the courtyard of the monastery.

We admired the surroundings, bowed down and moved on to another objective in Toplița.

Toplița Mesothermal Waterfall

I arrived, in the immediate vicinity, at Toplița Mesothermal Waterfall.

The waterfall is a protected area of national interest and a biological and landscape nature reserve. The total area of the reserve is 0.5 hectares. The water of the waterfall reaches a temperature of 27 degrees and is very rich in calcium. One of its unique features is that the water of the waterfall freezes very rarely or not at all, keeping its temperature warm even in the middle of winter.

After this stop, we continued our journey towards the Gheorghieni area, the next stop being at The Red lake.

The Red lake

The Red lake (also called Ghilkos, or killer) is a natural dam lake located on the Bicaz river valley, in the area of its springs. It is the youngest natural lake in Romania and also a natural dam lake. Located in Harghita county, on the border with Neamţ county, the lake is accessible from the DN12C national road that connects the cities of Gheorgheni and Bicaz.

The lake was formed in 1837, when a portion of the Ghilcoş mountain erupted and blocked the natural course of the river. The slide was caused by excessive water soaking of the vulnerable surface, against the background of a period of heavy rains. On the shore of the lake, the Lacul Roşu balneo-climatic resort was developed, subordinate to the city of Gheorgheni, Harghita county. The name "Red Lake" derives from the clays rich in iron oxides, brought by the Red River and deposited in the lake.

The surroundings of the lake have a pleasant microclimate, particularly beneficial for treating states of physical and mental exhaustion, insomnia, neurasthenia. The multiannual average temperature is 8°C, above the 6°C average of intramontane depressions. The valley is practically protected from the winds, the air is particularly clean, rich in natural aerosols, the picturesque surroundings offer excellent conditions for those looking for sources of rapid natural regeneration.

We took our share of oxygen and delight from this beautiful resort, where there are also places to stay, to serve meals, as well as the possibility to rent boats for a walk on the lake, after which we started again on the route, continuing through Bicaz Canyon.

Bicaz Canyon

A splendid picture appeared, the majesty of nature indeed. These are considered some of the most beautiful gorges with tourist access in Romania, being formed by the waters of the Bicaz river; the keys are crossed by DN12C and connect two historical areas of Romania: Moldova and Transylvania.

The weather and advanced time did not allow us to linger long, although the scenery was superb, so we moved on, and after a stop in the town Bicaz, where we met with dear people, we arrived at the destination of the first day, the town The Red Grove, located near the city The Neamt stone.

Here, too, we were awaited by dear people, with whom we talked late into the night.

Day 2

We left from Dumbrava Roșie towards Bistrita Monastery.

Bistrita Monastery

Bistrita Monastery, built by ruler Alexandru cel Bun in 1406, is located in the village of Bistrița, in the commune of Alexandru cel Bun, and has a very high historical and archaeological value. Being located approximately 8 kilometers to the west of the city of Piatra Neamț, in the commune of Viișoara - Alexandru cel Bun, the monastery lasted for over six centuries in the shelter of the forests that cover it, facing, like all our places of faith and culture, the hardships and the trials of history.

Stephen the Great is considered the second founder of the Bistrita - Neamt Monastery. At the end of the 15th century, the ruler built a bell tower and gave the place two bells. The chapel dedicated to Saint John the New is also due to Stephen the Great, the painting having a very high artistic value.

After Stephen the Great, it was Petru Rareş's turn to take care of the Bistriţa - Neamţ Monastery. He built the enclosure walls, but also the tower at the entrance, as well as the Saint Nicholas chapel. He also organized a princely school whose courses were held until the 20th century. After the death of Petru Rareş, the monastery was taken care of by Alexandru Lăpușneanu, another faithful Moldavian ruler. He completely renovated the monastery in 1554.

After moments of silence and charged with spirituality we set off towards Bicaz Lake and Dam.

Bicaz Lake and Dam

Located between Moldova and Transylvania, Bicaz reservoir, also known as “The Spring of the Mountain", represents the largest artificial lake, set up on the inland rivers in Romania. Located only 4 km from the city of Bicaz and 35 km from Piatra Neamț, Lake Bicaz was formed on the course of the Bistrița river. On sunny days, you can easily see the reflection of Mount Ceahlău in the water. The fauna of Lake Bicaz consists mainly of trout, bream, barbel, tench, tench or bream. Moreover, the region is famous for the trout farms set up in the area. Also near the dam, there is also a developed port, called the Port Bicaz Naval Tourist Complex. Here, you will have the opportunity to enjoy rides with steamboats, dinghies or hydro-bikes. Since 2000, the lake has been declared an aquatic nature reserve.

We took a lovely boat ride on the lake, then admired the view further from the terrace Perch.

We left from the Bicaz Dam towards Lake Pângarati.

Lake Pângarati

Lake Pângarati it is located on the Bistriței Valley, at an altitude of 370 m, and is bordered to the north by the Stânișoara Mountains and to the south by the Gotmanu Mountains. It is fed with the water of the Izvorul Muntelui-Bicaz Lake, to which is added water discharged from the Bistrita River. The lake covers an area of 155 ha, with Poiana-Oanțu upstream and Pângărăți downstream.

Along with Lake Vaduri, Lake Pângărați has favorable conditions for food and shelter for the birds that move along the eastern Carpathian migration corridor. Among the fish species that live in Lake Păngărăți are: bream, bream, tench, pike, crucian carp, bream, perch, bream, red bream.

The reservoir was formed in 1964 on the upper course of the Bistrita river and is the first dam lake located downstream of the Dimitrie Leonida hydropower plant from Stejaru.

For many years Lake Pângăraţi has become a home for swans and numerous other species of waterfowl. Protected by law and declared monuments of nature, the winter swans, as they are popularly called, have become the attraction of visitors, so several resting places have been set up on the shores of Lake Păngărati where they can admire the many species of birds that live here. The local people got used to them and protect them. The phenomenon is explained by specialists through the climate changes that have taken place in recent years, especially due to global warming.

We left the majestic swans to head to a nearby place of worship, Păngarati Monastery.

Păngarati Monastery

Pângărați Monastery was built in the time of Stephen the Great and rebuilt by Alexandru Lăpușneanu (1552-1558). The place of worship is located in Pângărați commune, between Bicaz and Piatra Neamț. Access is from the Piatra Neamț - Bicaz road (DN15), on a side road that goes up to the vicinity of the "Dimitrie Leonida" hydropower plant from Stejaru. Here, in the east of Botoșanu Mountain, pierced by a nearly 5 km long tunnel, on the left bank of the Pângărăți River is the Pângărăți Monastery, a settlement of great importance on the Bistriței Valley. The monastery stands out for its impressive dimensions, being a church on two levels, which makes it unique in the medieval architecture of our country.

Delighted by the magnificence of the monastery and the surrounding view, we returned to the town of Piatra Neamț, where we made a stop at Stephen the Great's tower.

Stephen the Great's tower

In the historical center of the city, next to the Royal Church "St. Ioan Donnesc", Belfry or Stephen the Great's tower. It is considered by many people, locals and tourists, as the symbol of the city of Piatra-Neamț. The tower was built in 1499, one year after the construction of the church. An urban legend says that old man Gheorghe Lazăr, a true pilgrim, unique for his spiritual life, lived in Ştefan's Tower for 26 years.

We feasted our eyes on this true symbol of the city, after which we retired to our dear hosts, at The Red Grove, to spend the rest of the evening together.

Day 3

On the third day of our trip we had decided to visit the monasteries in the area Târgu Neamt, following that in the evening we will arrive in the area Mouth of Humor.

Agapia Monastery

So we arrived at the beautiful one Agapia Monastery, which is an Orthodox nunnery located on the Agapia river valley, 9 km from Tîrgu Neamț and 3 km from Agapia village, in the heart of the forest. The construction was made between the years 1641-1643, having a unique architecture, not fitting into a specific style. The Agapia monastery was founded by the hetman Gavriil Coci, the brother of ruler Vasile Lupu (1634-1653). The ensemble of the Agapia Monastery - the only monastic community in our country that bears the name "Christian love", from the Greek "agapis" - is remarkable for the painting - treasure made by Nicolae Grigorescu in 1858, for its special composition, which combines elements of the Byzantine style with neoclassical influences and Romanian art, but also through the character of an ancient hearth of faith and culture and a wonderful oasis of tranquility, humility and rediscovery.

After the moments of silence and contemplation, as well as after the visit to the Monastery Museum, where original works by the painter Nicolae Grigorescu are exhibited, we headed to another place of worship, Sihla Monastery.

Sihla Monastery

About halfway down the connecting forest road Sihăstria Monastery next to the Agapia Monastery is the Sihla Monastery. Located at 1000 m altitude in a rocky area of the Sihla Municipality, in the Stânișoara Mountains, the place of worship begins its history as early as the 12th century. Since the 1200s, hermits have lived in the Sihla Monastery area, being one of the most recognized hermitages in Moldova. These rocky places offer peace, solitude, and more are difficult to penetrate.

For these reasons, they are appreciated by hermits, who want to preserve tradition, order, piety. The church is built of wood in the classic style of Moldovan churches in the 18th century by the Cantacuzino family.

In 1813, the church dedicated to the Nativity of St. John the Baptist was renovated, having the same appearance today with a stone foundation. Also in the second half of the 1900s it was completely restored.

On the narrow ledge of a rock, not far from the church and the cells of the monastery, it was built the little church made of a fir tree that still today preserves the intimacy and atmosphere of a long-ago era.

Known for the life of hermits, near the monastery, on a secret path, is the Cave of Saint Teodora, the place where the saint lived and prayed for years, eager to lead a hermit's life. Saint Pious Theodora of Sihla spent around 40 years as a hermit near the Sihla Monastery at the end of the 17th century.

And here we charged our soul and eyes with the energy of the place, after which we continued our route on the forest road to Sihăstria Monastery.

Sihăstria Monastery

Sihăstria Monastery is located in the northern part of Neamț county, approximately 22 km from Târgu Neamț. The first foundation took place in 1655 by Metropolitan Varlaam Motoc, being carried out by the hermit Atanasie together with seven of his disciples. The church was destroyed over time and rebuilt in 1734, when Bishop Gedeon of Romanu rebuilt it in stone, on the site of the old one. In 1821 it was burned by the Turks and was rebuilt in 1824, with the support of Metropolitan Veniamin Costachi.

The monastery attracted visitors from all over Romania who came to Father Archimandrite Cleopa, who was and is one of the most appreciated Romanian priests of all time. He died in 1998 leaving 16 volumes of teachings in a collection entitled "Father Cleopa is speaking to us". His tomb is in the premises of Sihăstria Monastery and can be visited, next to Father Cleopa's cell.

After really special moments, marked especially by the meeting with the father who was dying in the cell of Father Cleopa, I left for Humuleşti, birthplace of our great storyteller, Ion Creangă.

"Ion Creangă" Theme Park

Here we discovered the "Ion Creangă" Theme Park, located near the "Ion Creangă" Memorial House in Humulești (currently under renovation), a place where visitors can meet beloved characters from the children's stories written by Ion Creangă: Aunt Mărioara, Smărandita , Santa Chiorpec, The Goat with Three Kids, The Bear Tricked by the Fox. This is the first theme park about the work of a writer built in Romania. It is especially nice, especially since, in the background, you can listen to the stories of the great writer.

Loaded with delight we continued our journey towards Neamtului Fortress, a symbol of Neamt county.

Neamtului Fortress

Neamtului Fortress, a genuine medieval fortress from Neamt located near the town of Târgu Neamt and approximately 46 km from the town of Piatra Neamt. It was built during the time of Petru Musat (1375-1391), during the consolidation of the medieval state of Moldova. Located close to the highest peak of Culmia Pleșului, the citadel is part of the category of medieval monuments of exceptional value in Romania. The strategic position that it benefited from and its presence in the significant events that this part of the country experienced proves that Neamtului Citadel was one of the best-fortified fortresses that the medieval Moldavian state had. The heyday of the medieval fortress from Neamț corresponds to the reign of Stephen the Great (1457-1504).

The name Neamțu Citadel comes from the hydronym "Neamţ" which is borne by the river below the foot of the mountain and from which the city and the nearby monastery, later the county and the city of Piatra, which only after the middle of the 19th century, took their names becomes Piatra-Neamț.

On the entrance walls of the Cetatea Neamțulu tourist attraction, the name by which it is known in the area, we learn the history of this Moldovan creation.

Impressed by the magnificence of the fortress and the special view from the area, we left the German lands, not before enjoying a hearty meal at Arcașului House terrace.

Arcașului House terrace

At Accommodation

I arrived at the accommodation located in Gura Humorului, Hotel Carpathians, in the evenings, an accommodation with a fair price/quality ratio and a nice view.

Day 4

In the morning we set off towards the north of Moldova, and the first stop was at Salina Cacica.

Salina Cacica

Salina Cacica is located in the locality of the same name, in the central-eastern part of Suceava county, at the eastern foothills of Obcina Mari. It was built by order of the Empress of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Maria Theresa, in 1791, as a salt mine, being one of the oldest on the European continent. To enter the salt pan, you have to go down 192 fir-tree steps. The average temperature underground does not exceed 14 degrees Celsius, regardless of the season. Being an active mine, there is a smell of oil inside, which is actually the olfactory effect resulting from the contact of the water with the salt used in mining. If you can't stand it, you can go to the surface (I didn't, but the smell soaked into my clothes and followed me throughout the day). The galleries were dug by hand by workers. Among the attractions of the deep salt lake, we mention the Orthodox chapel, a dance hall, a sports hall, and the brine lake.

After this experience, we continued our journey towards the north of Moldova, stopping for a stop at Pension Alessia.

We were very pleased with this location, the professionalism of the staff, as well as the products we received.

On the route I stopped at Marelbo Factory and Store.

Marelbo Factory and Store

Located in Vicovu de Sus, they are particularly nicely decorated and have a wide range of products that can be purchased.

On the road again, this time with a destination the monasteries in the north of Moldova.

Putna monastery

I arrived at Putna monastery, one of the most important Romanian cultural, religious and artistic centers built by the ruler Ștefan Cel Mare, being an Orthodox monarchal castle, nicknamed "Jerusalem of the Romanian Nation", the first foundation of the ruler, one of the promoters of the Moldavian style that we know today.

The monastery is located 33 km northwest of the town of Rădăuți, in Suceava county. The monastery was an important cultural center, where manuscripts were copied and precious miniatures were made. Lăcășul has a rich monastic museum, with embroidery, manuscripts, cult objects, icons, etc.

The Putna Monastery was designed to serve as the royal necropolis for the Grand Voivode Stephen the Great and his family.

The cell of Daniil the Hermit

It is also in Putna The cell of Daniil the Hermit, where I made a short stop.

The edge

The next stop was at The edge, famous for Black Ceramics, a place where we bought nice products and got energy at a restaurant in the area potter's House EdgeA, with a special design.

I later started towards Sucevița Monastery.

Sucevița Monastery

Suceviţa Monastery represents an important historical monument of our country, dating from the end of the 16th century. Located in the village of Suceviţa, southwest of Rădăuţi, the monastery honors the city of Suceava, an important economic center of Romania, and at the same time a crossroads.

This represents a nucleus of the Orthodox faith, which still preserves the charm and ancient monastic atmosphere.

The entire complex represented by the Suceviţa monastery impresses with the harmonious combination of architecture (religious, defense and civil), painting, sculpture (in stone and wood) and examples of religious decorative art. Thus, the monastery proves the continuity of the autochthonous claim of the 15th and 16th centuries, representing a symbol of permanence over time.

The history of the Suceviţa monastery, known by tradition and confirmed by archaeological research, is strongly linked to the name of the Movileşti family. Having its beginnings in a modest wooden hermitage, attributed to the monk Pahomie, the monastic settlement that today bears the name of Suceviţa, came into being through a wall church built at the end of the 16th century by Gheorghe Movilă. With the appearance of a medieval fortress given by the fortified walls that outline the perimeter of the complex, Suceviţa today welcomes its visitors with the echo of a centuries-old history. The uniqueness of the monument is also given by the exterior painting, the brilliance of which has withstood, for almost four centuries, the times and the weather, and that is precisely why, together with the other monuments in the north of Moldova, they represent valuable landmarks in the history of universal art.

Spiritually charged we headed towards Moldovita Monastery.

Moldovita Monastery

22 kilometers from Câmpulung Moldovenesc and 31 kilometers from Gura Humorului, in Vatra Moldoviţei commune, Suceava county, between the Moldovița and Ciumârna streams, is the Moldovița Nuns Monastery, founded by ruler Petru Rareş in 1532, dedicated to the Annunciation . Guarded by the Ciumârnei Mountains and the Obcinei Hill, Moldoviţa is one of the oldest monastic settlements, with a valuable history, one of the jewels of ancient Moldavian art, on the list of UNESCO's world cultural heritage sites.

I concluded that these monasteries are cultural jewels of the nation, true oases of spirituality and history, continuing the route, this time towards accommodation, Domaine Stanca guesthouse.

On the route, however, the beauty of the landscape prompted us to stop to capture unique moments.

At Accommodation 

I arrived in the evening at Domaine Stanca guesthouse, here being impressed by the beauty of the place and the very welcoming hosts.

It is a guesthouse located in the heart of nature, with large, modern rooms, you can use the kitchen or you can order breakfast, according to your preferences; payment can be made with a holiday card.

Day 5

The return home

We're heading home, with a plan to stop at Colibița Lake, Bistrita Nasăud county.

But, on the route, in Pasul Tihuța it appeared on the horizon Piatra Fântânele Monastery , towering, so that a stop was also imposed at this beautiful settlement.

Piatra Fântânele Monastery

"Nativity of the Mother of God" Monastery from Piatra Fântânele, Bistriţa-Năsăud county, is one of the most beautiful monastic settlements in the Metropolis of Cluj and in the whole of Transylvania. The settlement dedicated to the Mother of God at Piatra Fântânele is sanctified by the prayer of the hieromonks who shepherded it in the last century, as well as by the uninterrupted work of the monks today.

I also received the blessed bridegroom here, then resumed my journey, arriving at Colibița Lake.

Colibița Lake

This is the largest lake of anthropogenic origin in Bistrița-Năsăud county. The surface of the lake is 300 ha, and the surface of the hydrographic basin is 113 km², with a total volume of 100 million m³. Made with the purpose of supplying water to the downstream towns and producing electricity, Colibița Lake has become one of the main tourist resources of the county, its banks being dotted with numerous cabins and holiday homes. 

The functions of the storage lake of Colibița Lake are as follows:

  • water supply to downstream towns,
  • of industry,
  • irrigation on an area of 5 ha,
  • electricity production,
  • regulation of the flow of the waters of the Bistrita river.

On the other hand, the lake is also used for recreation and water sports. Due to the high concentration of ozone and iodine ions in the area, recommended for the treatment of lung and heart ailments, Colibița was known until the 80s as a famous tourist and climacteric resort.

A truly wonderful sight unfolded before our eyes, we admired it and breathed heavily in the ozonated air, all the more so as we knew that the end of our journey was approaching…

On the way home I made another stop at Pension Regal.

Then, to the house, already starting to overcome memories from the beautiful and intense trip.

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