Szekler & Saxon Land
Transylvania Romania: (IT-RORT02)
A Place of Great History & Myth...
Transylvania is a place of great history and myth, which lends to the region a mysterious allure that attracts adventurous travelers and horseback riders from around the world. It is a land comprised of stunning natural phenomena combined with intriguing villages of ancient origin, hidden deep in its sloping valleys and impressive mountains. Transylvania’s landscape varies from the great river basins of Somes, Olt and Mures, to majestic stretches of vast plains (great for canters!), and of course the dramatic Carpathian Mountains. It is a paradise of discovery from the back of a horse, a chance to see the country from a vantage point reserved only for those who are willing to pass without vehicle. The local equestrian centre was established in 1995 with the aim to enable all
people who love nature and horses to learn about the wonderful world of
Transylvania: about the hidden secrets in the shadows of the mountains,
about its culture, natural beauty and rural lifestyle of the common people. We cross trails in all three major territories under the rule of Transylvania: The Sezkler Land, Csangoland and Saxon Land.
The Castle to Hut itinerary crosses the Szekler Land. It is named for the Hungarian speaking Szekely people who first inhabited the valleys and hills of the Eastern Carpathian Mountains and whom defended the Kingdom of Hungary; they were considered the finest warriors of Medieval times in Transylvania and the area is rich in folklore tradition.
On the Salt Way itinerary we follow the "route of the salt" over the Snowy Mountains (Havasok). These were the trails on which the Romanian's predecessors carried salt from the mines of Parajd on ox wagons to the Maros River, where it was loaded onto rafts and delivered to faraway cities. We will travel one part of the salt mine route on our riding tour while discovering the hidden Szekler farming villages and several "Esztena”s.
Overnights are in guesthouses, small inns and a few nights are camping in tents on 2 of the itineraries. Overall the accommodations are rustic in remote locals with true immersion into the local culture. Single rooms are not available. Bathroom facilities are on a share basis.
We provide delicious local cuisine meals throughout the ride.
(Camping nights as designated)
per individual itinerary will use the following gear:
Tent: “the Quechua 2 second tent” for 2 persons (2.10 x 1.40 m). approx. one year old.
Sleeping bag: “Quechua” (-5°C) in good condition. approx. one year old.
Sleeping mat: “Quechua” air mattress (5 cm x 200 cm x 80 cm). approx. one year old.
This trip includes
some wine with dinner
and can accommodate special dietary requests.
A. Castle to Hut (3 to 8 riders)
- 7 nights - no camping, 5 riding days, 4 hrs a day
B. Saxon Land (4 to 8 riders)
- 7 nights - no camping, 5 riding days, 4 hrs a day
C. The Salt Way (3 to 8 riders)
- 8 nights with 2 nights camping, 6 riding days, 5-6 hrs a day
D. Csango Land (3 to 8 riders)
- 8 nights with 1 night camping, 6 riding days, 5-6 hrs a day
Horses and Equipment
The horses are mostly Szekler horses and Lipizzan half breeds. At a very young age they already learn how to proceed securely on broken, slippery and rocky land since they take part on the tours following their mothers. The studs are kept on the pasture, so their nervous system is stable and calm and they are glad to fulfill their daily tasks.
They train their horses at an age of 4-5 years and mostly all of them can be used under saddle or as pack-horse and as coach horses. Their withers are between 1,40 m and 1,70 m, so all weights can find an adequate tour companion.
The saddles are English type tour saddles and modified army saddles. In addition they have their own designed front and rear pack-belts’ saddlebags.
The saddlebags and the belonging baskets and bags were modified according to their experiments to enable the pack-horses to follow the team even at a canter.
Tour Leader, Csaba Gall:
His love towards mountains, horses and riding tour started in his childhood. When he was 4 years old he had the luck to persuade his grandfather to take him to the snow-covered mountains (havasok) on a family event.
The first dawn on the wagon made him fall in love with the mountains. As a consequence he became constant companion of his grandfather and slowly became familiar with the surroundings of the snow-covered mountains and he made friendship wit the horses as well from an early age.
After foreign experiences and studies he started his own enterprise and his commitment towards nature and horses became even bigger. He feels most at home when he can be close to horses and nature; his is guided by the basic rules learnt from his grandfather, to respect horses and nature, since only then can you work in harmony with them.
As his grandfather always said: human kind has to learn continuously and develop to be able to keep pace with the rushing, developing world.
Sample Itinerary: From Castle to Hut
Day 1 – Bucharest (or Cluj) to Gheorgheni and Kovacs Peter
We will meet you at the airport off your flight and transfer you by car to Gheorgheni and the riding centre. Meet and greet, dinner and overnight.
Day 2 – Kovacs Peter to Magas Bukk - Kovacs Peter
Our first day of horseback riding. We will enjoy our first ride to the Olt Source, to the Meggyes Edge and to the Magas Bukk.
Day 3 - Kovacs Peter to Lazarea
We will descend via Kovacs Peter into the Giugeu Basin and ride the north side on to Lazarea to find our night's accommodation. Once we are settled, we will go to visit Lazar Castle, one of the finest examples of the Renaissance Transylvania's architecture and a special dwelling of the aristocracy during the 17th century.
Day 4 – Lazarea to Remetea
Last photo opportunities with the castle, then we ride away from Lazaea and onwards through the Giugeu Basin. Along the way, we will find the water mills of the Valley of Sineu. Eventually we will arrive to Remetea and our cozy lakeside cottage at the base of the Gurghui Mountains.
Day 5 – Remetea to Borzont
Today, on the way to Borzont, we will find vast snow covered pastures where we will have long and adrenaline filled gallops! This will be an exciting, yet tiring ride for both horses and riders. We will be happy to rest when we arrive to the rustic pension accommodations that await us in town.
Day 6 – Borzont to Sugau Cave
Departing Borzont, we ride the Fenek moorlands and the Heveder Valley on our way to the exquisite Sugau Cave. The cave was formed 65 million years ago! It was the result of the folding of the Earth’s surface due to movement below during the Paleocene Period. Overnight in a mountain hut nearby the prehistoric cave.
Day 7 – Sugau Cave to Kovacs Peter
From Sugau we climb the Borzoka Pass with amazing views of Harghita and the Guruhiu Mountains. When we get to 1568 m’s and the Sipos Pass we will see Black Mountain, where from the River Mures flows. Then we ride onto the Olt river and basin, passing farms of Csango people on our way back to the farm at Kovacs Peter.
Day 8 – Kovacs Peter to Bucharest (or Cluj)
Say our goodbyes to horses and friends, then transfer back to the airport of your choice!
(subject to change)
Sample Itinerary: The Salt Way in the Mountains
Day 1 – Bucharest (or Cluj) to Gheorgheni and Kovacs Peter
We will meet you at the Bucharest airport (or Cluj) and transfer you by car to Gheorgheni and the riding centre. Meet and greet, dinner and overnight.
Day 2 – Kovacs Peter to Fekete Rez
After breakfast we will decide our mounts for the trek and learn proper packing and preparation of the string of pack horses. We saddle up and we head away from the farm at Kovacs Peter to the River Olt where we will take a break to rest and water our horses. We then ride a steep ascent up Sóvető the snow covered mountain (havasok) until we reach the mountain of Sipos, where we will break for lunch at its peak (1568m). At the peak we will have good views of North Harghita. Then we descend along the Lok ridge on a wild path that will deliver us to Fekete Rez’s puszta where we will camp tonight nearby the esztena (pastoral quarters).
Day 3 – Fekete Rex to Ordog Lake (Devil Lake)
We depart the puszta and descent further to Marosfo where we will ride through the Maros / Mures River and then onward into the mountains surrounding Harghita. We will first ride the peak of Csik Magasa (1153m) and then rise again to Osztoros (1384m). Our break on the trail today will be in a special spot where the basin of Gyergyó and the mountains of Görgényi will be to our right and the Csiki basin and snowy Csiki mountains to our left. Afterward, we continue on horseback again to Ölyves peak and turn towards the major ridge of Harghita. We will ride a natural wind-cut path as we descend to the camp near Ördög Lake where we will enjoy bubbling Romanian stew after we take a short walk to the swamp lake.
Day 4 – Ordog Lake to Ivo
Leaving camp, we ride through the wild forests of Harghita. Here we often find the tracks of bears and the peeled trees they leave behind. Riding up to Fertő peak (1589m) we will revel in the beautiful views of the imposing rocks of Nagy Hagymás. Then we descend again through the vast pasture of Fertő and into the valley and stream of Ivo. We stay tonight nearby the Panzio of Tündérkert in Irigyvesz.
Day 5 – Ivo to Varsag
We bid goodbye to our kind hosts in Ivo and head for the plateau of Harghita where we can enjoy some exciting gallops! At the edge of the plateau, we will see a glimpse of the Zetelaki reservoir. Crossing the Sikaszó stream, we will find ourselves in the southern part of the Görgényi Snowy Mountains and ancient pine forest as we enter the farming world of Székelyvárság (Varsag).
Day 7 – Varsag to Putna
We start the day with a 1 km hike to the Grave of Uz Bence. Then we saddle up again and explore the entirety of the Szekelyvarsag village and pastureland by horseback. When we have made a full tour of the area we will find the salt mine paths that will lead us to Putna and the little house on the meadow where we shall stay tonight.
Day 8 – Putna to Kovacs Peter
Today we will navigate a labyrinth of streams as we head toward the Gyergyo basin. We will have a chance again to enjoy some short and fast gallops when the terrain permits along the way to the Maros/Mures River. This was the final destination of the salt from the mines, before loading on river vessels. The horses will drink from the river while we all cool off on a quick break before picking up the pace again for another great gallop through the river basin and back toward the mountains. We climb, homeward bound, for Peter Kovacs and the home base farm.
Day 9 – Kovacs Peter to Bucharest (or Cluj)
We say our goodbyes to the horses, new friends and the beautiful Szekely region. Transfer back to Bucharest or Cluj.
(subject to change)
Sample Itinerary: St. Anna Lake Tour
1st day: Gheorgheni to Kovacs Peter
Arrival to Gheorgheni in the afternoon, from here on wagonway we go out with an all terrain-vehicle to the horse ranch (15 km). Dinner, conversation about the tour and explanation of the regulations.
2nd day: Kovacs Peter to Fekete Rez
Breakfast, horse’s and saddlebags distribution, proper packing, pack-horse’s packing, paddock installation.
After leaving our csángo ranch of Kovács Péter we arrive to the Olt source where we will water our horses. From here with a long steep rise through the Sóvető snow-covered Mountain (Havasok) we arrive to Sipos Mountain. The biggest part of the journey will be done in the forest. We will take the midday break on the Peak of Sipos Mountain (1568m) where we will have sight towards the North Hargita. We will descend to the Lok ridge and on a long wild path we will arrive to the Fekete Rez’s puszta where we will set up night camp nearby an esztena (pastoral quarters).
3rd day: Fekete Rez to Ördög Lake (Devil Lake)
After leaving the huge puszta we descend to Marosfő, here we will ride through the Maros and we will find ourselves in the mountain’s of Hargita. Our first peak is the Csik Magasa (1153m), from here we continue our journey towards the Osztoros (1384m) with a slight rise. We will take the daily break in a special place where on our right we can see the basin of Gyergyó and the Görgényi snow-covered mountains (Havasok), on our left the Csiki basin and in the background the Csiki snow-covered mountains (Havasok). By Ölyves peak we will turn towards the main ridge of the Hargita from where through a wind-cut path we descend to our camp near the Ördög lake. Until the dinner is bubbling in the stewing pot we can have a short walk in the swamp of the Ördög Lake.
4th day: Ördög Lake (Devil Lake) to Madarasi Hargita
This is our hardest and longest session of our journey since we will ride on the Hargita’s mountains highest peaks: the Fertő tető (1589m) and the Madarasi Hargita (1801).
We will take our midday break on the Fertő’s wide pasture where we have beautiful sight towards the Hagymás Mountains imposant blocks, and in the distance we can see the cone’s of the Dancurás and the Likas. Descending to the Fertő ridge we go along a carbonated-water source where we can fill up our canteens. From here we jump into the vast pine forest of Hargita where we can often see bear’s footprints and young pines with bear scratches.
Our midnight camp will be settled near a mountain brooklet on the ridge between the Madarasi and the Rákosi Hargita.
5th day: Madarasi Hargita to Talabor
Through the Rákosi Hargita (1756m) we arrive to Hargita bath (fürdő), we take our midday break nearby a small pub. We descend to Tolvajos peak, we cross the main road and immediately after we gallop on Talabor puszta towards our night camp.
6th day: Talabor to Mitács
Leaving the Lucs’ muskeg we trot towards the szent Imrei Büdös fürdő (saint Emeric stinky bath) from where comes again a vast pine forest, afterwards the caldera of the Kakukk mountain (1557m), from here the landscape is changing and the pines turn in beeches.
Our night camp is on the Mitács puszta nearby an esztena (pastoral quarters).
7th day: Mitács to Bixad
We continue our journey in beech forests until the Nagy Piliske (1374m). After leaving the peak we arrive to a beautiful belvedere where in the distance we can see the Csukás Mountain (1954m), Nagykőhavas, Keresztényhavas (1800m), Bucsecs (2505m), Királykő and the Fogarasi snow-covered mountains (havasok) (2500m). From here we leave the main ridge, we cross the river Olt which here is already bellied out to a river. We go through the Bixad basin and we arrive to the guesthouse.
8th day: Bixad to St. Anna lake/Bixad
Today we will take a short break and we will visit St. Ana Lake. The lake is formed in the crater of a former volcano called Ciomatu, which erupted last time thousands years ago. It was the last active volcano from Eastern Europe. Because it is catered almost exclusive with precipitations, the mineralization level is extremely low, the water’s purity being close to the distilled water. Because St. Ana Lake has a very reduced quantity of oxygen, it isn’t prohibited. Nowadays, the entire area is declared a natural reservation. In the twin crater, there is a swamp called Mohoș - of a divine beauty.
9th day: Bixad to Pap Mountain
After formation of the marching column, we climb to Bolondos peak (1082 m), here we can already feel the nearness of the Büdös (smelly) Mountain; the air is full of sulphur which smells like bad egg. Riding next to it we touch the Buffogó swamp. Arriving to Géczi hilltop we can have beautiful view to the basin of Háromszék and in the distance the mountains: Nemere Mountain, Háromszék snow-covered mountains (Havasok), Csukás Mountains. Struggling through the steep, nook and cranny paths of the Köztető (1087 m) we arrive to the sub-ridge of the Csiki snow-covered mountains (Havasok) and passing by the Cecele peak (1173 m) starts the Lenkert tableland where we will spice the journey with frequent gallop sequences. Beside the Nyerges peak’s monument we take a short break and a remembrance, and afterwards we will go again on flowery pastures to our camp of Pap Mountain (1165 m). We stay tonight in tent.
10th day: Pap Mountain to Örálla
Starting from our camp the meadows and the pastures are varying each other, from the left the Csiki basin and behind the Hargita, on the right the Kászoni basin and overhead the Nemere. At Botsarka we join the main ridge and from here the dominating landscape is the pine forest. We stay tonight in tent.
11th day: Örálla to Kőnyak (Stone neck).
Leaving behind us the Tomotok brook-world we ride towards the side of the Szellő having a look to the beautiful view of the Szépviz reservoir. From here starts the world of the Gyimes alias the csángó-land. We edge along structured pastures and meadows, pasturing animals and hard-working csango people. And thorough the Pogányhavas (Pogány snow-covered Mountain) we arrive to Kőnyak (Stone neck) to our nigh camp.
12th day: Kőnyak (Stone neck) to Terkő
We lead our horses from Utasalj peak down to Tunel hilltop where we will see the csángó pastoral quarters (kaliba). This type of pastoral activity will follow us from Naskalat to Terkő.From the bald Naskalat we can have a beautifull view to the Gyimes main valley, to Hidegség stream, to Gyimes Bükk, and behind to Tarhavas and Hegyeshavas. We stay tonight in tent.
13th day: Terkő to Kovács Péter
Today we arrive to the rocks of Hagymás Mountain, which we had already admired from far during our journey. At arrival to Öcsém peak (1707 m) is opening to us the north horizon and we can delight in the Nagy Hagymás (1792 m) in the Fekete Hagymás (1777 m) and in the Csalhó’s imposing rock blocks. We lead down our horses on a steep rock block to the Egyes kő (1584 m), here we will take a short break by an icy source. We go further and with a powerful gallop we conquer Fehérmező’s tableland which is laced of tarns. Our horses’ impatience indicates the closeness of home. This is rightful since shortly we arrive to the peak of Kovács Péter to our horse ranch.
14th day: Kovács Péter to Gheorgheni
After breakfast we say our goodbyes to the horses, new friends and the beautiful Szekely region and homeward journey.
(subject to change)
Rates and Dates for Szekler & Saxon Land
Accommodations, all meals, riding days according to itinerary, all camping equipment for tenting days
A Castle to Hut - 5 riding days, no camping
B Saxon Land - 5 riding days, no camping
C The Salt Route - 6 riding days, 2 nights camping
D Csango Land - 6 riding days, 1 night camping
Transfer and Other Options:
Transfer is included from Gheorghieni train station
Transfer from Bucharest at 10 AM - drop off 1 PM: each way per group (1-4)
This is a "Group Rate" - to be paid locally
Transfer from Cluj-Napoca at 2 PM - drop off 9 AM: each way per group (1-4)
This is a "Group Rate" - to be paid locally
Rates do not include:
Alcoholic beverages (other than with meals), Gratuities
Airport: Cluj-Napoca, Bucharest
Transfer: Cluj-Napoca or Bucharest
Romania has a temperate climate with four distinct
seasons. Spring and autumn are cool and pleasant, making May and June,
and September and October the best months to visit. Summers are hot from
July to August and winters are harsh and very cold between December and
March, with snow falling throughout most of the country. Spring and
summer are the wettest seasons, but rain can be expected throughout the
What To Bring:
A continental climate ensures that Bucharest experiences hot, dry
summers and cold winters when temperatures often drop well below
freezing. The city lies on the Romanian Plain, and this brings chilly
winter winds. Summer temperatures are usually pleasantly warm with
occasional heat waves, and humidity is low, but there can be occasional
rainstorms. The rainiest seasons in Bucharest are spring and autumn.
recommend you bring your own helmet if possible for this ride.
All camping gear for your one or two
camping overnight is provided, including plates, knives, forks, spoons
and cups and glasses, sleeping bags and mats.
|This list is only a guideline for you
|Travel documents and Voucher
|Personal Travel Insurance
|Visa (check with your consulate)
|High riding boots
|Hat (with chin strap) for sun protection
|Jacket or sweater for cool evenings
|Underwear and socks
|Bag for dirty clothes
|Trekking boots/ comfortable shoes
|ADDITIONAL THINGS TO BRING
|Sore cream (for an emergency)
|Adapter for electric appliances
|Camera and extra batteries
|Address book and pen (for postcards!)
|Sun glasses with strap
|Sun tan lotion and lip balm
Hair dryer - none available at accommodations!