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The northern county of Maramures (pronounced mah-rah-moo-resh), situated on the Ukraine border, is widely regarded as a kind of living museum; lifestyles and culture have changed little in well over a century. Village life is surreal, defined by working horses, carts laden with hay, elaborately carved wooden gates, and people in traditional costumes. Aside from an otherworldly way of life, the most celebrated of the attractions here are the famous Maramures wooden churches, a number of which are inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List. And as if wood-hewn churches in time-forgotten villages were not enough, Maramures is also blessed with an idyllic setting, its backcountry roads providing surrender-to-the-moment journeys through valleys torn through majestic mountainscapes, the most famous perhaps being the Rodna Mountains, good for hiking and adventures far away from humanity.

Described here is a plan for exploration of the loveliest parts of Maramures, discovering its traditional villages, a selection of churches, and two of the most idiosyncratic attractions in Romania, the Merry Cemetery of Sapânta and the Prison Museum in Sighet. Enchanting as the region is, its bucolic rhythms won't be around forever, so prioritize a visit here soon.