This tiny Eastern European country may be off the radar of mass tourism, but its well-established wine industry is drawing a steady stream of in-the-know wine connoisseurs.
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Embark on an unforgettable journey all around one of Europe's most enigmatic countries: Moldova. Walk around its charming villages, explore its underground wine cellars and peek into its glorious monasteries.
Discover the rich history of Ukraine and Moldova in the cities of Odessa and Chisinau, delight on premium wines at the world-class cellars of Cricova and Purcari, and wander in the mighty fortresses of Tighina and Soroca.
With 5 days Moldovan arts and crafts tour, you will learn how locals are still doing traditional crafts like embroidery, pottery, carpet, hand painted coins as well as Moldovan dishes. You will also visit the largest underground winery in Cricova, Orhei Vechi natural amphitheatre and Tipova cave monastery.
Delight on the artistry of wine making in Moldova visiting the country's top 7 wine-houses. Visit Milestii Mici, Cricova, Branesti, Chateau Vartely, Et Cetera, and the mythical Purcari, creators of the unique Negru de Purcari.
Travel across Moldova to enjoy their traditional food from each region - Zeama (chicken soup with noodles), Mamaliga (bread from corn flour), Friptura (stew), Placinte (potato pies), dumplings with sour cream, roasted rabbit with potatoes or pork kebab with roasted zucchini.
Discover in depth the two most precious treasures of Moldova: monasteries and wine estates. Sample the best wines at the underground cellars of four wineries and visit countless charming towns around Chisinau.
Unveil the rich history of Gaugazia, a Turkish origin province in the southwest. Wander at its great museums, cathedrals, and quaint countryside before closing your trip with a wine tasting session.
Unearth the rich history and traditions of Jewish towns of rural Moldova, reflect on its tragic history of visiting solemn cemeteries and memorials, and explore Odessa one of the most prominent Jewish cities in history.
Explore the amazing history of the Bucovina Region in Ukraine, Moldova and Romania. Stand in awe at its marvelous monasteries and frescoes, wander at ancient fortresses and delight on the wine culture of the cities and towns of this region.
Explore Moldova wineries along with wine tasting sections of 20-30 years old wines along with selected national dishes. Visit Milestii Mici winery, Cricova underground winery galleries, Dubasari factory and Purcari winery.
Discover the heart of Moldova in just five days. Admire the architecture of Chisinau, visit its legendary underground wine cellars, and stand in awe at the fortresses and military history of Transnistria.
This tiny Eastern European country may be off the radar of mass tourism, but its well-established wine industry is drawing a steady stream of in-the-know wine connoisseurs.
Located on a rocky outcrop, overlooking the Raut River, the Orheiul Vechi Cave Monastery was built by Orthodox monks in the 13th century and is today one of Moldova’s most important historical and cultural sites. The open-air complex includes not only ruins, fortifications and a museum, but also natural promontories of spectacular beauty which provided aesthetic harmony for the monks’ religious practices.
Situated to the northwest of Chisinau, within a picturesque forest on the banks of the Isnavat River, the Capriana Monastery dates to the early 15th century and serves as an important symbol of Moldovan nationalistic pride. Explore its three churches, each built in distinct architectural styles, as well as its abbot’s house, refectory and monk’s cells, then visit the largest religious library in the country.
Considered one Moldova’s most historically-rich hermitages, the Saharna Monastery complex lies on the edge of the Nistru River to the north of Chisinau. Explore its historical hermitage, containing the Feast of the Assumption Church whose altar is completely carved into the rock face, then hike one of its many walking trails to visit the 10-metre high waterfall and “Gipsy hole” pool.
Located within the beautiful Orhei forest on the banks of the Vatic River, the Curchi Monastery dates to the late 18th century, and contains the magnificent baroque-style cathedral, Naşterea Domnului, whose dome is the highest in Moldova. It evolved into one of the largest and wealthiest monasteries in Moldova, before being converted into a psychiatric hospital during the Soviet era.
Carved in stone on the banks of the Nistru River, the Tipova Monastery is the largest Orthodox cave monastery in Eastern Europe, set within a magnificent nature reserve, and believed to be the burial place of the Greek mythological poet, Orpheus. It includes three different monastic complexes, which date as far back as the 11th century, including the beautifully-renovated Holy Virgin Assumption temple.
Recognised by the Guinness Book of Records for having the largest wine collection in the entire world, the Milestii Mici wine cellars cover around 200 kilometres and is best visited by car. Take a guided wine tour of its underground limestone galleries, which maintain a constant temperature for its more than 2 million bottles, then enjoy a wine tasting session of its long-cellared reds.
The second largest wine cellar in Moldova (and one of its most visited), the Cricova Winery is located 35-80 metres below the surface, just to the north of Chisinau. The underground warehouses, wine cellars and tasting rooms of this enormous “wine city” stretch around 70 kilometres and are best explored on cycling tours, with each street named for the wine variety stored there.
Built at the end of the 19th century, the Purcari wine cellars are amongst the oldest in Moldova, built beneath a manor house in the south of the country. Purcari reportedly produced the preferred wine of Queen Elizabeth II, and in addition to taking guided tours of their historical cellars, visitors are invited to participate in the annual grape harvest, complete with a traditional Moldovan feast and wine tastings.
The underground wine cellars of Branesti Winery are magnificently carved into the stony hills near Orheiul Vechi at a depth of around 60 metres. Wander its extensive passages on a guided wine tour, then pair Branesti’s best drops with traditional Moldovan cuisine in tasting rooms beautifully decorated with carved wood and metal fittings.
Continuing the traditions of French viticulture, the Chateau Vartely Winery was founded in 2008 in the town of Orhei, with an impressive location overlooking its sprawling vineyard. Enjoy wine tastings in its elegant cellar door, explore the traditional art of winemaking its courtyard museum, participate in the annual grape harvest, or enjoy fine French cuisine in the Chateau Vartely restaurant.
The Moldovan capital, Chisinau, is the country’s cultural and economic heart, with a pulsing nightlife, fine restaurants and fascinating museums which include the National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History. Wander Central Park, with its ornate Nativity Cathedral, explore the village museum of Botanica Park, and soak up the soviet-era history of its architecture and monuments.
Moldova’s designated “Roma capital”, Soroca is renowned for its spectacular medieval fortress which dates to the late 15th century and once marked the northeastern tip of Moldavia. Take a step back in time as you wander its limestone walls, explore the archaeological finds in its Museum of History and Ethnography, and witness its ornate and elaborate Roma houses.
Tiraspol is the “capital” of Moldova’s breakaway Transdniestr region, and a city that seems little changed since the fall of the Soviet Union. Wander its quiet streets, lined with communist-era architecture and monuments, soak up its distinct Soviet atmosphere, and visit the Kvint Cognac Factory where tours and tastings allow you to sample Moldova’s finest cognac.
Sprawling along the Lalpug River in the south of Moldova, Comrat is the cultural centre of the Gagauz ethnic minority, and the largest town in the Autonomous Republic of Gagauzia. Explore the region’s cultural history at the National Gagauz History and Ethnographic Museum, then head into the surrounding wine-growing region to discover some of Moldova’s little-visited wineries.
Situated on the banks of the Prut River, Ungheni is linked to a village of the same name in neighbouring Romania by the famed Eiffel Bridge, built by the engineer who designed Paris’ Eiffel Tower. It’s been dubbed the “City of Sculptures” and home to the impressive Saint Alexander Nevski Church and Europe’s longest chestnut tree alley.
Immerse yourself in the history and culture behind Moldova’s homestyle dishes on a gastronomy tour, combining culinary masterclasses with wine tasting at some of its premier estates.
Go trekking through the unique and mystical landscapes of the Hundred Knolls, situated between the Prut and Nistru Rivers, whose hundreds of small hills display ancient seabed formations, resulting from its underwater creation.
Get back-to-nature in the Moldovan countryside and experience authentic local cuisine, culture and hospitality during a rural village homestay experience.
Go hiking through the spectacular deep gorges of Rudi Arionesti Reserve to the north of Soroca to explore its impressive natural formations and old growth forest, pre-historic cave remains, and the 18th century Rudi Monastery.
Get a hands-on insight into Moldovan handicraft production at the Casa Parinteasca Craft Centre in Palanca, where visitors can create their own traditional carpet to take home as a souvenir.
Take a guided early morning birdwatching walk through the Royal Forest of Padurea Domneasca, renowned for its beautiful oak trees and the large number of herons who nest along the Prut River.
Uncover the impact of World War II on Moldova’s Jewish community during a Jewish heritage tour, visiting former Soviet ghost towns, Jewish cemeteries monuments, museums and synagogues.
Go kayaking through the spectacular Moldovan countryside along the slow-flowing Nistru River, stopping to taste local wine and authentic Moldovan cuisine, while exploring natural sandy beaches and uninhabited islands.
Delve into Moldova’s fascinating underground world on an adventurous caving tour at the Emil Racovita Cave in the far northwest of the country or the “Cave of Surprises” near Chisinau, both exhibiting impressive stalagmites, stalactites and rock formations.
Visit the half-buried Assumption of the Virgin Mary Church in Causeni, steeped in Tartar legend and home to Moldova’s oldest interior wall frescoes, painted in the 18th century.
Summer (June to August). Moldova’s summer months are marked by long days and warm to hot temperatures, perfect for exploring the country’s nature reserves, engaging in outdoor pursuits and participating in the many cultural festivals being celebrated at this time. High humidity ushers in occasional thunderstorms and short downpours, which are mostly common at the start of June. Summer also coincides with the peak tourist season in Moldova, when both domestic and international European visitors are on their long annual break and many of the country’s most popular sites can become crowded.
Autumn (September to November). Temperatures begin to drop during Autumn, with the changing of leaves making Moldova’s landscapes particularly enchanting and the wine harvest season in full swing. Intense rain and thunderstorms are not uncommon during these months, however, with the north of the country generally experiences the wettest conditions, while the central and southern regions are known to be drier.
Winter (December to February). Winters in Moldova can be incredibly cold, with temperatures often dropping below freezing in the north of the country. Occasional snow, as well as windy, arctic bursts, make this a less than favourable time for sightseeing, but you will have most of the country’s tourist attractions largely to yourself.
Spring (March to May). A rise in spring temperatures heralds in the winter thaw, transforming the Moldovan landscape with gushing waterfalls and blooming wildflowers. This is an excellent time for hiking or cycling throughout the countryside, as well as an ideal time for birdwatching in its nature reserves, although it can be unpredictable with snowfall as late as April.
Held in Chisinau’s main city square over two days in October, the Wine Festival marks an old Moldavian tradition of celebrating the end of the new wine’s fermentation. Wineries from across the country display their premier products, with plenty of tastings, traditional food and fireworks.
Held over two days in late August at the open-air surrounds of Orhei Vechi, the Gustar Festival originated as a celebration of the late summer harvest, and today features not only traditional foods and wines, but also ethnic music and arts from across Moldova.
With a large Eastern Orthodox population, Easter is the most importance religious holiday in Moldova, marked by street processions of religious icons and images, as well as candlelit masses throughout Holy Week. In the rural villages, housewives bake traditional Easter cookies and cakes in preparation for large family feasts, while eggs are elaborately decorated in the colours of red and white.
Celebrating the beginning of spring through folk music and national dances, the Martisor Festival takes place during the first week of March in Chisinau. Traditionally it was a time for men to offer women flowers and “martisors” - a small trinket of red and white that was worn on the lapel to symbolise life and purity.
Held every July on the banks of the Nistru River in Holercani, La Mania Festival helps to revive Moldova’s cultural and folk music traditions. Festival-goers wear colourful national costumes, whilst local handicraft demonstrations and homemade cooking competitions celebrate Moldovan nationalistic pride.
Drawing on influences from Ottoman, Greek, Ukrainian and Russian cuisine, the dishes of Moldova reflect the country’s tumultuous history under different cultures and ruling empires. Its favourable weather and fertile black soils result in a myriad of vegetables, which are roasted, stewed and stuffed, as well as an abundance of grapes, used to make the country’s renowned wines and an accompaniment to almost every meal. Beef, pork and mutton are transformed into hearty stews and casseroles, often cooked in wine to soften the meat, while chicken is used most famously in Moldova’s traditional soup, known as zeama. Moldovan dishes are often garnished with rich sour cream and homemade brinza cheese, which has been produced in the country since the 17th century.
Mamaliga is a starchy porridge, similar to polenta, that is made from yellow maize flour, salt and water. It was traditionally served alongside stews and other main dishes by the peasant class, but has become widespread throughout the country and is often garnished with brinza cheese or sour cream.
Zeama is a delicious chicken soup, commonly served for lunch throughout Moldova. It uses a chicken broth base and whole chicken (reared at the house), along with homemade thin noodles, finely-chopped vegetables, parsley and a dollop of sour cream.
A fried bread, stuffed with everything from homemade brinza cheese to sour cherries, Placinta is one of Moldova’s favourite comfort foods and available at most corner stores. The bread varies in texture from phyllo-like pastry crusts to heavy doughs, while the fillings often reflect seasonally available produce.
Featuring grape or cabbage leaves, stuffed with seasoned rice, mixed vegetables and sometimes minced meat, Sarmale’s are slow baked in oil and normally served with a sour cream dipping sauce. They are similar to Turkish dolmas and other stuffed-leaf dishes found throughout the former Ottoman Empire.
One of Moldova’s most popular traditional recipes is the pork-based dish known as friptura. Pork ribs are cooked in beer with onions, bay leaves and garlic, and served alongside a large helping of mamaliga.
In Chisinau you can find everything from designer boutique stores to western outlets, but the open-air market at the Chisinau Art Square offers the best souvenir shopping experience. Here you can find authentic local handicrafts, including woven and embroidered goods, wood carvings and traditional musical instruments, or visit the bustling Central Market where fresh produce, local cheeses, wines and brandies are sold.
The Casa Parinteasca Craft Centre in Palanca is another great place to pick up souvenir Moldovan handicrafts and see them being produced, or there are small artisan workshops specialising in individual crafts scattered across the country.
Whether you are touring Moldova’s famed underground wine cellars or visiting the Kvint cognac factory in Tiraspol, there is no shortage of opportunity to purchase high quality, locally produced alcoholic beverages. If you don’t have the time to visit the source, city shops also stock a good range for souvenir purchases.
Ceramic pottery making is a long-established tradition in Moldova and artisan workshops where you can purchase and participate in pottery making are slowly seeing a resurgence. The annual pottery fair in the village of Hoginesti in July sees the country’s premier potters promoting their art, and this is the one of the best opportunities to purchase unique pieces.
From furniture to musical instruments and decorative interior pieces, wood carving has been an important trade for Moldovan men throughout the centuries, using a variety of different woods. Today the Casa Parinteasca in Calarasi is a good place to see and purchase traditional pieces of wood carving, while artisan workshops in Straseni and Rezina are also renowned for their high quality.