Turtle, Ecuador

Your words, not ours

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Your Words - We tell it like it is! Holiday Reviews by previous Exodus travellers  

Here at Exodus we thrive on feedback from our customers. It's the only way we can ensure our trips continue to be the best they can be. So, for the real tales, twists and turns of the trip you're interested in, look no further than the reviews from our previous travellers.

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  • Reviewed August 2018
    Emma Cowen

    Picturesque places, lush landscape and beautiful bears.

    A great way to spend the week, walking in the countryside, seeing many sites with fantastic architecture and cute bears doing their thing in the wild.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Watching the bears in the wild from our bear hide and seeing how they play, eat and look out for each other. Also the visit to sanctuary was interesting, but sad to hear how those bears had been treat in their earlier years before being rescued from their previous owners. I also enjoyed the long walk along the canyon and the visit to Dracula's castle.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Thomas was very knowledgeable, helpful and friendly and always had an answer for every question asked. He also made sure every one's needs were catered for. He also knows the area very well. His assistant Sebi was also helpful and friendly and knows the area well too.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure you have a good pair of walking boots, plenty of water and waterproof gear.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The hosts at the lodge were very friendly and approachable, making everyone's stay comfortable and making everyone feel at home. They also catered for vegetarians and always accommodated every one's requirements, no matter how big or small.
  • Reviewed July 2018
    Sylvia Ryan

    Transylvanian experience and hospitality at its finest

    I booked this trip primarily to see the bears and enjoy some leisurely walks through the meadows and forests. It exceeded my expectations, mainly due to our guide Thomas, the lovely hosts Herman and Katerina at Villa Hermani and the variety of local experiences from the ride in a horse cart, tea at a hilltop monastery, dinner at a restaurant specialising in game meats, harvesting mushrooms after the rain, and schnapps and cake at a fortified church with an intriguing priest! Transylvania is a beautiful part of the world, still in a time when we were closer to nature where animals are respected and in proximity, shepherds tend the flocks, and the landscape provides a bounty of wildflowers, fruit, hay and mushrooms.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The visit to the Libearty sanctuary, learning of the history and great work they do to return these wild creatures to a semblance of a wild existence they deserve. The story of Maya was very sobering and I'm glad to see I wasn't the only one to shed a tear. Seeing these bears' behaviour compared to the real wild bears from the hide was quite a contrast. I was also pleased to see they had some wolves at the sanctuary - dogs did bark for a short while in the late evening around Magura but the second night I heard distant howling and I want to believe that was some of the wild wolves! Also the bear hide is a must, we spent a good couple of hours viewing well over a dozen bears plus four cubs.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Thomas was a gentleman guide. Literally. Modest, engaging, and genuine. Wealth of knowledge about the history and culture of Transylvania, interested in the experiences and thoughts of the folks in the tour group and always willing to assist. An excellent leader in which you are in no better hands.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Because of the mountainous nature of the region it is hard to gauge the weather more than a couple of hours out and rain can start and stop fairly quickly on a cloudy day. I note from a previous review that they thought the horse cart ride should have been cancelled because it was a rainy day, but in our case it was raining up to when we got to the carts and then it stopped raining. When we finished the ride, the rain started again! The cart ride was a highlight for me and I would have enjoyed it even if it continued raining. I would also say bring more than two pairs of shoes as it does take a couple of days to dry a pair after a rainy day. And yes bring cash to cover the extras (bear hide was 210 lei and wifi access about 25 lei).

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Roll with it and find enjoyment in things that are small or simple. Don't worry too much about getting wet, possible familiarity or monotony or the basic nature of some amenities. One review stated Bucegi mountain was like Dartmore; I've never been there but I reckon it's not 2500m altitude with a gorgeous view of a Transylvanian valley. The simplest things were often the best moments: a yellow spotted salamander in the rain; barley for breakfast; a deer darting in the distance; a vivid pink wildflower; the sharpening of a scythe; a fluffy puppy; a large parasol mushroom ripe for harvest; a herd of donkeys approach while bird watching; drinks at the local "bar" on the side of a meadow hill with Benno the dog watching over us. Brilliant.
  • Reviewed July 2018
    (Edna) Pat Arlette

    What does this mean?

    This was a very well thought out holiday with an excellent mixture of walks and visits designed to give us an insight into the local way of life that fell exactly into the leisurely/moderate grading.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Can't think of anything in particular

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Excellent - very easy going manner with a wealth of historical knowledge
  • Reviewed June 2018
    Rosalind Jarvis

    Amazing bears

    Overall a good holiday. The best things for me were seeing the bears in the wild and the local walks around Magura. The high alpine scenery, the flower filled meadows, the limestone gorges, were beautiful. The guest house is pleasant and food good. Breakfasts are help yourself, semi-continental with a egg option, using this good selection to make packed lunch. Generally I thought the evening meal food was very good, the staff seem to work tirelessly preparing them and must be commended. Though on one or two days, whilst portions were perfect for my small/normal appetite, I think a large man may have been left a bit hungry. Honesty bar for beers and wine works well. Negatives - we had mixed weather and the leaders Thomas and Katrina rejigged the week's schedule. The rain entirely spoilt the horse and cart ride/walk to the monastery day. Out of exodus's control yes, but not quite sure why the leaders insisted upon us starting this activity if they knew how rainy it was in the valley below the guesthouse. Perhaps a bit more leeway to add in a visit to an indoor place or town would be sensible here? Secondly, Exodus should reconsider the addition of the cable car and high alpine walk. This involved a near two hour transfer there and back (4 hours in total driving), and a less inspiring walk at the top (think Dartmooresque scenery) than those around Magura itself. The restaurant on this day was good but game orientated. I would entirely leave this option out and add in another walk around Magura.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing the bears in the wild was brilliant. I would have been happy to see one or two, but we saw 10-15 in a three hour period including mother and cubs. Secondly visiting the fortified church, having local schapps and cake with a very different type of priest. The beautiful scenery around Magura for walking. Observing some of ongoing traditional farming practices.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Thomas, and Katrina (who owns the guest house), were very knowledgeable leaders about the local history and environment. Katrina would accompany us on some of the excursions e.g. bird watching (where we saw a pelican!)

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This is certainly not a walking holiday for anyone who does a reasonable level of walking - I found this frustrating. However, if you are not a walker, the nature of some of the shorter (10km walks) makes them a little more challenging than normal. There is also a considerable amount of time spent on mini-buses transferring between activities due to the location of Magura in the mountains, which I didn't appreciate on booking. Magura is a peaceful location, there is no other source of evening amusement apart from the guesthouse and a local "bar" (read cabin on stilts).
  • Reviewed May 2018
    Richard Albutt

    Carpathian Mountains a revelation

    This was a thoroughly enjoyable trip. I was not expecting the Carpathian mountains to be so beautiful or there to be such an abundance of wild flowers. The accommodation was very good quality and the hosts Katarina and Herman, very welcoming and helpful. It was particularly good that several of the walks started directly from the Villa Hermanii and we enjoyed being accompanied by the resident dogs. The visit to Castle Bran and Brasov were also very good and well organised as was the evening spent at the bear hide where we were fortunate to see several bears.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Probably the longest days walk through the forest and a lovely gorge where we saw wild chamoix.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Thomas was a great leader, very knowledgeable about the complex Romanian history ( especially military strategy) and the local flora and fauna. His English is excellent and he was very helpful as well as entertaining,

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    You might want to take a travel kettle if you want a coffee in the evening as it was only available at breakfast. Flasks of hot water are left out for you to make tea etc which was great but the water was not really hot enough by 5ish. There is an honesty bar, the beer is really cheap and all the Romanian wines were worth trying.
  • Reviewed May 2018
    dom Maxted

    Great walking holiday

    Really enjoyed this trip. Many activities, so many that I had to have a day off. Saw bears. Lots.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Bears. Bran Castle. Walking around mountain top in the fog.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    He was great. Gave a really interesting talk about Romania. Could maybe slightly improve navigation skills.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take a compass.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Villa Hermani was lovely. Food excellent.
  • Reviewed November 2017
    Cynthia Konkin

    Carpathian Walking and Bears

    This was a great trip with lots of gentle hiking in incredible scenery. The guesthouse is amazing with great food, beautiful views and a wonderful passionate owner who also accompanied us on some excursions. Magura is a beautiful, remote, rural and peaceful village. It is like going back in time. Go now before things change!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    All the mountain scenery and of course, viewing the brown bears from a cache in the woods.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Thomas was knowledgeable and efficient but sometimes seemed not very enthused or maybe distracted and quiet. Katharina who owns the guesthouse was absolutely passionate and spent a lot of time telling us about the area, the wildlife, the history and life in Magura. She also went to the bear sanctuary with us and took us bird watching.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The elevation gains on the hikes were generally very gradual. We worried about some of them but really didn't need to. It is an extremely peaceful place but, there are dogs that do bark at night sometimes so you might want earplugs if that is going to bother you. Go soon. This is a magical place that is bound to change eventually.
  • Reviewed October 2017
    Guy Dixon

    Carpathian capers

    Great accommodation, good food and excellent group leader. Unique combination of outstanding scenery, history, flora and fauna. Interesting insight into a charming and often overlooked part of Eastern Europe. Definitely worth doing if you're looking for something a bit different.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Walking up on the bucegi, the long local walk on day three, Brasov, everything on the final day, Thomas, and hanging out drinking beer at the lovely guest house.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Outstanding.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I'd skip the optional trip to the bear hide - too far, too bumpy for an evening trip.
  • Reviewed September 2017
    Angela HORTON

    Carpathian Walking & Bears

    A wonderful holiday based in the beautiful, remote, rural village of Magura. The village is accessed via a long, winding unmade road so get used to a bumpy ride. If you get out of the van immediately after you leave the tarmac it will take approximately 45 - 50 minutes to walk up hill to Villa Hermani through the woods - follow the bright pink paint splodges on rocks or trees. Transylvania is like stepping back in time, where local people still travel via horse and cart and cut hay with scythes, although they will be on their mobiles as mobile signals, 3 & 4G and WiFi are readily available. Romania is home to many European brown bears and seeing them from a hide in the forest was one of the highlights of our trip. In addition to the walking there is a visit to Bran Castle which was given to Queen Maria of Romania in 1918, and to the delightful city of Brasov.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were many inspirational moments so I will list them in no particular order: Viewing the bears in their natural environment from the bear hide Watching the bats in the bat cave The 12 mile walk along the gorge and through meadows Visiting Libearty, the bear sanctuary Seeing red squirrels in the woodlands The stunning scenery

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our guide, Traian was very relaxed and friendly and was keen that all our needs were met. He briefed us on the following day's activities after our evening meals. Traian was extremely knowledgeable about his country's geography, history and politics and he was keen to share his knowledge with us. Before dinner one evening he gave an informal lecture which was really interesting due to the content and Traian's delivery. Traian's passion about his county's future is apparent and we felt we came home much more aware of issues that the people of Romania are experiencing. Traian also leads 'Highlights of Romania' and I believe we gained from the information that is given on that trip. Whilst he had a rather casual approach to walking he didn't get us lost and he let us lengthen walks whilst others continued in the vehicle which we appreciated.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't change your money at the airport as the exchange rate is very poor 4.1 Lei to the £ compared to 4.95 to the £ in Brasov. The restaurants in towns accept credit cards and Villa Hermani accepts local currency, sterling, US dollars & Australian dollars but not credit cards. Your bill for the bear hide trip , beer, wine, tea and coffee is settled on the Friday evening before you leave. If you are used to walking regularly the walking is extremely leisurely, however if you are unfit, over weight or don't like hills then you will find the walking more challenging. We were somewhat disappointed with the amount of walking but enjoyed the long walk and every other aspect of the holiday. Villa Hermani provides a hairdryer which is perfectly adequate but not as powerful as at home. Walking poles are available to borrow from Villa Hermani If you are travelling with Tarom Airlines they do provide you with a complimentary hot meal and a glass of wine or beer, tea or coffee on the flight. We were also given a tasty sandwich on the transfer bus as we did not arrive at Villa Hermani until shortly after midnight.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Villa Hermani is a very comfortable place to stay and the family run business is keen for everyone to have a good time. (see my tripadvisor review for additional information) The food is plentiful and varied and even the fussiest eater should not go hungry. I was particularly impressed with the vegetarian food on offer as it was very varied and tasty. The Villa Hermani operates a very successful and great value for money honesty bar. You take what you want from a large fridge then write your name on the sheet provided and put a tick by the items you have had. At the end of the week you are given the total and asked to pay in cash. This also applies to payment for tea and coffee (other than at breakfast when it is included) the WiFi and for the trip to the bear hide.
  • Reviewed August 2017
    Neil Thomas

    Bears Essential

    I had not realised before arriving in Magura just how remote, rural and remarkably beautiful Romania could be. The village where we were based is accessibly only via a long, winding unmade road... so get used to leaving modern life behind. In this part of the world people still travel via horse and cart and cut hay with scythes. It was like stepping back into Tudor times. Fortunately, this also means that Europe's largest group of wild brown bears are still able to thrive and going to see them from a hide in the forest was one of the highlights of our trip. There is also plenty of opportunity for hiking, with walks of varying severity on all but one day of the holiday. The views are spectacular - in some parts resembling Switzerland or Austria, in others California and the Rockies. We also took in trips to Bran Castle - to which the Dracula legend has been eagerly attached - and to the delightful city of Brasov.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing four bears from our hide in the woods.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Thomas was very energetic, very knowledgeable with - for a German - a great sense of humour.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Read the Trip Notes carefully. There is no opportunity to change money for the first few days, so either take some Lei with you or spend some time in Bucharest first - as we did. I would also recommend taking walking poles.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The trip to the bat cave on our first day was a bit naff, although it did give me the chance to make jokes involving Robin. The food on the trip was plentiful and very tasty and our one evening meal away from Villa Hermani - in Predeal - was sensational. If there is one thing I have to suggest to Exodus it would be to dispense with the "meal" on the bus the first evening. This consisted of a fairly indigestible pre-packed sandwich at a time when no-one felt particularly hungry. I would also suggest that the cost of the trip to the bear hide be included in the price of the holiday. Who, after all, is going to refuse the chance to go on this excursion?
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