Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to 24 hours of a perfect things to do in Moldova itinerary. This article is a first for me, Internet Stranger! I’ve never recommended that someone spend 24 hours in an entire country before. But there’s a good reason I’ve called this piece “A Perfect 24 Hours: Things to Do in Moldova Itinerary”. The countryside is the most beautiful part of this underrated Eastern European nation.
So though I recommend that you use the capital, Chisinau, as a base for this A Perfect 24 Hours: Things to Do in Moldova Itinerary, you’re going to spend more time outside the nation’s capital than inside.
Believe me, this is a good thing, as the museums in Chisinau sometimes close abruptly and without warning. You’ll have much more fun exploring Moldovan nature and drinking Moldovan wine with me. Let’s go!
Things to Do in Moldova Itinerary
What to Pack?
Moldova is hot in the summer so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
You’ll also need comfy sandals for all the walking we’re going to do around Moldova. I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
Finally, if you’re not from Moldova, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. European electrical outlets don’t work with American plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
Things to Do in Moldova Itinerary
Morning: Old Orhei
Moldova is sometimes called the “least visited country in Europe”. So it takes a real connoisseur to spend 24 hours on a Things to Do in Moldova Itinerary. But one thing Moldova is famous for is its beautiful Orthodox churches and monasteries. And one of the prettiest monasteries can be found in Orheiul Vechi (Old Orhei), just an hour’s drive outside Chisinau. Our group engaged a private driver to take us there. You can inquire at the tourist center in Chisinau for more information. And once you’re there, you can find…
approximately top 5: old orhei
1) bring lunch from central market
One of the big things to do in Chisinau (say it like kish-ee-now) is shopping at an open-air market. The most famous is Central Market, which sells all kinds of local food. And since it will be hard to pick up lunch at the monastery, I say we stop at the market before heading out in the morning and get our lunch. The prices will be crazy cheap if you are from a country like the United States or the UK. The average salary in Moldova is about 250 Euros a month.
My favorite purchase at the market was this delicious heirloom tomato. It cost one dollar, but it would have cost me four dollars at least at the Whole Foods near my house. (I had to eat it like an apple, which was odd but worth it.) Many of the sellers at the market, like the Tomato Lady, won’t speak English. But they will want to take your money, so feel free to communicate with gestures.
If you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to resist buying a local drink, even if you have absolutely no idea what’s in it. This tasted kind of like Sprite, but I still have no clue what it was. If you know, email me the answer at [email protected]
And now that we have our lunch, it’s time to head on the road! Our 24 hours of the best Things to Do in Moldova Itinerary continues apace!
2) cave monastery
Once you arrive at Orheiul Vechi, make a beeline for the famous cave monastery. Remember this is an Orthodox monastery, so they’ll expect you to dress modestly. If you are a woman, you’ll need to cover your hair. It’s okay if you don’t have your own head scarf because they have some you can borrow.
It’s incredible to realize that a group of 13th century monks actually dug this monastery out of the rocks themselves. An elderly monk still lives there, and he will be praying in silence when you visit. Feel free to leave a donation to support the monastery, but don’t try to provoke the monk into talking to you. He’s an Old Moldovan, not a Buckingham Palace guard.
My favorite thing about the cave monastery is the wishing wall in the back. People put coins in these tiny holes in the rock and make a wish. Supposedly if the coin stays, your wish comes true. I didn’t make a wish because I didn’t want to take the risk of the coin falling and my dreams all being shattered. It’s like my grandmother always said, “Never trust a Moldovan wishing wall.”
3) Biserica Sfânta Maria
The English name for this church is the Church of the Ascension of St. Mary. It’s a Moldovan Orthodox Church built in the early 20th century. Our guide told us that there isn’t really a separate Moldovan Orthodox Church because it’s underneath the Russian Orthodox Church.
Moldova and Russia have had a historically complex relationship. Even though the Moldovan language is basically the same as Romanian and Romanian and Moldovan history is similar in many respects, Moldova has recently been closer to Russia than Romania. In fact, Moldova was part of the USSR from the 1940s to the early 1990s when Moldova declared independence.
Of course during the Soviet period, religion was not permitted, so this church was shut down. I think that’s such a shame. Surely even someone who is not religious can appreciate such a stunning interior! Learn to enjoy life a little more, Soviets! Anyway, the church was reopened in the 90s, after Moldovan independence, so now anyone can visit as long as it’s not during a service.
4) views of moldova
You can’t spend 24 hours with the best Things to Do in Moldova Itinerary without taking in the gorgeous hills and peaceful nature. Our guide said this view of the hills with the stone cross in the background is the most famous view in all Moldova. So basically this cross is Moldova’s answer to the Eiffel Tower or the Empire State Building.
Just be careful when taking photos because there’s a river nearby, and most of the bathers were in the buff. I’m not interested in posting Moldovan porn on this website without the participants’ permission.
One other photobomber you’ll have to worry about are the cows. They are all over the Moldovan countryside and they do not give a what. One other girl in my tour group and I tried decided that these cows were concealing a truly passionate nature, and so we invented a very dramatic soap opera about the cows. Tragically, the cows seemed indifferent to our creativity.
5) Butuceni Village
Orheiul Vechi is located right next to Butuceni Village. In fact, you can stay in one of the hotels in Butuceni if you’d rather spend more time in this area than in Chisinau. But even if you want to return to the capital during your 24 hours in Moldova, don’t miss the chance to walk through here. After all, how often are you going to get to walk through a small Moldovan village? And they are very used to tourists here, so you’ll probably meet some friendly locals who will sell you fruit from their garden.
Our guide said that most people in this village live off of agriculture, especially wine and sunflowers. That sounds so delightful! I wish the whole world could live off wine and sunflowers.
Don’t miss this small monument to locals who were killed during World War II. Remember that Moldova was part of the USSR, so it served on the Allies’ side during World War II. Its neighbor, Romania, was on the German side. So even though there’s always talk about whether or not Moldova will merge with Romania so it can join the EU, remember that there are many important differences between the two countries.
Things to Do in Moldova Itinerary
Afternoon: Milestii Mici Winery
If there’s one thing Moldova is famous for, it’s wine. As you drive around the countryside, you can see many Moldovan families have wine grapes growing in their backyard. Going to Moldova without trying the wine is just sick and wrong! And we’re in luck because we’re going to the most famous winery in Moldova, Milestii Mici. You’ll go through on a guided tour underground with one of their own guides. And at the end, you’ll be rewarded with wine! You’ll also be rewarded with…
three fun facts: milestii mici
1) what’s so special about milestii mici?
What isn’t so special about Milestii Mici? It’s in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest wine collection in the world! I told you than Moldovans take wine seriously. Haven’t you ever wanted to see the largest wine collection in the world? Now you can! Sadly we’ll only be able to drink some of it.
I was even more excited about the fact that the Milestii Mici winery has its own underground waterfall. The water is entirely pure and you can drink from it on the tour. It will be some of the coldest and freshest water you’ll ever touch.
2) who buys Milestii Mici wine?
Moldova sometimes has trouble selling its products internationally because it’s not a member of the European Union. But apparently China is the biggest purchaser of Milestii Mici wine. But not all the wine here belongs to Milestii Mici. You can actually pay to have your wine stored in their caves, and many people do so. But this probably isn’t an option for the casual wine enthusiast. You need at least 50 bottles to store your booze here.
If you’d like to purchase some Milestii Mici wine of your very own, go right ahead! There’s a store ready to serve you. Just keep in mind that the staff will probably not speak English and almost definitely won’t answer your questions. The Milestii Mici winery is owned by the state, so it’s basically the Moldovan wine equivalent of the DMV, especially in terms of service. I bought a bottle of sweet wine for less than five dollars, which I think is a steal.
3) can you drink the wine?
Of course! At the end, the guide will present you with little snacks as well as three carafes of wine: one white, one red, and one dessert. This is also the only time in my life when a guide at a wine tasting has presented me with wine and then said, “OK, get drunk now!” Our guide was quite the character in general, as any time she’d make a joke, she’d turn to the group and say in a deadpan tone, “Is joke. You laugh now.” This seemed like a direct order, so we did.
The wine tasting and food is also accompanied by local musicians. They ask where you are from so they can play a song from your country. Most of my group was Aussies, and they didn’t know a single song from Australia, even “Waltzing Matilda”. However, they did play “Hava Nagila” for the Israelis. They also played a song for the Americans, but not a single person in our group could identify it. So apparently Moldovans know more about American music than I do.
Things to Do in Moldova Itinerary
Late Afternoon: Stefan cel Mare Park
Once you head back to Chisinau, you’re going to want to walk off some of that wine. So I suggest taking a stroll in Stefan cel Mare Park, if the weather is nice. Stefan cel Mare, which means Stephen the Great, is the national hero of Moldova. Our guide told us that he was a great king and saint at the height of the Moldovan kingdom back in the 15th century. (Stefan cel Mare was also voted the greatest Romanian of all time back in 2006, just to show you how closely Moldova and Romania are related.)
There’s even a bust of poet Mihai Eminescu. They also have his statue prominently on display in Bucharest, the capital of Romania.
Historical controversies aside, Stefan cel Mare is the oldest park in Moldova, and it’s one of the prettiest places in the city. If you only see one thing in Chisinau, let it be this park.
Things to Do in Moldova Itinerary
Evening: Dinner at Vatra Neamului
I live in New York City, and it seems like every day a new cuisine is becoming popular. One day it’s Vietnamese and the next day it’s Georgian. But Moldovan cuisine has yet to become a big thing. That’s why you shouldn’t waste the chance to dine on traditional Moldovan food at Vatra Neamului. Best of all, they’ll serve all the Moldovan wine you can shake a stick at.
For my first course, I had a light beet salad. I was very excited about the heirloom tomato I’d had for lunch, so I wanted to get my hands on some more of that sweet Moldovan produce.
Then I decided I’d done my healthy eating for the day, so I feasted on rich pork knuckle with a plethora of carby dumplings. I hadn’t realized pork knuckle was a traditional Moldovan dish. I always thought it was German. But as we’ve established, I pretty much know nothing about Moldovan food. The restaurant could have presented me with spaghetti bolognese, told me it was a traditional Moldovan dish, and I would have believed them.
That’s a Perfect 24 Hours: Things to Do in Moldova Itinerary
What would you do with a best Things to Do in Moldova Itinerary? Is Stefan cel Mare more Moldovan or more Romanian? (Trying to start a really obscure flamewar.) And what should the cow soap opera be called? General Moo-spital? One Life to Moo? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours with a Things to Do in Moldova Itinerary. If you’d like to add 24 hours in Transnistria, a breakaway country inside Moldova, click here.