Hiking along the Nistru river has paved the way for becoming a tourist guide

Maxim Ciumac from Tiraspol and Irina Mironic from Chișinău work as tourist guides. Curiosity, hiking through the country and student life have prepared them for the profession of tourist guide. Both of them organize getaways or excursions for local tourists or those coming from abroad through the historical and scenic spots on both banks of the Nistru river.

UNDP in Moldova
UNDP Moldova
Published in
12 min readApr 12


Irina studied Tourism and Hospitality at “Perspectiva” Institute of International Relations.

Maxim is a graduate of the Higher School of Tourism and Hospitality of the Academy of Economic Studies in Moldova. This was possible thanks to the support of the Tourism Platform, created by the EU “Confidence Promotion Measures” Programme, implemented by UNDP Moldova.

What is it like to be a tourist guide and bring out the picturesque spots on the two banks of the Nistru river, the routes to consider for a weekend getaway, how to improve the tourism sector in our country and what impact have the crises affecting Moldova in recent years, you may learn more in the interview below.

What are the places you visit most often and why?

Irina: Most often, I visit the well-known “Orheiul Vechi” (Old Orhei) museum complex, as it represents almost all stages of development of our territory, it looks very picturesque, it is not far from the capital and it blends very nicely with other tourist attractions. It is there that our guests can feel the full flavour of Moldova, try home-made local dishes and enjoy fresh air. Besides, if some events happen to be organised, the tourists could not leave that place more impressed.

Maxim: The most demanded routes include hikes in Saharna, Țîpova, Stroenți, Rașcov. We also have water routes: kayaking from Tighina (Bender) to Tiraspol. With bicycles, we ride from Marta and Maria monastery in Căușeni to Chițcani monastery.

What are the experiences most valued by tourists when coming to our country?

Maxim: Tourists appreciate our hospitality first of all. We are a nation that gives you the last piece it has, as there is a saying that the guest should never leave your house hungry. Who wouldn’t appreciate something like this? The national cuisine includes delicious dishes: sarmale, wine and much more. We are a multinational country and each nation has contributed to our shared history.

In general, right and left bank culture and history are common: shared values, we all love people and peace.

We are all hospitable and always happy to have guests, to show them our cellars and drink a glass of wine with pickles, and mamaliga, the main dish in our country.

Irina: After a few days of discussions, the tourists and the guide practically become friends. They really like our kitchen. The gastronomic diversity impresses with numerous recipes of the same dish in different parts of the country, the flavour of the products and the rich taste. The tourists are most impressed when they come to Moldova without expecting extraordinary emotions. After all, there are no medieval castles, not too many architectural masterpieces, and large entertainment complexes such as Disneyland. Communication with us, with the locals, delicious food, wine, nature and the distant history of our country leaves no one indifferent.

Why do tourists have to come to our country? What touristic experiences can we offer?

Maxim: All the essence of our region is concentrated in the expression “a small country with a big heart”! We are all happy, welcoming and friendly. We have good people, nature is extraordinary and our history is fascinating!

Irina: Moldova is a very hospitable country. We do not have ski resorts, but we have spa resorts, natural sites that allow us to travel around the country, improve our health at a sanatorium, to walk or ride a bike. The diversity of cultures in our country is also an attractive side of Moldovan tourism. In this sense, foreign guests also like the gastronomic diversity.

What impact have the multiple crises had on the tourism sector (pandemic, war, energy crisis, etc.)?

Irina: All these factors have had a very negative impact on tourism. During the pandemic, organized tourism was reduced to zero. Gatherings of more than five people were prohibited. Later, the number allowed increased to 50 people, but in large rooms and in transport there were still some restrictions. All these requirements made it impossible to carry out group trips around the country. This is mainly because it is quite expensive to get an individual guide and there was the fear of infection, as well.

When the severe restrictions were lifted, it took a long time for organized tourism to recover, as many were afraid to go out in public places with many people. Just when it seemed that we would recover from the pandemic, the war began. Would a foreign tourist come in an unsafe place? There are, of course, people who are encouraged by such a factor, however, such cases are very rare.

Instead, the locals started to travel more inside the country. For many, this was an opportunity to get rid of fear, to change the environment, to recharge with energy.

The economic situation in the country, of course, has become another problem for Moldovan tourism. Tourism is not essential; perhaps not even the most important thing at this time. Therefore, many cannot afford to spend even 400 lei on a trip.

Maxim: In my opinion, the pandemic had a positive impact on the development of domestic tourism. People did not have the opportunity to go abroad, thus everyone began to explore our country. Как говорится не было бы счастья, да несчастье помогло. As they say, a blessing in disguise. In 2020, we even started rafting on the Turunciuc river, where until then only athletes trained there. Many were not even aware that they can go rafting in Moldova, so there is no need for them to go abroad to do that. Since the summer of 2022, Ukrainian refugees have started to join our hikes, we organised some free charity trips to show people at least a part of the country where they live now. This makes it easier for them to understand our mentality, they stop being afraid, and someone actually decided to stay here forever.

How does domestic tourism differ from foreign tourism? What are the domestic tourists’ expectations in comparison to those coming from abroad?

Maxim: Domestic tourism is more subtle than external tourism. We approach it more deeply, we want to tell everything down to the smallest detail, because it is ours, we love it and we love our country. Visitors/tourists started to prefer to stay in guest-houses, eat home-cooked food, and communicate with villagers. All this helps them to understand the country they are visiting at a deeper level.

Irina: Domestic tourism in Moldova is limited. Just a small part of the population can afford to spend the night in another town of their country, as now everything is expensive for the locals. A foreign tourist has to stay somewhere overnight. He or she chooses where to stay according to his/her possibilities. For a local tourist it is more profitable to return home. Therefore, two-day trips, for example, are not that frequent.

More, usually a local tourist is more demanding. Today, many compare the conditions in Moldova with those in European countries or on other continents. Based on this fact, the evaluation becomes stricter, and the realization that these conditions are hard to find does not fit in our minds as easily as among foreigners.

How can we improve the tourism sector? What is needed to develop tourism services?

Maxim: The tourism sector undoubtedly needs attention. We have an acute shortage of guest-houses and rural campsites, too few marked hiking trails. Many tourist attractions need to be promoted by the media so that our locals can get to know them better. Perhaps it would be useful to put some signs or banners along the routes with directions to beautiful and historical places. There are also no toilets and rest areas along the roads.

Irina: The state can remedy this situation. It can help people in this sector by providing them with economic benefits, agricultural assistance, and skilled labour. You cannot even imagine how many owners of rural guest-houses work for this, receiving tourists, working in the fields and cooking food all at once. In these conditions, they cannot raise the prices for their services, despite the fact that in winter it is necessary to heat the homes not right before the arrival of tourists, but a few days in advance, so that the home is warm and welcoming. If they had some kind of support from the state, perhaps there would be more tourists in Moldova, including during the winter. If a tourist is cold and goes back home sick, this is certainly not the kind of trip to leave him with the best impressions. In addition, it is important to participate in not only domestic exhibitions, such as “Made in Moldova” or the one dedicated to tourism. It is also important to participate in international exhibitions which, although not immediately, may give a good result with time. There should have already been in place support from the state.

Another thing that can be done is to invest in the restoration of our architectural monuments, as happened with the Manuc Bey mansion. It became an important attraction throughout the district. We have many of these. What we still should do is to improve the possibility to visit them. For example, in Germany, you can take a history museum tour with live music performed by an orchestra, costumed actors and a guide laying the role of king/queen. Why can’t a guide in the role of Manuc Bey meet tourists at the mansion and give them a tour of the halls, accompanied by music, not necessarily live music, from the 19th century? These are just a few examples. You do not have to go far. In the Polytechnic Museum in Iași, a TV screen shows a video with music playing in a music box. It is interesting. You can do a lot more if you want to attract tourists to these destinations.

What would be the three most important destinations for hiking or outdoor walks to discover Moldova from another perspective?

Maxim: It is very difficult to single out just three destinations. It all depends on where you live. For example, if you are from Tiraspol or Tighina (Bender), I would suggest the villages of Bîcioc and Gura Bîcului; a walk through the Chițcani forest and the Botna river bed; Cioburciu, the route next to the Turunciuc River. In general, Fetești village area is very beautiful; I recommend anyone to visit places such as “Valley of Cascades” from Șoldănești region; Camenca and Rîbnița districts — the villages of Stroiești, Rașcov and Beloci.

Irina: I would recommend a walk along the banks of Răut river. There are picturesque spots, original relief and typical Moldovan villages. To see another side of Moldova, you can go to the highest point in Moldova — Bălănești Hill. A very beautiful view opens up from there, and the abundance of forests and cultivated agricultural land is impressive. Or, you can do something nearby; you can relax in specially equipped tents.

The third route is a boat trip along the Nistru river. On both sides of it, everything is constantly changing. Somewhere the birds are nesting on the sloping side, somewhere a monastery has been carved into the rock, and somewhere right on the bank is the settlement of a village where a beautiful church has been preserved.

If I were to offer a tourist the opportunity to use three different modes of transport and see Moldova from different angles, I would offer him a route to Bălănești, the second route would be by boat, and the third by train, at least until he get to the town of Ungheni, where he can do so many interesting things. Travelling in a comfortable train makes it possible to see the beauties of Moldovan villages, forests and hilly landscapes.

I think such a trip would leave you with a very good impression of our country!



UNDP in Moldova
UNDP Moldova

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