TARA MOTILOR: The Stone Land People From Romania


“Tara Motilor” also known as “The Stone Land” is an ethnogeographical region of Romania in the Apuseni Mountains, on the superior basin of the Arieș and Crişul Alb River rivers. It covers parts of the Alba, Arad, Bihor, Cluj and Hunedoara counties of Romania and a section of it forms the Apuseni Natural Park. Țara Moților’s inhabitants are known as “moți” Some scholars consider the ‘moți’ as descendants of the Celts, because of their blonde hair and blue eyes, elements more frequent here than among other Romanians; however, the hypothesis is not accepted by mainstream historians due to its lack of consistency. Other scholars believe that they are the descendants of Slavs, for the same very reasons, or of the Alans. Yet another group of scholars consider them the descendants of Germanic tribes (Gepids). Due to their blonde hair and blue eyes, so far seventeen theories regarding their origins have been formulated.



The first, and most probable and accepted theory, is that they are direct descendants of the Dacians. They live in scattered villages at altitudes up to about 1,400 m, higher than any other permanent settlements in Romania. The ‘Țara Moților’ traditionally begins at Bistra, just before Câmpeni, formerly called Topani by the motis themselves or Topesdorf by the Austrians, traditionally considered the ‘capital’ of the ‘moti’, while the villages down the Arieș towards Turda such as Lupșa, Sălciua etc. are inhabited by the ‘mocani’. The ‘moți’ were also known under the name of ‘topi’. Before the last change of the old administrative boundaries there existed an ‘Arieș’ county in its own right.




The term “Țara” means literally “country” exceptionally in this case it doesn’t imply any political, social or administrative status. It is, instead, an archaic term referring to an enclosed and more or less isolated depression between the Carpathians. The region has a long history of resistance and fighting for political, economical and social rights, with movements such as the Revolt of Horea, Cloșca and Crișan (1784–1785) and the Romanian part of the Transylvanian revolution of 1848 having their origins here.



Logging, woodworking and mining are the main traditional industrial activities in Țara Moților, with leather processing, blacksmith work, the miller’s trade, and the manual combing and spinning of wool as secondary activities. The large Oak, beech and spruce forests provide the material for the famous artisanal barrels, furniture and other specific items made there.



Coal, iron, silver and gold. Because of the highland area conditions, the moţi practice especially extensive animal husbandry. Their main livestock of choice is cattle and the local highland cattle, called “Pinzgau de Transilvania”, a variant of Tyrolese Pinzgau breed, was introduced by the Austrians during the 19th century. The sheep, poultry and pig farming are a secondary choice for farmers in the area. Along the sun oriented mountain slopes, and along the narrow river valleys one can found scatered cultivation of potatoes, barley and even cold-resistant vegetables.



The zone is renowned for its folkloric traditions, stunning landscapes, and the variation of the Karstic relief which produced over 800 natural caves such as Scărișoara, Focul Viu (both of them with surviving glaciers inside) and Peștera Urșilor (which contains fossils of Ursus spelaeus, the cave bear). Agritourism and ecotourism are also widely practiced in the area.



The main winter sports center for the area is in Arieșeni. If you are going to plan to visit Tara Motilor, a perfect place to stay is  at Podina Guest House, for just 13 Euro/day/person. The guest house is situated in Transylvania, in the Apuseni Mountain Nature Park (Western Carpathians) at 1100 m altitude.

front view

The place is surrounded by endless fir tree forests where you can have a walk, pick mushrooms, blueberries or wild strawberries. You can also watch different flowers, birds or animals. Horse riding and 4X4 adventures are available as well. The Address is: Pensiunea Podina, Catun Podina 201A, 407081 Poiana Horea, Com. Belis, Jud. Cluj, Romania. Tel +40 264895271 E-mail: podina.guesthouse@yahoo.com. Podina is a hamlet about 2 Kms away from the village Poiana Horea, on a local road. The nearest railway stations are Huedin and Cluj Napoca and the nearest airport is Cluj Napoca. ( By Nemes Barna Bela )