The Carpathian Mountains: Hiking through Ukraine

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The Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine were probably not at the top of my list as a hiking destination, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I have been missing out on great hiking opportunities.

Despite being a mountain lover and avid hiker, my own knowledge of this 1500km long mountain range – the second-longest in Europe, was embarrassing low. That’s why I loved learning about them and insisted on visiting the Carpathian Mountains when I was in Lviv. Fortunately, it’s just a 2 to 3-hour drive away.

Carpathian_mountains_ukraine

Where are the Carpathian Mountains?

Meadows meet the Carpathian mountains in Ukraine.

The Carpathians are located in Central Europe and range through the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Ukraine, Serbia, and Romania, where 53% of the Carpathians lie.

It's common to see many churches in villages in the Carpathians in Ukraine.

While the Carpathians may be easy to find, they’re not so easy to discover their sometimes well-kept secrets on your own. That’s why I recommend going with an experienced local guide like Andriy Kharatyn, owner of T.O. Karpatskyi Tour. He speaks a little bit of English and has a fabulous network of local guides who speak a variety of languages fluently.

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Stilsko Ancient Village in the Carpathian Mountains

these mounds of dirt were part of a 10km long defensive structure dating back to the 9th/11th century in the Ukrainian Carpathian mountains.

You may be wondering why I’m showing you unremarkable mounds of dirt. There are no signs, no parking lot. Just a dirt road that ends near a village. While they may not look like much, the earth mounds date back somewhere between the 9th and 11th centuries – no one knows the exact dates. They’re part of the ancient Stilsko settlement. It was the capital of the Slavic Croats, a country that existed over 1000 years ago! The earth mounds are part of a 10 km long defensive structure built to protect the ancient Stilsko fortified settlement.

 

8th century caves of the Stilsko settlement in the Ukrainian Carpathian mountains.
What is visibly impressive about the Stilsko settlement are the 8th-century caves. They once served as shelter, but the pragmatic locals now use them to store food. Some of them even have doors with a lock on them!

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Goshiv Monastery on Yasna Mountain

Goshiv Monastery on Yasna Mountain in the Carpathian mountains is an important pilgrimage for many Ukrainians.

This monastery is an important pilgrimage for many Ukrainians. The great attraction is a black relic of the Virgin Mary.

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Ukrainian Cheese (Novosalytskji)

This Novosalytskji cheese was hand-made by a Ukrainian local in the Carpathians, and was delicious!
When you think of excellent cheese, Ukraine may not be the first country that comes to mind, but I LOVED Novosalytskji. A local was selling it from the back of his truck as we waited for a train to take us on an old lumberjack trail. He made it himself several times a week and used an Italian recipe – even the Italian in our group approved. As a further endorsement, she even bought some! I bought some with the intention of taking it home with me, but it was all gone before I’d even left Ukraine.

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Follow an old Lumberjack Trail

Tourists can travel by train on an old lumberjack route retracing their steps with stops along the way, while enjoying the Carpathians.
This is a popular excursion for Ukrainian tourists. Except for the Italian and myself who were traveling together, everyone else was Ukrainian.

A beautiful river in the Ukrainian Carpathian mountains.
The commentator explains the history and apparently makes hysterical jokes as he had the entire train laughing up a storm! Luckily, my guide was able to translate…as well as humor translates. We made various stops along the way. My favorite was by the scenic river. Another great highlight and experience of hiking in the Carpathian Mountains. 

Related Reading: 5 Benefits of Hiking with Poles

Traditional Ukrainian Houses

Old traditional Ukrainian farmhouse in the Carpathian mountains.

If you know what to look for, you may just be lucky enough to see a few very old (100+ years) houses. Animals lived on the left, people on the right. This type of housing was discontinued for safety and survival reasons. If there was a fire, you lost everything – your house and your animals. In the years that followed, animals live in separate structures from people. That way you are may lose your barn or your house, but hopefully not both! Hiking in the Carpathian Mountains was a learning experience and adventure. 

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Tustan Fortress

Tustan Fortress in Ukraine was one of the only fortresses in Europe to be built on top of rocks instead of a traditional foundation.

This was the highlight of my time in the Carpathian mountains! While it may just look like a rock outcrop, looks can be deceiving. In the 9th century, it was one of the only fortresses in all of Europe built on rocks, instead of a traditional foundation. It was strategically built on the stones to provide a 25 km long view over an important trading route.

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The wooden fortress has not survived over the centuries, but you can see a replica at the nearby museum, showing how impressive it would have been:

Replica of Tustan Fortress as it would have looked in the 8th century with a view over the Carpathian mountains

Hiking/Climbing in the Carpathian Mountains

While I didn’t do any hiking due to the fact it was raining, there are some great hiking trails. But again, you’ll need a guide to find them. I’m told there are very few signs and the signs do exist, are in Ukrainian only. There are also over 1000 climbing routes!

Mount Howerla, the highest mountain in both the Carpathian mountains and in Ukraine.
Howerla. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

In summary, I really enjoyed my time in the Carpathians. I would love to go back and hike Mount Hoverla (2061 m), the highest mountain in Ukraine. I would definitely go again with T.O. Karpatskyi Tour. They offer tours with carefully chosen itineraries or custom itineraries – your choice. My guides were both very friendly and incredibly knowledgeable. Without them, I would have had no chance of unraveling the secrets that make the Carpathian Mountains so special!

Accommodation in Lviv

5-Star

Grand Hotel Lviv Luxury & Spa is located in the heart of Lviv. The hotel offers a classic atmosphere and comfortable rooms with a modern twist. There are a daily breakfast buffet and an on-site restaurant. Guests have access to free wifi and a spa and fitness center that include a sauna, swimming pool, and fitness gym. 

4-Star

Hotel Atlas Deluxe is located in the center of Lviv. The hotel offers a sauna, fitness center and concierge service.  The rooms are comfortable and spacious and the hotel has an overall classic decor. There are an on-site restaurant and bar where guests can enjoy drinks. 

3-Star

Danylo Inn is a bed and breakfast located in the center of Lviv, perfect for exploring the city. The Inn offers a 24-hour front desk and spacious and modern rooms that are comfortable and offer private bathrooms. The hotel is located near several restaurants and cafes.

The Carpathian Mountains are the second longest mountain chain in Europe. Let's explore them in Ukraine!

The Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine were a wonderful experience. I can’t wait to visit them again!

Note: My visit to the Ukrainian Carpathian mountains was made possible by Lviv Tourism. I flew to Lviv from Frankfurt, Germany with Ukraine International Airlines. All opinions expressed are my own.

5 thoughts on “The Carpathian Mountains: Hiking through Ukraine”

  1. We loved your article about the Ukraine Carpathian mountains. We also want to go there. My grandfather came from the Ukraine to Canada in 1914. It has made me curious and so we are going to travel there in September 2017. I came across your blog and was interested in your adventure in the Carpathians. We are going to be in the area of Horodenka and it looks like it is close enough that we could get to a region in the mountains nearby. How did you get to the Carpathians? I looked up the tour company that you mentioned but it was all in Ukrainian and I am not sure how to contact them if there is no English on their site.

    We are from Canada, but also run a nature reserve in Costa Rica.

    Reply

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