If there is one mountain everyone should conquer in Ukraine, it is Hoverla. With this guide, you will hike Ukraine’s highest peak with ease and wonder in one day. The whole trip — from Kyiv to Hoverla and back — will take just a three-day weekend out of your schedule.
While Mount Hoverla is the highest in the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains at 2,061 meters above sea level, the hike there is moderately short and easy. For most people, it doesn’t require a guide or any special equipment.
Let’s put it this way: If you can walk some four kilometers uphill on a well-marked route to the top and another four kilometers downhill to get back, all the while taking long breaks — then you should have no problem hiking Hoverla in about four hours.
And the benefits are immense. Besides the joy of achievement, the hike offers some of the best views in the Ukrainian Carpathians. The mixed dark-green forests, flowery alpine meadows and breathtaking mountain panoramas are worth every effort and then some.
September may be the best time to hike Hoverla for some extra colors from the leaves turning yellow and for less sun exposure. And yet it should still be quite warm since the summer season in the Carpathians usually lasts from June to late September.
But you should still be ready for surprises, like rain or strong winds. This guide lists all you need for the hike and outlines the route. There is information on how to get there from Kyiv and where to stay in the vicinity with tips on local sightseeing and food.
While Hoverla is located in Zakarpattia Oblast, the more accessible and faster route to reach the top starts in Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast — the Zaroslyak tourist complex at the foot of the mountain.
To get there from Kyiv, you first have to travel to Ivano-Frankivsk, the oblast capital. Trains from Kyiv to Ivano-Frankivsk run a few times every day and currently average at about Hr 750 ($27) for a bed in a coupe — a second-class coach in Ukrainian sleeper trains.
Flights from Kyiv to Ivano-Frankivsk average at about Hr 1,500 ($55) one way, and fly every day except Sundays and Wednesdays. Buses run every day and average at Hr 500 ($18).
For a Friday through Sunday weekend, it would be optimal to take a sleeper train at 10:22 p. m. on Thursday night for some Hr 680 ($25). You will arrive at Ivano-Frankivsk at 7:35 a. m. on Friday morning, having rested in a coach bed.
Next, you will have to take a bus to one of the villages close to Zaroslyak, the hike’s starting point. The buses go that direction about every hour for some Hr 100 ($4) from the Ivano-Frankivsk bus station, which is just a five-minute walk from the train station at 30 Zaliznychna St.
If you only plan to hike Mount Hoverla, take a two-hour bus ride to Vorokhta, a small village closest to Zaroslyak. But if you would also like to do some sightseeing, take a three-hour bus ride to Verkhovyna, the so-called capital of Ukraine’s Hutsul ethnic group.
When you arrive at your chosen village, remember the station where you get off — it will be the same station where you will get on a bus back to Ivano-Frankivsk. On Sunday after your trip, you can get on a train departing at 11:49 p. m. and arriving at Kyiv at 9:07 a. m. on Monday. If you need to be in Kyiv earlier on Monday morning, take the 7:30 p. m. train that arrives at 4:15 a. m.
Where to stay
A camper can easily set up a tent at the foot of Hoverla, but there are plenty of affordable indoor options to rest overnight before and after the ascent. Renting a place will also allow you to leave most of your things there and go hiking lightly with just a medium-size backpack.
The Zaroslyak tourist complex, where the ascent starts, offers rooms for Hr 500 ($18) a night, but it has terrible reviews. So the best idea is to look for a place to stay in Vorokhta or Verkhovyna using Airbnb and Booking.com online renting services. In both Vorokhta and Verkhovyna, you can find rooms for two starting at Hr 400 ($15) per night, apartments for Hr 800 ($29) and entire cottage houses for Hr 1,400 ($51).
One great option on Airbnb is a small family-owned homestead called Sadyba Lisogor in Vorokhta. It has rooms for Hr 380 ($14) and a small cottage house for Hr 930 ($34). In Verkhovyna, “The Ukrainian Carpathians” guidebook recommends Tsikava Sadyba homestead, which has a small museum to Hutsul art. Rooms there start at Hr 300 ($11) per person and can be reserved by phone (+38098 115 2535).
Things to do
If you follow our plan, you will arrive at Vorokhta or Verkhovyna on Friday noon and will have plenty of time to kill before the hike the next morning.
While Vorokhta is a beautiful village, there is not much to do except admire the views. But you should try local food at the Stara Vorokhta restaurant: Banosh, a cornmeal porridge with bryndza sheep milk cheese, mushrooms or pork rind; bograch, a thick spicy soup with meat and pepper; and trout, usually baked with spices.
The recommended restaurant in Verkhovyna is Panorama, located downtown inside the Verkhovel Hotel. It offers local specialties and European cuisine, and has a magnificent view on the mountains and a nearby river.
But there is so much more to see in the many museums of Verkhovyna. The Hutsul Museum has traditional clothes and artifacts that will tell you more about the rich culture of this ethnic group. The Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors Museum is the actual location where Sergei Parajanov shot his iconic film. And the Hutsul Magic Museum houses the secret lore of molfars, the Carpathian warlocks.
But don’t walk too much — the next morning your legs should be rested for the ascent.
The quality of your ascent largely depends on how you pack. Do it lightly and leave most of your things at the place where you are staying. You should have one medium-size backpack.
But there are some essentials you should have. Wear a hat and comfortable shoes — these can be just sneakers, they don’t have to be hiking boots. The weather can change rapidly at high altitudes, so bring some warm pants, a sweatshirt and a raincoat. Have an extra pair of socks in case your shoes get wet.
You will probably get hungry after you reach the top, so bring a snack, like some vegetables, fruits, bread and cheese, and a pocket knife to cut it. You won’t need much more than a bottle with half a liter of water. Use your smartphone as a map and compass or take real ones. And pack a small first aid kit to be safe.
Try to head out in the morning as early as possible to avoid crowds of other tourists hiking along. From the village where you are staying, you need to get to Zaroslyak via the P24 road. You can get a taxi for about Hr 150 ($5) or catch a ride for a little less. From the road, there will be one turn to Zaroslyak — right if you are riding from Vorokhta or left if from Verkhovyna.
You will have to pay a fee of Hr 50 ($2) to enter Zaroslyak. There you can buy some food, a raincoat or anything else you forgot to pack, and rent some trekking poles to make your hike easier. And then the ascent begins.
The hike to Hoverla is one of the best-marked in the Ukrainian Carpathians. There are two main routes — the blue one is shorter but a steeper, and the green one is a little longer. Take the green one — it usually has much fewer tourists but is just as much picturesque.
For the rest of the hike, follow the green markers painted on the trees about every 100 meters. You will walk the easiest part of the hike through the forest for about an hour before turning onto the mountain’s slopes. Continue to follow the green markers painted now on large stones, and in an hour and a half, you will reach the cone-shaped summit of Hoverla.
After relishing the views of surrounding mountains from the highest of them all, take the blue route to get down. You will descend to Zaroslyak in less than two hours. From there, you can travel back to the place where you are staying and rest for the day.
You will get on a train from Ivano-Frankivsk back to Kyiv the next day, knowing that you have been at the place closest to the skies in Ukraine.
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