To mountains, wine, and palaces: what to visit in the Carpathians
Cities, villages, nature, and unusual locations: we'll share with you what to do in the Carpathians
"Welcome to sunny Zakarpattia!" Sometimes this phrase perfectly illustrates Ukraine's westernmost region, and sometimes it sounds like poking fun due to surprisingly heavy rainfall in the mountains. Now the Carpathian region is suffering from floods, so a trip there may be worth postponing, but no one prevents us from choosing a few interesting places for summer vacation, right? Everything is unusual here: nature, history, culture. That is why Zakarpattia is increasingly attracting tourists. In this collection, we intentionally don't talk about Hoverla, Synevir, or the Valley of Daffodils, which you know about without us. However, we'll try to convince you that it's worth coming back here, many times more.
Zakarpattia is first an unforgettable nature. To admire nature, be alone, and feel the silence, we recommend going to Svydovets.
Among all the Carpathian ridges, this mountain range is considered the most picturesque. Here you'll find crystal lakes, and velvety green slopes, and cliffs. In terms of popularity, it's still inferior to Chornohora, Marmarosy, Kukul, or Borzhava, and therefore, there are significantly fewer people here. If you don't consider Drahobrat, Bukovel's twin resort.
However, it's even better: more chances to keep all the most beautiful memories, for instance, after visiting Lake Vorozheska, as if sandwiched by vertical slopes, near which you'll see a dizzying view of Gorgany. You can also dive in Dohiaska (Herishaska), Troiaska (Apshynets), and Ivor.
Meanwhile, Svydovets is quite friendly to both experienced tourists and beginners, not yet ready for strenuous climbs. Time stops among the Carpathian mountains. Here you feel the region's antiquity and your vulnerability. And yet, you gain strength for following adventures.
How to get there: The entry points to the ridge are Rakhiv City, the villages of Bilyn, and Kvasy, Svydovets hamlet, the villages of Yasynia, Chorna Tysa on the east side, and Ust-Chorna and Krasna on the west side, Bystrytsia (via Bratkivska Mount and Okole Pass) on the north side.
This urban-type settlement is located half an hour from the city. Another real medieval castle "St. Miklos" rises here. The settlement itself once bore this name. It was firstly mentioned dating back to the thirteenth century, and 200 years later, the commissioner for Galicia, King Stephen V, built a fortress in the Romanesque style, which still rises near the Latorytsia river.
Unfortunately, the latter is inferior to "Palanka" in greatness, as it's in a worse condition and is actively fighting for its restoration. Today it's in the concession of the Carpathian artist Yosyp Bartosh. Together with his wife, he actually saved the building from complete decline. Now partially restored, it still needs a lot of money and care. However, the sinisterness and stern appearance of "Miklos" only adds to its charm. The castle is open until late in the evening. Here you can take a tour with torches, walk through a secret maze in the wall and find yourself in a medieval banquet hall with whimsical trophies on the walls. Classical music concerts and fine art exhibitions are regularly held within its walls. You can learn about the program on the castle's website. In addition, it's an ideal location for international art events. For example, since 2012, the festival of medieval culture "Silver Tatosh" is held here. It's a costumed knight's tournament, attended by representatives from Ukraine, Slovakia, and Hungary.
How to get there: Travel only 12 kilometers by bus from Mukachevo, and find yourself in the town of Chynadiievo.
Nearby (literally 6 kilometers from St. Miklos) in the Karpaty village, there's the palace of the Counts of Schönborn. The Neo-Renaissance building now serves as a sanatorium, so the inside part won't impress a curious tourist.
The castle's history begins in the relatively recent eighteenth century when the Austrian emperor Lothar Schönborn was presented by the Austrian emperor with several dozen towns and villages in Zakarpattia. Initially, there was only a small wooden hunting lodge on the site, but soon it became clear that it couldn't accommodate all the count's esteemed guests.
The descendants of the first Schönborn implemented the idea of building a full-fledged residence. At the beginning of the twentieth century, construction was completed. On the ground floor, there's a hunting hall decorated with traditional elements: deer antlers, sculptures of the goddess Diana, mermaid tails.
A respectable castle cannot do without a mystical scary story. One of them is about the room where one of the Counts of Schönborn died. According to legend, a whole safe room was allocated for the dynasty's funds and valuables in the castle. One day the count came into it and the door closed. According to legend, before the terrible death of suffocation, he managed to write a note with the words "You can own big money, but not benefit from them." Although no one now knows exactly where this room was located, the eerie history is preserved among the castle workers.
However, the building itself and its surroundings radiate serenity and joy. It's surrounded by a huge arboretum with rare, non-regional plant species. The castle was built in astronomical order: with 365 windows, 52 rooms (equivalent to the number of weeks in the year), and 12 entrances.
Astronomical symbols aren't the castle's only architectural dominant. Elements of its interior can also tell a lot about the life and experiences of the Schönborn. For example, the famous "Meluzina" chandelier. It used to be located in a hunting hall and depicted the frivolous mermaid Meluzina. According to legend, she resembled the wife of Count Erwin Friedrich Schönborn, Francisca. Although the nobleman loved the woman, their marriage was unsuccessful because of Francisca's treachery and carelessness. As we can see, even suffering can be beautiful. Especially when it comes to a picturesque castle against the backdrop of the Carpathian Mountains.
How to get there: the most convenient way is to leave by bus from Chynadiievo.
Another place the impression of Zakarpattia would be incomplete without is the city of Berehovo. First, there are thermal complexes with water up to 40 degrees. Its chemical composition is medicinal. You can also swim in extremely hot tubs. You get the maximum pleasure from swimming when the temperature is below zero outside. Like Icelandic geysers, only in Zakarpattia.
Second, Berehovo is the region's other wine capital. Here is the complex Chateau Chizay, "Zhaivoronok" tasting room, "Old Cellar," "Nota Bene". Private wineries regularly hold tasting tours and talk about the peculiarities of the climate influencing the cultivation of local grapes.
Gradually moving away from civilization (in fact, not far, only 52 km from Uzhhorod and 30 km from the district center of Perechyn), we go to the Lumshory spa resort. The village of Perechyn district of Zakarpattia region, located on the picturesque Turychka river, has enjoyed this glory since the distant XVII century. The first medical institution was also opened here. Indeed, there's no better place to find it: the village is surrounded by beech and coniferous virgin forests, nearby, one can find meadows and mountains. Here is the oldest spa resort in Zakarpattia and you can try especially extreme types of "boiling" in tubs with hydrogen sulfide water.
Water was once heated in wooden baths with the help of hot stones, and only later, they began to use cast iron vats. They are heated, then filled with mineral water, and then they light a fire, maintaining the temperature at 40 degrees. The best thing is that you can arrange the recreation in any season and at any temperature. Just imagine taking such a healing bath and admiring the beauty of the Carpathians. What could be better?
Moreover, the road to the village is also picturesque: there are waterfalls (the largest of them is Davir), and springs. Lumshory is located at the foot of the largest meadow, Runa. Traveling from the village back and forth will take about 6 hours. The road is not exhausting, because there's no steep climb. No wonder the mountain meadow is also called Rivna (Ukrainian for "flat" – TN). At the top, you can admire the waterfall Voievodyn, as well as see the many winged inhabitants of the "Falcon Rocks" ornithological reserve.
How to get: 50 km by car from Uzhhorod. You can also first take a bus to Perechyn, then to Lumshory. Another option is first by Lviv-Solotvyno train to Perechyn, then by bus to the village.
Searching for authenticity and dizzying nature will take you to Kolochava. The village is located in the Tereblia valley (Mizhhiria district) in the territory of the Synevyr National Nature Park. Despite the modest population (about 7,000), it's divided into several neighborhoods and stretched along the mountains so that it seems as if it's not one community, but several small villages. Kolochava is a village of 10 museums and 20 unique monuments: here you can learn more about the history of narrow-gauge railways, the activities of Bokorash (people engaged in dangerous industries, rafting forests in the Carpathian rivers), school development, and life in the region, World War II in Zakarpattia, anti-Soviet struggle, etc. Located at the intersection of many tourist routes, it attracts more and more visitors.
And Kolochava is perhaps the most ecologically clean and untouched corner of Zakarpattia. Despite the developed tourism, virgin spruce and beech virgin forests with impressive fauna and flora are still preserved on the outskirts. More than 90 species of rare and endangered plant species grow in and near the village alone, a third of which are red-listed. In the woods, you can safely collect hazelnuts, and in the meadows, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries. For those who need a breath of fresh air in nature and historical monuments to reflect, welcome to Kolochava.
How to get there: To become one of them, you can take a bus from Mizhhiria or Volovets. From Mukachevo and Svaliava to Kolochava, it's also convenient to get by train.
A non-trivial place to visit in Zakarpattia is Tereble-Ritska HPP (Khust district). From the point of view of engineering technology, it's unique, because it stands on two rivers at once. Tereblia and Rika were ideal for the project, as the height difference between them was the required 210 meters. Of course, the project required casualties, evictions, and flooding of villages. Currently, the area is under protection, but you can see how the elements of the HPP system interact with each other, and a dizzying landscape opens from one of the heights. There's also a picturesque reservoir. Like any hydroelectric power plant, this facility is an attraction for industrial tourism.
How to get there: the easiest and most reliable way is in your car from Khust or the village of Kolochava.
One can't think about Zakarpattia without Khust and its environs. Here you can visit the ruins of a medieval castle, again, treat yourself to thermal springs, see unusual historical monuments (for example, the Reformed church in the village of Vyshkovo with real loopholes and defensive walls), communicate with deer on a special farm, buy wickerwork in the village of Iza or go rafting on the Tisza river.
How to get there: it takes a little more than 2 hours to get from Uzhhorod to Khust by bus, from Mukachevo, it's one and a half hours. The easiest way is to use public intercity transport.
Constellation of villages
Let's not forget that Zakarpattia is just beautiful. There are many immaculate and friendly villages. In such an area, it's nice to relax from the hustle and bustle of the city and restore mental balance. Scenic nature in the villages of Syniak, Shaian, Solotvino, Solochyn. There are stunning landscapes, healing springs, souvenir shops, authentic and ecological products. You prefer peaceful contemplation and passive recreation in this area. However, because of its proximity to one of the largest administrative centers in the region, the city of Svaliava, you can start traveling easily anywhere in Zakarpattia.
You involuntarily ask yourself a rhetorical question: what else do we lack? Zakarpattia is a place where healing mineral waters heal the body, quality wine cheers the soul, strict fortress walls offer a glimpse into the distant history of the region, and the beauty of the Carpathians is fully exhibited. The region's every corner is special, but at the same time, it greatly indicates Zakarpattia as a whole. And it will please everyone who visits it.
A meteorite fell here
Did you know that a meteorite once fell in Zakarpattia? Back in 1866 in the village of Kniahinia, Velykobereznianskyi district. It is considered perhaps the largest fragment of a cosmic body that has reached Earth in Europe. As a result of the fall, locals and scientists collected particles with a total mass of 500 kg. The discoverer was an ordinary peasant, Vasyl Kryvianyk, who was given several oxen as a reward for the found meteorite nucleus! All parts later ended up in the museum. The largest of them is in the Vienna Museum.
Although the event took place almost two centuries ago, today the place remains mysterious but attracts tourists. However, it's not only about the meteorite (which, incidentally, is poetically called "Princess"). Nearby, there are charming villages, Sil and Stuzhytsia, the Angel source, oak groves, and woods. When you want a profound peace, we recommend you visit there.
How to get there: by bus to the village of Kniahinia. But then the road becomes more interesting. Walking to the destination takes about 8 kilometers. The trail to the Chorni Mlaky tract runs despite karst caves on the slopes of the Stinka massif. Immediately after the village you should turn left, the route is marked, you only need to find the blue markings on the trees. The trail stretches uphill, between the fields, from which you can clearly see the Stinka ridge and Kniahinitsia Mount. There's a spring behind the edge before turning into a beech forest. The road to the Chorni Mlaky is a beech forest. It also has signs that will help you quickly and easily get to the place where the meteorite fell.
⛺ Places where you can sleep well
Real connoisseurs of quaint and wondrous places of Zakarpattia talk about passive tourism places. One of such locations is the Arpad Line bunker in the Volovets region. Here is the military estate, Grün Hof. For a little historical information: in the village of Verkhnia Hrabivnytsia (Volovets district), there's a bunker on the so-called "Arpad Line." The latter was a complex of defensive objects about 600 km long during the Second World War. Its primary purpose was to protect the territory of Hungary from the Red Army. The name of the complex comes from the name of the ancient Ugric people's legendary leader, who's considered the founder of the state.
The bunker in Verkhnia Hrabivnytsia was built for several years, during 1939-1944. According to historical sources, its length reached 1.5 km (today, about 800 m are available). The lowest point of the bunker exceeds a depth of 50 m.
In Soviet times, the bunker was considered an object of civil defense, and it also housed the so-called inviolable stocks (i.e. strategically important products and items in case of hostilities, etc.). Despite the fact that some of the tunnels are walled up, what's left of the bunker is also impressive. People come here not only to touch the sights of the Second World War. Some rooms are equipped for guests. You can get a really good night's sleep in cool rooms and complete silence.
How to get there: The Arpad Line bunker is located almost in the center of the Verkhnia Hrabivnytsia village, 46 kilometers from Mukachevo. You can also start from Volovets or Svaliava. It's easier to get to the destination by bus or taxi.
Tiachiv region. Nimetska Mokra
Close to the town of Tiachiv in Zakarpattia, several tourist attractions came together: Nimetska Mokra, Ust-Chorna, and Brustury.
The striking and capricious nature impresses with its pristine beauty and historical aura. Unfortunately, the events witnessed by the settlements are tragic, because we're talking about the First World War. According to locals, the land here received soldiers from nineteen countries. Few eloquent monuments or pedestals have been preserved here. Rather, nature became a silent witness to the bloody war. However, it has the most therapeutic effect. It's not just beautiful here. It is also an energy-rich place, as tourists say about it.
How to get there: the best way to get to the villages is from Tiachiv. It's easy to get to it from Uzhhorod or Mukachevo by regular bus. Then, either by public transport (bus, minibus) or by taxi.
There are places in Zakarpattia where tourism is just emerging. And we can even join this noble cause. For example, to visit and take part in the works of Kvasiv Castle (Berehiv district).
Only a skeleton of several defensive walls now remains from the ancient building (dating from the XII century). Built in the Romanesque style, it once stood on the trade route from Marmaros to the Danube, according to other chronicle observations, controlled the land salt route and the exit from the Borzhavska valley.
If you're not a fan of medieval architecture, the find may disappoint you. There's little left of it, except the halo of mystery and the spirit of antiquity. However, if your goal is to help tourism development in the region, you can join in cleaning the area, clearing it of thickets. You can't call such activity a rest, but you can definitely clear karma.
How to get there: the best way to get there is by car on the Vynohradiv highway: then on the way, you'll also look at the villages of Muzhiieve and Bene, although you can go to Kvasove by bus from Berehovo, it's only 12 km.
And we can't completely ignore the two main Zakarpattia cities. Most likely, your trip to Zakarpattia will start from Uzhhorod. This small town (and the smallest regional center in Ukraine) hospitably welcomes more and more tourists every year.
They come here to admire the cherry blossoms (if you come here in late April) and walk along the longest lime alley in Europe. Miniature sculptures lurked throughout the city. Among them are Mozart, Houdini, Andy Warhol, the Good Soldier Švejk, and even the Statue of Liberty. The latter is the smallest operating lighthouse in the world, which drives the proud fleet through the stormy waves of the Uzh River.
You can travel in time by wandering Uzhhorod Castle. Here everything is arranged in the best medieval traditions: protective walls, loopholes, deep casemates, and torture chambers.
And right next door, as if for contrast, there is a museum of rural life (open-air museum). Here you can learn about the way of life and customs of the local population and admire the carefree local flock of sheep that regularly graze on the territory.
We advise you to take a lazy walk in the "Mustard Grain" passage. There are many cafes, souvenir shops, flower shops, and clothing stores on the street, built in the style of the 1930s. Uzhhorod is an ideal option if you like to relax in the city, but are tired of the speed and congestion of the metropolis.
How to get there: the best and fastest way is by any regional train.
And we're moving on. From the bus station of Uzhhorod, we go by bus to the next point, Mukachevo. It's impossible to miss the Disney castle-like town hall, the pedestrian center, the monument to the alphabet creators, Cyril, and Methodius.
The city's hallmark is the legendary Palanok Castle. It's so shrouded in legends that even determining the exact founding date is a challenge for historians. A huge fortress rises on a hill above the city. It's easy to get here by any means of public transport, but it's better to walk through the territory with a guide. This makes it easier to understand all the intricacies of labyrinths, galleries, halls, as well as the connections of princely and magnate families who owned the castle.
Every year (on the eve of the Old New Year) the Red Wine Festival is held in Mukachevo, where local winemakers present the best samples of their products. In fact, such an event is far from unique. Zakarpattia is ideal for wine gastro-tourism. In the same Mukachevo, you can try new bouquets in the "Wine Garden" (restaurant complex in the tract of Chervona Hora Mountain near the city).