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We’ve been long-term fans of hiking in Ukraine, and for the longest time now, we thought of putting together a roadmap to the best national parks in Ukraine where visitors can hike. This is a bit of a challenge, though, considering the fact that there are 43 national parks in the country, averaging some 10,000 square km.
Recently, however, Ukraine was acknowledged as the country with the best national parks. The research was based on the average rating from TripAdvisor, and according to it, Ukraine scored a solid 9.73. This motivated us to at least start sharing, starting with the first 6 great national parks, and by gradually adding new destinations.
Carpathian National Nature Park
Based on the ratings from TripAdvisor, Carpathian National Park is the most popular one in Ukraine. Every year, 100s of locals venture into hiking Ukraine Carpathians, with its diverse trails spreading through Prykarpattia and Zakarpattia regions. The best season to explore the mountains starts in mid-May and continues all through September and sometimes mid-October and its gorgeous fall foliage.
Among the highlights of the area is the highest peak of Ukraine – mount Hoverla, as well as numerous waterfalls and scenic ridges.
Hike to the highest peak of Ukraine – Mount Hoverla
There are quite a few ways to summit Hoverla, and one of the most popular routes starts around Zaroslyak camp in Vorohta. The walk up takes around 3 hours. Reserve at least an hour to hang out at the top of the mountain, and then 2 hours to descend. The hike, though challenging, can be recommended to families with kids.
Gear-wise, comfortable shoes for a steep mountain hike would be a plus, as well as sunscreen and hats if you are taking a trip in the summer. For mid-spring, take care of warm clothes as there can be still snow on top of the peak. For any season, water and snacks are a good idea. If you use trekking poles, these would be handy, too. If not, no worries.
This is a marked trail with none of its parts requiring rock-climbing. The top of Hoverla opens stunning views of the Carpathian mountains, with other peaks, Petros and Pip Ivan, visible in good weather.
The best location to stay in when planning to summit Hoverla would be Vorohta. This is a scenic village in the Carpathians with quite a few great accommodations available to travelers.
Explore Stezhka Dovbusha – a hike in Yaremche
Yaremche is one of the most popular villages in the Ukrainian Carpathians. It is beautiful, adapted to tourism, and has lots of hikes of various levels of complexity. Stezhka Dovbusha is a hike of medium complexity. It is a smooth ascend up the Makovets mountain, which starts in the pine trees forest.
The hike is a perfect morning trail that will have you back to the village by noon. If you decide to wander off the track, however, it can easily turn into an adventure that lasts the entire day.
Once out of the woods, the trail continues winding up the ridge of the mountain, with gorgeous panoramic views from atop the mountain.
Keep in mind that the original route is circular but you can also wander off and finish the track near the Probiy waterfall or at the Yaremche market.
The best location to stay in when planning to hike in the area is Yaremche with lots of accommodations for different budgets.
Hike to Shypit waterfall
The Carpathian mountains in Ukraine are perfect for hiking to lots of waterfalls. One of the most popular is Shypit. For the longest time, it was an under-the-radar territory. These days, however, Shypit is the destination that lots of travelers head to every summer.
The cons of this are a bit obvious – it gets crowded in high season, and you will need to wait for a while to get your time near the waterfall and to take some pictures.
On the bright side, the area became much friendlier to hikers, with at least two trails now available (both easy and family-friendly), as well as lots of additional activities in the area. These include horse-riding, climbing, and quads. In summer, the locals are selling ripe wildberries that are delicious.
Close to Pylypets, a village with quite a few decent accommodations, and the Synevyr lake, the iconic spot in the Carpathians, Shypit waterfall is a 14-meter high cascade of clear mountain water. Other than in summer, it is also gorgeous in early fall.
If interested in this hike, check the most convenient accommodations in the area, including Pylypets.
Planning a visit to Ukraine? Check the best time of the year to visit Kyiv.
Podilsky Tovtry National Park
The Carpathians may be the favorite on TripAdvisor but Podilsky Tovtry is one of our personal favorites on the list of national parks of Ukraine. It is the vastness of the park, as well as some truly epic spots and unique activities that stole our hearts.
In 2008, Podilsky Tovtry national park landed a spot on the list of 7 natural wonders of Ukraine. As of 2017, it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage. Here is our list of top-3 recommended activities to do in the area.
Explore Bakota Bay, the Ukrainian Atlantis
Visiting Bakota Bay is the ultimate must when in the area. A truly epic landscape with panoramic views has quite a dramatic history. Hidden under the waters are the remains of more than 20 villages including Bakota.
About half a century ago, 100s of villagers were evacuated from the site as the Soviet government in Moscow issued an order to flood the valley in order to build a water-power plant. An ambitious plan was executed in 1981.
Today, Ukrainians refer to Bakota as the local Atlantis. The spot has plaques in memory of those who had to give up their homes. The hiking trail goes down the hill, past a monastery in the mountains, as well as the sacred springs with drinking water, down to the small beaches.
The list of activities other than hiking includes paddle-boarding, camping, swimming, and taking boat cruises.
Take a trip to the Khotyn Fortress
Ukraine has plenty of castles and fortresses but most of them were ruined by the Soviets. Luckily, the Khotyn Fortress survived.
An impressive fortification complex dates back to the 1300s. It was changing and expanding, adjusting to its owners as the centuries went by. At one point, there was even a mosque with a minaret within the fortress.
Today’s renovated castle on the right bank of the Dniester River welcomes visitors with lots of peculiar chambers to explore. The list includes the exhibition of the ancient weapons, the torture chamber, and more.
You can hike to the fortress along the Dniester River and through the Khotyn National Park.
Head to Smotrycky Canyon in Kamianets-Podilsky
Kamianets-Podilsky, a cozy city with a lovely old downtown, is the heart of Podilsky Tovtry and an adventure well within itself. Two of its absolute gems are the Kamianets-Podilsky Castle and the Smotricky Canyon.
The river Smotrych forms a unique canyon loop perfect for hiking along its banks. Enjoy a walk and wrap it up around the downtown area to then enjoy meals in one of many cozy local cafes.
Where to stay when visiting Podilsky Tovtry national park
Kamianets-Podilsky, while being in the heart of Podilsky Tovtry, is the perfect city to stay in and then take day-trips to Bakota and Khotyn. Check available accommodation in Kamyanets.
Synevyr National Park
An absolute beauty of the Carpathians in the Zakarpattya region, Synevir National Park is named after one of the most iconic lakes in the country. In addition to the lake, which is the heart of the park, there are some 10+ hiking trails to explore, all varying in length and complexity. You will be able to enjoy easy 40-minute walks or challenge your hiking skills during two-day adventures across the mountain passes.
If we were to narrow the list of activities to top-3 things to do in Synevyr national park, these would be:
Hike around Synevyr Lake
Leave your car at the big paid parking lot and head towards Synevyr lake. The hiking path winds around it, mostly hidden amidst pine trees, so there is little to no exposure to the sun. Depending on the season, parts of the trail may be flooded (usually, mid-spring is the season when it happens).
The hike will take 1 to 2 hours depending on the pace. The list of stops includes a small chapel, springs with clean water, and the old wooden monuments to Syn and Vyr that embodies the legend of the lake.
This route is perfect for families with small kids. As an extra activity, you can horseback-ride it.
Venture on a hike to the Synevyr Pass
The Synevyr Pass route is longer and more challenging than the one around the lake so comfortable shoes and clothes will come in handy. The 8-kilometer path winds amidst the century-old pine trees.
The trail starts with the Synervyr pass, which is 960 km high and opens breathtaking views of the Carpathians. It will wind past the springs and towards the top of the mountain Kamyanka, and will end by the Synevyr lake. This is a marked trail.
Dare a 2-day hike to Pishkonya Ridge
This is the longest of Synevir’s hiking trails – the hike to Pishkonya Ridge is 21 kilometers long. However, it is also fairly easy and suitable for family hikes. It is also less crowded than many other Carpathian trails. It starts in the Synevyr village and ends in Kolochava. The path will wind through the forests, so most of it will be in the shadow.
Many advanced hikers will be able to complete the route during one day, with an early start in Synevyr and a late arrival in Kolochava. However, you can also break the hike into two days and set a camp by the Barvynok mountain (there are no lodges or cabins for hikers, so bring your camping gear and tents).
Stops on the way will include the small and secluded lake Ozerce, the ridge itself, and summiting the Negrovec mountain.
Once in Kolochava, we recommend you stay a day more after the hike and explore an ethnic museum of architecture Stare Selo.
Where to stay when visiting Synevyr national park
Staying in Kolochava will be the best choice among the nearby villages. It is adapted to tourists and has quite a few nice hotels, cabins, and restaurants in the area. Check available accommodations in Kolochava.
Kinburn Spit National Park
A hidden gem of Ukraine, for the longest time Kinburn Spit national park has been under the radar not only for guests of the country but even for its locals. A stripe of white sandy land is sandwiched between the Dnipro-Buh bay from the north and the Black Sea from the south.
This is a protected area with ecologists guiding the fragile flora and fauna for much that there are not even the asphalted roads in the park. It is perfect for camping by the sea, snorkeling, enjoying sunsets and sunrises, and hiking in the pine tree forests.
Hiking to the Herodotov Forest
Should you come in May, hiking will be one of the best things to do at Kinburn. The weather is still warm and pleasing but not exhaustingly hot, and the fresh breeze from the sea adds to the perfect setting of the hike.
While Kinburn is mostly about sands and beaches, located in the heart of it is the centuries-old Herodotov Forest – the remains of the once huge forest dating back to the 5th century BC.
Hiking in the Herodotov forest is a pleasant 40-minute to 1-hour walk down the narrow path that winds among tall and fairytale-like trees, past the swamps, creeks, and small lakes. At the end of the hike, you can take a dive into the clean waters of the Black Sea.
Hiking to the End of the World Point
The End of the World is how the Kinburn locals refer to the park’s south-western tip where the Black Sea and the Dnipro-Buh bay clash. A truly epic point is opened to the winds coming from both sides. In September when the tourist season is over, there is practically no one there but the birds.
Hiking to the End of the World is an adventure that you can complete either in one or two days with a stop for the night in the tent somewhere around Pokrovka. Or you can venture on a hike from the village of Pokrovka and reach the tip of the spit in about 3 to 4 hours.
This is a simple hike, most of which is done along the coastline. Skin protection, a hat, and sunglasses, as well as a bottle of water and shoes comfortable enough to walk on the sand, is recommended.
Waiting for you at the tip is the old lighthouse, an abandoned barge, and an epic landscape with the light blue waters of the sea and the dark-blue waters of the bay meeting in the middle.
Hiking to the Dolgiy Island
The hike starts in Pokrovka and is a radial walk to the Dolgiн island in the northern part of Kinburn and back to the village.
Like the rest of the hikes in Kinburn, this one will not include steep climbs and is a relatively easy walk. All that it requires is skin protection, water, and comfortable shoes.
Dolgiy island is a bird sanctuary with breathtaking wild nature and hardly any other tourists in the area. A good idea would be to reach Dolgiy by the coastline of the Yagorlyk Bay and to head back through the Cherepashyn and Chirnine lakes. The hike takes 2 to 4 hours depending on the pace.
Where to stay when visiting Kinburn national park
Depending on whether you like camping or the comfort of the guest houses there are two different locations to consider. Pokrovka village in the heart of Kinburn has quite a few great guest houses and villas. The tip of the spit is where there are quite a few great camping sites. Keep in mind that the season opens in May and closes at the beginning of October, and check available accommodations in Kinburn.
Hiking Ukraine National Parks: Summary
Depending on your seasonal preferences, complexity that you are eager to manage, and on whether you are travelling with family or friends, there are plenty of hikes in national parks of Ukraine to choose from.
All of the hikes in the Kinburn area are relatively easy, require no special equipment or gear, and are family-friendly. The same goes for a track around the Synevyr lake.
Those of you looking for a bit more challenging routes should consider a hike up mount Hoverla or Stezkha Dovbusha in the Carpathian national park.
For trails with the views, head to the Podilsky Tovtry national park or venture on a track to the Shypit waterfall. If you’d like a fast track and a breakfast in the city, opt-in for the hike of Smotrycky Canyon. If, on the other hand, you’d like to stay on the route longer and spend a night in the mountains, Pishkonya Mountain hike is the recommended route.
Written by Inessa Rezanova
I am a Kyiv-based screenwriter with 10+ years of experience in producing scripts. I love my job, and no, I did not quit it to travel the world. I see different countries in my spare time. As a storyteller, I believe that it is the emotional journey that matters the most. This is why together with my sister I started this blog to encourage everyone to travel and to do so with a heart and mind opened to adventures.
Images by Natalie Rezanova
I am a photographer based in Kyiv, Ukraine. I am lucky to be able to do what I love the most for a living. Photography is an endless source of inspiration for me. My mission on this blog is to inspire by sharing some of the favorite captions from my journeys. I also provide professional photography tips to help the readers bring home some beautiful photo memories.