Introduction

Clipping the country's southwest corner, the Carpathian arc has endowed Ukraine with a crinkled region of forested hills and fast-flowing rivers that feel a continent away from the flatness of the steppe. This is the land of the Hutsuls, whose colourful folk culture is laced through thin villages stretching languidly along wide valley floors. It's also rural Ukraine at its best, where tiered wooden churches dot hillsides, horse-drawn carts clip-clop along potholed roads, babushkas shoo geese, and marshrutka passengers cross themselves as they whizz past roadside chapels.

The 'Hutsulshchyna' may be Ukraine's epicentre of rural folk culture, but this is also a leading holiday spot. The local peaks have been a long-term hit with Ukrainian hikers and skiers; the Carpathian National Nature Park, the country's biggest, lies in this region; and within the park's boundaries rises Mt Hoverla – Ukraine's highest peak at 2061m. It's also home to Bukovel, Ukraine's glitziest ski resort.

Highlights

  • Kolomyya Setting up base camp in this Carpathian town to visit its museums and arrange hikes into the hills.
  • Uzhhorod Soaking up the relaxed atmosphere of this cosmopolitan border town with attitude, on the frontier with Slovakia.
  • Ivano-Frankivsk Wandering the pastel-coloured heart of this pleasant, central European gateway to the mountains.
  • Mt Hoverla Making an easy-going ascent of Ukraine's highest peak.
  • Kosiv souvenir market Bargaining hard for Hutsul souvenirs at thisamazing craft market.
  • Bukovel Ski Resort Snapping on skis for a bit of downhill fun at Ukraine's ritziest ski resort.
  • Chernivtsi University Joining Bukovyna's student population at this trippy uni building, one of Eastern Europe's most mind-boggling places of learning.

When to Go

Jul Picnic on flower-filled polonyna (summer pastures) as you listen to the tinkle of cow bells.

Sep–Nov Watch local vintners bringing in the grape harvest in the Transcarpathia region.

Dec Enjoy some hearty Hutsul après-ski during the Carpathian ski season.