An international band of brightly clad hikers slurping borshch with weather-beaten Hutsuls; mountain bikers competing with horse-drawn carts and clapped-out Ladas for pothole space; wooded mountainsides hoisting a beautiful backdrop as the fast-flowing Tysa River gurgles beneath precariously hung footbridges – this is Rakhiv, chaotically post-Soviet and crudely rural, but the best base from which to explore the southern Carpathians.
While Rakhiv's derelict state in places is shocking even by Ukrainian standards, the place has a raw energy that draws adventurous foreigners and Ukrainians alike. Some outsiders have even settled here to farm and carry on the traditional ways of the Hutsuls. Peace Corps volunteers posted here love the place.
Rakhiv is good for a couple of days to organise supplies, have a chuckle visiting a 'geographical centre of Europe' that's really not, and enjoy a little hiking.