Every year, the Ukrainian Carpathians attract tourists more and more. And during the summer holidays, they even fight for the right to become a full-fledged alternative to beach holidays at the seaside. First of all, people are attracted to fresh air, comfortable climate and incredible scenery. One more factor – a reasonable price. Opinion has paved the number one route along the Chornohora ridge to tell its readers – how to have a good time in the mountains for pennies and why not to be afraid to go on a multi-day hike without any tour operators.
However, the most entertaining and really cheapest option for a holiday in the mountains is a hiking trip to the summit. Everything is like in adventure films – a large backpack with a tent and sleeping bag, food and… desire to appear face to face with nature. How much does it cost and is it safe to organize a group without paying guides? If carefully prepared and train tickets are bought in advance, it is inexpensive and safe to get there. However, let’s observe it one step at a time.
First stage – planning
Of course, the most important stage of an independent trip to the Carpathians is planning. We determine the dates of the trip, gather a team (for which we recommend to create a separate group in the messenger to promptly discuss all issues), buy train tickets and negotiate with the transfer driver. Also, we carefully consider the menu in the mountains, in order not to carry an excess burden and not to take something that part of the team does not eat.
The most convenient option is to go to Ivano-Frankivsk. From there – take a private bus (transfer) to the starting point of your route. Most budget travellers to the Carpathian Mountains go to Ivano-Frankivsk in third class cars – because it is cheap. And stuffed backpacks can easily be put on the top shelves. It is quite difficult to buy a ticket to a popular destination. Therefore, here you go, life hack #1 – in order not to monitor every hour the availability of tickets on the official site of Ukrzaliznytsya, install Telegram-bot. For example, Railwaybot is ready to let you know when the tickets are available. We recommend that you buy tickets for the entire group at once – the road to the city is already your vacation, in train you’ll have some time to discuss the route of the hike in detail, share your experience, or, after all, just get acquainted if not only friends but also friends of friends join the group. Do you have tickets – and your seats are even close to each other? Congratulations. Now that you know the exact date, train number and time of arrival in Ivano-Frankivsk – book your transfer. On the Internet, it is easy to find the phone numbers of people who, for a relatively moderate amount of money, are ready to take you from the railway station to the mountains, in our case, to the base of the Zaroslyak. This base is primarily known for the fact that the route to Hoverla starts from there. But not only this one. Lifehack #2 – do not choose well-known and popular routes, because it will be too crowded and, accordingly, the dream to rest, enjoying the quiet and nature will not come true. Yes, I understand that you really want to post a selfie from Hoverla on Instagram. But believe me, the Carpathians are not only Hoverla.
We chose the route from the Zaroslyak, but as you guessed, not in the direction of the highest mountain of Ukraine. We went to Lake Nesamovyte. Given that in the group the vast majority of people decided to go hiking for the first time in their lives – we’ve decided to plan a relatively easy option for climbing a ridge. In addition, Lake Nesamovyte is incredibly beautiful. It is 88 meters long, 45 meters wide, and 1.5 meters deep – it is included in the list of one of the highest residing lakes (it is located at an altitude of 1750 meters). Its area is 0.3 hectares. The lake is of glacial origin when the air temperature drops below zero – the water in the lake freezes. Even in the summer, it is incredibly cold, which, however, does not stop tourists from swimming in it.
After arrival in the city of Ivano-Frankivsk at 6:00, we had some coffee and immediately boarded the bus. A few hours of road, during which most people just slept – and the group got to the base of the Zaroslyak. On the same day, we start our ascent.
Another important part of planning your route is determining where to stay overnight. The key rule is that the camp should be near water, that is, directly close to a natural source. We recommend buying a map that shows all the popular routes of the Carpathians and… drinking water sources along with convenient places to set up camps. Actually, we chose the place for the first night in the mountains near the lake because it is near a nice spring. You have never drunk such delicious water, I assure you.
Do you have tickets and have already booked your transfer? You have planned the route and decided approximately where you will camp? Well, that’s half the battle. It’s time to understand – who will sleep with whom and what tourist equipment each of you has. This is another important detail. You need to understand how many tents to bring with you; whether everyone has enough sleeping bags and mats; and do you need trekking poles?
So what do you need to bring with you? In addition to warm clothing, a flashlight, basic hygiene products, each participant in the hike should take sleeping bag; sleeping mat; backpack; dishes (bowl, cup, and spoon), water and products. One tent for two or three people. It is highly recommended to rent trekking poles. If one of your friends can teach you how to use them correctly, it will significantly relieve your knees. You must carefully consider the menu and purchase products. I repeat: it is advisable not to take extra so that you do not carry on your bag what you won’t be able to eat. Even worse is to take less than necessary. Hungry tourist – an angry tourist. And angry people do not enjoy the rest.
The first part of our route Zaroslyak – Lake Nesamovyte was only 8 kilometres. Relatively easy ascent, interesting scenery surrounds you while climbing. Lifehack #3 – take your time. At this stage, you’re already in the mountains, you are already relaxing and enjoying nature. You have a cool company, properly distributed among backpacks luggage. Walk, chat, take pictures. No matter how corny it sounds – enjoy every moment. Yes, route planning, of course, involves an approximate ascent time. So that a tired group, which, for example, is climbing too slowly, doesn’t have to camp at night. At the same time, prepare dinner or wash at night… Therefore group leaders have to hurry up others from time to time. But reasonably. We recommend 40-50 minutes of ascent – 5-7 minutes of rest. Experienced people – leaders of the group – must go in front and behind everyone else. If someone needs more rest or go to the toilet – the whole group is waiting for him or her.
In our case, even if the vast majority went to the mountains for the first time, and they were girls – the route was overcome quickly. At 4:00 pm, we had already ascended the ridge near the lake and set up our tents and camp. There was time before dinner, so, realizing that the next day the route was going to the side of Mount Pip Ivan, we had time to climb and walk a little to the other side without backpacks – to Turkul Mountain (1933 meters). Those who were the most tired, or had already seen Turkul – remained in the camp, and the rest – went up to the mountain. An evening of incredible experiences on the mountain, a swim in Lake Nesamovyte (I repeat, it is extremely cold) and dinner next to the fire became a justifiable reward for our group for a difficult day of climbing to the top. Customary, the first day is one of the hardest. First of all, you’ve just arrived. The whole night on the train, then on the bus and then you go up while climbing a ridge. It is quite difficult even for trained people. Secondly, a body refuses to undergo such loads on the first day from a purely psychological perspective. And on the second or third day, as we joked, your body begins to realize that it has no other options, except for following the route to the end.
In the morning of the next day, almost immediately after breakfast, our group gathered and headed towards Mount Pip Ivan (2020 meters). We travelled about 15 kilometres along the ridge but still couldn’t reach the planned point. On the mountain, from where you can see a magical landscape, a delicious lunch was served. After a little rest, someone even fell asleep on the top, we went down to a hollow for the night. This place was previously unknown to us. But the map showed us that not far from Mount Vukhatyi Kamin (1864 meters) should be a great place to spend the night. And there should be water! After all, tired but happy, we found such a dear pointer for us – “Water”. Less than an hour – and we had set up a camp. Another hour – and we were having a delicious dinner, made on a portable gas burner.
The third day on our route ran through Mount Vukhatyi Kamin. Then we went down to the village Dzembronya. Approximately during the third day, we had covered 10-12 km. It was easier to overcome the distance since we were already descending the ridge. In the village, we had time to swim in the river and have lunch. From here the group took a transfer and within a few hours, we were already among civilization – the city of Ivano-Frankivsk. After a little walk around the centre, we had a delicious dinner in the pub and without a hurry, we went to the train station. The next morning our train arrived in the capital. Those whose vacations had ended – even managed to go straight to work. Admittedly, this is not the best idea to go to work exhausted and hungry, after three days in the mountains. Unless you have no other options, you can make it to the office on your return day.
Now, probably the most interesting thing. How much was the three-day trip that gave us lots of impressions and thousands of photos? In general, the budget can be divided into two groups – road and food. As for the first one: 450 UAH railway tickets (Kyiv – Ivano-Frankivsk – Kyiv) + 425 UAH shuttle service (for all of us – 1600 UAH from the train station to the Zaroslyak and 1800 UAH from Dzembron to the train station). Therefore, in general, route Kyiv-Ivano-Frankivsk-Zarolyak-Dzembronya-Ivano-Frankivsk-Kyiv costs only 875 UAH per person. Participants of our hike owned most of their equipment or borrowed from friends for free. Therefore, the second spending direction includes food, booze, and gas for the burner. It cost each 455 UAH. Therefore, a trip for one person cost 1330 UAH. For comparison, a three-day hike in the mountains with backpacks arranged by the travel agency will cost almost three times more expensive. Yes, the guide will lead you along the most convenient route, help set up a tent and even cook dinner. But why to pay more if you can do it on your own?
Plan a mountain vacation – and don’t waste extra money. Believe me, you will never forget this hike. We wish you new experiences and cool hikes.
Text and photo by Vadym Lubchak