UA flag MTB trip to Ukraine 1995 UA flag

Do you like biking in virgin nature? One of place where you can try it is Transcarpathian Province (Zakarpatska Oblast) of Ukraine, the most west part of Ukraine (2nd link) in the neighborhood of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania (click to see a map). This region with very difficult history (in last two centuries it was a part of Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Soviet Union and independent Ukraine) has no heavy industry. The largest city is Uzhhorod. People work mostly in agriculture and forests. It is relatively poor country slowly moving from Soviet insulation to open, free life. For people from west it's very cheap. You cannot expect supermarkets with broad offer or restaurants, but basic food as bread, pickles and vodka you can buy in normal shops (sometimes or somewhere they have nothing more than these three foods plus nails and solid chains in village shops), on the market you will see milk products, fruits and vegetable, behind every second hill you will find a source of a good natural water, often mineral water. If you have luck, you can buy milk and curd or cheese on a fold in mountains (not very often). With a piece of modesty you can spend one or two weeks in region with a nice countryside, between hills, mountains, forests, grasslands, rivers, streams, where live friendly people with their cows, sheeps and horses. You can enjoy biking on dusty ways on steep hills, on wooden roads across fenny areas, carrying bikes in impassable laps in a stony river basin with broken trees or you can choose asphalt roads with molten surface in a hot summer. I did it in summer 1995 with a group of MTB friends. Our trip was organized by Czech travel agency Adventura. I visited this country first time on a foot trip a year ago in 1994, and a MTB travel was a way to discover more on my favorite bike.

We came to Ukraine by bus and then we spent one week on our bikes, usually without baggage. Our trip began in Prague, we went over Slovakia with a break in Tatra mountains. We made one day trip in West and High Tatra region and continued to Transcarpathian Ukraine. The input gate to this region of Ukraine was in our case Uzhhorod on the border with Slovak Republic. Interesting places are castle, Museum of traditional rural architecture and market in Uzhhorod.

Welcome on Ukraine Uzhhorod museum Uzhhorod museum

From Uzhhorod we continued by bus to Mukatchevo and Svaljava, where our MTB trip began. Near Svaljava we crossed the river on rope bridge, it was dramatic, I rode there, but I will do it never more! From Svaljava we rode to Volovec sometimes on forest or cart ways, sometimes on the railway bank, sometimes we waded a river. It was easy to keep the right direction - in valley along the river Vitcha and main railway without any decline. After some 30 km we were in Volovec, we ate for about 1 or 2 $ good lunch and then we continued on the asphalt road in direction Mezhorje. For hard bikers there is a special offer in Volovec - to go to Polonina (plateau, grassland) Borzava. It means steep ascent in beginning and a as well steep descent on the end with poor tracks in grass and bilberry between it, nice nature, hills and mounts (the highest and most distinct is Mount Stij, 1681 m). When you aren't so hard or you haven't time for it, you can go directly to Mezhorje as we did. We declined to right in Podobec and then we done a small break behind Pillipec on waterfall Shipot. It's nice and very refreshing. From Shipot we returned to Pillipec and after some 10 km we found a good place for sleeping. It was a small meadow on right behind the village Keletchin. There was one source of mineral water 200 m from us, the second one with another composition was 2 km in front of us near the road, next mineral water source was in Ritchka 5 km from us... Hills were from all sides, river Ripinka? flowed on left side of the road, it's fair.

Lenin's statue in blackberry Sinevir Inside the orthodox
church in Mezhorje

Next day we visited Mezhorje. The most interesting object was there the orthodox church, the priest lives in neighborhood and he likes to show his church to visitors. Then we crossed a ridge on the road to Sinevir. In the gap is a pub, but they don't like guests, especially if they wish something... From Sinevir we went to north to the end of road into Svoboda (Freedom) village. Road is asphalt at first, then gravel, then earth, behind the village it continues in a river-basin and then we lost it finally. Biking off road is very hard or impossible in this region, many places are passable only on foot or by special heavy forest tractors. Svoboda is very nice old village with wooden houses and traditional life. We found there the same architecture as in Uzhorod museum, now in real life. Behind Svoboda is a perfect construction of a small new dam from wood, stones and earth. Everywhere were free horses and cows.

Svoboda main road Dam in Svoboda Dam for wood rafting

In Sinevirska Poljana is a camp, we made a trip to Sinevirske Ozero (Sinevir Lake) from there. It is nice lake between forests in protected area. Our next trip was from Sinevirska Poljana to Sinevir, by a check-point after a few kilometers we turned left to a stone road around river Ozerjanka. On this river is a "klauza", a wooden dam for wood rafting, now reconstructed and used as a museum. After the view we returned back to asphalt road (quality of which was as usually good for MTB with at least front suspension...) and we rode to Kolotchava.

Kolotchava church Kolotchava

Kolotchava is a village with interesting church with "Museum of atheism", near the second church are graves of Czech policemen killed by bandit Nikola Suhaj, the legendary person from not very old past. Nikola Suhaj has his grave unmarked on the cemetery on the end of village.

Mount Bliznica, 1881 m Children in cowboy village
in mountains near Jasina

Next day we made a long road transport over Chust and Rachiv to Jasina by the bus and we came to the very east part of the Transcarpathian Ukraine, to Black Mountains. In Jasina is very interesting Jewish cemetery, something like in Old Town in Prague, but it is in nature here and it is used till now.

Jasina, rope bridge Jasina, Jewish cemetery

From Jasina are many possibilities where to go on bike, you can try Jablunickij gap (asphalt), mount Bliznica or mount Hoverla. The last we made, we went to Lazescina and under Hoverla, the highest mount of Ukraine. We weren't able to ride to the top, we reached only about 1700 m and then we continued on foot to the top in 2061 m.

Mount Petros on 8 PM Road under Hoverla

Back we rode on very good hard plain road from Hoverla to mount Petros and yet farther. Near the new wood church we turned left to village Bohdan, it was exciting downhill on a little worse dusty roads in old forest, we lost maybe 1 km of height, which we rode yesterday up.

Heavy traffic (sheep jam) Church in mountains

Our last stop was in village Hoverla, I tried to ride to the top of mount Pop Ivan, now called Cerna hora (Black mount), but I found no way there. On these kilometers I finished MTB part of this nice trip, next was only a long bus transport back home. We made a break in Solotvina, where are salt lakes in salt mines area. It's pleasant for bathing, high concentration of salt makes swimming very easy, you can lay on water and read a newspaper, for instance. The black mud is medicinal, so we met many splashy black people there.

Solotvina, people in black mud Dense salt water in Solotvina

After successful passing of the border (it took about 6 hours and a lot of nerves) we made again a biking day in Slovakia, now in area of Zemplinska Sirava Lake, and on the second day morning we were back in Prague again.

This page was created on August 28th, 1997 by Zdenek Horcik.

For more trip reports click here.

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Last modified on September 1st, 1997