Hoverla (2061m) is the highest mountain in Ukraine. The biggest challenge of this mountain is how to get there by public transportation, especially if you don't speak Russian.
Getting to Yaremche
The train from Chernivtsi to Ivano-Frankivsk took only a few hours. But I was penniless because a taxi driver hijacked and robbed me in Chernivtsi. Luckily I found an ATM at the station in Ivano-Frankivsk, so I could refill my empty wallet with local cash. Then I went to the bus station close by. The buses to Yaremche depart every 30 minutes or so. I could not understand anything of the Cyrillic letters, so I had to ask around to get on the right bus. Arriving in Yaremche, I could easily have transferred to another bus to Vorokhta but that bus was apparently not departing anytime soon. So I decided to stay in Yaremche for the night, hoping to arrange a Hoverla tour from here.
Finding a hotel or guesthouse in Yaremche required some walking, but eventually I found a lovely Swiss style chalet (Hotel Velyka Vedmedytsya). The only problem was that the staff didn't speak any English at all. But a friendly young couple from Lviv who also were staying there, came to my rescue. They helped me to get a single room for 160 UAH (incl. breakfast). They also got the reception to call and arrange a private transfer to Zaroslyak (the trailhead of Hoverla) next morning. Hopefully I was joining another group, so the transportation cost would become cheaper. Initially the driver wanted 300 UAH, but the lady at the reception and the couple from Lviv shook their head in disbelieve, and bargained it down to 120 UAH for me.
Easy hike to Hoverla
Next morning the driver picked me up as agreed (10 am) after a tasty home-made breakfast at the hotel. The driver also picked up three other tourists in his old Mazda 626. Together we drove to Zaroslyak, which is a 1.5 hours drive from Yaremche. We passed a check point and paid 20 UAH each to get into the national park. From here it was a fairly rough dirt road, we even had to get out of the car a few times to lessen the load and increase the vehicle clearance.
The three other tourists with whom I shared the car, turned out to be a German guy with his Ukrainian girlfriend and her mother. They were not going to do Mount Hoverla, because they had been there last year. They would instead hike from Zaroslyak to a scenic and mysterious lake. I was told that the hike to this lake (7 hours return) is somewhat longer than the hike to Hoverla (5 hours return), so I expected that there would be some time to kill when I came back down from Hoverla. The driver was going to be their guide, while I was perfectly fine on my own.
From the parking lot in Zaroslyak (1250 m.a.s.l), it was easy to find the marked trail to Hoverla. Shortly after, I came to a fork where I had two options. I decided on the steeper and slightly shorter route. I did the 4 km and 800 vertical meters in less than 1.5 hours. It was beautiful weather, and certainly more than a hundred others who were also hiking to Hoverla this Sunday. Since I had plenty of time, I was sitting on the top and enjoying the wonderful views over the Carpathian mountains for almost 1.5 hours.
I descended the second and slightly longer trail, just for the sake of variety. I passed a memorial site for a young Ukrainian couple who had died here on a cold winter day in 2009. Another reminder that the mountains both "giveth and taketh away". The return hike was short and straightforward, and back in Zaroslyak I had to wait a couple of hours before the others returned from their hike. In the mean time I was able to write this trip report on my iPad. Then we drove back to Yaremche, and when I tried to give him a tip for the successful trip, he first insisted that he would not accept anything. But when I told him that this was money for vodka, he smiled and took the money.
After Mount Hoverla I went on to visit the lovely historic city of Lviv.
100 Ukrainian Hryvnia (UAH) was about 12 USD in Sep-2012
Hoverla at EveryTrail