Getting to the Carpathians by train
Going to the Carpathian Mountains is one of the most popular tourist activities in Ukraine. Getting to the mountains is easy if you have a car but if you are on a budget or have limited time, then it is a little bit harder. In this post, I will show you how visiting the Carpathians from Lviv on a day trip is easy to do.
On my visit to Ukraine earlier this year I decided to take a day trip to the small town of Skole, on the edge of the Carpathians.
Skole is a small town approximately 100km south-west of Lviv near the Polish and Slovakian borders. This day trip was completed by using the very reliable Ukrainian train system. You can buy a ticket online by reading my previous post here.
On my journey, I took the 108W to Uzhhorod leaving Lviv at 1010 and arriving in Skole at 1147. The return leg was on the 828D leaving Skole at 1906 and arriving back in Lviv at 2045. That would give me almost 9 hours to play with – more than enough time.
Walking the trail
After arriving in Skole, I made my way through the small train station and across to the other side of the town. According to Google maps there was a hiking trail/path in that direction. Hiking paths in Ukraine don’t have the best signposting / directions which we will come back to later on.
To get to the opposite side of the town you have to cross a bridge over the Opir river which offers some great views of the landscape and the town.
Having crossed the bridge I was able to reach the starting point of the trail. As with a lot of places in Ukraine, there is very limited information on signs in English. So I decided to take a photo with my phone in case I needed it or worse, I got lost. The bridge is in the bottom right of the photo, with the yellow dotted line being the path.
I should have paid more attention to the photo as for some reason I thought the path followed the river all the way. You can guess what eventually happened to me…..
As I walked along the side of the river, the path gradually became more and more like a mountain bike trail. After an hour or so I couldn’t work out where to go. I crossed over the river (now more of a stream) but that became a dead end. After crossing back, I could see a slight clearing in the trees. With a little bit of clambering through the branches I made it, only to discover another dead end. I decided to give up and return to the path and to go back to the start. I would walk in reverse order trying to complete the trail after lunch.
Going back into the town
I turned around and made my way back to Skole. I was back much faster than I thought (I walk quickly plus I couldn’t get lost). When I made it back to the start, I crossed the bridge over the Opir river once more and headed for what appeared to be the centre of Skole. This comprised of one main street with small shops, no supermarkets to be seen. I got some supplies from the shops and then sat at the main square and watched as people walked past. Now suitably fed, I made my way back to the trail going through random small streets in the town.
Back on the trail
The reverse direction started being more open than the correct way. It was like walking along a path between fields. There was even a man who appeared to be asleep with two dogs, which took an interest in me and started to chase after me whilst barking. I am not sure if the barking woke him or if he was already awake but he was able to call the dogs off. I was safe for now.
The trail soon narrowed and reminded me of countryside lanes where I grew up in Northern Ireland, used only by farm tractors.
As I mentioned earlier, the paths aren’t really signposted so I soon took another wrong turn. I didn’t even notice until about an hour later when I realised I was in the wrong place.
Rather than turning around I kept going until I was able to rejoin the path at a later point, from where I would be able to track my way back and find out where I was supposed to turn. I found the path after another 20 minutes, there was just one problem and that was what appeared to be a 70 degree downhill bank in the way.
I slowly made my way down with the thought in my head that if I was to fall and break any bones, I was in the middle of nowhere and no-one knew where I was. Fortunately I made it to the bottom by taking things very gingerly. I was pretty tired by this point so decided to take my time and to go backwards on the correct path to see where my mistake was. It turns out that instead of going straight on as I did, I was supposed to turn left and go underneath some (gas?) pipes.
Back to Lviv
I made it back to the train station and double checked the train timetable. The train back to Lviv was in about 30 minutes. I was glad that I had learned some Ukrainian before my visit. I waited for the train and then sat and relaxed until I was back in Lviv.
That was the end of my day trip for visiting the Carpathians from Lviv. I was disappointed not to be able to complete the trail in full. I will be back in Lviv again in May next year. If I have time, I will possibly try to do this again.