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A biking project, BikeLand (VeloKrayina in Ukrainian), was launched in the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains in 2009; an infrastructure is being created to promote and facilitate bicycling along the mountain roads and popularize bicycling among tourists.
The Ukrainian Carpathians began to attract tourists Ч tourists in the modern sense of the word, in the late nineteenth century. Among the early tourists were royalties, high-ranking politicians, distinguished public figures and authors. Among the better known ones in the latter category the sociologist Max Weber and writers Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Lesya Ukrayinka, and Ivan Franko can be mentioned.
A group of enthusiasts from the town of Yaremche, and members of the public organization Tsentr sotsialnykh ta dilovykh initsiativ (Center of Social and Business Initiatives), developed an idea of promoting tourist bicycling in the Carpathians into a project which was named BikeLand. The description of the project, written by Viktor Zahreba, project manager, and like-minded enthusiasts, was sent to the European Union for a review, and the project earned a grant, with the European Union taking upon itself most of the expenditures involved in carrying out the project. Officially, the project works with the support of the EU Commission within a Rumania-Ukraine good-neighborhood program.
Since the time the project began to be implemented, the number of tourists who benefit by it has been steadily increasing. About 50 volunteers were engaged in providing assistance. About 40 bicycling routes have been located, examined and mapped, and now they are offered to the bicycling tourists. 80 more routes are planned to be introduced. These routes vary in difficulty and the tourists have a choice, depending on the skills from very tough through to moderately difficult and to easy ones.
25 routes have already been provided with special signs, information boards, wooden gazebos for rest and contemplating the views, bicycle stops near drugstores, stores, cafes and museums. Maps with the bicycling routes and travel guides have been published.
The bicycling routes take tourists to picturesque and impressive sights, views and various sites of tourist interest Ч waterfalls, viaducts, wooden churches, museums, Hutsul villages, souvenir shops and markets, nature reserves. For those who enjoy getting the adrenalin flow, there are routes which will put the their bicycling skills and stamina to the test. At such places as Verkhovyna, Vorokhta, Yaremche and Kosiv tourists will be provided with all the information they need about bicycle routes they would want to take.
Bicycling in the Carpathian Mountains is not only an excellent physical exercise and great fun Ч it also exposes tourists to the local culture and beauty of nature. The routes crisscross the areas known as Hutsulshchyna, Zakarpattya and Bukovyna, with their unique ethnic and cultural attractions (Yaremchansky, Kosivsky, Verkhovynsky, Rakhivsky and Hlybochytsky Raions in Ivano-Frankivsk, Chernivtsi and Zakarpattya Oblasts of Ukraine).
Good starting points are in Yaremche, Vorokhta, Mykulychyn, Tatariv, Verkhovyna, Iltsi, Kryvorivnya, Hlyboka, Rakhiv, Kolomiya and Kosiv.
It begins in Vorokhta and its destination is Mount Kukul; total length Ч 52 kilometers; the highest point above the sea level Ч 1,420 meters. Only experienced bikers should take it.
The first fifteen kilometers will present no problems because the route runs along the highway, but then the route parts company with the highway and begins to climb steeply through the primordial forest. The views from the open places are breathtaking. You can get a panoramic view of the Chornohirsky Range, the highest in Ukraine.
The last leg of the trip is down the steep slope with some boggy places on the way. One must be very careful there. The route takes you back to Vorokhta Ч on the way back aqueducts and other pretty sights keep you visually entertained Ч and no steep rises or downward slopes to deal with.
It is a route that less experienced bikers and those who enjoy easy rides will enjoy most.
It begins in Yaremche and its total length is 17 kilometers; the highest elevation Ч 597 meters. First you ride along the highway to Dilyatyn, then you turn (near School # 1) right and ride to the kladka Ч wooden bridge across the River Prut. From there you proceed to the village of Piddil and from there you go on along the river (the road is asphalted). Some sections of the route run through the forest and past the Monastery of St Andrew. Nice sights, fresh air and architectural landmarks are galore to enjoy.
Hutsulsky sela (villages) Route
The route begins in Verkhovyna; its total length is 37 kilometers; its highest elevation Ч 900 meters.
From Verkhovyna, the route takes you to the village of Kryvorivnya Ч a wonderful place which can be called a museum, complete with a three-hundred year old church and peasant houses in which prominent Ukrainians of the past once lived or stayed. The route passes by picturesque Hutsul villages and then runs towards Mount Mahura from which opens a great view. The Museum of Hutsul Everyday Life and of the 1960s Film Shadows of the Forgotten Ancestors are among the highlights of the route.
Where to stop, what to eat
VeloKrayina suggests places where you can stop to have a good meal or stay the night Ч peasant estates and velohoteli (bicycle hotels) which offer accommodation to tourists. These places are equipped with facilities to park bicycles at, wash them and carry out simple repairs. You can also wash yourselves and do your laundry.
You can rent bikes in Yaremche and Vorokhta and have your bikes fixed at maintenance.
Not only the number of bicycling tourists is constantly growing but bicycling is becoming increasingly popular among the locals as well.
to learn more about bicycle routes, bicycle rent, places to stop to have meals and accommodation.
This age-old viaduct is one of the sights that can be seen on the bike route Vorokhtyansky.
Photo by O. Kurshyn
Biking alone the route Lehenda. Spring of 2009.
Photo by O. Kurshyn
By Volodymyr Zakalyuzhny
Photos have been provided by the BikeLand