For some reason, the Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine are the most underrated destination in Europe.
Synevyr Lake is Ukraine’s most picturesque and clean lake, located in the heart of the Carpathian mountains, in Synevyr National Park. I visited this region in summer two years ago and fell in love with the beauty of nature, evergreen mountains, pine tree forests, mountain rivers, natural springs, and waterfalls. Ukrainian traditions are amazing, the food is to die for, and the people that live in the Western Ukraine are the most welcoming and friendly in the whole world.
Yet, this destination is still underrated. Perhaps my journey will inspire you to plan your next holidays in the Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine. The week I spent there was a truly amazing experience.
This time Vitaliy and I decided to explore the region in November and enjoy the colors of autumn. When we were just planning our trip, we couldn’t even imagine all the contrast in colors of the trees and landscape that we would see there.
Synevyr is one of the most charming places in Ukraine and it is also perfect for a digital detox. The reception is only available in some places, and the access to Internet (wi-fi, 3G) is very limited.
On the first day when we arrived we took a long walk from the cabin where we were staying to the lake. In summer, the lake was very wide. The shores were covered with the crystal clear water that reflected the green mountains surrounding the lake. There was a small island in the middle and we took a wooden raft to get there. Swimming and fishing are prohibited to preserve the lake’s purity.
But when we came there on the first day of our trip in November, the lake was very small. We could literally walk on the surface that used to be covered with water a few months ago.
The lake is surrounded by pine trees, paths that lead further to the forest, cabins that can be rented for a barbecue or a picnic.
The Love Story
In Ukraine we love legends, they are a big part of our ancient culture. The name of the lake comes from a very sad love story of Ukrainian Romeo and Juliet named Syn and Vyr.
A long time ago, a rich Earl owned this land and all the people who lived there worked for him. His wife died soon after she gave a birth to a beautiful girl, whose eyes were crystal blue. Her name was Syn (which blue in Ukrainian). She was the only one in the whole world who could make the Earl happy. Syn grew up and became a beautiful young woman. One day she was walking in the mountains and met a young shepherd. His name was Vyr. They deeply fell in love with each other at the first sight.
Her father was very angry when he found out about them. That poor shepherd was a shame to the girl’s noble family. So the Earl forbade them to be together. But their love was too strong and Syn disobeyed her father’s will. The Earl ordered his servants to kill the poor shepherd and they pushed a big stone one him from the top of the mountain. When the girl heard about Vyr’s death she couldn’t hold her pain and cried. The beads of water started falling down one after another. She couldn’t stop crying until there was a lake of tears around her. Ever since this lake has become a symbol of those who are deeply in love with each other.
When you travel to the Synevyr National Park make sure to visit the Brown Bears Rehabilitation Center. It was built to save the endangered Brown bears, rescue them from circuses, private collections and gas stations. The bears are brought here from all over the Eastern Europe old, ill and tortured. Some owners make the bears blind, tear up their teeth. Others don’t feed them properly, keep them chained in small cages or teach them to dance by forcing them to stand on heated metal plates. The idea of this rehabilitation center is to heal them and to break their habit to be close to the humans. These bears will not survive in the forests of Carpathian Mountains. They will always try to come close to humans because this is how they are used to live. This will bring both bears and humans to danger. The Authorities have taken a big piece of land with a natural landscape where they built dens for the bears and provide them with food.
A Picnic by a Mountain River
We stayed in a cabin in Synevyr Polyana (Synevyr Valley). It is a small village close to the entrance to the National Park. At the backyard, we saw a mountain river that flows from the lake down the valley. The river is dark and shallow, but the water is crystal clear. We were sitting on its bank and breathing the cold, fresh mountain air in and we started making a fire to warm up.
All the days we spent in the mountains were warm and calm, until the last one. A few days before, Pani Anna, the lady who takes care of the cabin, said that she sensed the snowfall coming. She grew up in the mountains and learned to understand the nature and to feel the upcoming changes in the weather. She was right. The last day did feel like the cold winter was coming.
We cooked Camembert and made coffee on fire!
How To Get Here
The Lake and the Park are located here. To get here you should take a train or flight to Lviv. Then you can either rent a car, but not that the roads in some parts may be partially destroyed. Or you can take a train to Volovets station and a taxi/bus from there. Be prepared for a slow ride due to the damaged roads.
Where To Stay
I chose to stay at a small private hotel (cabins) called An Artist’s House. It is built in a traditional Carpathian style and has a traditional home style restaurant.
How Much Does It Cost
The rooms cost from 15-30 USD depending on the season.
The meals cost from 1 to 5 USD
Entrance to the National Park – 1 USD
Transfer/Taxi from Volovets to Synevyr Valley – 10-25 USD (this has to be checked before. You can always negotiate at the train station. English is rarely spoken in the area)
Photography: Veronica Pototska, Vitaliy Pototskiy. Retouch: Veronica Pototska
Gear: Canon Mark II, iPhone 6s+, Moment lenses
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