Polonina Borzava is one of the most beautiful mountain ridges in Ukraine and it was also our first hike in Karpaty (Mizhirja – Volovets).
Now few years later we wanted to hike polonina Borzava again, but we didn’t want to do exactly same trail, so we found great 2 day alternative hiking on polonina Borzava over Stij mountain.
Description of the trail – polonina Borzava over Stij
The starting point is at village Osa (train station “1663km” – GPS 48.647542, 23.101343) and ending point is at Volovets. The trail goes on polonina Borzava over Stij (Стій – 1681m) which is the highest peak of Borzava and continues on this beautiful ridge over Velikij Verch and Plai down to Volovets village.
You can see the profile of the trail here.
We arrive to “1663km” station by local train (elektricka) quite late at 19.00. Just next to the railway road starts the yellow touristic mark with the steep hike up the hill. After first 100m the trail passes the spring, which is great spot to fill the bottles. There are no water springs on the trail, so we use this opportunity. We carried 5 litres of water per person.
From there we go up the road made by big trucks. Let’s be honest – this is the most boring and unpleasant part of the hike. No views, just heavy steps up the hill. As we arrived quite late, after few kilometres the darkness comes and we build a tent in the middle of the forest, just next to the trail. There are not many flat spots for the tent, so look for one in advance.
After the breakfast we continue the heavy ascent in the forest and soon we reach the open space of polonina Borzava. This is also the place where the blueberry starts to grow. As it is the season (late July), we immediately take opportunity to braze a bit. Locals are picking up the blueberries to make some extra money by later selling it on the market. They tell us that blueberries higher up the polonina are bigger and tastier, so we continue walking.
Soon we reach our first real peak – Zeneva, where we stay hidden from the wind for the lunch break while watching the trail going on polonina Borzava over Stij in front of us. Another obligatory blueberry snack and we continue the ascent. It is very difficult not to stop every 5 minutes, because there are so many bluberries all around.
July and August are great months to visit Karpaty because all the different berries are ripe and so tasty.
We actually don’t go on the top of Stij, as alternative road circles around the peak (as it is with most of the peaks here) and we have heavy backpacks full of water and electronics. Nevertheless the views are amazing, but weather is changing very quickly and one moment we are covered in clouds and another we are enjoying the sunshine. One thing doesn’t change and that’s the strong wind. That actually makes it impossible to fly the drone as the gusts are very strong.
We pass the old concrete ruins of radar from WW2 which was disassembled in 1995 and continue on the ridge towards Velikij Verch.
The evening is coming and we start to look for place to sleep. Sleeping on the ridge is always tricky, because of the wind and lack of flat space. You also never know how the weather will change at night, so it’s better to be prepared for the worst and choose the sleeping place accordingly.
The general rule of sleeping on the ridge is to stay in the saddle between 2 peaks and build a tent on the side where you are covered from the wind. And of course attach your tent to the ground the best you can even if the weather conditions look good.
Surprisingly we find reasonably good spot before Velikij verch, about 20 metres below the touristic sign post. There is enough flat space for 2 small tents. At the sunset the wind calms down, which is great opportunity for Michal to fly our Mavic. Clouds are rolling over the ridge and the show is so beautiful.
I was so much into making good shots from the drone and flying in clouds that I lost orientation. Once I decided to fly back against the wind to our spot, the wind was still so strong that Mavic was actually going further and further from me at the distatnce of 600m. I quickly switched to sport mode at 45% of the battery, but even like that Mavic was returning very slowly.
I decided to lower the altitude where the wind was not so strong. That helped but another problem appeared. Mavic was now behind the ridge and started to lose a signal. Signal was very weak, but there was no other choice otherwise Mavic would run out of the battery and land somewhere behind the ridge. Luckily at 20% Mavic appeared above the ridge and I quickly brought it back to me. At the moment of landing, the gusts started to be stronger and with no place to land beside my hand I started to manouvre for the best landing position. One quick grab and Mavic was landing in my hand at 14% of the battery. I thought this situation would never happen to me, but it did.
Lesson learnt – always return back to your position with enough of battery and plan to land with 25-30% of the battery. You will have enough time for emergency cases and you will also prolong your battery lifetime.
After the breakfast in the clouds we start to ascend to the peak of Velikij Verch. It is pity we are totally covered in clouds and don’t see anything because this would be the best part of the hike. After 2 hours of walking, clouds are disolved by sun and we can enjoy the views of the last part of the trail.
We have the lunch on Plai where there is meteo station and decide not to go to Volovets over Temnatyk, but to descend straight down and sleep already in Volovets. The version over Temnatyk would be little bit longer and you would have to climb one more peak, so it takes maybe 2 hours more.
Just under the peak of Plai (at the place of old cheese factory) you can decide to either go down on truck road (mild and long road) or to go straight down on narrow path (steep and short). We decide for short version. It is after the rain and the path is muddy and full of loose scree. It is very unpleasant, but there are many blackberries along the path so it is worth it. We eat so many of them that our belly starts to ache (next day we return here with empty boxes and fill them up with blackberries to bring them back home with us).
After another 1 hour we reach the edge of Volovets village and we count last steps till our homestay, which we find online and reserve by phone on the go. If you don’t speak Ukrainian or Russian, just follow the trail according to the GPS coordination mentioned in the beginning of this article. You will see advertisement for the homestay next to the road just when first houses of Volovets start to appear.
We reserved double room in homestay with 11 rooms and common kitchen. It has a great location for us, because it is very close to the mountains, so we don’t have to drag our tired bodies through the whole village. About half of the rooms have private bathroom and we paid 300UAH per night for double room with ensuite bathroom. There is even small shop nearby.
As we mentioned already there are no water springs on the trail. There is one just in the begining and another one next to old cheese factory under Plai mountain. We saw on the map many more springs below the ridge, but locals didn’t know about them and during the summer you never know if this alleged spring is going to be dry or exist at all. So we carried all the water with us the whole trail.
How to get there
We arrived from Lvov by slow local train (elektricka) to station “1663km” (sometimes mentioned as “1662km”) and it cost us 40 UAH per person for 4 hour ride. It is super cheap and you can observe local folklore and how locals are traveling.
You can also use normal fast trains which goes to Volovets (from Kyiv, Uzhorod,…). You can book it online on official website of Ukrainian railway (even in English). And later take a local train just few stations to “1663km”. You can buy ticket for local train on board with no extra fee.
This hike is great alternative for typical Borzava hike. The views are great (8 out of 10) and you won’t meet almost any other tourists there. You can still sleep anywhere you want in Ukraine and during the summer, the polonina is full of tasty berries. Just enjoy.
If you are considering to get yourself a drone to capture your travels from new perspective, check our article about Best travel drone. It explains the differences between the models and help you to choose the best drone for your needs.