The Hutsul Region of the Carpathians (Hutsulschyna)
Who are the Hutsuls?
The Hutsul region (also spelled 'Hutzul' and 'Huzul') of Ukraine, or "Hutsulschyna," is located in the southeast Ukrainian Carpathians to the southwest of Ivano-Frankivsk (oblast center) and Kolomyia, the main access points. The largest towns (villages) in the region are Dilyatyn, Kosiv, Kuty, Vyzhnytsia, Vorokhta, Yabluniv, Rakhiv, and Yaremcha.
The Hutsuls are a ethno-cultural group with that has had a distinct self-identity for a few hundred years. The moved into the Carpathian highlands between the 14th and 18th centuries. Because of their isolation in the mountains and resistance to change they were able to preserve their traditional way of life, based on cattle and sheep herding and craftsmanship, despite falling under the rule of many different governments. Even the Soviets let them continue their traditional lifestyle and crafts. With a degree of autonomy and strong communities, they achieved a noticeably higher standard of living than other people in the region.
Hutsul crafts and music
Today many Hutsul families produce crafts and souvenirs out of workshops in their own homes. There are popular crafts markets in Yaremcha and Kosiv and a few other places. In addition, the Hutsuls have distinct folk music traditions. In 2004 Ukrainian pop singer Ruslana worked Hutsul motifs into her "Wild Dances" song that helped her win the 2004 Eurovision contest.
Every summer little Hutsul village Sheshory (see picture above), 30 km. from Kolomyia, hosts a three-day international festival of ethnic music and land-art. Literally tens of thousands of participants come from all over Europe to take part in the fun and stay at locals' homes and a guarded campground in Sheshory. (Reports say that the festival has been a disappointment in recent years.)
Kolomyia boasts two Hutsul-related museums: the Pysanky museum and the Museum of Hutsul and Pokutia Folk Art.
More info on Hutsul music from Google.
Pictures of crafts and way of life in the Hutsul region at the Albis photo gallery (under 'Carpathians' section)
Recreation opportunities in Hutsulschyna
Hiking, mountain biking, rafting, fishing, and skiing are the main recreational opportunities in Hutsulschyna, as in the Carpathians at large. Read more on these topics by following the links to other pages on this site. "Green" or "eco-tourism" is beginning to thrive in Hutsulschyna, so expect the diversity of opportunities to grow.
Getting to Hutsulschyna
The main access points are Ivano-Frankivsk, Kolomyia, and, to a lesser degree, Rakhiv and far western Ukraine. Ivano-Frankivsk is the oblast center and is accessible by train and airplane from major cities across Ukraine. Kolomyia can be reached by elektrichka or minibus from Ivano-Frankivsk or Chernivtsi and by one train from Moscow that goes through Kyiv and one train from Kharkiv. Rakhiv can be reached by bus or train from Uzhhorod or Mukacheve in far western Ukraine.
The most important transportation artery in the region is the road between Ivano-Frankivsk and Rakhiv that passes through the highest parts of the Ukrainian Carpathians over a 830 m. pass. Alongside the automobile road is a narrow-gauge railroad with slow passenger trains that go back and forth several times a day. This is the route you would use to climb Hoverla, Ukraine's highest mountain, or ski at Drahobrat, Yablunytsia, or a few other places in the region.
The greatest number of Hutsul towns and villages can be most easily visited from Kolomyia. From here it is not far to Kosmach — Hutsul crafts and music center, Sheshory, Kosiv, Kuty, Vyzhnytsia, or Verkhovyna. From Verkhovyna it's a stone's throw to Hoverla, and you can also take the road further to Vorokhta and then back to Kolomyia, making a perfect loop.
If you decide to go south to the more remote villages near the Romanian border (the Putyla area), keep in mind that much of the road is gravel, and the gravel road over Shurdyn pass (1230 m.) to Chernivtsi is formally closed to automobile traffic, which means it's a long drive back north to Kolomyia. Also, there is a passport control post along the way, and you must have your passport with you. Only locals, however, may cross the border into Romania. Other travelers may do this only at international crossing points.
There are a number of not-too-fancy hotels in Ivano-Frankivsk and Kolomyia and quite a few fancier ones in and around Yaremcha, which is much more of a tourist destination. I assume there are hotels now in Dilyatyn, Kosiv, Kuty, Vyzhnytsia, Vorokhta, Yabluniv, and Rakhiv, and I know there is one being built in Verkhovyna. Some of these places, such as Verkhovyna, also have so-called "tourist bases," which are like rustic hotels or dormitories.
Very popular these days are private bed and breakfast accommodations. The service is great and the prices are more than reasonable. Kolomyia has a conveniently located boarding house called "On the Corner" (see column on left for more information). This is a great contact, as manager Vitaliy knows all about tourism in the region and can arrange accommodations in other towns and organize all sorts of trips and recreation throughout the region.