Western Ukraine

View of Carpathian National Park from Hoverla. Carpathian National Park, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast

Western Ukraine (Ukrainian: Західна Україна) makes up about a quarter of Ukraine and has the closest affinities with Central Europe of all Ukraine's regions.




Map of Western Ukraine
  • 1 Lviv (Львів) – the undisputed centre of Western Ukraine
  • 2 Chernivtsi (Чернівці́, Černivci)
  • 3 Lutsk (Луцьк)
  • 4 Ivano-Frankivsk (Іва́но-Франкі́вськ)
  • 5 Khmelnytskyi (Хмельни́цький, Chmel'nyc'kyj)
  • 6 Kolomyia (Коломия, Kolomyja)
  • 7 Liuboml (Любомль) – a prominent Jewish town during pre-Holocaust times
  • 8 Rivne (Рівне)
  • 9 Ternopil (Тернопіль)
  • 10 Uzhhorod (Ужгород)

Other destinations

  • The Carpathians of Zakarpatska Oblast
  • 1 Kamianets-Podilskyi — the historic Capital of Podolia, very picturesque medieval castle.
  • 2 Podilski Tovtry National Park Podilski Tovtry National Nature Park on Wikipedia — there are 2977 kinds of plants from different climatic zones, including 521 kinds of trees and bushes, 395 kinds of fruit plants, 620 kinds of tropic plants, 111 kinds of health-giving herbaceous plants of local and wild flora, 19 archaeological sights, more than 302 historical-architectural sights.



After the breakup of medieval Kievan Rus, today's Western Ukraine was ruled by the Principality or Kingdom of Galicia-Volhynia (centered on Halych and Volodymyr) from the 12th to the 14th century. The region was then conquered partly by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and partly by the Kingdom of Poland. Both united to form the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth that included Western Ukraine until the Partitions of Poland in the late-18th century.

Subsequently, the Northwest (Volhynia) belonged to the Russian Empire, while the Southwest (Galicia, Bukovina and Transcarpathia) was part of Austria-Hungary and thus under a strongly Central European influence. After the end of World War I and the collapse of Austria-Hungary, the formerly Austro-Hungarian parts formed a short-lived West Ukrainian People's Republic before being reclaimed by now independent Poland. Western Ukraine suffered greatly during World War II under the terror of both Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union, while the nationalistic Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) fought against both empires but also committed murderous crimes against ethnic minorities such as Jews, Poles, Hungarians and Russians. One of the most notorious of these crimes was the Volhynia Massacre, in which up to 100,000 ethnic Poles were massacred by Ukrainian nationalists. Stepan Bandera, one of the most prominent leaders of the UPA, is venerated as a national hero in Ukraine, and you will often see statues of him in this region, but this veneration draws sharp criticism from neighbouring Poland.

The region was only reunited with the rest of Ukraine under Soviet rule after the War. During this era, the population of Western Ukraine maintained the strongest sense of a separate Ukrainian national identity, and the use of Ukrainian language has been most vigorous. Ukrainian independence was most strongly advocated here, and symbols of Soviet rule were removed more quickly than in other regions. The vast majority of the Ukrainian diaspora in the United States and Canada also trace their ancestry to this region, and they continue to maintain strong cultural and familial ties.

While Eastern Ukraine became heavily industrialised during Soviet times, the West remained mostly agricultural. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the region benefited from increased trade with the European Union and developed new economic sectors. However, the GDP per capita is still lower than in the central and eastern regions.

Due to this chequered history, significant numbers of minority ethnic groups remain in this area, and many remnants of the Central European past of this region still to be seen in architecture, religious practices, languages, cuisine and politics. Unlike the rest of majority Eastern Orthodox Ukraine, the three oblasts of Galicia (Lviv, Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk) have a "Greek Catholic" majority. This means that they celebrate their services according to the Eastern (Byzantine) rite like Eastern Orthodox Christians, but recognize the Pope in Rome as their highest religious authority like Roman Catholics.

In the political conflicts of the 21st century, a solid majority of Western Ukrainians have favored stronger ties with the European Union and NATO. The Orange Revolution and Euromaidan parties had the highest support rates here. But far-right ultra-nationalists like the Svoboda ("Freedom") party also scored strongly in the region.

During the war with Russia since 2014, it has been the safest region in Ukraine. In the course of the 2022 Russian invasion, however, Western Ukrainian cities have been hit by missiles and air strikes.



Unlike in the rest of Ukraine, Ukrainian is the sole language of everyday life in this region. While most can also speak and write in Russian well and the languages are closely related, many Western Ukrainians refuse to speak the language for political reasons, and some may even find it offensive to be addressed in Russian. Thus, learning a few basic phrases in Ukrainian will endear you to the locals. Most signs are only Ukrainian, and only a few also include Russian, something prevalent even as a Soviet province. Minority languages include Romanian, Hungarian, Polish, Slovak and German. Foreign languages (apart from Russian) are mainly English and German.

Get in


By plane


By train

  • There is a direct train from Kraków to L'viv once a day, plus one with a change. A sleeper berth is required on the train, as only sleeping cars are carried across the border to Ukraine. Do not pay a cash 'reservation charge' to the Ukrainian conductor on the second train. Ensure you have your reservations for the second train in your possession and fully identifiable.
  • Trains from Hungary and Slovakia come through Lviv, usually on their way to Kyiv. Train-fare from both countries is approx US$80 per person for a bed in a sleeping car. Make sure to bring enough food and water for at least 12 hours (15 hours from Budapest).
  • A quick and direct way to get to Romania is to take the 601L train from Lviv to Solotvino (Transcarpathia Oblast); it departs Lviv at 20:23 and arrives in Solotvino at 09:47. Cost of ticket costs less than €10 depending on whether one chooses 2nd class "kupet" or 3rd class "platzkart". Solotvino is a very small town, and the border station (which will be on the other side of the Tisa river, or the right hand side of the train) is not too hard to locate: when exiting the train, take a left until you approach the first road. At the road, take a right, and walk about 100 m before coming to a three-way intersection (there will be a monument in the middle. Take a left onto the road that heads down into the river valley, and you'll come straight to the border station. You'll be treated very professionally, and possibly with preference over the Romanian majority who cross the border to take advantage of the lower Ukrainian prices. Once you cross the border, you'll be in Sighetu Marmaţiei, a charming and secluded town, and from here one can take advantage of the direct train to Braşov/Bucharest that leaves that afternoon around 16:00 or 17:00. The direct train from Sighetu Marmatiei to Brasov/Bucharest is found under two different train numbers. The train leaves Sighetu Marmatiei at 17:11 (local time) and arrives in Bucharest at 09:56. You can get off at Brasov at 04:22. For more info check the Romanian Railways website[dead link].
  • Lviv is a major railway hub; there are some more connections, for example, to Croatia, Moldova, and Serbia.

By bus

  • There are daily buses from Polish cities: Warsaw, Przemyśl, Lublin, Wrocław. It is possible also to get there by bus from other European cities.
  • From Przemyśl there are 2 types of buses that regularly travel to L'viv. The first is the PKS (Polish Coach Buses) and the second is private buses.
  • There is a daily night bus service provided by Eurobus from Kraków bus station to Lviv, departing at 21:50 from Kraków and supposed to arrive at 06:00 in Lviv (depending on delays at the border [1] [dead link]. The price is around 90 zł (Oct 2011). There is also a Eurolines bus (but not every day) from Kraków, departing at 11:30 to Lviv, arriving at 21:10. This bus continues onwards to Kyiv to arrive at around 06:00 the next morning. The price to Lviv is around 75 zł and discounts (ISIC, etc.) apply (Oct 2011). The bus from Brest (Belarus) to Lviv departs every day on 08:45 from platform 7 and arrives in Lviv at 17:33. The price is around US$20. Most of international buses arrive at Stryisky bus station, on the outskirts of Lviv. To get to the centre you take trolleybus 5. Ticket: 1.25 грн (you must buy another one for big luggage) can be bought in a kiosk or from the driver.
  • Countless buses connect Lviv directly with Prague and some other Czech cities, passing through Poland, but mostly not stopping there to take passengers. These can be best viewed using the Czech integrated timetable (English version also available and working). Advance reservation is recommended and for some buses also possible online, at the bus operator's website. Although these buses can get you from the West to Lviv far faster than trains, they are not meant for western tourists. Instead, they are targeted primarily at Ukrainian emigrant workers earning their living in the Czech Republic. As such, brace yourself for at least 10 hours in the jolly company of drinking and smoking (!) workers returning with their hard-earned cash back home.

By car


Ukrainian roads are bad, and Ukrainian drivers have an aggressive driving style. When you drive into Lviv, make sure you have a good map because getting lost in this town is very easy.

Pay close attention to speed limits (which are often badly marked, with signs far off the road, covered with branches etc.), but the speeding fines are usually low if nothing else is wrong with your car. In towns, the speed limit is usually 60 km/h (40 mph). Speed limits on "nationals" (single carriageway countryside roads) is 90 km/h (55 mph). The poor average quality of the roads already acts as a speed checker. The speed limit on highways (motorways) is 110–120 km/h (75 mph).

Corruption is widespread among Ukrainian police. When you are stopped for speeding or other violations, officers might aggressively try and extract ridiculous sums of money from you (€100 and up), offering "reductions" if you pay on the spot (the proposed alternative being some unpleasant and more expensive way, all made up).

The highest legal fine in Ukraine is the equivalent of about US$200. But the fine should be paid in the bank, not directly to police officer! So if you're asked for fine demand a written ticket for you to pay later instead. Don't let them intimidate you. It's very useful to have an embassy phone number handy for these cases (you should not under any circumstances travel around Ukraine without your embassy/consulate number handy anyway). If you mention your embassy/consulate, they'll let you off the hook quicker than you know it. At any rate, write down the officers' badge numbers, rank, plate number of the police car, and notify the nearest embassy/consulate in detail, to help fight these corrupt practices.

On foot


Take a train to Przemyśl near the Polish-Ukrainian border. From Kraków it costs about ~50 zł and takes between 4 and 5 hr. From Przemyśl you take a bus or a local train to Medyka at the border ('granica' in Polish) for 2 zł. Private buses are found just outside of Przemyśl train station on the opposite side from the main bus station. They head to the border when they are full, which can take a while at night and travel to the border is about 15 minutes (about 10 km of rough road). The mini-buses drop you off at the 1 footpath to the pedestrian crossing Medyka-ShehyniPrestatyn, while Medyka train station is approx. 1 km away.

Pedestrian crossing: Queues at the border crossings can be unpredictable and hellish. If you do encounter a queue and are in a hurry, get the guards attention, explain your situation and they will more than likely let you go through immediately. Be polite! 30 minutes from Medyka to Sheheni (Шегині) on foot is now the norm.

There are lots of "ants" - these are people who cross into Poland with relatively cheap Ukrainian cigarettes and spirits, then buy meats and cheeses at low EU prices and return to Ukraine to sell them for a profit. Everyone has to pass through a turnstile and the bulky bags and suitcases they carry are too big to fit. There is a huge log jam of people trying to fit their bags through that turnstile and ugly words are common. Tourists with backpacks are sometimes let through by the "ants".

On the Ukraine side, private buses can be taken to Lviv; these take about 1.5 hours, and can be found at the bus station around 300 m up the main road, past all the shops, on the first major road to your left. Right outside the border you will probably meet touts who will tell you that they have best prices and invite to their cars and buses, this option may be faster but is definitely more expensive. The price for a bus from the station is 24.5 грн (Apr 2013); the buses are often packed and can be uncomfortable at times. There are no ATMs in Sheheni. However, there are lots of money changers, so make sure you bring enough currency of some sort to pay for your ticket to L'viv.The bus from Shehyni will most likely arrive next to the main train station in Lviv.

The total cost for this route is approximately €15 and maybe less if you have a student card. It is around half the price of the next cheapest option. Whether to take it depends on your stress tolerance, Polish language skills and ability to push and shove at the border, but it's an adventure!

Get around


Best way to get around Carpathian part of Western Ukraine is to use trains or buses. Check the local train schedules[dead link] and bus schedules, both only in Ukrainian.



UNESCO World Heritage Sites

See also: UNESCO World Heritage List#Ukraine

Two world heritages made up of several components have a sizable number of their sites in western Ukraine; the Beech Forests of Europe and the Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpatian Region. In addition three points of the Struve Geodetic Arc are to the west and south of Khmelnytskyi.



National parks

See also: Ukrainian national parks
  • 3 Verhovinsky (Національний природний парк «Верховинський»), Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, Verhovinsky district, +380 3432 53720, . Founded: 2010. Area: 12023 hectares. The main highlights are Chyvchyn and Hryniava forested mountains, just for skilled trekkers or with guided tours. River Cheremosh offer some watersports options. Park Office in Verkhnii Yaseniv villege 5 km east from the park.
  • 4 Vizhnitsky (Національний природний парк «Вижницький»), Chernivtsi Oblast, . Founded: 1995. Area: 7928 hectares. Ecological trails for walkers 3-15 km 1-8 hours and an eco-tourist route 164 km by car one day long start from Chernivtsi. For campers there are two simple recreation points in the park area, with limited facilities.

Skiing, Trekking

  • 1 Karpatski Meadows Mountain Hotel and Sportcomplex (Гірський готель Карпатські Полонини), Drohobytska raion, Lviv Oblast (on the Hill of Tsyuhiv - from Lviv 123 km SW (buses to Oriv 6 km W daily four). Horse riding and riding in a carriage, mountain biking, archery, paintball, rope town, mountain and cross country skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, ice hockey.
  • 2 Volovets Skiarea, Volovets Raion, Zakarpattia Oblast (take a train from Lviv 160 km SW), +380 3136 22972. Play Eco Tourism Complex (База відпочинку Плай), +Tel.+380 3136 22585, +380 3136 23399.
  • 3 Volosyanka Winter Resort, Skolivskyi raion, Lviv Oblast (take a Mukachevo direction train from Lviv to Slavske further 10 km by bus or taxi). Zahar Berkut Complex. Excursions to Lake. Synevyr, High Verkh Mount, Kamyanka falls, Dead Lake.
  • 4 Pylypets Mountain Resort Area (Гірськолижний курорт Пилипець), Mizhhiria Raion, Lviv Oblast (20 km east from Volovets). Magura Mountain hotel complex (База відпочинку "Магура") Tel.+380 67 3441217, +380 95 6007715, +380 67 3127223 and Zatyshok Resort (База отдыха "Затышок") Tel.+380 3146 25135, +380 50 4639171, +380 44 2276133.







Smuggling is a fact of life between Eastern Poland and Western Ukraine. The harsh economic situation in these two respective regions forces many into the trade, involving people of all ages. You may witness individuals unscrewing panels and pulling out plastic-wrapped cigarette cartons, and may even be asked to politely move to enable access to a hidden cavity. Similarly if you decide to use the toilet you may find it blocked with cartons of cigarettes and your seat may feel uncomfortable if someone's removed the soft filling and replaced it with cigarettes. The key here is to exercise your common sense. These people are only doing their 'job' and thus should be treated with respect. There is no need for alarm! In fact it can be fascinating watching just how many cigarettes a single train carriage can hold and later watching as everything is removed on arrival in the EU. Border guards may ask you if anyone has been smuggling but the best response is to claim that you were sleeping or pretend not to understand.

You are legally allowed to bring through the EU border 40 cigarettes (two packs) or 20 cigarillos or 10 cigars or 50 g of smoking tobacco and 1 l of spirits (above 22% alcohol) or 2 l of alcohol (e.g. sparkling wine below 22% alcohol) and 4 l of non-sparkling wine and 16 l of beer. If you are below 17 years old it's half of these amounts.

Go next

This region travel guide to Western Ukraine is an outline and may need more content. It has a template, but there is not enough information present. If there are Cities and Other destinations listed, they may not all be at usable status or there may not be a valid regional structure and a "Get in" section describing all of the typical ways to get here. Please plunge forward and help it grow!