Top 10 Things to Do in Transcarpathia, Ukraine

Located in the beautiful Carpathian Mountains of Eastern Europe, where western Ukraine meets Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania, is the Transcarpathia Region. Its local name, Zakarpattia, translates to “beyond the Carpathians.” It’s very much a gem hidden in plain sight, and the top things for travelers to do in Transcarpathia, Ukraine, are more extensive than one might expect.

The Zakarpattia Oblast, or Region, spans a little under 5,000 square miles in the foothills and southwest slopes of the Carpathian Mountains. The area was home to nomadic Turkic equestrians dating back to 677 AD, when the earliest state in the region was established. 

Much later, it became part of the Kingdom of Hungary in 1000 AD and later still, the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the end of World War II. The Treaty of Trianon turned Transcarpathia over to Czechoslovakia in 1920, and later became part of the Soviet Union in the 1940s.

With such a rich historical significance, Transcarpathia was already a dream travel destination of mine. Add in the fact that it’s remarkably close to my father’s family’s home country—Hungary—and it became a surreal, moving travel experience. Everything from the food to the culture made me feel closer to my Eastern European roots. It’s a part of the world I hope to explore more thoroughly in the future.

I had the most amazing time exploring this underrated region with my friend and guide Diana from Tours by Locals. Her expertise in all things Transcarpathia is invaluable, so I highly advise hiring her if you want the best experience! These are the top 10 things you must do in Transcarpathia, Ukraine.

Visit Tustan and the Fortress of Tustan

Looming high above the medieval city of Tustan in western Ukraine are the remains of the Fortress of Tustan. A cliffside defensive complex and customs site, the fortress’ origins date back to the 9th century until its destruction in the 16th century. It served as the main regional border center between the Kingdom of Galicia-Volhynia and nearby Hungary, and later, Poland and Hungary.

The Fortress of Tustan

Built around and between steep and massive rock formations, the fortress was a brilliant defense site. It was also one of the stops along a salt trade route that also passed through Tustan, the villages of Tustanovyichi and Pidhorodtsi, and continued into other countries in Western Europe.

Even without the fortress there, the site is still impressive today. After paying the 65 hryvnia/$3 admission fee, you’ll follow a wooden plank through a forest to a set of wooden steps leading up the stone monolith. Nearby is a museum and an archaeological site.

Wooden and metal artifacts, along with pottery, glass, and leather items have been unearthed by archaeologists. Rock-carved images known as petroglyphs can also be found in the area. It’s also a spectacular viewpoint that gives you unparalleled views over the gorgeous Transcarpathia region!

Tustan Vendors

I also recommend venturing down to the village of Tustan, where you can find a number of vendors selling craft goods, as well as locally-made tea, jam, coffee, and fresh baked goods. Tustan was one of the few places in Ukraine where I found street food—a fantastic poppyseed bun, as well as a kind woman grilling potato kebabs. Be sure to try her cherry liqueur and honey liqueur!

Visiting this area is one of the more impressive things you can do in the Transcarpathia Region of Ukraine, so don’t miss out on it!

Fortress of Tustan

вул.Тустанська, Urych

Lviv Oblast, Ukraine, 82612

+380 67 671 3345

Visit Kamainka Waterfall

Not far from Tustan is a beautiful, natural area surrounding another of the region’s popular landmarks, Kamainka Waterfall. This peaceful spot is a fantastic place to sit back, relax, and enjoy nature. I was told that, if you wash your face in the waterfall’s icy stream, that you’ll stay young forever!

The area around the waterfall is also home to a fun artisanal street. Along it are roughly seven vendors selling a mix of kebabs, jams, tea, and fish. They also offer some very unique and surprising drinks in jars, including one that contains a preserved, venomous snake!

If snake liquor isn’t your jam, that’s okay, because there are plenty of other options. The vendors here are kind and friendly, and will likely let you sample their products before you buy. I recommend the amazing pine nut jam and smoked coffee, as well as their honey, cherry, root, and herb vodkas.

One of my favorites was the kvass, a non-alcoholic drink made from bread. It has a slight nuttiness to it and is quite tasty! 

Catch and Eat Fish at Golden Trout Restaurant

No list of the top things to do in the Transcarpathia Region of Ukraine is complete without stopping at Zolota Forel in Korostiv. Also known as Golden Trout Restaurant, this eatery in the middle of a gorgeous natural area framed by mountains, is pretty unique. Not only can you eat fish—and a lot of it—here, but you can also catch them!

I admit, as a city boy, my fishing skills are limited, but I still had a blast fishing for my lunch. But I had a lot more fun eating my catch!

Trout Feast 

My guide Diana and I enjoyed a huge freshwater trout feast that included caviar, smoked trout, marinated trout, fish pate, and trout tartare. The trout tartare was fishy and fatty, while the smoked trout was bony but smooth and flavorful.

I also couldn’t get enough of the creamy fish pate with toast and the sour pickled plums and vegetables. There was also a dish called ukha, which is a trout soup with carrots and potatoes. And the grilled trout and baked trout were simply out of this world! 

The smokiness of the grilled trout with a zesty pop of lemon blew my mind, and the baked trout with pine nuts was a bit earthier and more tender!

But my favorite, by far, was the trout caviar. I’ve been a big caviar guy practically my entire life, and this was some of the best I’ve ever eaten. The tiny eggs were like little gushers that popped in my mouth. They paired nicely with our fruity and dry white wine. One of the best things you can do, and meals you can have, in Transcarpathia, Ukraine!

Golden Trout Restaurant

662 км траси Київ – Чоп

Korostiv, Lviv Oblast, Ukraine, 82630

+380 67 889 6999

Check out the Top 20 Things to See and Do in Lviv, Ukraine

Visit Palanok Castle

Roughly 150 kilometers (about 93 miles) southwest of the Tustan area is the city of Mukachevo. Located in extreme southwestern Ukraine, Mukachevo is home to one of the area’s most impressive locations, Palanok Castle. The castle complex, also known as Mukachevo Castle, stands top a volcanic hill 68 meters (223 feet) high.

The castle complex dates back to some time in the 10th century and stands on the site of a Bronze- and Iron-Age-era fortress. It’s thought that a small, wooden structure stood there in the 9th century. The sprawling site is made up of three parts—the low castle, the middle castle, and the high castle. 

The fortress’ layout proved fruitful, as the Munkács, the army of Batu Khan, and the Tatars all failed to capture it between the 11th and 14th centuries.

It only costs 50 hryvnia, or about $2 USD, to enter the castle. Inside the complex, you’ll find Historic Exhibition, or museum. There, you can view metal, clay, and stone items archaeologists have excavated from the site. They include arrows, jewelry, locks, and farming tools!

If you’re in the mood for some fun gifts or keepsakes, check out the souvenir shop. You can buy everything from typical mugs and magnets to decorative plates to even a medieval gauntlet! If you love medieval history as much as I do, Palanok Castle is easily one of the best things to do in Transcarpathia, Ukraine!

Palanok Castle

вулиця Замкова гора, б/№

Mukachevo, Zakarpattia Oblast, Ukraine, 89611

+380 99 273 2199

Eat Ukrainian Mountain Food at Poryadniy Gazda

In the city center of Mukachevo, you’ll find a number of interesting sites to check out, including a promenade lined with coffee shops and restaurants, and the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Martin. After checking them out, stop by Poryadniy Gazda, a restaurant near the castle, for a bite to eat.

This massive restaurant is spacious and has lots of cloths draped across the ceiling, giving it the feel of a giant circus tent. The restaurant also includes an on-site brewery and a cellar. Their walls are decorated with colorful jars filled with different types of pickled vegetables.

If you’re a beer lover, you’ll enjoy their six types of unfiltered beer, including their cloudy blonde ale, creamy Witbier, and their delicious Coffee Cream Beer. Enjoy your beer of choice with a hearty and meaty spread of Transcarpathian food!

I suggest trying the bohrach, which is a pork rib stew with potatoes, carrots, and pickles. It’s fatty and rich, and the meat is so tender it falls right off the bone. It’s the perfect winter soup! 

Along with it, I enjoyed some thin and juicy Transcarpathian pork sausages, along with some pork belly, baked potatoes, and fried onions. The smoky, meaty sausages and glaze-like sauce on the pork belly, were outstanding.

I also couldn’t get enough of the baked potatoes with cheese! This is the definition of Transcarpathian comfort food. It’s good, hearty, stick-to-your-ribs food that warms you up on a chilly day. One of my favorite things to do in Transcarpathia, Ukraine!

Poryadniy Gazda

Vulytsya Erdeli, 36А

Mukachevo, Zakarpattia Oblast, Ukraine, 89600

+380 95 507 5666

Try Ukrainian Wine at Chateau Chizay

Less than 40 minutes south of Mukachevo by car is the city of Berehove. This city of about 24,000 people is very close to the Hungarian border, and therefore, has a large Hungarian population. The city is also known as the wine capital of Transcarpathia, so one place you must visit there is Chateau Chizay.

Chateau Chizay is widely known as the area’s top winery. In the winery’s museum, you can learn about the region’s wine-making history and the wine-making process. There’s also a beautiful tasting room. I suggest going for the Premium tasting, which allows you to try eight wines with cheese, crackers, chocolates, and nuts.

Their white 2020 Chersegi and dry Sakura Transcarpatia rosé were fruity and quite tasty, while their dry red cabernet would have been perfect with a steak. But my favorites were their semi-sweet Moscato Ottonel, their unique pinot grigio with lime and mint, and their white grape blend.

Before you leave, be sure to stop by their gift shop. They sell 25 different types of wine there, including kosher wines, pinot blanc, cabernet sauvignon, and many others. No matter your preference, there’s something there for you!

Chateau Chizay

Урочище Чизай,1

Berehove, Zakarpattia Oblast, Ukraine, 90201

+380 50 432 0525

Check out the Top Things to See and Do in Kyiv, Ukraine

Enjoy Transcarpathian Food at Chizay Mala Hora

After you’ve enjoyed the wines at Chateau Chizay, drive five minutes through Berehove’s historical center to Chizay Mala Hora. This chateau-like restaurant overlooks a sweeping vineyard and sells some the area’s tastiest food!

One thing I learned while exploring Transcarpathia is that snails are everywhere. Because of that, they’re prominent in the cuisine, and you can try them as an appetizer with garlic butter.  The region is also known for its mushrooms, which the chefs at Chizay Mala Hora use in their velvety and earthy mushroom soup!

The main course I recommend is the turkey with mashed potatoes, greens, tomatoes, and white mushroom sauce. It’s like an upscale version of Thanksgiving dinner! The furkey is fresh and juicy, while the potatoes are smooth and creamy. It was heavy yet comforting and went well with a dry, fruity pinot noir.

Another dish you can’t miss is the deruny. This is a potato pancake served with trout, sour cream, avocado, and arugula. It’s creamy and heavy, like most of the dishes I’d tried in Transcarpathia. I loved the fattiness of the fried pancake, sour cream, and avocado. But best of all, everything was fresh! This was probably my favorite dish and thing to do in Transcarpathia, Ukraine!

Chizay Mala Hora

Урочище Чизай, 1

Berehove, Zakarpattia Oblast, Ukraine, 90202

+380 50 372 2178

Visit Uzhhorod Castle

You can’t—or shouldn’t—travel through Transcarpathia without visiting the region’s capital, Uzhhorod. Located in the southwestern-most part of Ukraine, this city of roughly 115,500 is just a stone’s throw from the Slovakian border and is also very close to Romania and Hungary.

The city is historically known by its Hungarian name, Ungvár. The Ukrainian name Uzhhorod only came into use at the beginning of the 20th century. Its most prominent site is Uzhhorod Castle, a massive Hungarian citadel that dates back to the 13th century. It fort continued to grow and develop through the 18th  century.

Within the fort’s walls are a museum and a palace. The museum houses carvings from the Gothic Church of St. George, a number of weapons from the 16th-20th centuries, 17th-19th century books, folk instruments, and other archaeological findings. 

I really enjoyed the weapons room, where you can see everything fro swords to guns to sabres. There were also some large maces, armor, and cast-iron relics from the 19th century. Transcarpathia has a rich and well-documented medieval history, and Uzhhorod Castle is one of the best places to explore it. It’s one of the top things to do in Transcarpathia, Ukraine, for sure!

Uzhhorod Castle

Kapitul’na St, 33

Uzhhorod, Zakarpattia Oblast, Ukraine, 88000

+380 312 614 609

Dine at Villa Alfeld

If you walk just a few minutes from Uzhhorod Castle, you’ll come across one of the city’s top restaurants, Villa Alfeld. It’s a cozy and rustic space that’s actually a 300-year-old house. It features wooden furniture and exposed brick and even has a museum upstairs.

The restaurant sells both Hungarian and Ukrainian favorites, which spoke to my heart as someone who is half Hungarian! Adding to the experience is the friendly staff, especially their sommelier, who was super friendly. One of my favorite things on their menu is the goulash, which is a Hungarian beef stew with carrots, beans, and egg that I grew up eating. Eating it with rye bread and the spicy red pepper paste took me back to my childhood! 

Hungarians love their spicy food, which is probably why I’m such a spice head! Another highlight was the Mangalica steak, which was gamy and came with peppers and a unique tomato sauce!

You should also try the segedinski, which is a Slovakian dish made up of cabbage, meat, and sour cream atop slices of yeasty bread. It’s hearty and creamy, and the fluffy bread works very well with it. I also recommend the sweet banush, which is like a creamy and fluffy polenta with honey and walnuts. 

Wash it all down with some Olaszrizling white wine, a local Moscato, or one of their earthy and acidic Hungarian wines. If you’re passing through Uzhhorod, eating at Villa Alfeld is among the top things to do in Transcarpathia, Ukraine!

Villa Alfeld

Kapitul’na St, 14

Uzhhorod, Zakarpattia Oblast, Ukraine, 88000

+380 95 472 4010

Check out my VIDEO: Medieval Ukrainian Mountain Food – Exploring Transcarpathia + Attractions | Mukachevo, Ukraine

Tour the Old Town of Uzhhorod

Villa Alfeld is located in the Old Town of Uzhhorod, which is a beautiful area of the city I highly suggest you explore if you have the time. Near the restaurant is Uzhhorod Orthodox Cathedral, a beautiful house of worship not far from the main pedestrian boulevard. That street, Vulytsya Korzo, is a great place to check out shops and restaurants.

If it’s chilly and you need to warm up, there’s no better way to do that than with a Ukrainian brandy at A Piori. Their Carpathian brandy, in particular, is a real treat. It’s smoky, oaky, and full of flavor!

Another place in the Old Town you must visit is Shtefanyo. Along the way, you can grab a cup of joe at Riverside Coffee Shop and view a local synagogue that is now a concert hall. At Shtefanyo, you can try a local specialty called Uzhhorod Cake. It’s airy and rich, and contains meringue and hazelnut. I don’t usually love sweets, but this cake was outstanding!

BONUS: Explore Nevytske Castle

About 20 minutes north of Uzhhorod is another of Transcarpathia’s beautiful castles. This one, Nevytske Castle, can only be reached via a rough, bumpy road. Once you reach the general area, you then must walk a path through the forest for about five minutes to reach the castle.

It’s unclear when the castle was first built, but the first mention of it came in 1274. At that time, it belonged to Ladislaus IV, the King of Hungary and Croatia. It’s said that he used it as a dungeon or a keep. It was then rebuilt early in the 15th century, and again early in the 16th.

This semi-ruined castle is absolutely breathtaking. It stands above the Uzh River, which also runs through Uzhhorod. I learned that it belonged to the same aristocrats who owned Uzhhorod Castle. It was being renovated during my time there in the summer of 2021 and had been since 2018. It has a courtyard made of gorgeous stones.

The castle also has extremely high walls. I don’t advise climbing them, as it can be dangerous. That said, the views from atop the walls are some of the most beautiful I’d seen in Ukraine. The day I visited, it was misty and foggy, which made me feel like I’d been transported back to the Middle Ages. The forest surrounding the castle is beautiful and lush and is home to lots of snails!

Conclusion

In a travel destination like Ukraine, which is already seen as off the beaten path by most, Transcarpathia is an almost untouched gem. This beautiful mountain region has it all: rich history, mouthwatering food, a unique culture, and some of the most picturesque views in all of Ukraine. The handful of days I spent exploring it was a major highlight of my trip through the country. It’s an area I believe more people should explore. Book a trip to experience the top 10 things to do in Transcarpathia, Ukraine for yourself!

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