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Hiking in Crimea


Few places on Earth have so many diverse hiking and biking opportunities in such a small territory as Crimea. A multitude of micro-climates and micro-ecosystems and an abundance of roads, trails, and historical objects makes Crimea a very interesting place to explore. However, the vast majority of hikers and cyclists visit only the mountainous part of Crimea that is south of Simferopol; the rest of the peninsula is flat and quite monotonous.

Learn about week-long guided treks through Crimea's most scenic mountain areas.

Maps of Crimea

Maps of Crimea and topographical maps of the Crimean mountains can be obtained in bookstores in major cities throughout Ukraine. The greatest variety of maps — all in Russian, of course — can be found in bookstores and outdoor stands in Crimean towns. Topographical maps show trails and springs, however, these trails are almost never marked or maintained, and many trails are not shown on the maps.

Where to begin your trip

The main starting points for hikers are Simferopol and Bakhchisaray, both connected by train to the major cities of Ukraine (Lviv, Kiev, Kharkov, Donetsk). Other towns with train access (Sevastopol and Feodosiya, for example) are somewhat less popular with hikers because the mountains are further away. The South Shore is not accessible by train, so backpackers usually begin on the north side of the mountains and work their way to the south, then take a bus back to the train station and head home.

If you're not sure where you plan to end your trip and get on the train, and you're going to be hiking in southwest Crimea, buy a return ticket from Sevastopol. That way you can get on at any stop between Sevastopol and Simferopol. Train tickets are best bought a week or two in advance during summer months.

POPULAR HIKING DESTINATIONS
HOW TO GET THERE
(main access points)
NOTES
Grand Canyon (400-800 m) Sokolinoe (bus from Bakhchisaray or Simferopol) There is a small entrance fee, but you will have to wait for the ranger to find you.
Ay-Petri Plateau and Ay-Petri Mt. (1234 m) 1. from Yalta by minibus from the bus station, 2. by aerial tram from Miskhor to the south (take bus there from Yalta or Sevastopol), 3. from Sokolinoe or Grand Canyon area to the north (no buses, but cars drive up to the pass) Long lines at aerial tram in summer (up to 2-3 hours!)
Babugan Plateau and Roman Kosh Mt. (1545 m) (officially closed to public) by foot from Gurzuf (take bus there from Yalta or Alushta) 1200 m elevation gain from Gurzuf. Some routes may involve avoiding forest rangers (since area is off limits).
Chatyr-Dag Plateau and Eklizi-Burun Mt. (1527 m) 1. Angarskyy pass (road from Simferopol to Alushta and Yalta, by trolleybus or minibus), 2. Perevalnoe village (same road, but nearer to Simferopol) 800 m elevation gain
Demerdzhi Plateau, North Demerdzhi Mt. (1356 m) and South Demerdzhi Mt. (1239 m), Valley of the Ghosts 1. Angarskyy pass (road from Simferopol to Alushta and Yalta), 2. Perevalnoe village, 3. Luchistoe village (bus from Alushta)  
Karabi Plateau, Kara-Tau Mt. (1220 m), Tay-Koba Mt. (1259 m) 1. Golovankovka or Krasnoselovka villages (bus from Simferopol to Belogorsk, then by minibus), 2. Generalskoe village (bus from Alushta) Most remote mountains of Crimea

When to hike in Crimea

The high tourist season in Crimea is July and August. If you are hiking around Crimea's South Shore, these months are best avoided because of the crowds and the heat. April to June and September to early November are ideal times for hiking. Crimea is also flooded with backpackers and vacationers during the May holidays (first ten days of May).
 
click to enlarge
A blustery summer day on a mountain plateau
 

Weather

(click on link for Crimea weather map)

The South Shore of Crimea (from Balaklava to Sudak) has a near-Mediterranean climate, with nice dry air most of the time, sunny summers, and temperatures moderated by breezes from the Black Sea. The rest of the peninsula has a moderate continental climate with more extreme temperatures. The mountain plateaus above 800 m. (the so-called "yayla") have a climate of their own that is extremely unpredictable. The weather may change many times during the day, and hail is common in the summer, blizzards in the winter, and strong gusts of wind at all times of year.

Generally speaking, the western half of the Crimean Mountains (Foros to a bit beyond Alushta) are well-watered, while those to the east of Alushta are drier, and those east of Sudak drier still. The flat areas of Crimea to the north of Simferopol are all semi-arid. The greenest areas of Crimea are the mountain slopes around Yalta and the mountains directly south of Simferopol and Bakhchisaray. The mountain plateaus actually receive the most precipitation (up to 1000 mm a year), but have much less forest cover and so can seem hotter and drier (when the sun is out!).

click to enlarge
Crimean mountains in early March (1200 m above sea level)
 

Snow is possible in Crimea from November to April, but usually only the mountains have stable snow cover (January-February or December-March obove 600m). The high plateaus have patches of snow into early May. Crimea in the wintertime can be quite cold, down to -10 C.

Summer temperatures sometimes get as high as 35-40 C, and the heat can be intolerable in exposed places if there is no wind. Often, however, summer temperatures are somewhat lower than in steppe areas of Ukraine because of the moderating influence of the nearby Black Sea. In the warm months, when the sun is out and there is no wind, it can be unbearably hot along the South Shore.

Water in the Crimean Mountains

Bottled water can be bought in any town in roadside stores and kiosks, and on the Ay-Petri Plateau in the tourist area. There are scattered springs in the mountains, but not nearly as many as in the Carpathians. These springs are indicated on topographical maps, and local hikers and rangers know where they are, too. If you are planning on spending more than a day on the mountain plateaus during the summer, bring lots and lots of water with you, since springs are almost nonexistent. In the winter snow ice can be melted.
 
click to enlarge
Bolshoy Kanyon ("Grand Canyon")
 

Livestock grazing is not practiced in protected areas of the Crimean Mountains, so stream water is considered safe to drink upstream of populated areas, for example, in Crimea's "Grand Canyon" (Bol'shoy Kanyon). Or you can use a water filter; however, portable filters are not generally available for sale in Ukraine. In the summertime smaller mountain streams dry up, especially in the drier mountains east of Alushta.

Beware... ticks!

Beware of ticks in the woods of Crimea. They are quite common and theoretically can carry tick-borne encephalitis (or so say the warning signs). It is recommended to wear a hat and have as little exposed skin as possible and to check yourself for ticks every two hours. Don't freak out about encephalitis, though; a small percentage of ticks carry it, and it is medically treatable.

Restrictions

As elsewhere in Ukraine, rules for visiting Crimea's wilderness areas are sometimes unduly harsh, but poorly enforced. Mainly this applies to the Crimean Nature Reserve.

The Crimean Nature Reserve is located to the northeast of Yalta and includes the highest point on the peninsula, Roman Kosh (1545), and a beautiful 77 km long automobile road through forests and mountain pastures. This area is completely off-limits to the public except for special visits, accompanied by forest rangers, for studying the ecology which must be approved by the reserve's headquarters in Alushta. They do not give permission to hikers. Nonetheless, stalwart backpackers continue to visit this region, and forest rangers only patrol a certain section of the road (and only till 6:00 p.m., supposedly) and are lax in enforcing the rules. Backpackers trade know-how on visiting this area and avoiding rangers at the Crimea mountain rescue service forum (in Russian).

Camping is formally allowed only in certain places (called "turstoyanki" or турстоянки). An exhaustive list of these locations can be found in Russian here. In most cases they are shown on topographical maps — as "Т/С". Camping in unauthorized locations is also common, though formally forbidden. Open fires are allowed only at turstoyanki.

Fees

There is apparently a tax for visiting mountain forest areas — 2 hryvnias per person per day. However, it is up to the forest ranger to find you and make you pay it. Or you can pay the fee when you register with the Mountain Rescue Service and they will stamp your itinerary sheet (see below) so that you don't have to pay the fee a second time.

There is a minor "resort fee" for visitors to seaside resorts (official info in Russian), but I haven't heard anything about people paying it. There are sometimes small fees at places of interest (some "cave cities," waterfalls, Ay-Petri Mt., etc.). Thankfully, even if you pay all the fees that you're technically supposed to, they don't add up to much at all!

Registering your itinerary with the Mountain Rescue Service

Hikers are supposed to register trip itineraries. This procedure is easy in principle (the Rescue Service is only loosely tied to the government and is quite innovative) and simply involves filling out a paper stating how many people are in your group and where you plan to be each day, and the name and home address of hike participants. No passport information, visa numbers, etc. You turn this paper in at any of the Mountain Rescue Service posts (see list at end of page) and get an "approved" stamp. These posts are in locations that most hikers pass through anyways, so you can drop by the post right after you get off the train in Simferopol, Bakhchisaray, or other locations. Unfortunately, some trains get in early in the morning before the offices open. If you run into forest rangers and other official nature supervisors, they are authorized to ask for an authorized itinerary. A small fee (1 or 2 hryvnias per person, depending on where you register) is charged for registration. You are supposed to call at the end of the trip to confirm your completion of the itinerary.

The itinerary form can also be downloaded and sent be e-mail. In this case you would need to bring the completed form in person, tell them the registration number you received by e-mail, pay the fee, and get a stamp. There is a special post 200 meters from the Simferopol train station especially for itinerary registration that operates from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. all days of the week. Supposedly the procedure is quick.

Crimean Mountain Rescue Service

The Crimean Mountain Rescue Service (site in Russian), or "KCC" (Контрольно-спасательная служба) is a semi-governmental body of rescuers that does a lot of things besides get inexperienced hikers out of trouble. Each rescue post (listed below) is also a sort of mountain refuge with beds available for a low price (15-50 UAH per night). It is best to call first about bed availability. KCC workers are an enterprising lot; they lead commercial adventure tours through Crimea (hiking, mountain biking, spelunking, etc.) and run a website with a great forum (in Russian) where you can get answers to any questions you have about routes, places to camp, formalities, safety, etc.

LOCATION
ADDRESS
PHONE NUMBER
(remember to dial 8 before calling long distance)
LODGINGS
Bakhchisaray ul. Karla Marksa, 31 (near the Khan's palace) (06554) 4-77-22 Yes! Beds in rustic cabin
Yalta ul. Pirogovskaya, 10a (0654) 32-87-15 none
Feodosiya ul. Fed'ko, 32a (06562) 7-15-73 Probably none
Sudak ul. Primorskaya, 48a (06566) 9-43-80, cell:
8-067-740-41-24
beds sometimes available
Sevastopol ul. Suvorova, 20 (0692) 54-33-97 None
Alushta ul. Lenina, 8a (06560) 3-50-10 none
Simferopol ul. Zoyi Zhil'tsovoy, 24 (0652) 25-31-58, cell:
8-067-704-13-19
Probably none
Karabi plateau Weather station ? Yes! Quite a few beds available, but with minimal facilities
Ay-Petri Okhotnichye village, Bakhchisarayskoe shosse, 9 (at the top of the road from Yalta right after the switchbacks end) (0654) 34-42-72, cells:
8-067-625-42-12,
8-067-625-42-11
Yes! Quite a few beds available in a variety of room sizes; good facilities with showers!
Kizil-Koba Pereval'noe village, Krasnaya cave 8-067-740-48-83 ?


2003-2014 Richard DeLong. All rights reserved.