The primeval beech forests of the Ukrainian Carpathians are the largest in Europe and are home to the world's tallest and oldest beech trees. The unique ecosystem is a real Mecca for nature lovers.
The primeval beech forests in the Ukrainian Carpathians cover an area of several thousand hectares, making them the largest in Europe. Together with the beech forests in Germany and Slovakia, the primeval beech forests in the Carpathians and the ancient beech forests in Germany have been UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites since 2007 and 2011 respectively. 70% of the designated primeval beech forests are located on Ukrainian territory.
The forest areas located in the west in Ukraine are all in the Transcarpathian oblast and are Chornohora, Kusij-Trybushany, Maramoros, Stuschyzia-Uzhok, Swydiwez and Uholka-Shyrokyi Luh. In total, the belt of primeval beech forests stretches over almost 200km from the town of Rakhiv on the border with Romania and the Chornohora mountain range in Ukraine to the Vihorlat Mountains in Slovakia. The primeval beech forests cover an area of almost 80,000 hectares, of which about 30,000 are under nature protection. Two national parks and a biosphere reserve are located within the protected area. The two national parks, together with an area in Poland, form the Eastern Carpathians Biosphere Reserve.
On the road in the primeval beech forests of the Ukrainian Carpathians
If you wander through the emerald-green splendour of the primeval beech forests in Ukraine, whether on foot, by bike or by car, it quickly becomes clear why they are protected by UNESCO. Mystically, the sun's rays make their way through the dense foliage and draw fine patterns on the leaf- and moss-covered forest floor. This nourishes not only the trees but also a vast amount of undergrowth, including a wide variety of ferns, colourful flowers and some 700 species of mushrooms. If you bend your head, you will be awestruck as you look up at the largest and oldest beech trees in the world.
The untouched primeval beech forests also provide shelter for a variety of animal forest dwellers. With 73 mammal species, the Ukrainian primeval beech forests are, by the way, the most animal-rich natural World Heritage Site in Europe and are well on the way to becoming a veritable Mecca for nature lovers.
The impressive forests are worth a visit at any time of year. Whether it's in spring, when the strengthening sun makes the leaves glow a rich bright green, in summer, when the giant trees provide cool shade, in autumn, when an endless carpet of yellow, orange, red and brown stretches both at the feet and above the heads of hikers, or in winter, when the trees stretch their skeletal branches towards the sky and the snow swallows every sound. In the midst of this natural cathedral, one has no choice but to soak up the fantastic air and the equally fantastic surroundings and bring them out again and again just when one needs a minute's rest.