Given the huge size of the country – the second largest in Europe after Russia – no wonder Ukraine is a land of contrasts, with different landscapes and diverse towns, often shaped by neighbouring cultures. One of the most powerful states in the Middle Ages, for long centuries Ukraine was torn by the East and the West. It was divided into a few states, including Russia, Poland and Habsburg Austria, and all of these rulers had a significant impact on the architecture, art and culture of Ukraine. Several impressive cities, the picturesque little towns of Galicia, wonderful castles, wild mountains and lovely seaside are all good reasons to visit Ukraine.
When travelling to Ukraine, be prepared for a pinch of the exotic, since it used to be a part of Soviet Union which left a heritage difficult to abandon. Moreover, Ukraine sadly remains one of the poorest economies in Europe, though when visiting Kiev one can become confused by the number of shops offering jewellery, watches, furs, luxury brands of cloths and cosmetics. On the other hand, you will also find shabby bazaars and flea markets. It’s the land of poor babushkas selling sunflower seed on the streets and millionaires earning money from enormous mines of central and eastern Ukraine. Thus, be prepared for striking contrasts as well as some inconveniences such as a tremendous amount of bureaucracy, incommodious toilets in less-touristy areas or people drinking vodka in public places, such as trains or parks.
If you haven’t been discouraged from reading this so far, keep in mind that Ukraine is a fascinating country of unusual beauty and Ukrainians are open-minded and friendly. Kiev, which dates back 1,000 years, is a European capital with the flair of Soviet times, which is apparent in the monumental architecture in the city centre and several monuments – all of which are relics of older times. A true gem of a city, it boasts a number of unique Medieval sights, including the impressive Orthodox monastery, Lavra Pecherska, with its catacombs containing mummies of monks; St Sophia’s Cathedral and St Michael’s Golden Domed Monastery, two beautiful edifices topped with lots of cupolas; Baroque St Andrew’s Church; and the Golden Gate, a reconstructed building from the early Middle Ages. Kiev is picturesquely located on the hilltops overlooking the majestic River Dnieper. Along with several islands and many parks, this is an ideal city to stroll and admire beautiful architecture.
There are other outstanding cities in Ukraine, predominantly Odessa, a port on the Black Sea, and the western capital – Lviv. The latter was originally a pearl of the Russian Empire and now is an imposing urban area with magnificent architecture and famous stairs rising above the port. The former city boasts an extraordinarily beautiful Old Town, whose charm is compared with other Central European towns, such as Prague or Budapest. Both of these towns are of completely different character and are worth a visit, but there are also several other interesting places to explore. One can visit Chernivtsi, located on the Romanian border, Uzhhorod, a multi-ethnic town which was once a part of Hungary and later Czechoslovakia, or small charming town Ivano-Frankivsk. The pearl of Ukraine is an undisputable must for tourists, as well as the castles of Podole region: Khotyn and Kamianets-Podilskyi.
Apart from its historical heritage, Ukraine has a beautiful countryside and excellent summer resorts. Most of tourists and holiday-makers choose Crimea – the large peninsula in the south. The southern coast of Crimea is a strip of pristine beaches which are dotted with popular resorts, such as Yalta, Alushta or Evpatoria. Moreover, Crimea is known for scenic mountains towering over the sea and the unique historical sights of Crimean Tatar, Ancient Greek, Jewish and Genoese cultures. The wild Carpathian Mountains in the south-western Ukraine are stunning and unadulterated, while the sub-Carpathian region boasts a very unique folk culture. If you look for curiosities, try a tour to Chernobyl, the town of the notorious ecologic catastrophe involving a nuclear power plant in 1986.
With all the attractions that Ukraine offers, it is a tempting and challenging tourist destination. Since the range of activities and sights are so wide, everyone can find something that is particularly interesting for themselves. Learn how amazing this country is and book your flight to Ukraine now.