When the world’s most travelled man says Ukraine is a nice place, you’ve got to take note.
You might be surprised to hear that Ukraine has stunning beaches, sandy beach islands, good food and historic cities. It’s cheap too; in these cash strapped times, you’ll be able to buy beer at just 45 pence a litre, 200 cigarettes for £4.50 and a three course dinner for two with wine and cognac for under £20.
Kiev and the Kievo Caves
Capital Kiev (Kyiv) offers travellers a taste of Soviet history, without the red tape (unlike Russia – you don’t need a visa to enter Ukraine). The stunning Kievo-Pecherskaya Caves Monastery, which has UNESCO World heritage status, homes a network of candle-lit catacombs where Ukrainian saints lie in glass coffins.
Carpathian Mountains and the Crimean Coast
Outdoor enthusiasts can take to the Carpathian Mountains in the west of the country, where hiking biking and camping are popular in summer, and the ski resorts of Bukovel, Slavakso, Drahobrat and Tysovets attract skiers and snowboarders come winter. Sun and sand seekers will enjoy the numerous beach spots and the sub-tropical climate found on the southern Crimean coast that sits on the Black Sea.
And rather than shy away from the world’s worst ever nuclear disaster, why not take a guided tour of Chernobyl? The ghostly exclusion zone where abandoned villages, rusting theme parks and empty tower blocks are slowly being reclaimed by nature is a completely unique and educational experience.
The majority of hotels in Ukraine are old Soviet style, though many have now been refurbished to a high standard. If you really want to sample Ukrainian hospitality, opt for a room in a private home where you’ll be able to meet real locals, and see what a Ukrainian house is really like from the inside. It’s also a good way to save money. Look out for signs advertising ‘kvartiry’ (flats) or ‘komnati’ (rooms) which are commonplace at bus and train stations.
Danger and Difficulty
There’s little danger or difficulty in visiting Ukraine, but like anywhere else, keep valuables out of sight, especially in crowded areas and at tourists spots.
Getting There and Around
Fly London to Kiev direct with BA or Ukraine International. Once there, the train and bus services are well used; the major cities have clean and efficient metro systems, and if you’re in a group, a long distance taxi is a realistic and affordable option.
Read more from the Hidden Countries series