Ukraine is a large country in Eastern Europe known for its Orthodox churches, Black Sea coastline and forested mountains. Its capital, Kiev, features the gold-domed St. Sophia’s Cathedral, with 11th-century mosaics and frescoes. Overlooking the Dnieper River is the Kiev Pechersk Lavra monastery complex, a Christian pilgrimage site housing Scythian tomb relics and catacombs containing mummified Orthodox monks.
HOW TO GET IN
The cheapest way to fly into Ukraine is through the Boryspil (KBP) or Zhuliany (IEV) International Airports, both near Kiev. The main international hubs for these flights are Budapest, Frankfurt, London, Milan, Munich, Oslo, Prague, Rome, Vienna and Warsaw with several flights a day of Austrian AUA, CSA Czech Airlines, LOT, Lufthansa, Alitalia, Air France, British Airways, KLM, Norwegian; also Ukraine International, which code-shares on these routes with the respective carriers, and another Ukrainian carrier, AeroSvit. Special offers on flights come and go, depending on the whim of the carrier. Although rather simple way to reach all Ukrainian cities – flight trough Moscow (Russia) – Aeroflot, UTair, Aerosvit, Transaero, S7, Rossiya these airlines have several flights per day into all major cities, however as of 2015, Ukraine and Russia has suspended all flights between both countries, so you can’t reach Ukraine from Russia in anyway via air.
Low-cost airline Wizzair started operations from other countries and within Ukraine as well. There are two other low cost carrier serving Ukraine. One of them is AirBaltic, with flights routing through either Riga, Latvia, or Vilnius, Lithuania. And the second one is Pegasus with flights from Istanbul to Kharkiv, Lviv, Donetsk. Be advised that if you have a lot of baggage, Wizzair offers 30kg against the others 20kg allowances.
There are daily direct overnight trains from Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Warsaw, Belgrade, Bratislava, Budapest, Bucharest and Sofia to Lviv or Kiev. When coming from Western Europe there will be a 2-3 hour wait at the border while the train’s bogies are changed in order to adapt to a different rail gauge. It’s generally quicker and cheaper to buy a ticket to the border and then change trains, rather than wait getting through train.
Scheduled buses are the fastest way to get through the border, since they do not have to wait in line (like cars have to) and do not have to change bogies (like trains have to).
THINGS TO DO
Hike in Carpathian Mountains around Rakhiv. Conquer 2,061m Hoverla, part of the Chornohora mountain range.
The two best areas for hiking in Ukraine are Crimea and the Carpathian range, distinct in both terrain and character. The sunny Crimean coast, its cliffs overlooking the turquoise sea, rocky coves and cypress forest, is ideal for short treks and for hikers of all abilities. In the Carpathian mountain range – a mass of unruly mountains with dramatic vistas – you can hike for days between traditional villages, where horse and cart is still the main mode of transport. Outdoor Ukraine and Sergei Sorokin offer hiking and mountain biking excursions, while Adventure Carpathians organise specialised treks.
Kayak down Dniester and admire Kamianets-Podilskyi and Khotyn castles.
The banya is a cultural institution, traditionally divided into separate sections for men and women and consisting of a parilka (very hot steam room) where you lie sweating on a wooden berth while a friend beats your back with a bundle of birch branches. You then take a dip in a pool of cold water in a separate room and come back for more. The end result of this vigorous experience is you emerging completely cleansed and relaxed.
Nightlife in the big cities is lively and varied, and nowhere more so than in Kyiv, Odesa and Kharkiv. In the capital, check out the exclusive clubs, heavy on attitude and prices, hear the latest rock bands, or bounce the night away on a boat-cum-rave on the Dnepr river. In Odesa, nightlife revolves around the clubs, bars and underground jazz joints in the historical centre of town, as well as the all-night pounding discos on Arkadia Beach. Kharkiv, a large university town with nightlife to match, is home to Ukraine’s leading independent music scene.
In western Ukraine, the stone fortress town of Kamyanets-Podilsky – a Unesco World Heritage Site – sits on a rocky outcrop, surrounded by a deep gorge that encircles it almost completely, with the clear waters of river Smotrych flowing far below. Apart from superb sunsets from the castle itself, Kamyanets-Podilsky impresses you with its cosmopolitan character; the Turks, Russians, Jews, Armenians, Poles, Romanians, Greeks and Azeri who have settled here since the 11th century have all left their mark architecturally and culturally, and losing yourself amidst the ‘museum city’s’ streets is a real joy.
Sun worshipping is very popular amongst Ukrainians, to the point where the Black Sea’s beaches are sometimes standing room only during the peak season of June to August. The best beaches are found on Crimea’s south coast, a thin strip of land between the sea and the looming mountain range beyond. It’s been a popular holiday spot for over 200 years due to its combination of Mediterranean climate, white-sand beaches and myriad secluded coves that stretch from Foros to Gurzuf, with Yalta being the central spot for accommodation.
Hotels might be a traumatic experience for a westerner anywhere outside Kiev. The cheaper the hotel, the larger the chance of some quite unfortunate surprises, especially for those not familiar with the Soviet-style level of service which still remains in many places.
There are many mid-range (€25-45) options outside Kiev. For instance in Ivano-Frankivsk (near the Carpathians), the going rate is approximately €35 for a suite (bedroom and sitting room) in one such hotel. Many hotels have the choice between renovated rooms/suites (“western style”) and not renovated rooms (East European style). The last choice is more than 50% cheaper and gives you a spacious old fashioned 2 room suite, basic but clean!
There are a number of 5-star hotels in Kiev and one in Donetsk; see guides for those cities for listings. At one such hotel in Lviv, the going rate ranges from €40-60 a night.
Another option is to rent an apartment on the internet before you leave your country. There are many to choose from in Kiev and Odessa.
What many people from ex-Soviet countries do is to go to the railway station, where they try to find people who are willing to rent a room. Prices are usually much cheaper and if there are enough people, offering the room you can make great deals (in Yalta, people are almost fighting to be able to talk to you).
These deals are usually not legal and they will take you to a corner before negotiating. Make sure they have warm water, and don’t be afraid to say it’s not what you expected when seeing the room.
Some area in Ukraine are still bit shaked by some acts of battle between rebels and army that in Eastern Ukraine, Crimea is under Russia now so if you going there have this on mind