Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It is the second-largest country in Europe after Russia, which it borders to the east and north-east. Ukraine also shares borders with Belarus to the north; Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary to the west; Romania and Moldova to the south; and has a coastline along the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. The nation's capital and largest city is Kyiv.
Best Time to Travel
The high tourist season in Ukraine starts in late April / early May and ends in September. It is during this period that most tourists come to Ukrainets to relax at the sea, in recreation centers, or go hiking in the mountains. And also in order to visit many excursion cities (the most popular of which are Kyiv, Lviv and Odessa).
The second part of the high season is, of course, the New Year and Christmas holidays. In Ukraine, this period lasts from mid-December to mid-January.
What to Do
Ukraine is a very beautiful country with many attractions. The big advantage of traveling in Ukraine is the variety of landscapes. Fans of outdoor activities can go to the Carpathians, descend into the canyons, climb the mountains, swim down the mountain rivers, or go to the south of the country and experience the thrill of diving or sailing in the Black and Azov seas. For those who like a more calm and relaxing vacation, it will be easy to find cozy apartments near the sea, hotels, resorts or recreation centers.
“Everything Starts in Kyiv” is the Ukrainian capital’s official promotional motto and even if your exploration of Ukraine doesn’t start here it certainly is a “must see and experience” destination during your visit. Did you know that in the 11th century Kyiv was the largest city in Europe? Kyiv, of course, is known internationally as the “City of Golden Domes” for the glistening cupolas of such ancient Ukrainian Orthodox places of worship as St. Sophia’s, St. Michael’s and the Monastery of the Caves.
But Kyiv is not just a city of beautiful historic churches and other architectural treasures that dot the horizon along the banks of the mighty Dnipro River. It is the center of the country’s bustling modern-day business activity and tumultuous politics as well as its biggest metropolis, with a vibrant classical and contemporary cultural scene. Kyiv is considered one of the greenest cities in Europe with more than 100 parks and nearly 500 public gardens.
Ukraine’s most famous port city is Odesa, which is situated on the north coast of the Black Sea. It was founded in 1794 by Russian Empress Catherine the Great and today is a leading center of culture, trade and tourism. Its early successful development is attributed to Frenchman Duc de Richelieu, who served as the city’s governor between 1803 and 1814.
As a free port, Odesa attracted many nationalities. Mark Twain visited Odesa in 1867 and wrote: “I have not felt so much at home for a long time as I did when I… stood in Odessa for the first time.” When in Odesa be sure to climb the 142-meter Potemkin staircase, an entrance to the city from the direction of the sea; and take a stroll along Derybasivska Street, a lively pedestrian walkway named after the city’s first mayor. A performance of the highly-respected Odesa Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by American Hobart Earle should also be on your agenda.
If Ukraine has a city that can naturally bear the title of “Gateway to the West” it is certainly Lviv – not only due to its physical proximity to neighboring countries of the European Union (it’s only about 70 kilometers from the border with Poland) but also because it was part of the Austrian Hapsburg Empire from 1772 to 1918. Lviv also spent several centuries under Polish rule.
These Western influences have left an indelible mark on Lviv’s architecture, culture and cuisine. The central “old town” part of the city is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and nearly every weekend a festival is held here. Nestled among and within these historic buildings are dozens of delightful cafes and restaurants. Yuriy Kulchytsky, a native son of the Lviv region, is considered by many to be the progenitor of Viennese coffee culture, establishing the first coffeehouse in that city in 1683. Today Lviv is a leading center of higher education and of Ukraine’s IT industry.
Ivano-Frankivsk is one of Ukraine’s most pleasant major cities with architecturally attractive, cafe-lined and pedestrian-friendly streets. It’s a popular launch point for excursions to the magical and mystical Carpathian Mountains.
The people inhabiting this mountain region are called Hutsuls and are known for their colorful folk art, including embroidered clothing, blankets (kylyms), Easter eggs (pysanky), pottery, wood carvings and leatherwork. These beautiful crafts can be found in the souvenir shops of Ivano-Frankivsk including within the Fortress Gallery “Bastion,” constructed around the remains of the city’s ancient defensive wall. Ivano-Frankivsk, which is a sister city of Arlington, Virginia, is also known for its annual Blacksmith Festival and the city is adorned with many mesmerizing metal sculptures. The internationally-acclaimed film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1965) features a rich portrayal of Hutsul culture.
Chernivtsi & Mukachevo
Two charming Ukrainian cities in the Carpathian Mountains that merit a visit are Chernivtsi in the Bukovyna region and Mukachevo in Transcarpathia.
Chernivtsi is the home of an architecturally marvelous university campus and the region is the birthplace of legendary pop music composer Volodymyr Ivasiuk, who penned the classic Chervona Ruta.
The most notable landmark in Mukachevo is the Palanok Castle, whose cornerstone was laid in the 14th century. The Holy Crown of Hungary was hidden there in 1805-06 to protect it from Napoleon’s troops.
Ukraine’s most famous medieval castle is located in Kamianetsk-Podilskyi on the majestic Smotrych River. The city hosts a colorful hot air balloon festival annually in May.
One of the most convenient, reliable and affordable ways to travel between major cities in Ukraine and to see Ukraine’s lovely countryside is via Ukrainian Railways. To plan your rail itinerary and book your tickets online visit www.uz.gov.ua/en
Inter City (routes marked IC or IC+) offers an international comfort and style rail service that in many cases cuts traditional travel time by more than half.
Avtolux offers comfortable bus service to select cities. Intercity bus schedule – bus.com.ua
Several domestic airlines offer flights connecting major cities in Ukraine. See the list of domestic and foreign airlines operating in Ukraine here
The Kyiv Metro is a cheap and easy way to get around the capital. Plastic tokens are being phased out and replaced by travel cards. Contactless payment is also available.
Kyiv Smart Card is valid for travel on all municipal transport. It can be topped up online (using the Kyiv Digital app), at select metro stations, T-kiosks, Easypay, Ibox & 2clik terminals.
The cost of city buses, trams & trolleybuses varies by city.
Tickets for public ground transportation in Kyiv can be purchased at T-kiosks, e-ticket self-service machines, EasyPay terminals, Kyiv metro stations, or using the Kyiv digital app. As of July 1 2021 conductors and drivers no longer sell tickets on board. Easyway – Use this online service to track public transport in various cities.
Uklon – Cherkasy, Chernihiv, Dnipro, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kharkiv, Kherson, Khmelnytskyi, Kryvyi Rih, Kyiv, Lviv, Mariupol, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Poltava, Sumy, Vinnytsia, Zaporizhzhia
Bolt – Dnipro, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Lviv, Odesa, Poltava, Vinnytsia, Zaporizhzhia
Uber – Dnipro, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Lviv, Odesa, Vinnytsia, Zaporizhzia
bikenow – Kyiv
e-wings – Lviv
Kiwi – Kyiv, Lviv, Odesa
bikenow – Kyiv