Ukraine is a country known for its beautiful and diverse landscape, well-preserved culture and tradition, beautiful women and a terrible nuclear disaster. Actually, Ukraine is the largest country in Europe, not including Russia. And although the tensions with the big neighbour are ongoing, we will still give you enough reasons why Ukraine is generally worth a visit. Withouth further ado, here’s what makes Ukraine so special!
A well-connected country
First of all, Ukraine has great travelling connections to most European countries, thanks to its position. Ukraine is easily accessible by planes, trains, buses and boats. There are about 20 airports in Ukraine serving flights from all over Europe and beyond.
Regarding ground transportation, trains are a popular mode of transport in Ukraine as the railway connects most cities and places in the country, the main stations being in Kyiv and Lviv. The international trains connect Ukraine with Belarus, Poland, Belgium, Russia and many more. Ukraine has good connections with buses, as well. There are many connections between Ukraine and the rest of Euope, the most popular routes being Moscow – Kiev, Minsk – Kiev, Warsaw – Lviv, Krakow – Kiev and Kosice – Uzhgorod.
Second of all, Ukraine has some of the easiest border crossings. In most European countries it is not required to apply for a visa when travelling to Ukraine. Therefore, most European citizens, including British citizens, can enter Ukraine straightforward for a visit of up to 90 days of stay. If staying longer, you will need to apply for a visa according to your travelling needs.
Ukraine’s most visited cities include Kyiv, Lviv and Odessa. Each of these cities has its own authenticity and charm. The capital city Kyiv is often referred to as the greenest city in Ukraine, offering numerous spots for relaxation, including the beaches on the Dnieper River. The city is known for its magnificent Soviet architecture, amazing street art and a lively urban scene.
Lviv, on the other hand, is historically, culturally and architecturally rich city with some of the best festivals in the country. Coffee is the most important tradition here all visitors must respect.
The coastal city of Odessa is an important port city on the Black Sea, but also a popular tourist destination, especially in summer. Visitors can spend their time exploring the main sights, such as the Odessa National Theater of Opera and Ballet, relaxing in the city park or at one of the vibrant beaches.
All cities have lots to see and do, but one of them is unfairly (but luckily, though) overlooked. Kamyanets-Podilsky is a small medieval city located in western Ukraine where different cultures blended over time. Besides sightseeing, one of the amazing activities you can try here is the hot-air ballooning.
In the end, there is Pripyat – a city of ghosts and a horrible tragedy. Hardly anyone hasn’t heard about the biggest nuclear catastrophe of this part of the world. Although the Chernobyl disaster happened over 3 decades ago, the area is still desolate. However, visiting the location is possible via numerous safe tours.
One of the things Ukraine is mostly recognized for is its architecture. The skyline of Kyiv is filled with golden domes, a symbol of Ukrainian architecture. There are over 900 churches and cathedrals built from the Kyivan Rus era till today. The most famous one is St. Sophia’s Cathedral, a UNESCO Site. Other buildings such as theatres, universities and mansions are a sight to behold all over the country. As a former Soviet country, Ukraine is home to the unique Soviet architecture, also called Stalinist architecture. This style visibly transformed the image of the cities.
Moreover, Ukraine is home to 7 UNESCO Sites scattered all over the country. If travelling to Ukraine, here are just a few not-to-miss sights to explore, including the ones protected by UNESCO:
- St. Sophia’s Cathedral (UNESCO)
- Lviv Historic Centre (UNESCO)
- Struve Geodetic Arc (UNESCO)
- Residence of Bukovinian and Dalmatian Metropolitans in Chernivtsi (UNESCO)
- The Ancient City of Tauric Chersonese and its Chora (UNESCO)
- Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region (UNESCO)
- Kyiv Pechersk Lavra
- The Golden Gate of Kyiv
- The Motherland Monument in Kyiv
- The Ukrainian National Chernobyl Museum in Kyiv
- St. Andrew’s Church in Kyiv
- St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery in Kyiv
- Multimedia Fountain Roshen in Vinnytsia
- Lubart’s Castle in Lutsk
- Opera and Ballet Theatre in Odessa
A paradise for outdoor activities
As a country with so many green zones, Ukraine is a place where you can try a variety of outdoor activities. All cities have parks where you can relax, take a walk or jog. Among the most attractive Ukrainian parks are Feofania Park (Kyiv), Shevchenko Park (Kyiv), City Garden (Odessa), Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure (Kharkiv), Sofiyivka Park (Uman) and many more.
One of the biggest attractions in Ukraine is the Tunnel of Love, a part of the railway 3-5 km long that is surrounded by green arches. The location is beautiful and popular for romantic walks.
One of the true national symbols that are also protected by UNESCO are the mighty Carpathian Mountains and Forest. The area is shared between 7 countries of which the biggest part (50%) is in Romania. Around 10% of the Carpathians belong to Ukraine. So, if you’re up for some lessons in geography, head to the forest to explore the wonderful nature. Besides hiking and climbing, try mountain biking. Winters are reserved for skiing, snowboarding and all other kinds of winter sports.
Other outdoor activities you can find all over Ukraine are parachuting, scuba diving, horseback riding, paintball and many more sports and games.
Experiencing a country is no complete without trying its cuisine. Ukrainian food traditions formed over centuries with a lot of influences from neighbouring countries. Most Ukrainian dishes are generously flavoured and most of them contain more heating processes.
The most important national dish is borsch, of course. It is a beetroot soup with different vegetables and sour cream. Other most popular dishes include varenyky, a Ukrainian version of dumplings with different fillings, holubtsi or cabbage rolls filled with minced meat.
There are many more traditional dishes you should try, such as chicken Kyiv, banosh, korovai, paska, holodets, homemade sausages and more.
Visiting Ukraine and not trying the national drink is unforgiving. Vodka or horilka is served in all bars and restaurants. You can try out one of these brands: Khortitsa, Nemiroff or Medoff.
When it comes to eating outside, Ukrainian restaurants will surprise you with their value for money. Ukraine is an affordable country with prices being below the European standard.
Rich culture and tradition
One of the things about Ukraine that makes it easy to fall in love with it is the rich culture and tradition that makes it so unique. The stories about Cossacks are everywhere. These East Slavs and their life are present in literature, music and overall art. You can learn a lot about Cossacks in Zaporizhia and the cultural complex of Zaporizhian Sich. This huge tourist attraction is a reconstruction of an old Cossack settlement that perfectly depicts their life and traditions.
The more recent history was marked by the Soviet Union. Therefore, you will see a lot of Soviet heritage present in Ukrainian culture still today. There are numerous monuments from this period, but the most important one is Rodina Mat in Kyiv, a memorial which is a part of the Museum of the Great Patriotic War.
In the end, Ukrainians are truly friendly people. The best way to meet a Ukrainian is probably by joining them for a drink. The drink, of course, needs to be one of the homemade alcoholic beverages. However, Ukrainians will very gladly tell you about their nation, country and rich cultural heritage.