Ukraine - A Journey Through Ukraine


Ukraine - A Journey Through Ukraine

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 14 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers

Dossier

One of Europe’s least visited nations; Ukraine has been in the Soviet shadow for decades, hidden from the rest of the world with the result that few are aware of its charms. This trip will astound travellers with the varied delights of this charming nation and make you wonder why you have never visited before. Starting in Kiev we explore the rich cultural heritage and exquisite monuments of this important city, before heading to Lviv, one of the most elegant cities and a delight to explore. But you haven’t really experienced Ukraine until you’ve spent time in its glorious countryside. We stay in the Carpathian Mountains, a treasure house of traditional culture and spectacular scenery, with impressive wildlife and colourful customs. Staying in a local home allows us to really gain an insight into rural life and is one of the highlights of this tour. We then travel to Odessa, rich in revolutionary history, where we also have a chance to sample the excellent local wine. Ukraine has so much to offer that it is a wonder it has not been discovered by mass tourism. Enjoy the feeling of being a true travel pioneer in your discovery of this captivating country.


Tour Rating

Fitness ●●●○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●○○ | Culture ●●●●○ | History ●●●●● | Wildlife ●●○○○

Tour Pace

Moderate

Tour Highlights

  • Experience the old and new of Kiev
  • Take in the medieval atmosphere of Lviv (UNESCO)
  • Explore historic monasteries, churches and castles
  • Stay on a local farmstead in the scenic Carpathian Mountains
  • Appreciate the magnificent architecture of the Black Sea city of Odessa

Tour Essentials

Accommodation: Mix of comfortable hotels, overnight trains and farmstead accommodation
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary
Group Size: Maximum 12
Start Point: Kiev
End Point: Kiev
Transport: Private minibus, overnight sleeper trains
Countries: Ukraine

Tour Itinerary Notes

While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.

Tour Guide

Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. All of our guides are carefully hand-picked, and are not just passing through these countries, but are usually locally born. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. On this tour for group size of 3 or more you will be accompanied by an English speaking tour leader throughout, assisted where necessary by local English speaking guides.  If the group size is 1 or 2 then there will be no accompanying tour leader but you will still have the services of different local guides in each place.

Day 1 – Kiev

Arrive in Kiev and transfer to your hotel. Depending on when you arrive there may be time to explore the city. Overnight Rus Hotel or similar.

Kiev 

Kiev is one of the oldest cities in the region, founded back in the 5th century and becoming an important centre of Slavic culture. Falling under the rule of the Varangians sometime later it became the capital of Rus, benefitting from its position on the trade routes between Scandinavia and the Byzantine Empire and becoming infused with a wide variety of cultural influences which remain today. Over its time, Kiev has been sacked by the Mongols, incorporated within the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and then absorbed into Russia and the Soviet Union. Straddling the banks of the Dnepr River, Kiev is Ukraine’s most cosmopolitan city, and a real mix of old and new. With a historic old quarter, the city is packed full of monuments, the most famous being the Lavra cave monastery, a collection of underground chambers and spectacular churches dating back to the 11th century. Kiev is a city with an enormous amount of churches and cathedrals, with a particular style that looks almost Russian but is unique to Ukraine, and in many areas these dominate the skyline, reminding visitors of the intense respect that ordinary Ukrainians have for religion. But perhaps one of Kiev’s greatest delights is simply walking around the city and seeing where you end up, discovering for yourself its corners, streets and cafes and immersing yourself in Ukrainian culture.

Day 2 – Kiev

This morning we explore some of the key sights of Kiev, including the ancient ‘onion-domed’ St Sophia Cathedral, its bustling main boulevard Kreschatyk, and the Golden Gates, the only remaining section of ancient Kiev’s original fortifications. This afternoon we visit the Pyrohovo Museum of Rural Life and Architecture, a recreated village which contains excellent examples of traditional Ukrainian buildings in an open-air setting. Overnight Hotel Rus or similar. (B)

Day 3 – Kiev - Lviv

This morning we head the Lavra cave monastery complex, with its stunning churches and underground tunnels. This afternoon visit Maidan Nezalezhnosti and learn about the Revolution of 2013-2014. You will be taken to a Crimean Tatar restaurant for dinner (payable locally) before being transferred to the train station where we board the overnight train to Lviv. (B)

Train compartments are allocated on a twin share basis and is not divided by sex; solo male and female travellers may be required to share one compartment. If you would like to guarantee a compartment for solo occupancy, a supplement will apply. This is subject to availability. Please contact us for more information.

Please note that the doors of the train compartments can only be locked from the inside. Therefore, if you have solo occupancy and need to leave your compartment for any reason, you will not be able to lock the door, and your luggage/valuables are at risk of being stolen. The tour guide is not responsible for guarding your belongings or for any damage/loss occurred on these journeys.

Day 4 – Lviv

Early arrival into Lviv where we have a little time to freshen up before heading out to explore the city. Lviv is renowned as one of the prettiest towns in Ukraine and its historic centre has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We take in some of its highlights including the Opera House, the Dominican Church and Lviv High Castle, located at the highest point in the city at 413m above sea level. Spend the afternoon at leisure. Overnight George Hotel or similar (B)

Lviv

Lviv is a fantastically eclectic city with a wide variety of architectural styles combining to create a place with a split personality, but which somehow definitely works. Founded in the 13th century, Lviv is almost dripping with history, and walking around its wide boulevards and large squares you will see Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture among many other types. Its medieval atmosphere harks back to days when Lviv was at the forefront of regional events, and it was once a wealthy trading centre. Unlike many other cities in Ukraine, it mainly escaped the terrible destruction wrought by Nazi bombers in World War Two, and its charming streets make it one of the most exciting places in Ukraine to explore. Lviv has been named as the best place in Ukraine to live and wandering around its historic centre it is easy to see why.

Day 5 – Olesko and Pidhirtsi

Today we head east out of Lviv into the countryside to Olesko and Pidhirtsi to visit two palaces. The first at Olesko dates back to the 18th Century but was built on the site of a medieval fortress which was destroyed by Tatar in 15th Century. The second palace, Castle de la Fartin, located in Pidhirtsi is a chateau type residential castle fortress. Spend the day exploring these picturesque palaces before returning to Lviv. Overnight at George Hotel or similar (B)

Day 6 – Kamyanets-Podilsky – Chernivtsi

Drive to Kamyanets-Podilsky, an attractive town dramatically situated on an island of rock and surrounded by a river. We visit the 11th century castle, one of Ukraine’s most impressive, as well as the old quarter with its colourful buildings. We then head to Chernivtsi to spend the night. Overnight Bukovyna Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 7 – Chernivtsi – Carpathian Mountains

This morning we take a brief tour around Chernivtsi, once an elegant city but now is a delightfully ramshackle city with the student population keeping it lively. Visit the City Hall Square and the State Chernivtsi University, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Continue towards the Carpathian Mountains, where we stop en-route in Kolomyia and visit Pysanka (Easter eggs) Museum, and then visit the St. Virgin church at Nyzhni Verbizh. According to legend, this church was built with the money that was collected by a ‘Carpathian Robin Hood’ in the 18th Century. The church was covered with tin in 1990 since the local community did not have enough funds to restore the old, wooden tiles, therefore the most interesting perspective is from inside the church. We continue our journey to Verkhovyna, a picturesque and very typical Carpathian village which is a superb base for exploring the mountains and the intriguing communities that live here, where we stay in a local sadybah (BD)

At the sadybah single rooms are available but facilities are shared.

The Carpathians

The Carpathian Mountains stretch across a wide part of Eastern Europe, encompassing parts of Romania, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Serbia. Rich in wildlife they are home to some of Europe’s last remaining populations of large mammals, with bears, wolves and lynx to be found prowling through the forests. The birdlife here is equally spectacular, with raptors such as eagles a frequent sighting. This is one of the most pristine environments to be found on the continent and excellent walking country, with superb views to be had from every angle and the possibility of seeing wildlife adding further excitement. The mountains are also home to isolated rural communities of Hutsul people, who use the region for pasture for their flocks.

Day 8 – Carpathian Mountains

We spend today exploring this spectacular region. Staying here is like stepping back in time, to a rural idyll far from the stress of urban life, and we can see how age-old traditions are still followed in this remote but beautiful corner of Ukraine. During our time here we enjoy typical home cooked Hutsul dinners in our cottage. This is an incredible way to experience a way of life that has long since disappeared from the rest of Europe. Overnight again on local farmstead. (BD)

Today we visit the museum of Hutsul Life and Music, which is a 500m walk up the mountain with a rise in altitude of 75m.

Hutsul people

The Hutsuls are a distinct ethnic group that live in Ukraine’s mountains. Their origins are shrouded in mystery and they speak a unique language found nowhere else and unintelligible to the rest of the population – in many ways they can be considered as following the most traditional lifestyle in Ukraine. Hutsul culture is centred on forestry and livestock, and is represented through their craftsmanship; weaving, pottery and woodworking are typical manifestations of Hutsul crafts. The Hutsul place importance on social customs including dancing and like their language many Hutsul musical instruments are also unique.

Day 9 – Carpathian Mountains – Ivano-Frankivsk - Odessa

This morning we leave the farmstead and visit Zhenetsky waterfall at Tatariv village. We then continue to Ivano-Frankivsk. En-route, there is an option to stop at Mykulychyn, where you can taste on of the best draught beers in Ukraine. On arrival into Ivano-Frankivsk, you will be taken to the train station to take the overnight train to Odessa (B)

The walk to the waterfall is 3km each way, total of 6km, along a forest dirt road by the river, with no notable ups and downs.

Train compartments are allocated on a twin share basis and is not divided by sex; solo male and female travellers may be required to share one compartment. If you would like to guarantee a compartment for solo occupancy, a supplement will apply. This is subject to availability. Please contact us for more information.

Please note that the doors of the train compartments can only be locked from the inside. Therefore, if you have solo occupancy and need to leave your compartment for any reason, you will not be able to lock the door, and your luggage/valuables are at risk of being stolen. The tour guide is not responsible for guarding your belongings or for any damage/loss occurred on these journeys.

Day 10 – Odessa

Arrive in Odessa, and after breakfast explore this historic city. Odessa’s location on the Black Sea has meant that it has sat astride important trade routes and been a crossroads of cultures for centuries. We visit the legendary Potemkin Steps – pivotal in the 1905 Russian Revolution, as well as its Opera House, considered to be one of the most beautiful in Europe. The afternoon is free to explore this vibrant seaside city. Overnight Alexandrovskiy Hotel or similar. (B)

Odessa

Odessa was an incredibly important city in both pre-revolutionary and Soviet Russia, with its access to the Black Sea and beyond. Dating back to the 3rd century, it was only captured by Russia in 1789 – prior to that it had fallen under Crimean Tatar control. Its status as a free port meant that immense wealth passed through it, with the result that it underwent a huge and rather elegant period of construction back in the early 19th century. Its historical architecture has a style more Mediterranean than Russian, having been heavily influenced by French and Italian styles. Some buildings are built in a mixture of different styles, including Art Nouveau, Renaissance and Classicist. Odessa is blessed with elegant palaces and graceful boulevards, making it a delightful place to stroll around and one of Ukraine’s most pleasant cities.

Day 11 – Odessa

Today we visit the famous farmer’s market Privoz, which sells a wide variety of local food. Travel by tram and soak up the atmosphere, observe the locals going about their daily lives, and even try some of the local food. This afternoon we visit Odessa Cognac distillery Shustov, where we visit the cellars and museum, and take part in a brandy tasting. We then return to Odessa for the evening. Overnight Alexandrovskiy Hotel or similar (BL)

Day 12 – Odessa

Spend this morning at leisure in Odessa. This afternoon we visit Moldavanka, the old district of Odessa, where you will hear the stories of the smugglers and criminals, whose lives were so colourful and romantic that they have been described by many famous authors. These stories are not known to be real or the author’s fantasy. You will see the old courtyards where these smugglers and criminals lived, made their business and entertained. The day ends with a farewell dinner of traditional Odessa cuisine. Overnight Alexandrovskiy Hotel or similar (BD)

Day 13 - Odessa – Kiev

This morning we leave Odessa to begin the drive back to Kiev (approx. 6-7 hours with stopovers). En route we stop at Pobuzske Museum, the former location of the Strategic Missile Forces regiment. We arrive in to Kiev early evening and check-in to the hotel for our last night in Ukraine. Overnight Rus Hotel or similar (B)

Day 14 – Departure

After breakfast at a suitable time you will be met and transferred to the airport for your departure (B)

Inclusions
Arrival and departure transfers
All accommodation
Services of English speaking guides
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
Overnight train journeys Kiev – Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk - Odessa

Excluded
International flights
Any airport taxes
Travel Insurance
Visas
Drinks


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