Best time to visit Ukraine

BEST TIME TO VISIT UKRAINE


TEMPERATURE & RAINFALL

In general, the best time to visit Ukraine is either side of summer in May-June or September. Temperatures are comfortable, sightseeing is less crowded and there are fewer vacation makers flocking to the Black Sea beach resorts around Odessa. Spring blossom in the Carpathians makes Apr-May an extremely attractive time of year although it can still get chilly, especially at night. If you can withstand the heat, humidity and thunder storms of Jul-Aug, city sightseeing can be surprisingly uncrowded as many Ukrainians head south to the coast or bolt to their country cottages.

THINGS TO DO IN UKRAINE


WHAT TO DO IN UKRAINE & WHAT NOT TO

Things to do in Ukraine


Ukraine's cultural heritage abounds in cities; however, there's much to be said for finding life outside of urban perimeters with overnight stays in the Carpathian Mountains, within the Ivano-Frankivsk oblast (region), highly recommended. Farmsteads in Verkhovyna or small village guesthouses within the foothills offer real insight into indigenous Hutsul communities as well as locally grown, home cooking.
From the golden globes of Kiev's St Sophia Cathedral to the wizards' hats on Chernivtsi’s Khotyn Fortress, finding a few of the Seven Wonders of Ukraine is certain to keep cultural heads in the clouds. UNESCO also boasts seven sites in Ukraine with Lviv's old town and the wooden tserkvas (churches) in the Carpathians just a couple of sites to whet cultural appetites.
Although it can be fun to take Ukraine's old-fashioned, yet punctual, train service by yourself it's much easier to travel as part of a guided small group, especially when deciphering Cyrillic signs or opting for overnight rail routes. Small group tours allow you to learn from your tour leader, meet likeminded travelers and travel with confidence, safe in the knowledge that tickets, accommodation and transfers are all sorted.

Things not to do in Ukraine


Avoid Chernobyl. The site of one of the world's worst nuclear catastrophes might not at first appeal as a vacation destination; however, in visiting this site, not only will you learn more about the impact of the devastation but you'll also get to experience, firsthand, the perseverance of nature. Abandoned cities like Pripyat are eerie in the extreme whilst forests have swallowed entire towns from where plants and wildlife thrives including wolves, bears, elk and deer.
Black Sea ports to the south and Russia to the east have made the Ukraine's patchwork of cultural heritage what it is today but choosing to stick solely within the borders isn't going to tell the whole tale. Overland tours of Eastern Europe, which include the Ukraine, can be as epic as you wish although often a simple road transfer from Moldova or overnight train ride from Belarus are all you need over the course of a week to put things into clearer contrast.
Travel to eastern Ukraine. Visiting this region is not advised as tensions are still running high, especially in places like Donetsk. However, Ukraine is the largest country in Europe (after Russia) and there's absolutely no reason not to travel in the west; it's perfectly safe. The east is a largely self-contained region and won't feature as part of an organised small group tour.

UKRAINE TRAVEL ADVICE


TIPS FROM OUR FRIENDS IN UKRAINE


Jim O'Brien, Director of our supplier Native Eye, shares advice, recommendations and personal experiences from Ukraine:

Traveling in Ukraine


“Ukraine is a safe, modern, central European-feeling country with Kiev, especially, full of high-end stores, incredible architecture and an excellent Metro system. The east is more Russian with larger ethnic Russian communities in places like Donetsk and Luhansk. It's easy to travel in the Ukraine with overnight trains from Minsk making long distances and border crossings really straightforward and hassle free. Cities like Lviv have wonderful architecture, pedestrianised streets and affordable food and drink making them easily on par with more popular destinations like Bucharest and Prague.”

Revolution is still raw


“Visiting Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the central square in Kiev, is very poignant and displays how the protests and troubles of the recent past are still fresh in local people's memories. Photos of those who died in the 2014 protests are still displayed around the square which really brings history to life. Over the years Ukraine has had a lot of countries meddling in its destiny with poor leadership increasing the feeling that the country and its people have been dealt a bad hand and not always been treated fairly.”

Book recommendations


“A great book to accompany a tour of the Ukraine, and let you further understand the country's most recent history, is An Orange Revolution by Andrew Wilson.”

Life in the Carpathians


“Farming areas surrounding Carpathian towns like Verkhovyna, which can be found further into the mountains, offer an authentic example of rural lifestyles where large fields, owned collectively by villages, and smaller independent plots, are used for growing seasonal fruit and vegetables. Hutsul communities also offer an authentic look at traditional Ukrainian lifestyles and visiting some of the wooden churches, which are made without using nails, highlights their ingenuity although don't expect too many to be wearing traditional Hutsul costume unless it coincides with an important event like a wedding or religious vacation.”

Food for thought


“Food in the Ukraine is hard to pinpoint to a specific cuisine but tends to be hearty and homemade revolving around pork, dairy products, potatoes – especially – and seasonal vegetables. Chicken is considered more of a salad ingredient or side accompaniment rather than an actual meat dish! A typical meal consists of homemade sausages, potato pancakes and seasonal vegetables accompanied by a glass of vodka or alternative brand of potent fruit hooch.”

Aled Evans, from our supplier Undiscovered Destinations, shares some of his Ukraine memories and recommendations:

Souvenirs, soups & spirits


“Try your hand at making Pysankas – a Ukrainian Easter egg decorated with hot wax, or Motankas – a traditional rag doll, both of which make great souvenirs. Alternatively, you can buy locally-made versions from pretty much every market for between US $5-20 depending on complexity. For foodies, you can learn how to make some authentic Ukraine dishes, like borsht soup and varenyky (dumplings), or, if you have nothing else to do for the day, learn how to make, and sample, Ukrainian homemade horilka (a local spirit similar to vodka) which goes well with salted salo (pork fat). Ukrainian horilka usually costs from US $4-50 per bottle, depending on age and grade.”

Uniquely Ukraine


“The Carpathian Mountains are definitely the best place for walking and nature. The Danube Delta biosphere reserve is also very picturesque. As well as the impressive natural sights, the Danube and the Carpathians feature some really unique Ukrainian villages although it can be quite an event reaching them as rural roads are notoriously poor.”
Photo credits:[Temp chart: Dave Proffer] [Help desk: Oleksii Leonov] [Revolution is still raw: Tiia Monto] [Life in Carpathians: Juanedc] [Souvenirs: neiljs]

Written by: Chris Owen
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