Ukraine - In the Heart of Eastern Europe
The East European country of Ukraine lies between the Black Sea and the Carpathian Mountains and fascinates with beautiful cathedrals, an age-old natural landscape and its cordial inhabitants. The maritime coastal towns and the snowy winter forests make Ukraine particularly appealing.
Geography - The east of the continent
Ukraine borders on Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Belarus and Russia. Its is divided into 24 oblasts (provinces) in addition to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and two cities with special status. These two cities are the capital Kiev - the country's biggest city - and Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula. The country is generally dominated by temperate continental climate. That means that the winters are very frosty and rich in snow, especially in the heartland and the mountains, while it is pleasantly warm to hot in the south in summer. The average temperature in summer is 29 °C.
Nature - Europe's jungles
As the jungles of the Carpathian Mountains are the last ones in Europe, they are protected and are part of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage. Proud beeches, birches, aspens and oaks protrude into the sky and provide an insight into the native vegetation which once covered the whole continent. Ukraine's nature is a high-profile topic. The nuclear disaster in Chernobyl and the terrible oil spill in the Black Sea polluted the country's flora and fauna and nature is only recovering slowly. Ukraine has made it their business to protect its forests and waters and has opened a number of national parks and protected areas. In addition, the country accommodates Europe's largest marshland, which takes up an area of over 90,000 km². It is home to rare animal species like the wisent, bison, the Przewalski's horse and bear. On the Crimean Peninsula, you find exotic animals such as camels, pheasants and peacocks, while the Black Sea is populated by dolphins and whales.
Natural sights - The beauty of the Carpathians and the Black Sea
Travellers can go hiking and watch animals in the Eastern Beskids and the Ukrainian Carpathians. The high mountains of the Carpathians, on the other hand, offer an extraordinary view. The biosphere reserve of the Danube Delta - Europe's greatest wetland area (5,000 km²) - presents a panorama of a different kind. It accommodates scenic lakes, wild alluvial forests and floating islands. Visitors who are interested in rhododendrons, peonies etc. should visit the botanical garden in Odessa and the Crimean Peninsula in the Black Sea, which is full of natural attractions. The Crimean town of Yalta lies at the island's south coast (the "Russian Riviera") and is also referred to as the "Pearl of Crimea". White beaches, the blue sea and the Mediterranean climate create a relaxing holiday atmosphere.
Culture - A chequered past and present
Ukraine looks back on a long and chequered history. The Greeks and the Turks as well as the Ukrainians and the Russians have settled and ruled the country. The Crimean Peninsula regularly becomes a plaything of foreign powers. The country's inhabitants suffer from this political power play. Today, the population mainly consists of Ukrainians (about 78 %), Russians (about 17 %) and a few minorities such as Romanians, Crimean Tatars and Belarusians. The most commonly spoken languages are Ukrainian and Russian, of which only Ukrainian is the only official language. Apart from the current politically motivated conflicts, Ukraine has produced an appealing culture which is aware of tradition. A great number of museums, countless castles, monasteries and cathedrals as well as wonderful cities make culture enthusiasts' hearts leap for joy. In addition, the Ukrainians are very friendly and cordial hosts.
Cultural sights - Churches, castles and stairs
Kiev is not called the "Jerusalem of the East" for no reason. Many churches and other sacred buildings characterise its cityscape with Saint Sophia's Cathedral and the four-storey campanile as the most prominent examples. Other beautiful attractions are the Monastery of the Caves, the Maidan Nezalezhnosti ("independence square") in the city centre and the city's harbour. However, it is a different city which has established its reputation as Ukraine's "secret capital" - Lviv. With its cathedral, the townhouses and the Lviv Castle Hill, Lviv has been part of the Cultural Heritage of the UNESCO since 1998. One of the most beautiful castles is located on a rock above the Black Sea in Yalta. It is called Swallow's Nest and is the landmark of Crimea's spa resort. Other tourist sights are the city of Odessa with its gigantic Potemkin Stairs (192 steps), the seaport city of Kherson with St. Catherine's Cathedral and the fortress or the Pirogovo Open-Air Museum with the historical wooden windmills. Travellers who want to follow the traces of recent history can go on a day trip to the ghost town of Chernobyl, which still suffers from the ramifications of the nuclear disaster in 1986.
Experience - Feasting, celebrating and relaxing
The Ukrainians know how to spoil their guests. Their cuisine is simple, hearty and delicious. They prefer savoury dishes such as stuffed dumplings (varenyky and pelmini), cabbage rolls (holubtsi) and the classic beetroot stew (borscht). In addition, the country has several wonderful wine-growing regions. The best-known products are the wine and the sparkling wine from Crimea. Besides these, matryoshka dolls are the country's most popular souvenirs. Worthwhile shopping destinations are the shopping centres in Kiev and the market in Odessa, which has an area of eight hectares. Ukraine also offers a vibrant nightlife. Kiev's night clubs, discos and bars enjoy great popularity and are much frequented, especially in the summer months. Travellers find relaxation in the spa resort of Odessa. Fresh sea air and varied spa treatments make visitors feel energised and comfortable.
Activities - Hiking in the Carpathian Mountains
The seaport city of Odessa at the Black Sea coast offers a maritime holiday atmosphere and golden beaches. It is excellently suited for going sailing or jet-skiing and divers can set off to discover sunken shipwrecks in the inland sea. The best locations for going hiking, climbing and mountaineering are the Carpathian Mountains and the forests. In winter, they transform into a magical snow world for skiers and snowboarders. The many rivers which cross the country can all be travelled by ship or houseboat. In this way, visitors can even explore the capital Kiev from a boat along the Dnieper River.
The best time for a trip to Ukraine is the summer. The coastal regions are worth visiting up until September. Ukraine has a well-developed infrastructure and can be travelled by land, by plane or on a cruiser.
Ukraine does not only fascinate history and culture enthusiasts but also lovers of nature. Wonderful spa resorts and vast jungles make the country the ideal recreational holiday destination for travellers of all ages.