Ukraine and Moldova

Nestled between Russia and Central Europe, Ukraine and Moldova perhaps aren’t the obvious choice for a holiday, but without the confines of an established tourist trail, and with surprises around every corner, that’s what makes them exciting.

Kiev has a rich and varied history dating back more than a thousand years, and we spend time exploring its exquisite churches and gold domed monastery of Lavra, a local site of pilgrimage and one of the most important religious sites in the country. More recent events are covered as we discover Chernobyl, where the eerie ghost town of Pripyat provides a snapshot of the Soviet past and the tragic events which took place here.

In the southern city of Odessa we see striking 19th century architecture and the nearby catacombs, once a hideout for the resistance in the Second World War, as well as the nearby vast fortress at Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, standing guard over trade routes from the Black Sea.

Lviv is one of Europe’s great cities, with a heritage which encompasses its Polish and Jewish roots, its streets lined with picturesque houses of merchants and churches rich in religious icons and frescoes – a step back in time, almost. In the Carpathian Mountains we uncover a gentler side of life, staying in a village guesthouse and learning about the rural traditions of the Hutsul people.

On our way towards Moldova we stop in the elegant town of Chernivtsi, and the castles in Khotyn and Kamyanets-Podilsky, their immense fortifications a testament to more troubled times. Tiny Moldova offers us the chance to explore vast underground wine cellars – of course, with the chance to taste the local tipple – and the chance to experience local hospitality at Orheiul Vechi. Finally we visit the unrecognised country of Transdniestr, stranded after the break up of the Soviet Union and one of the quirkiest places in Europe.

This is a side of the continent that you may not know, with a split personality shaped by its giant neighbour to the east and the elegance of Central Europe – all the more fascinating for it.

Highlights

  • Explore Lviv, one of Europe's most beautiful cities
  • Discover the unrecognised country of Transdniestr
  • Traditional Moldovan hospitality at Orheiul Vechi

Day 1 - Kiev

Arrive in Kiev and transfer to your hotel. Overnight Ukraina Hotel or similar.


Day 2 - Chernobyl

A full day excursion to Chernobyl. We explore the ghost town of Pripyat, left abandoned by its inhabitants after the nuclear disaster and a rather eerie reminder of the event. We also visit the area around the reactor, learning about the tragic events that took place here. Overnight Ukraina Hotel or similar. (BL)

Please note that if you would prefer not to visit Chernobyl we can arrange an alternative excursion for you. Please let us know at least a month before the trip departs.

Chernobyl
The Chernobyl disaster was the worst nuclear power plant accident in history, when in April 1986 parts of the reactor exploded sending radioactive fallout into the atmosphere. After a delay of 36 hours, the area surrounding the plant was evacuated although it took more than two weeks to completely extinguish the blaze, during which time a number of firemen were exposed to fatal doses of radiation.

Initially the Soviet authorities tried to keep the accident hidden from the rest of the world, until scientists in Sweden identified a radioactive cloud in the atmosphere, and the Ukrainian public were only notified some time after the event.

Visiting the site is safe – there are strict limits on how close you can approach the reactor and how long you can stay there, to ensure that you are not exposed to dangerous levels of radiation. Exploring Chernobyl is one of the more unusual experiences that Europe can offer – the area is frozen in time and offers a glimpse of the Soviet Union as well as an eerie apocalyptic landscape that reminds us of the potential risks of the nuclear age.

Day 3 - Kiev - Odessa

Explore the key sites of the city including the impressive St Sophia Cathedral and monastery, the splendid 18th century Baroque church of St Andrew, and the historic ‘Golden Gates’ of Kiev. In the afternoon we visit the golden domed Lavra monastery complex, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and containing numerous churches and museums – a cultural treasure of the country. In the late afternoon take the train to Odessa, arriving late this evening. Overnight Continental Hotel or similar. (BL)

 

Kiev
Kiev is one of Europe’s most attractive cities, but also one of its least known capitals, a legacy of its previous position hidden behind the Iron Curtain which meant that few from ‘the west’ were aware of the treasures that it holds. The basis of the Russian state during the period of Kievan Rus, the city has a colourful history and in the 13th century was almost destroyed by Mongol invaders, then later was ruled by Poland and Lithuania at different times before falling under the rule of Russia in the 18th century, now centred around St Petersburg. As you might expect for a city with a history stretching back more than a thousand years, Kiev is home to some stunning monuments, including a wide array or churches and monasteries which testify to the deep religious sentiment of the country – the best being the complex at Lavra with its green and gold domes, and the 11th century Cathedral of St Sophia. There are also a number of good museums, impressive 18th and 19thcentury buildings and the imposing post-war architecture of the Kreschatyk Boulevard. Kiev easily has enough to keep the curious visitor occupied for days, and is a real pleasure to explore.

Day 4 - Odessa

Explore the city with its splendid examples of architecture including the 19th century Opera House, the Potemkin Stairs and the five domed Uspensky Cathedral, among other sites. In the afternoon visit the Odessa Catacombs, a series of underground tunnels created during the mining of material to build the city and with over 2,500km of caves. During the Second World War they were used as a base for the partisan resistance against the Nazis. Overnight Continental Hotel or similar. (BL)


Day 5 - Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi

An excursion to the town of Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, once the ancient city of Tira, founded by Greek pilgrims in the 4th century BC. We visit its vast medieval fortress, guarding the entrance of the Dniester estuary and once part of the Republic of Genoa. Later we transfer back to Odessa to take the overnight train to Lviv. (BL)


Days 6-7 - Lviv

Explore Lviv, one of Europe’s most attractive cities and another of Ukraine’s UNESCO listed sites. We explore its varied attractions including the old town with its Baroque church and Armenian Cathedral, the Opera House and the High Castle with superb views over the city. Overnight Hotel Reikartz or similar. (BL)

 

Lviv
A charming city packed full of exquisite architecture, Lviv has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site – not just parts of it, but the entire city, which gives you an idea of why many people consider this the highlight of their visit to Ukraine. Its beautiful buildings borrow styles from the Italian Renaissance and Baroque movements, and are numerous – of course one can find many churches and cathedrals but also striking theatres and opera houses, grand public parks, synagogues and palaces, many decorated in graceful pastel colours. The city was spared the worst excesses of the Second World War and as such is far better preserved than many in the region – a snapshot of the glory days of Ukraine a couple of centuries ago.

Day 8 - Carpathian Mountains

Drive to Verkhovyna in the Carpathian Mountains and home to the Hutsul people, Ukraine’s most traditional ethnic group. We take a short walk in the mountains, explore the village and visit a small museum to learn more about Hutsul culture. We spend tonight in a village guesthouse. (BLD)

The Carpathian Mountains
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. 

Hutsul people
The Hutsuls are a mountain dwelling people, known within Ukraine for adhering to their traditional customs and dress, which consists of red jackets and trousers or skirts – although not as prevalent as it once was, it’s not too difficult to find people in some of the more remote villages wearing it. They have their own dialect, very different from Ukrainian, and their culture is very much centred around the world in which they live, a world of mountains and forests where nature is far more dominant than modernity.

Day 9 - Chernivtsi

Drive to Chernivtsi, in the foothills of the Carpathians. We explore the diverse collection of monuments and buildings to be found here – this is a fascinating city with grandiose theatres, elegant churches and a rather different feel to the rest of the country. Overnight Georg Palace Hotel or similar. (BL)

Chernivtsi
The town of Chernivtsi is the capital of the Bucovina region, a town imbued with many different ethnic influences from Russia to Romania to Poland. Dominated by spectacular architecture and with an attractive setting surrounded by mountains it is one of Ukraine’s more interesting towns and together with the city of Lviv, is seen as a cultural centre of Ukraine as well as a great focus for architecture and education. Historically it has been dubbed ‘Little Vienna’ and ‘Jerusalem upon the Prut’. A mark of its status is that Chernivtsi is currently twinned with seven other cities around the world. Key sites to visit include the Armenian Church, the former residence of the Bukovinan and Dalmatian bishops and the Kobylyanska Theatre, all of which were constructed in the late 19th / early 20th century and rank among Ukraine’s most impressive buildings.

Day 10 - Khotyn - Kamyanets-Podilsky

Visit the small town of Khotyn with its impressive fortress, one of the best preserved in Europe. From here continue to Kamyanets-Podilsky. This is one of Ukraine’s oldest towns and has been designated a ‘museum city’– we visit its castle and its historic old town, with its impressive churches and cathedrals and surrounded by a dramatic canyon. Overnight Hotel Reikartz or similar. (BL)


Day 11 - Chisinau

We bid farewell to Ukraine and drive to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. Overnight Jolly Alon Hotel or similar. (BL)

 

Chisinau
Pretty Chisinau is characterised by tree lined avenues, white washed buildings and imposing civic monuments and as the capital is the economic centre of Moldova. Founded in the 15th century it has been ruled by Russians and Ottomans, located at an awkward point between the two giant empires, and became the capital of the province of Bessarabia in the 19th century. It suffered much during the Second World War and much of what you will see has been rebuilt, on a typical Soviet grid system of streets. It contains one of the highest proportions of green spaces within any major European city, with many parks and lakes within its boundaries.

Day 12 - Chisinau - Cricova

Spend the morning exploring Chisinau, one of Europe’s greenest cities. We visit some of its key monuments including the St Teodora church, the Arch of Triumph and its collection of striking 19th century buildings. Just outside of the capital lie the vast wine cellars of Cricova, around 80 metres underground and consisting of tunnels that stretch for more than 120 kilometres. Explore this unusual site with opportunities for wine tasting at the end. Overnight Jolly Alon Hotel or similar. (BL)


Day 13 - Orheiul Vechi

Visit the monastery complex of Orhei Vechi, one of Moldova’s most important historic sites and dating back to the 13th century. Afterwards we head to a nearby farm to enjoy some traditional Moldovan hospitality, with traditional food and wine. Return to Chisinau in the evening. Overnight Jolly Alon Hotel or similar. (BL)

Orheiul Vechi
The Orheiul Vechi Monastery complex is carved into a cliff and dates back to the 13th century, although it has only recently come back into use after being abandoned in the 18th century. It contains a chapel and a sleeping area for monks, and the cliffside is dotted with small cave and places of worship, dug over thousands of years by ancient Dacian tribes.

 

Day 14 - Transdniestr

Cross the border into the breakaway republic of Transdniestr, one of Europe’s oddest entities and something of a throwback to the days of the Soviets. We explore the ‘capital’ Tiraspol with its stark monuments and also visit the town of Tighina, once an important trading centre and with an impressive 16th century fortress to explore. Return to Chisinau for the evening. Overnight Jolly Alon Hotel or similar. (BL)

Transdniestr
Transdniestr, or Transnistria, is a European oddity – a tiny breakaway state within Moldova between the River Dniestr and the Ukrainian border that is unrecognised by other nations but to all effects and purposes functions as a completely separate country, with its own government and army. Once part of the Soviet Union along with the rest of Moldova, when the Cold War ended its population decided to declare independence, sparking a war with Moldova – things are peaceful now but the two states eye each other cautiously from across the border. Ethnically it has far more ties with Russia, and you will hear Russian being spoken here – part of the basis for its claims of sovereign status is that while the rest of Moldova was ceded to Turkey following the Russo-Turkish conflicts of the 18th century, Transdniestr remained Russian, hence they cannot be considered to be the same country. The capital Tiraspol is a rather odd but intriguing place where the Soviet Union doesn’t seem to have quite died, and is fascinating to explore for an insight into what life was once like behind the Iron Curtain.

 

Day 15 - Chisinau

Transfer to the airport for departure. (B)


What's included?

  • Airport transfers

    We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers. Please note though that if you arrive earlier than Day 1 of the tour, and leave after the final day, we may need to make an additional charge for an airport transfer.

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere. Please note that the single supplement does not include nights on the train.

    While we prefer to use centrally located hotels where possible, this is not always practical and in some locations they may not be the best option in terms of standards or reliability.

     

  • Guides

    You will have different guides in the different countries that you visit, and the train journeys will be unaccompanied – the guides will assist you in getting on the trains.

  • Meals

    As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again. Please note that when meals are included, sometimes these will be in hotels, as often these are the most appropriate option, and will sometimes be set menus. Local restaurants are often lacking in variety, as well as the capacity to cater for groups. Drinks are not included and are at your own expense.

  • Entrance fees

    Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.

What's not included?

  • Visas

    We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively a visa agency such as Travcour (www.travcour.com) can assist.

  • International flights

    Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If however you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

  • Travel Insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.

Visas

Most nationalities will not require a visa to enter Ukraine or Moldova (providing you don’t stay more than 90 days).

Visa regulations can change however and so we recommend that you contact your nearest embassy for the most up to date information.

You should ensure that your passport has at least six months’ validity after the end date of your trip. We also strongly recommend that your passport has a minimum of two blank pages next to each other – on the rare occasion it may lead to problems with visas and immigration authorities if it does not.

If your flights involve a connection in Russia you must check with your airline whether you need a Russian visa. On the occasion travellers have been refused boarding for flights that connect in Russia, even if not entering Russia itself.

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. However, there are no compulsory vaccinations needed to enter either country. For more advice on vaccinations, you can also visit http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.

Insurance

It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover, which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.

Money

Both countries have different currencies. In Ukraine it is the hryvnia, and in Moldova it is the leu. We recommend taking either US dollars or Euros to exchange – these should be unmarked and with issue dates after 2006, otherwise they may be difficult to exchange.

Changing money is fairly simple – many hotels will offer this service and there are also banks and exchange bureaus in larger towns. Your guide will be able to advise of the best option. In the capital cities and larger towns there are also ATMs which accept foreign cards, although don’t count on these always working. Credit cards are not used as widely here as they are in other European countries, so you should only think of this as a back up rather than the main source of obtaining money.

Local conditions

When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience.

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO does not advise against travel to any parts of Moldova, or the parts of Ukraine that we visit.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

Please note that the information contained above is highly susceptible to change, and while we endeavour to keep up to date we recommend that you use this as a guide only. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Date(s)
Price (PP) Exc. Flights
Single Supplement
Trip Status
Date -
07 August 2021
Price (PP) -
£2,199
Single Supplement -
£235
Trip Status -
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