When I first got invited to visit Ukraine, I did not think much of it since it was not on the top list of places that I wanted to visit. However, I always like to take a chance, even if I’ve heard conflicting information in the media. I am all about embarking on new journeys of adventure off-the-beaten-path.
While many people associate Ukraine with war, a third world country or many other misconceptions, Ukraine amazed me and I totally fell in love. Through this trip, with the amazing people of Cobblestone Freeway Tours, I not only uncovered myths and misconceptions about Ukraine, but the country became one of top favorite to date (out of 50+ countries I have visited). Today, I am writing this post to tell you the reasons why Ukraine should be added immediately to your bucket list.
Table of Contents (skip directly to the info you're looking for)
- 1 10 Reasons Why Ukraine should immediately be added to your bucket list
- 1.1 Experience a European Country for less
- 1.2 There is something for everyone (a super diverse country by region)
- 1.3 Beautiful landscapes (you can’t take a bad pic)
- 1.4 Amazing Food
- 1.5 Great music, dances (a real cultural experience)
- 1.6 Wine, Coffee, and Chocolate
- 1.7 Helpful people that go out of their way even when they don’t speak English
- 1.8 You can totally feel like a local and not feel like you’re being scammed (like in other countries)
- 1.9 So many beautiful places to stay; I love beautiful accommodations!
- 1.10 Historical Significance (castles)
- 1.11 Some Other Highlights from my tour with Cobblestone Freeway Tours:
10 Reasons Why Ukraine should immediately be added to your bucket list
Experience a European Country for less
Ukraine is great for budget travelers. You can really get your money’s worth. Ukrainian prices are so low that you can really have five-star dining/accommodation experiences for a lot less money than when visiting other countries. It is definitely one of the least expensive European countries I have visited and Kiev (Kyiv), the capital of Ukraine, is ranked as one of the “cheapest” capitals in Europe.
There is something for everyone (a super diverse country by region)
Fun Fact: Did you know that Ukraine is the largest country by area that is located entirely in Europe? Yes, this is a fact. So, you can probably guess how diverse and different Ukraine might be by region alone (given its size). You can have it all in one country from mountains, to the sea, to charming cities with cobblestoned-filled streets, to local villages, to wine regions, ski areas, and much more. You can definitely find something for your taste. I truly enjoyed having a private bus tour ride (thanks to Cobblestone Freeway Tours), especially when visiting the Carpathian Mountains. It is easier to stop along the way for photos and such. Some places are quite remote and it is also great to have someone to translate.
Beautiful landscapes (you can’t take a bad pic)
Ukraine is blessed with amazing landscapes. I totally fell in love with the hidden gems I discovered during my travels. There are so many cities and villages to explore. You can find waterfalls, hike to beautiful mountains, enormous ski resorts such as Bukovel, wine regions, and more. Also, within small cities like Lviv you can find amazing parks with stunning views of the city, such as The High Castle Park. It’s all about the big picture! Click away!
Ukraine has amazing food for you to try and the best part is that the food varies a lot per region. I had the most amazing sour cherry varenikis (dumplings) in Lviv, the most amazing cheese dumplings in Bukovel, and great dinners with cultural dances/music around the country.
If you are a foodie, you will be in paradise. Not only will you find quality food, but it’s practically at bargain prices. Of course everything costs a little more in the capital of Ukraine, but you can always find lunch for less than 5 dollars, fancy drinks very cheap between 2-4 dollars, Beer for less than a dollar! And we’re talking about comparable quality. What a big difference!
Great music, dances (a real cultural experience)
Another special aspect of Ukraine is their music and dances. We experienced a few presentations throughout our tour, but I truly enjoyed the one during our return to Chernivtsi best. It was an evening performance by a folk group named Gerdan. A must-see if you are ever in Chernivtsi.
Wine, Coffee, and Chocolate
Even tough I did not get to visit Odessa, which is popularly known by its wine region, I did get to try so many wines with my lunches and dinners in Ukraine. I also did a wine tasting at The Vintage Boutique Hotel in Lviv. They have one of the largest cellars in Lviv. Lviv, known as the little Paris of Ukraine, is also known for having the best chocolate and coffee in town. You must try places such as: Lviv Handmade Chocolate, The Coffee Mining experience and more. For a wine enthusiast, chocolate lover and foodie like myself, Lviv proved to be one of my favorite cities from the stops on my Cobblestone Freeway tour.
Helpful people that go out of their way even when they don’t speak English
Ukrainians are the most friendly and helpful people that you could ever meet in Europe. Believe it or not, people totally go out of their way to help you, even when they don’t speak the same language as you. I had the most amazing experiences, even after my tour ended and I decided to stay a little longer in Ukraine.
You can totally feel like a local and not feel like you’re being scammed (like in other countries)
In Ukraine, I never felt taken advantage of as a tourist. In most places, people will treat you like a local or part of the family. They were not staring at me, taking photos of me or asking for selfies (like when I’ve visited other countries). The prices I paid were the same as stated on the tags. I never felt as if I had to negotiate 30, 50 or 70% less like in other countries. People do not try to scam you because you are a tourist. I truly enjoy feeling like a local and welcomed by all.
So many beautiful places to stay; I love beautiful accommodations!
The accommodation options in Ukraine are plentiful and most are very beautiful. I was really taken aback by the luxurious feel and amazing service at most of the places I stayed. Here are my best picks:
Lviv – Vintage Boutique Hotel
A super cute boutique hotel with amazing décor, great staff, beautiful/unique rooms, fabulous restaurant and one of the largest wine cellars in Lviv.
Chernivtsi – Bukovyna Hotel
Welcoming staff, clean and comfortable rooms, excellent location and great infused cherry steak.
Kiev – Ibis Hotel
A great modern hotel conveniently located in the city center. The location made it pretty easy to walk around and explore the city. It’s very reasonably priced considering it’s proximity to many historical sites (such as the St. Sophia Cathedral, the National Opera House, the botanical garden and more). They also offer an excellent breakfast with a variety of options
A hidden gem in the town of Tiudiv in the Carpathian Mountains
Bukovel is a ski resort town located in the Carpathian Mountains. Regardless if it is winter or not, there are lots of things to do: such as hikes, ziplining roller coasters, spas, great restaurants and more.
Historical Significance (castles)
Ukraine’s historical significance as part of the Austro-Hungarian experience in the past is not as well known but still fascinating. Ukraine’s history with other countries such as Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, Austria, Russia and Romania just adds to it’s unique history and beauty. For example, I immediately saw the influence of Austria, especially in Lviv where lots of buildings resemble those in Vienna, such as the their Opera House.
Along the narrow cobblestone streets, I was led to a beautiful castle (one of many in this country). We visited Khotyn Fortress during a day trip to Chernivtsi. Khotyn Fortress was built between the 13th-15th centuries, so it’s really a historical landmark. There you will find panoramic views of the Dniester River.
On the same day, we visited the Kamianets-Podilskyi Castle. This castle is a former Ruthenian-Lithuanian castle and eventually became a three-part Polish fortress.
With lots of changes throughout its history, the result is a Ukraine that’s so diverse and rich in culture, you will never be bored!
Some Other Highlights from my tour with Cobblestone Freeway Tours:
Visiting Pysanka Museum (Easter Egg Museum) in Kolomyia (which is located on the Prut River in the Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast in Western Ukraine) was really interesting. Make sure to learn more about this famous tradition in Ukraine.
Visiting the Lviv Beer Museum – If you are a beer fan, this museum will provide you with the history of beer, and Lviv, in a fun and interactive way. After you finish the museum tour, you can check out their art gallery, which is a great place to take photos, while sipping on some beer (since there’s a beer tasting included).
Going to the Lviv Famous and popular bar/shop, Drunken Cherry is an unforgettable experience. You will find it quite easily in the Rynok Square because there are always long lines every day and night. Also, people gather, mostly outdoors, to enjoy a glass of this alcoholic drink. It is sort of a homemade moonshine with sour cherries inside and it’s definitely worth the wait.
- Stopping at Yaremche, where we really got to see the Prut River and to shop in a traditional Ukranian craft market was a great time to buy souvenirs.
The fun and thrilling zip-line roller-coaster ride in Bukovel is a must-do!
Exploring the hutsul traditions in Verkhovyna, which is a town located in the Hutsul region of the Carpathian Mountains called Pokuttya, is an important tourist area that highlights the hutsul customs. They have many superstitions and beliefs, such as placing mirrors on the outside of their homes to keep the dark and evil spirits out.
Heading to Kryvorivnia that is a Hutsul village that we visited and is a must-see. Hutsul Grazhda is a replica of an original traditional Hutsul home from the 1800’s which was built in 1995 to serve as a museum. It is very interesting.
Another favorite and unforgettable experience of mine was participating in a Traditional Hutsul Wedding, in a small village in Bukovets.
Visiting Kosiv, which is a very small city, but we had a special opportunity to stop by their Kosiv local Institute or Arts college, KosivsʹkyyInstytut Prykladnoho Ta Dekoratyvnoho Mystetstva Lnam, to observe how kids learn skills such as carpeting, painting, making sculptures and sewing/crafting Traditional Clothing and Lizhnyks (special rugs made of sheep’s wool which are decorated in large, dark-colored patterns).
Visiting the famous and one of the wonders of Ukraine, The St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev was breathtaking.
Basically, Ukraine is full of hidden gems and I hope that this article has inspired you to pack your luggage and go! If you do need help planning your itinerary to Ukraine, do not hesitate to visit: Cobblestone Freeway Tours Website.
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