The Far East of Europe: Seven things Travelers love about Visiting Ukraine

17 Aug

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Ukraine’s not an easy place to travel, but it’s worth it. My last post was about the unique challenges of traveling in one of Europe’s last tourism frontiers. But why visit if it’s a challenging destination? This post explains some of the joys of visiting Ukraine.

1: Stunning Architecture

Few countries have more interesting architecture than Ukraine. The architecture of Ukraine is stunning, from the wooden cabins of the Carpathians to the grand palaces of Lviv. Ukrainian Architecture has a long history and varies tremendously from region to region. Some is more Russian influenced, and some of it is more Central European influenced.

2: Beautiful Countryside

Ukraine’s small towns are unspoiled, have few tourists, and in some regions have beautiful surroundings. The Carpathian region is the best example. A trek, bike ride or even bus ride through this region will give you a taste of one of the last truly untouched regions of Europe.

3: It’s Cheap!

In a country where youth hostels are $6 a night in the most touristy city, one can expect Ukraine to be cheap. Many people talk about Eastern Europe being “cheap”, but only in Ukraine and east of it is this perception truly still accurate. Coming from Hungary or Slovakia, your money will go much further. You can easily get by on $30 a day.

4: The Fascinating History

Ukraine’s history is long, and filled with influences from within its own culture and from the surrounding countries. It swung back and forth between being influenced by Central European culture and by Russian culture. Today, the country’s multicultural history is evident in its regional differences.

5: The mosaic of Slavic Cultures

Some neighboring countries, such as Poland, are quite homogenous, but Ukraine is a Slavic mosaic. Every region of Ukraine feels different, thanks to the outside influences of neighboring countries as well as the different landscapes and architectural styles. There’s the Russian-dominated East (don’t visit right now!), the Polish-influenced west, the diverse range of cultures in the Carpathians, the classical Ukrainian centre, and the Tatar and Russian-Influenced Crimea (don’t visit right now either!).

6: The Hearty Food

I’ll admit that cuisine from this world region is not my favorite, but it’s definitely quite filling. The food served is meaty, starchy, and somewhat stodgy, but it’s very cheap. Lviv and other major cities are home to Georgian restaurants, whose cuisines are by far superior to Russian and Ukranian cuisines according to most travelers and foodies.

7: The few other tourists

It’s rare now that a former USSR country lacks tourists. Czech Republic? Packed with tourists. Hungary? Packed with tourists. Poland? Also packed with tourists. But Ukraine, like the Caucasus, is yet to be discovered. You’ll sometimes have the museums all to yourself, and there are still restaurants in the Carpathians which have never seen a foreigner.

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