Ukraine Tours & Holidays
Our thoughts and hearts are with the people in Ukraine, including our own team members, tour leaders and their families, who have been deeply impacted by this senseless war and invasion of Ukraine.
Intrepid is not currently operating any tours that visit Ukraine, Russia or Belarus and tours in these countries have been cancelled for the foreseeable future.
Intrepid condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Russian government’s aggression towards Ukraine and its people.
Any future decisions to resume operations in Russia will be based not only on the safety of our travelers and the communities we visit, but the stability of Europe and a clear path to peace for all innocent and oppressed people who have fallen victim to this violence.
The Intrepid Foundation has launched an emergency appeal in partnership with Australian Red Cross to provide support (food, water, shelter & medicine) within Ukraine and assistance for displaced people in surrounding counties. We ask that you please consider giving at The Intrepid Foundation Ukraine Crisis Appeal.
We hope for a peaceful path out of this crisis soon and are continuing to monitor the situation closely.
Ukraine at a glance
Kyiv (population 2.6 million)
Ukrainian hryvnia (UAH)
(GMT+02:00) Helsinki, Kyiv, Riga, Sofia, Tallinn, Vilnius
Type C (European 2-pin) Type F (German 2-pin, side clip earth)
Learn more about Ukraine
Best time to visit Ukraine
Ukraine, like many of its Eastern European counterparts, boasts a temperate climate that delivers hot summers, mild autumns and icy winters. With the warm summer sending locals and tourists to the Crimea and the Black Sea coast, many theatres and attractions close down or become quite crowded. For those seeking to avoid the crowds, spring (or early autumn) can be an excellent time to visit Ukraine, as the weather is normally quite pleasant and the scenery at its most spectacular.
Winters can be bitterly cold, with temperatures reaching as low as -25C; however, ample snow provides excellent skiing in the Carpathian Mountains.
Culture and customs
Centuries old and yet only newly formed as a country (it became independent from Russia in 1991), Ukraine is brought together by tradition but in many ways is still establishing its national identity. Travelling here, you will notice the lasting resilience of the people and preserved culture across both Russian and Ukrainian speakers, from the cities to the mountains. A large gap exists between the working class and the country’s elite, and poverty is widespread.
Ukrainians are very proud of their heritage, evident in the enduring popularity of events like Sorochinsky Yarmarok (a large folk festival) and local folk music celebrations. Age-old traditions are also highly valued. Painted Easter eggs (pysanky), for instance, are a Ukrainian practice dating back more than one thousand years.
Food and drink
For years, Ukraine was called ‘the breadbasket of Europe’ because of its dark, rich soil, which allowed the cultivation of a wide range of crops. Cooking traditions stem from a practical desire to warm the belly during cold winters rather than splash out with fancy gastronomy. Dishes are mild but hearty, and tend to centre on grains, potatoes, cabbage, beets, mushrooms, pork and fish. Russian, Polish, Austrian, Jewish and Hungarian influences have also notably shaped Ukrainian cuisine.
Things to try in Ukraine
Locals will proudly tell you that borscht is not Russian or Polish – it’s Ukrainian. Tonnes of variations exist, but all versions of borscht contain beetroot, which gives this soup its distinct red colour. It can be eaten hot or cold, but is almost always served with a dollop of sour cream. Vegetarians take note: even ‘vegetarian’ versions are usually made with beef stock.
2. Golubtsi (cabbage rolls)
Take seasoned rice and meat, stew it in a tomato and sour cream sauce, then roll it in cabbage leaves to make this popular snack.
3. Varenyky (perogis)
These half-moon shaped dumplings can be filled with almost anything and are usually topped with sour cream, fried onions or honey.
Those partial to rich meats can try salo (cured pig fat), a national dish in Ukraine. Historically eaten as a cheaper alternative to meat, many believe regular consumption of salo will lead to a long and healthy life (whether nutritionists agree may be another story). It can be smoked or lightly seasoned with garlic, paprika or black pepper.
5. Chicken Kiev
Does this famous dish actually originate from Ukraine’s capital? Nobody really knows. Some argue it has Russian or French origins. At any rate the tasty dish, made with pounded chicken and stuffed with garlic butter, is often served on the bone in Kyiv (Kiev).
Geography and environment
Bordering Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Russia, as well as the Black Sea, Ukraine has always held somewhat of a strategic position in continental Europe. It's divided in half by the Dnieper River, an important trading artery and the site of many dams and hydroelectric stations.
As the second largest country in Europe, Ukraine boasts an incredible variety of landscapes, many of which change complexion dramatically with the seasons. To the west lie the Carpathian Mountains, which include the country's highest peak, Mt Hoverla (2,061 m). To the south is the Black Sea coast, the port town of Odessa and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. This popular holiday spot is renowned for its Mediterranean climate and unique landscapes that include limestone plateaux and volcanic rock formations.
Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, is located in the north on the banks of the Dnieper River. The country's north is renowned for its dense forests, while the central region consists of mainly open fields and plains.
Our Ukraine Top 5
Kyiv, or Kiev as it’s become known in English, is Ukraine’s ancient capital, the epicentre of a Slavic culture that once stretched as far as Alaska. The locals are understandably a pretty proud bunch, who are happy to give you directions in a dozen languages when you can’t decipher the Cyrillic street signs on every corner. With a local guide by your side though, you won’t have any trouble finding the enourmous Motherland Monument (Ukraine’s answer to the Statue of Liberty), the golden dome of St Michael’s Cathedral or the beaches of Hidropark Island in the Dnipro River.
A moving daytrip from Kyiv, tours to Chernobyl run daily. It may not seem like the most chipper way to spend a holiday, but it’s a worthwhile stop for anyone looking to understand better the disaster that happened here in 1986. We’ll take you into the Exclusion Zone, a two-hour drive through the Ukrainian countryside, to have a look at the power plant’s main reactor, as well as the evacuated town of Pripyat, an eerily overgrown village that once housed up to 50,000 workers. These tours are perfectly safe; you can even hire your own Geiger counter to check out the radiation levels.
Beaches? In Ukraine? Yep, you’d better believe it. Odessa is a little like Eastern Europe’s answer to St Tropez or Rio: a decadent, seaside, neoclassical paradise bookended by the shores of the Black Sea and a geometric grid of shady tree-lined streets. Catherine the Great founded the city in the late 18th century and invited immigrants from all over Europe to settle here. Today it’s both Ukraine’s biggest commercial port and its sun-soaked style capital. A pop of glitz and colour in a country better known for dour mountainscapes and a sleepy rural steppe.
Lviv is maybe the only place in Ukraine where the Soviets couldn’t stamp their mark. Wandering cobbled streets and trendy piazzas, sipping espresso in boutique cafes, you feel like you’re day-tripping in Prague or holidaying in Krakow. There’s no sign of Stalinist concrete, and Ukrainian (not Russian) is definitely the majority language. Lviv’s secret got out during the Euro 2012 soccer championships, and a bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics sealed the deal. One day people will mention this gorgeous city in the same breath as Cesky Krumlov. Until then, it’s all yours.
5. Carpathian Mountains
The Capathians rise on the southwest corner of Ukraine like crinkles on an otherwise flat map. They’re the home of the Hutsuls, a friendly ethnic group (with an excellent sense of style), and the epicentre of the country’s rural folk culture. It’s a place where horse-drawn carts plod along potholed roads and babushkas shoo chickens from their porches. For adventure seekers, The Carpathians provide something else too: a photogenic mix of green valleys, snaking rivers, little villages tucked into the trees and more trails, ski fields, rock faces and white water than anywhere else in Ukraine.
Fashionable types in Kyiv frequent Lesnoy Flea Market (one of the largest flea markets in Europe) for its selection of vintage clothing. Andriyivsky Uzviz (also called Andrew’s Descent) is another popular shopping destination in Kyiv. Vendors selling traditional items such as pysanky (decorated Ukrainian Easter eggs) and sorochka (traditional embroidered shirts) can be found on this steep, cobbled street. Khreshchatyk Street becomes pedestrian-only on Sundays and fills with artists and vendors selling their wares.
Other notable shopping destinations include the souvenir market on Deribasovskaya Street in Odessa, which is one of the best places in the city to find a bargain, and the Vernisazh Souvenir Market in Lviv, a well-known spot for traditional crafts.
Festivals and events in Ukraine
In Odessa, a simple practical joke is not enough to commemorate April Fools Day. Instead, the Ukrainian ‘capital of humour’ hosts a full day of amusing festivities including frivolous contests, theatrical performances and a colourful parade where anything goes, as long as it brings a smile to people’s faces.
Traditional Ukrainian culture is put on full display at this famous, colourful country fair. More than one million people attend each August to shop for traditional handicrafts, learn the secrets to cooking the best borsch, feast on traditional foods and dance to lively folk performances.
Lutsk Salo Festival
Ukrainians love their salo (cured pig fat). It’s a source of national pride and the subject of many Ukrainian songs and poems. Each October, Lutsk celebrates this fatty treat by eating copious amounts of it (while drinking copious amounts of wine) and by attempting to break salo-related records, such as the world’s biggest salo sandwich.
Many cities and towns in Ukraine get their own day (or days) to celebrate with food, music, parades, performances and sometimes fireworks. ‘Lviv Day’ is held in early May, ‘Kamyanets-Podilsky Days’ are mid-May and ‘Kyiv Day’ occurs at the end of the month.
|Everything is Illuminated||Jonathan Safran Foer|
|Sweet Darusia||Maria Matios|
|Voices from Chernobyl||Svetlana Alexievich|
|Wolves Eat Dogs||Martin Cruz Smith|
Ukraine travel FAQs
Trips from 1 January 2023 onwards
From 1 January 2023, Intrepid will no longer require travellers to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 (excluding all Polar trips and select adventure cruises).
However, we continue to strongly recommend that all Intrepid travellers and leaders get vaccinated to protect themselves and others.
Specific proof of testing or vaccination may still be required by your destination or airline. Please ensure you check travel and entry requirements carefully.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Check the Essential Trip Information section of the itinerary for more information.
Many hotels and restaurants add a service charge, so it’s best to check your bill before tipping. While it's not necessary to tip, 10–15% is becoming customary in most restaurants across Ukraine.
Internet cafes are available in cities and towns, and some larger hotels now offer Wi-Fi connectivity. Remote and rural areas will have less internet availability, so be prepared for this when travelling out of the city.
Mobile phone coverage is generally good in Ukraine. Ensure global roaming is activated with your service provider before leaving home or purchase a local SIM card.
Western-style, flushable toilets are normally available in the larger cities. In rural areas, simple squat toilets are more common.
Cup of coffee in a cafe = 20 UAH
Beer in a bar or restaurant = 25 UAH
Basic takeaway lunch = 80 UAH
Dinner in an inexpensive restaurant = 120-200 UAH
Drinking tap water isn't recommended in Ukraine. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Ask your leader or hotel where filtered water can be found and don't forget to avoid ice in drinks and peel fruit before eating.
Major credit cards are accepted by most large shops and hotels. Smaller vendors may not accept credit cards, so carry enough cash to cover small purchases.
ATMs are commonly found in Ukraine's cities and urban areas. Remote regions will have less ATM availability, so prepare accordingly before travelling away from cities.
Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.
For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
- 1 Jan: New Year’s Day
- 7 Jan: Orthodox Christmas
- 8 Mar: International Women’s Day
- 16 Apr: Orthodox Easter Sunday
- 17 Apr: Orthodox Easter Monday
- 1-2 May: Labour Day
- 9 May: Victory Day
- 28 Jun: Constitution Day
- 24 Aug: Independence Day
For a current list of public holidays in Ukraine go to: https://www.worldtravelguide.net/guides/europe/Ukraine/public-holidays/