Your first impression of Kyiv is bound to be one of surprise. This cradle of all that is Russian, this receptacle of ‘New Ukrainian’ wealth, this paradise of crooked politicians and gangsters is so...beautiful. Especially if you arrive in the summer, Kyiv will entice you the moment you gaze upon its gold domes lighting up the leafy banks of the Dnipro.
The landscape is the star in Crimea; even those initially lured by the peninsula’s fascinating past usually come to agree. Not that ‘landscape’ means the pebbly Black Sea beaches, crumbling concrete high-rises and post-Soviet kitsch of the main resort, Yalta, which isn’t going to steal the market from Benidorm any time soon.
Lviv & Western Ukraine
The west is a special case in Ukraine. It likes to think itself more quintessentially Ukrainian than the rest of the country; at the same time it considers itself more European. Thanks to its different history it manages to be both.
Mysterious, edgy and architecturally lovely, Lviv boasts that it's Ukraine's least Soviet city. It may have a point. The city's Unesco World Heritage–listed centre was built like a rich layer-cake of neoclassical architecture in rococo, baroque, Renaissance and Gothic styles.
Welcome to the Hutsul Alps, one of Ukraine’s premier natural beauties. True, Ukrainians themselves only refer to the mountains around Rakhiv as the Hutsul Alps, but for foreign visitors the local Hutsul culture helps distinguish this section of the Carpathian Mountains from those in neighbouring countries.
Odesa & Southern Ukraine
Odesa & Around
Odesa is a city straight from literature – an energetic, decadent boomtown. Its famous Potemkin Steps sweep down to the Black Sea and Ukraine's biggest commercial port. Behind them, a cosmopolitan cast of characters makes merry among pastel neoclassical buildings lining a geometrical grid of leafy streets.
Central & Western Crimea
Kharkiv (or Kharkov in Russian) is one of those ex-Soviet cities that have much to say about themselves, but fairly little to show. Wars and Soviet development reduced its historical centre, boasting some pretty fin de siècle buildings, to a narrow triangle between vul Sumska and Pushkinska.
Podillya is the borderland within the country whose name means 'borderland'. Podillya is the bridge between the stolid, Russia-leaning east and the pro-European south. A swing district politically, topographically it's more predictable: flat and agricultural.
The Ukrainian coal troll is working hard to become Europe's prince charming as it prepares to host the European football cup in 2012. Its streets flooded with neon and fancy cars, Donetsk is the hometown of the country's richest man Rinat Ahmetov and the president, Viktor Yanukovych.