Southern Ukraine

This region feels much more New World than Europe. The flat steppe between the deltas of the Dnipro and the Danube was only properly colonised after Russian empress Catherine the Great wrested it from the Turks.

It was indeed touted as the Russian California when immigrants from all over Europe poured in to cultivate virgin lands and build the port of Odesa. Greek, Yiddish, Italian and German were all spoken here along with Russian and Ukrainian.

Although less multicultural today, Odesa is still permeated with porto franco spirit, displaying Jewish humour and French conviviality, along with crumbling mansion houses, which line the streets named after settlers' ethnicities.

To the west, colonist heritage lingers next to the birding paradise of the Danube Delta. In the east, swathes of virgin steppe are preserved on Dzharylhach island and in Askaniya Nova Reserve, which an eccentric German aristocrat populated with wildebeest and zebras.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Southern Ukraine.