The Zaporizhska Sich on Khortytsya Island was the most important cradle of Ukrainian Cossackdom, where hetman (leader) Dmytro Baida united disparate groups of Cossacks in the construction of a sich (fort) in 1553–54. The island was perfect: strategically located below the Dnipro rapids and beyond the control of Polish or Russian authority. Any man could come to join the Cossack brotherhood, irrespective of social background or indeed criminal record. But no women were allowed entry.

At the height of its power the community numbered some 20,000 fighters, under the authority of one hetman. On the battlefield they were formidable opponents; off it, formidable vodka drinkers. The sich was eventually destroyed in 1775, on the order of Russian empress Catherine the Great.

Today you can visit the informative Historical Museum of Zaporizhsky Cossacks, which includes painted dioramas and various Cossack weaponry and bric-a-brac excavated from the island. Nearby, a prime spot on the cliff edge is now occupied by the Sich Reconstruction, a wooden fortress, complete with churches and about a dozen thatched-roof khaty (dwellings), built for the epic movie Taras Bulba in 2007.

With its network of forest paths and tarmac roads, Khortytsya Island is a haven for hikers and bicyclists. You can usually find a bicycle-rental stand (25uah per hour) at the museum's parking lot.