Three Ukrainian Itineraries to Jump Start Your Travel Plans (Part 1)

Cramming an international vacation into two or three weeks can not only be difficult but exhausting, and can leave travelers feeling like the days zipped past. If you are strapped for a vacation but still want to experience all that Ukraine has to offer, why not take a look at the following itineraries to make the most of your time. Many other options exist, but these may just jump start your travel plans for 2008.

Option One: A Classic Route through the Country’s Center

Kiev is a must see city in modern-day Ukraine, so why not begin a two week journey from north to south in the capital. Absorb yourself in the Byzantine mosaic and fresco world of St. Sophia’s Cathedral, Kiev’s oldest standing church, wander through Independence Square and listen to the echoes of the Orange Revolution, and walk in the footsteps of spiritual pilgrims at St. Michael’s Monastery and the Lavra Caves.

After four days drinking in the gold-domed Orthodox churches, the Stalinist architecture, and a host of parks, head south to Uman, home of the Sofiyivka Park. The park with grottoes, lakes, waterfalls, fountains, pavilions, and 500 species of trees, is a Polish count’s monument to the woman he loved and purchased for two million zloty. The Island of Love awaits you with a Renaissance-style pavilion. If you step onto the island, be sure to call out the name of your love for luck.

Continue south until you reach the shores of Odessa. Energetic and decadent, Odessa is where Ukrainians come to blow off steam and soak up the sun. Visit the Potemkin steps immortalized in film before heading to the Crimean resort of Yalta. Livadia Palace, the site of the 1945 Yalta Conference between Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt was once a summer residence for Russian Tsar Nicolas II. To return to Kiev by train, be sure to leave a full day of travel at the end of your Ukrainian immersion experience. (Estimated time: two weeks)

Option Two: A Carpathian Mountain Getaway

Begin your trip in Kiev, or the Galician capital of Lviv. Enchanting and reminiscent of Prague before it was overrun by tour packages, Lviv’s architecture and character has been formed by many rulers through the centuries. Neoclassical architecture, baroque, Renaissance, and Gothic influences wind through the city. Once ruled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, hidden courtyards, cobblestone streets, and coffee houses with clientele that look like the quintessential artist or writer types await you. Lviv is for wandering and looking. By far the most haunting and moving attraction of the city is Lychakivsky Cemetery, a short distance from the town center. The cemetery with a Gothic aura is the final resting place for 400,000 souls. Revered Ukrainian poet, Ivan Franko is buried here along with thousands of soldiers from every war that has scorched this land.

Travel south until you reach the Carpathian National Park Reserve. Spend a few days hiking in the wooded mountains and hills. Ukraine’s highest point, Hoverla, is in the reserve. On a clear day, your climb will be rewarded with panoramic views of the countryside. The maze of trails in the park has become a winter playground for skiers.

If you are fascinated by folk art and culture, turn your attentions east to the largest collection of pysanky Easter eggs. The museum, shaped like a giant Easter egg is located in the tiny town of Kolomyya and is as off-beat as it is educational. A second museum in Kolomyya showcases the folk art of the Hutsul people, the native people of the Carpathian region. (Estimated time: two weeks)

Three Ukrainian Itineraries to Jump Start Your Travel Plans (Part 2)