Swallow's Nest, Yalta © Alice
*Since the overthrow of the government in early 2014, Ukraine has been torn between support for the EU and loyalty to Russia. Crimea is under the control of the Russian Federation, and much of the eastern Ukraine is struggling with massive unrest and violence as pro-Russian separatists battle government forces. Travellers are advised to avoid Crimea and the eastern Ukraine.
One of the largest countries in Eastern Europe, Ukraine is situated on the Black Sea, surrounded by Russia, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova. It has in recent years become a more popular holiday destination for tourists from surrounding countries, but is also becoming increasingly attractive to citizens of Western Europe and North America.
One of the main attractions for visitors to the Ukraine is the country's rich history, with more than 500 cities dating back over 900 years, and a fascinating assortment of architecture influenced by its diverse neighbours. Most travellers begin in the historical capital city of Kiev, arguably one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, where the ancient streets, striking architecture, lovely scenery, and wealth of historical and religious sites ensure an interesting cultural holiday. The early capital of Old Rus is also enriched with monuments, such as the grandiose St Sophia's Cathedral, famous for its 11th-century mosaics and frescoes, and the Cave Monastery, the holy centre of the early Orthodox Church.
The other major attraction for Ukraine tourists is the natural beauty of the country, with areas like the Carpathian and Crimean mountain ranges; the Black Sea and Sea of Asov; and the Crimean peninsula, a popular tourist haven with its warm climate, famous resorts, history, and old cities such as Sevastopol and Yalta. The Carpathian Mountains draw skiers and hikers year-round, and the region is also popular for its restorative spas and historic sites. Gateway to the mountains is the city of Lviv, one of the main cultural centres of the country and a delight to explore with its medieval old town and distinctive architecture. The harbour town of Odessa, known as the 'Pearl of the Black Sea', is an established tourist destination that also serves as the gateway to many of the famous Black Sea resorts, and is a fascinating city with a wonderful mixture of cultures and historical architecture.
With a name that means 'borderland', it's no wonder that Ukraine is constantly in a state of reinvention. Formerly part of the Soviet Union, the country experienced revolutions in 2004 and 2014 and remains torn between the East and the West. Many visitors find this identity crisis interesting in itself, but Ukraine is primarily a worthy tourist destination because of its history and culture, as well as some thriving resorts.
Cruises on Europe's longest river, the Dnieper River, from Kiev to the Black Sea coast, is one of the most popular ways to tour the Ukraine, providing a discovery of Ukraine's history, and its architecturally rich cities, while cruising the 1,370 mile-long (2,205km) stretch of river on board ship.