Ukraine has been through a turbulent history. The country is still recovering from the resurgence of nationalism and independence movements following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. It has a strong and varied cultural heritage, with both eastern and western influences. For example, embroidered clothing and pysanky (wax-resist decorated Easter eggs) are distinctively Ukrainian art forms with deep roots in antiquity. The landscape is diverse and scenic, with the rolling plain of the Dnieper Upland bounded by high mountains in the west. The southern reaches of the Dnieper River is characterized by river valleys and gorges, the most notable being the tumultuous Pivdennyy Buh or Southern River (Pivdennyy Buh, or Boh).
The city of Kiev has a number of beautiful public spaces. Teatralna Square, for example, is a large open space that looks just as gorgeous buried in snow as it does when brimming with flowers in the spring. The city also has some stunning cathedrals, and one of the best is the St. Sophia’s Cathedral, which is a massive brick structure with an amazing golden dome. The cathedral dates to the 11th century, but many of the interior rooms were destroyed in a fire in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. A reconstruction project began in the 19th century, and the church has been a national treasure ever since.
Other sights in the capital include the Golden Gates and the Pecherska Lavra, both of which are impressive medieval fortresses. The National Museum of History and Culture is another major attraction, with collections spanning the entire country’s history.
Outside the capital, the countryside is characterized by rolling hills, wide-open farmland, and small villages that are often nestled in the shade of forest-covered mountains. For nature lovers, Ukraine is a paradise of wildlife and birdwatchers can find a huge variety of species, including migratory birds.
Food is a big part of Ukrainian culture, and some dishes are unique to the country. Varenyky, which are classic dumplings found in many Slavic countries, are a speciality here. These are usually filled with brynza cheese, but they can be stuffed with potatoes or other fillings. Another typical dish is syrniki, which are thick local pancakes filled with cottage cheese and other ingredients.
While you shouldn’t let the political situation scare you off visiting Ukraine, it is a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and keep a close eye on your belongings. While pickpockets and other petty crime can happen, you should be safe in most places. However, there are some parts of the country where it is safer to travel in a group or with a guide.
Citizens of most EU countries, USA, Canada, and Japan can enter Ukraine without a visa for up to 90 days at a time. If you want to stay longer, you will need a tourist visa, which is available through embassies or online. Be sure to check the current visa regulations before making any travel plans.