It was the end of 2020 – one of the worst years in our lifetime when the entire world came to a standstill. After all the negativity throughout the year and being locked up at home for 10 months, I was yearning to travel. As per the ritual every year, I wanted to spend New Years and Christmas in an exotic location. There weren’t too many choices given none of the countries were open for tourists. After a lot of research I found out that Ukraine was the only country that was open to the world for tourism and Indians could get an e-visa in 10 days. Hence, I quickly started making mental notes of places to visit in Ukraine.
And hence, Ukraine became my 67th country and the country I spent 2020-2021 New Years in. Ukraine was never on my list of dream destinations but little did I know that the country has so much to offer. When I sat about researching the things to do in Ukraine, I was simply surprised at the huge number of things to do in Ukraine. There were just so many places to visit in Ukraine and now as I write this blog after having spent 10 days in this wonderful and offbeat country, Ukraine is now amongst my top 10 best countries in the world.
I flew Air Arabia and my route was Mumbai to Dubai to Kiev and my tickets cost me 800 USD. It’s not a very expensive country and there are loads of inexpensive hotels to stay at.
We rented a car at the airport and bought a local sim too.
COVID Travel suggestions:
- If you are flying via Dubai, it’s a must to have your COVID test done. If you plan on staying in Dubai – during your onward journey or during return – Covid test must be done both ways.
- Medical insurance is a must in Ukraine and it must specifically mention that you are covered for COVID as well.
- Hotel bookings need to be shown at the immigration and a return ticket which is usually the case at all immigrations.
- Flights are mostly full so please make sure you take all safety precautions like wearing a mask at all times during your flight and constantly sanitising.
- Try and avoid public transport in Ukraine to avoid crowds hence renting a car and driving around is the best option during such times.
My 10 days itinerary looked like this: Lviv – 3 days ( Premier Dnister hotel ), Bukovel – 2 days (Hotel Barron spa), Kiev City – 4 days ( Fairmont hotel for 31st night and then in Hotel President Palace) and Chernobyl – 1 day trip..
LEV tours in Kiev city helped me with all my bookings.They had all the details of things to do in Kiev. I am totally in love with this country and can’t wait to go back for more. Here’s why:
1. The Awesome restaurants in Lviv
The quirky themed restaurants in Lviv are just awesome and in all honesty, a lot of them should be on your list of places to visit in Ukraine – Lviv is the cultural capital of Ukraine and you can’t miss visiting this gorgeous city. The cobblestone streets, the numerous unique cafes, live music on the streets, the christmas market, the beautiful people all around…what’s not to love about this city? The highlight of this city however are its themed restaurants and cafes.
Here are few of my favourites:
Fire Coffee in a Coffee mine
A major one on the list of some of the best and offbeat Ukraine tourist attractions, this was just mind blowing.You walk into Coffee Manufacture and whether you are a coffee drinker or not , the aroma & vibe of the place will blow your mind. This is a 100 year old coffee mine turned restaurant and it has different sections. One must visit the underground section which is the mine and having a Fire Coffee is an absolute must. Watch this video to see what it looks like. You can also buy coffee from all over the world in their store.
Fun Fact: Ukraine has so many cafes but it doesn’t grow coffee, it imports it from various countries.
Dining in a medieval dungeon
Simply the best one for all the experiential gastronomes’ list of things to do in Ukraine. Right at the city centre is the 5th Dungeon which is a dungeon turned restaurant, The decor of this place takes you back thousands of years. The huge candles, the shields , the stone wall, the throne and the cells totally make for one awesome experience.
The waiters here are dressed as monks and if you bang your table with your fist you get a 5% discount on your bill.
This is an underground military bunker turned restaurant.Dining in an underground MILITARY BUNKER !! Please add this to your list of Ukraine places to visit without fail! This city of Lviv is filled with cafes and themed restaurants which are absolutely must-visits. 💛
Most of these restaurants are located on the main Rynok square but can be difficult to find since they are underground and particularly this one has a inconspicuous door through a hallway that you need to knock – a military👨✈️ personnel will open the door and ask you for the password, only if you get the password right ( password is Slava Ukraina which means Long Live Ukraine) are you allowed to enter and immediately treated to honey vodka shots. 🍹 There is a secret door behind a bookshelf 📚 , the personnel opens that secret door and the stairway to the basement shows up and you are in ! The waitress here also salutes you with a gunshot.
The kerosene gas lamp was invented here. This place is like a chemical laboratory and the drinks here are served in test tubes and beakers. What you see me having is called “Chemical Experiment” which was super nice and very potent. So, make sure it is on your list of places to visit in Ukraine.
This restaurant had a very cool concept where there is no food menu at all. You discuss with the chef what you want to eat and he makes it for you based on your preferences. No 2 meals here are ever the same.
Another very unique place . For those who like to watch or experience BDSM, this cafe is a must try. And well, not so surprisingly, this one makes for an amazing Ukraine tourist attraction too. You will be surprised at just how many fellow countrymen have visited this place till date (wink wink).
2. The Cherry Liquor in Drunk Cherry
Savouring the cherry liquor in Drunk Cherry should be among the top most on your list of things to do in Ukraine- It was cold December and we were craving a hot drink. This outlet always has a queue of people waiting to taste the very famous local liquor which is made out of cherry. You can have it hot or cold.
3. Handmade Chocolates at Lviv
Try the chocolates at Lviv Handmade chocolate – this store is at Rynok square and there are multiple branches . Definitely try the hot chocolate here. Though I would suggest that the Rynok square branch should be one on your list of Ukraine places to visit.
4. Exploring Lviv
Exploring the city of Lviv should also make it to your list of things to do in Ukraine – The city centre of Lviv is called Rynok Square and it’s very pretty. There is also an information centre right there. You can go cafe hopping, visit cute shops, take the city Tram ride, walk to the Armenian church, admire street art, enjoy the live music, walk up to the High Castle Hill for the great views, go to Freedom square and enjoy the Christmas market.
5. A Day at Bukovel Ski Resort
Another one on my list of things to do in Ukraine is to spend a day at Bukovel Ski resort – There are lots of hotels in the main Bukovel ski area. If you ski, this place is great for you. Even if you don’t want to ski, you can take the ski lift and visit the Panorama M Lounge on top of the hill (This is from Ski lift no 2 station). You could also go for a meal to Raddisson hotel which has a great view of the ski slopes. When you are driving from Bukovel to Kiev city, you can take multiple scenic stops like this one to this gorgeous castle called Pidhirtsi.
6. A Stay at Fairmont, Kiev City
Stay at Fairmont hotel in Kiev City – This might sound funny but even if it just for one day, make sure that staying at Fairmont is on your list of things to do in Kiev. If you are looking for luxury hotels, Fairmont is your best option. It has huge rooms with great views of the Dniper river. We spent New years eve in this hotel and walked to Sophia Square to watch the New Year fireworks. The entire square was a big party and the celebrations were stupendous.
7. The Underground Tunnels in Kiev
Another one on my list of things to do in Kiev is exploring the labyrinth of underground tunnels in Kiev City – This has to be the highlight of my trip. We got in touch with Matt from Urbex Storm and he took us for this amazing 50 metre deep underground tunnel tour. You crawl into a manhole and walk 2 kms in these spectacular tunnels. There are places where you will need to crawl like a dog and it’s just too much fun. You also get to see a clear underground waterfall. It was surreal.
8. Visit the Soviet Cold War Bunkers
Visit a secret underground Soviet Cold War Bunker – Believe me when I say this, if this isn’t on your list of things to do in Ukraine, you are seriously missing out on something big. Urbex storm took us for this trip too. We walk into the underground of a regular residential complex to find an abandoned Soviet Cold war bunker. This bunker had been abandoned since the 1990’s but everything is kept as is, untouched. The most awesome thing was that the cooling system of this bunker is still operational and I got to turn it on as well.
9. Kiev City Tour
Take a Kiev city tour with LEV Tours – Kiev city has so much to offer. We spent a full day going to some museums, the motherland monument, the beautiful Glass Bridge, the Armenian street which people say is a lot like Paris, ate some great local food, took the Kiev funicular which connects the historic uppertown with the lower commercial neighbourhood of Podil and also went to the deepest metro station in the world – 105.5 metres deep. Our guide was the beautiful Yana from LEV tours and from her we got to know these fun facts about Ukraine:
⭐️To begin with, Ukraine gave the world its Order! That’s because Pylyp Orlyk was the one who gave the “Constitution of the Rights and Freedom” (for the Zaporozhian Army) which was later adopted by the US in 1787 and by France and the rest of the world from 1791 onwards.
⭐️ Evidently, the Ukrainians are really fond of higher studies, with the country ranking fourth in the total number of citizens with higher education (Despite the fact that the population isn’t as huge)
⭐️ French and Persian maybe the language of poets but Ukrainian is the language of poets and grammar nerds too, and comes 3rd in the world for its melodiousness
⭐️ The McDonalds near the Kiev railway station is the third most visited outlet for the brand across the globe.
⭐️ Three Hollywood actresses are from Ukraine. They are Mila Kunis, Mila Jovovich and Olga Kurylenko.
⭐️ In the Ukrainian language, most words begin with the letter P.
⭐️ Approximately 77% of Ukrainians have never been abroad.
10. Visit Chernobyl
This is one of the most popular Ukraine tourist attractions. I have to say this with a heavy heart after what transpired there but Chernobyl should be on your list of Places to visit in Ukraine. We went for a day trip to Chernobyl which was arranged by LEV tours through Chernobyl tours. The trip starts at 8am and ends at 8pm. It’s a group tour and costs 139 euros for 2 people. This was very overwhelming. I WAS EXPOSED TO NUCLEAR RADIATION at Chernobyl even after 34 years of the biggest nuclear disaster in history!!!
But, IT IS SAFE to go! The amount of radiation is minimal and when you exit Chernobyl, everyone is made to pass through radiation detectors and the radiation you are exposed to is measured. I WAS EXPOSED to 0.002 MsV which was also recorded in the device I was wearing all day and that’s a minimal amount which is NOT harmful. Check out the video on my Ukraine Instagram story highlights (@travel.chatter) where our Geiger counters would keep beeping every time we were at a hotspot.You can also see the pictures of nuclear reactor number 4 which exploded and changed the lives of 50,000 people forever.
This brings me to the end of my 67th country – Ukraine holiday but there is just so much in this country that I can’t wait to visit again.
Thanks for reading this. If you liked what you read, please do leave me a comment below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Ukraine Safe these Days?
If you were asking about COVID-19 then yes, that is under control but it would be better to exercise precaution. If you are asking about safety, then please stay away from the separatist-controlled Crimean peninsula. Other than that, it is all good and happy here.
Do I need a Visa to travel to Ukraine?
Yes, you do. Indians can get an E-Visa for Ukraine. It is pretty easy to get the Visa and depending upon which country you are from, chances are you may get a Visa on Arrival too. So, dear reader, do check the regulations for your country to get a definitive answer on the same.
What is the best way to travel to Ukraine?
The most common route into Ukraine is to land at the Kyiv Airport. Your routes would differ depending upon where you are coming from. However, please, in no way should you enter through the Crimean Peninsula because that is considered illegal.
What would be the best mode of transportation for travelling in Ukraine?
The trains- the network is really dense and really well managed. So hop on one and explore the country. A road trip is also a good idea. You can rent a car at Kiev airport.
Can I drink Tap Water in Ukraine?
No, not at all. Unlike most European countries, the tap water in Ukraine is not safe to drink
The Guidelines for Things to do in Ukraine during COVID
Ukraine is largely safe from the virus due to reasons unbeknownst to most. There was some news of infection but the place is largely safe to travel and explore. Hence, if you are looking at a list of things to do in Ukraine during COVID– well relax, for you can do almost everything that you could have done otherwise.
Places to visit in Ukraine during Lockdown
If you are looking at places to visit in Ukraine during the Lockdown that we are facing currently, here are a few things you would want to note. The lockdown has been extended until April end with some or no restrictions that vary area wise. So, if you are planning your trip, check out the Green, Yellow, Orange and Red Zones to know which areas you will be able to visit. The areas marked under each category will keep changing and hence, it is advised to keep yourself updated!