- Visit the border city of Brest and learn its complicated history
- Lose yourself in Chernivtsi's "Little Vienna"
- Sample wine in the spectacular cellars of Cricova Winery
- Explore a former secret nuclear launch site in Pervomaisk
|Day 1||Arrive in Minsk||Minsk|
|Day 2||Explore Minsk and visit Dudutki||Minsk|
|Day 3||Visit Mir Castle; Drive to Brest||Brest|
|Day 4||City tour of Brest and visit to the Brest Fortress||Lviv|
|Day 5||City tour of Lviv, visit Shevchenkivsky Hai Museum||Lviv|
|Day 6||Explore Lviv: from Soviet times to today||Lviv|
|Day 7||Hutsul villages and the Carpathian Mountains||Bukovel|
|Day 8||Drive to Yaremche and explore Chernivtsi||Kamianets-Podilskyi|
|Day 9||Walking tour of Kamianets-Podilskyi and Khotyn fortress||Kamianets-Podilskyi|
|Day 10||Drive to Moldova's Chișinău||Chișinău|
|Day 11||Wine tasting in Cricova, Tiraspol; Drive to Odessa||Odessa|
|Day 12||Explore Odessa||Odessa|
|Day 13||Visit Cold War-era Pervomaisk; Drive to Kiev||Kiev|
|Day 14||Discover historic Kiev||Kiev|
|Day 15||Explore modern Kiev||Kiev|
Day 1: Arrive in Minsk
Welcome to Minsk! Upon your arrival in Belarus' capital, you will transfer the short distance from the airport to your hotel to check in. Depending on timing, you may wish to get out and explore your surroundings, perhaps finding a restaurant for your first taste of traditional Belarussian fare.
Day 2: Explore Minsk and visit Dudutki
Today is a full day of getting to know Minsk and some of its secrets. Start your tour in the historic heart of Minsk in Upper Town for your dose of 16th and 18-century buildings and monuments, including the Church of St. Joseph and the Basilian Monastery. Discover Soviet Minsk and face the imposing Supreme Soviet Government House building which miraculously survived the War and still serves as a seat of the Belarussian government. Take a look down Independence and Victory Avenues to admire the number of monuments, each telling a story before heading to the National Library, an architectural landmark.
After lunch, you will drive to the open-air interactive museum of Dudutki to immerse yourself in rural culture of centuries past. Wander the grounds, passing by windmills and potters at work, and sample the local eats, like farm-made sausage. Find the tractor from the 1930s and learn how this seemingly unimportant object revolutionized this part of the world.
Day 3: Visit Mir Castle, drive to Brest
After breakfast, check out of your hotel to make the one-hour drive to the UNESCO-protected Mir Castle. Founded in the early 16th century, the medieval castle was rebuilt as a palace when the new hosts, the Radziwills, took over. Mir is a great place to feel the history of the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
After the tour, you'll continue your journey to the city of Brest in southwest Belarus on the Polish border (about a 3-hour drive). Check into your accommodation and spend the evening relaxing.
Day 4: City tour of Brest and visit to the Brest Fortress
This morning you will check out of your hotel and begin the day with a city tour of Brest. Given Brest's location, it has had a long, complicated history, belonging at different times to different countries, influenced by different cultures and has been invaded countless times for the last 1000 years, including during World War 2. It was then that the Brest Fortress held off German troops for longer than expected and helped disrupt Hitler’s plan for invasion.
Wander the massive complex to get a real sense of Brest's trials and victories.
Enjoy a leisurely lunch before saying farewell to Belarus and making the four-hour drive into western Ukraine and to Lviv.
Day 5: City tour of Lviv, visit Shevchenkivsky Hai Museum
Wake up in the pearl of western Ukraine and start the day with a walking tour of this captivating city. Begin in central Market Square (also knowns as Rynok Square) covering time-forgotten streets that will transport you to another era—you may just feel like you've entered a movie set. Explore Lviv's old medieval quarter that surrounds Market Square, before venturing to other key attractions, including a visit to the Lviv National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater. Built in the classical tradition with neo-renaissance details, the building acts as the city's calling card.
Next, climb High Castle Hill for the best views overlooking the city and check out the scant remains of the castle that once stood here 400 years ago to protect the citizens of Lviv. From there, head across town to the ornate House of Scientists, that once acted as a meeting place for the aristocratic elite, before visiting mid-18th-century St. George's Cathedral, which serves as a great example of rococo architecture
After a full morning of exploration, return to the town center and break for lunch in the Museum of Ideas, a place where Lviv freethinkers meet up on a daily basis to swap ideas and innovations.
In the afternoon, you'll venture to the Shevchenkivsky Hai Park Museum of folk architecture and rural life museum—one of the biggest of its kind in Europe. You will see wooden folk architecture, artifacts from everyday life, and art handicrafts from various Ukrainian ethnographic zones. Every zone displays buildings from the last three centuries, from wooden churches to peasant huts to manufacturing buildings and provides great insight into Ukraine's culture and history. Return to Lviv's center, and spend the evening as you choose.
Day 6: Explore Lviv: from Soviet times to today
Today you will get to know Lviv from a different perspective, meeting your guide after breakfast for a walking tour. History buffs will appreciate a visit to prisons occupied by both the Soviet NKVD (intelligence and law enforcement agency) and the German Gestapo from World War Two days. From there you will stop at the Monument of Glory, wander the National Museum-Memorial of Victims of the Occupation Regimes, and then head to the city's oldest industrial district, Pidzamche, for further insight into Lviv's darker past.
Lighten the mood with a break for lunch before visiting Lviv's largest flea market, scanning its wares for items of value, like military medals and old coins. Though keep in mind, unless you want to get stopped at airport customs, you’re not allowed to take anything older than 50 years outside of the country.
Today's tour wraps up with a tasting of local dishes and traditional Ukrainian snacks.
Day 7: Hutsul villages and the Carpathian Mountains
Today you will check out of your hotel bright and early to explore the Carpathian Mountains, stopping along the way to learn about the life and traditions of the HutsulsI, a people identified by their Ukrainian-Polish dialect, their highly decorated clothing, and mountain lifestyle. Journey further south to the village of Vorokhta (close to four hours), stopping to admire the series of arresting arched bridges. From there carry on to Verkhovyna, considered the capital of the Hutsuls, to learn about their life and customs. Here you will stretch your legs to meet with locals and to witness traditional daily life.
vyshyvanka = name of ethnic embroidered clothing
We next visit Galinky Verhovynky . This is a great place to get to know Ukrainian embroidery and its different meanings, as told by the hospitable owner of the private museum there. You will see exquisite, ethnic clothing from this mountainous region.
After lunch in a traditional Carpathian house-turned-restaurant, you'll continue to Bukovel, a ski resort in the winter months. Depending on your energy level, you may like to ride the nearby cable car system for views overlooking the scenic environs.
leisure time and a cable car ride.
Day 8: Drive to Yaremche and explore Chernivtsi
This morning you will drive the hour to Yaremche, a jewel of the Carpathians that sits on a rocky river bank. Along the way you will stop at the Prioby Waterfalls, its thunderous sound has been compared to that of Niagara Falls. Spend some time exploring the nearby market and take advantage of the fair prices on handcrafted items, perfect for souvenirs and gifts.
After lunch, continue east to one of Western Ukraine's main cultural centers, Chernivtsi (2 hours). Get lost amid the stunning buildings, many of them influenced by the Viennese style which gave rise to its nickname, "Little Vienna." Climb City Hall's tower for panoramic views over the city, before stopping in at the Museum of Arts, and then checking out the uniquely twisted towers of St. Nicholas Cathedral. Enjoy a stroll along the pedestrianized Olha Kobylyahska Street to find a cozy café for a little respite. If there's time, head to Chernivtsi National University, an architectural treat for the eyes.
Carry on to idyllic Kamianets-Podilskyi and check into your accommodation for the evening.
Day 9: Walking tour of Kamianets-Podilskyi and Khotyn fortress
Today you will meet your guide and join your walking tour around Kamianets-Podilskyi's impressively preserved Old Town and the medieval Kamianets-Podilskyi Castle. Delight in the well preserved historic buildings set amid picturesque environs of the Podilski Tovtry National Park. Find a restaurant in Old Town for a bite to eat, before taking a mini excursion to the park's edge in Khotyn (45 minutes). Explore the 13th-century Khotyn fortress and its grounds offering photo opportunities wherever you turn.
Day 10: Drive to Moldova's Chișinău
Today you'll cross into Moldova and to its capital, Chișinău, breaking up the four and a half hour drive with a stop for lunch. Upon arrival, you will have time to settle into your hotel before joining a tour of the city to see both the historic and modern sides of Europe's least visited capital. The absence of tourist hordes which characterize other popular European destinations add to Chișinău's intrigue.
Find the Stephen the Great monument and work your way to the Triumphal Arch, a historic monument marking out the center of the city that opens up to Cathedral Park (Parcul Catedralei). Discover the early 19th-century Nativity of Christ Metropolitan Cathedral and choose from any number of museums and galleries, like the Army Museum, National Archaeology & History Museum, and the Exhibition Center Constantin Brâncuși gallery.
Cap off your evening dining on traditional Moldovan cuisine at La Taifas or for a more eccentric experience, dine at Popasul Dacilor.
Day 11: Wine tasting in Cricova, Tiraspol - Drive to Odessa
Check out of your hotel and drive the short distance outside of the city to the opulent Cricova Winery. Moldova’s premier winery and one of Europe’s largest impresses visitors with its famous wine cellars. You will have the opportunity to sample local wines as well as tour the impressive cellars.
Your next stop is Tiraspol in the self-proclaimed capital city of the Republic of Transnistria, a time-forgotten thin strip of land between Moldova and Ukraine. This unrecognized territory's isolation has preserved the spirit of the old Soviet Union and is sure to fascinate visitors with its communist-era buildings and monuments.
After the tour, you'll continue the two-hour drive to Ukraine's captivating Odessa along the coast of the Black Sea. Check into your accommodation and spend the rest of the evening at your leisure.
Day 12: Explore Odessa
Take today to discover Odessa, covering its many striking attractions. Odessa was founded in 1794 by Catherine the Great of Russia and during the Soviet period, the city was likely the nation’s most important trading port. You’ll notice that the architecture is much more Mediterranean, reflecting the city’s Italian and French influence.
After settling into your hotel you will meet your guide to cover the city's highlights. Begin with a visit to one of the world's finest opera houses, the National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet. Admire the neo-baroque exterior and all the intricate details that make up this fine building. From there, you'll walk to Odessa's central landmark, Monument to Catherine II in Katerynynska Square and along the impressive Primorsky Bulvar, a large boulevard that runs parallel to the sea and is bordered by grand buildings. Here you will find the iconic Potemkin Stairs that act as a formal entrance to the city from the direction of the sea.
After lunch you will visit the Catacombs, an underground labyrinth created during the city’s construction. Situated mainly in Nerubaiskoe village just over nine miles (15 km) from the city center, they are one of the longest underground networks in the world. The rest of the afternoon and evening are yours to explore the city on your own.
Day 13: Visit Cold War-era Pervomaisk - Drive to Kiev
Today you will drive to Pervomaisk, the location of one of the former Soviet Union's Cold War-era secret nuclear ICBM launch sites. Though only one of the missile silos and one of the underground launch complexes survive, you can climb into what feels like the bowels of the earth and sit in the former " hot seat." Men stationed here were not allowed to tell even their closest loved ones where they worked and in the event of total disaster, the two men in the control room had enough food and water to survive something like two months.
After lunch, you'll hop back in your car for your four-hour drive north to Kiev, your final destination.
Day 14: Discover historic Kiev
Take the day to delve into the lost world of the Kievan Rus (Kyivan Rus in Ukrainian), commonly referred to as the "Mother of Russian Cities" because it was once the head of a coalition of Eastern Slavic cities that formed one of Europe's largest medieval states. You'll begin your walking tour with a morning visit to the newly built Kyivan Rus Park, an open-air reconstruction of a part of medieval Kiev. You'll be able to explore the massive wooden walls of the city as well as admire the number of impressive historic buildings.
After lunch, you’ll see the city’s most popular attractions, starting with the Golden Gate, formerly the main entrance to the medieval city. From there you will visit the impressive Church of Holy Wisdom, dating from the 11th century, and then on to the Church of St. Andrew. You’ll also head up to the oldest part of the city to see where Kiev originated.
Day 15: Explore modern Kiev
This morning you will venture out to learn about Kiev’s more recent history with a visit to Maidan Kherschatyk (Independence Square) on Khreshchatyk Street to see the famous Maidan, Motherland Statue, and the Arch of Friendship.
After lunch, take the rest of the afternoon to explore on your own, before enjoying a farewell dinner in a traditional Ukrainian restaurant.
Day 16: Depart
Say farewell to Kiev and its stunning gold-domed churches and catch your transfer to the airport for your return flight home.