Total area: 233,089 sq mi (603,628 sq km)
Population: 45, 872,000
Official language: Ukrainian
Capital: Kyiv (Kiev), (2,6 million habitants, 1991).
President: Petro Poroshenko (2014)
Large cities: Kharkiv, Odessa, Donetsk, Lviv, Kyiv
The Geographical position of Ukraine
Ukraine with its area of 603,628 sq km is the largest country on the European continent. It borders the Russian Federation in the east and northeast, Belarus in the northwest, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary in the west, Romania and Moldova in the southwest, and the Black Sea and Sea of Azov in the south and southeast respectively.
The territory of Ukraine is mostly a flat, treeless plain, calls "steppe". There are mixed forests of pine and fir-trees, beeches, limes, oaks and elms cover the mountains, but the thickest woods can still be found in the northern part of the republic, in Volyn. Kiev and Cherkassy lie in the midst of Ukrainian southernmost pine forest.
Central and Southern Ukraine is primarily steppes with fertile black soils exceptionally well-suited for grain farming. In the east there is the industrial heartland known as Donbas, which contains large mineral deposits.
There are almost 23,000 rivers within the borders of Ukraine. Its longest river is the Dnieper (Dnipro) which is some 966 kilometers long. Other notable rivers include the Dniester, Donets, Danube and Southern Buh. Lake Svityaz is one of the largest natural lakes in the country. Water is used for drinking, transportation and hydroelectricity and is considered to be a very important natural resource in the country. As the second largest country in Europe, Ukraine’s geography is varied and picturesque.
Ukraine has wonderfully interesting National Parks and Nature Reserves scattered throughout the country. Recently, eco-tourists have been finding Ukraine to be an inspiration in the effort to protect wetlands, coastal regions, and majestic mountains. With three types of areas under protection, Ukraine is home to biospheres like the Shats'kyi National Park, ecological reservations for fauna such as National Park Podil'ski Tovtry, and the Cape Mart’yan Reserve. Ukraine also offers exciting outdoor activities such as skiing, climbing, hiking and cycling at national parks and special activity centers throughout the country.
The climate of Ukraine
Generally, Ukraine is one of the climatically comfortable countries. The number of hours of sunlight varies from 1700 in the north to more than 2400 in the south. The temperatures vary predominantly from the north to the south, in the Ukrainian Carpathians — from the northwest to the southeast. The lowest temperature of January and February is -7... -8°C. The highest average July temperature is +17... +19°C (north and northwest) and +22... +23°C (south and southeast). In the Carpathians it can go down to +13... +14°C, and to +16°C in the Crimean Mountains.
The rainfall decreases from the north and northwest to the south and southeast. Most of it falls during the warm time of the year.
There is a clearly defined change of seasons during the year. The winters are long but relatively warm, with frost and snow. In the Ukrainian Carpathians it lasts 120–130 days.
Spring starts when the average temperatures cross 0°C, but frosts are still possible. Spring first touches the southwest and it makes it’s way north from the south in approximately 37 days. The summer starts when the temperature reaches 15°C and it is warm in most regions. The temperatures can reach +34... +40°C. In the autumn the temperatures drop and some frosts are possible, the number of rains and fogs increases.
The climate of large cities and seas can differ, in some aspects. For example, in winter Kyiv experiences some cyclones that cause unstable weather. Strong winds happen rarely and the lowest temperatures of -10°C and less fall on January and February. The autumns in Kyiv are predominantly warm, springs — sunny and rainy. To conclude, the weather conditions in Ukraine have positive influence on various industries and development of tourism and recreation.
Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. It has the population of nearly 3 million people and covers over 43 km from east to west and 42 km from north to south. Kiev has a good selection of tourist attractions, enough to occupy most visitors for a week or more. Conveniently, most are in the city centre or just a short Metro ride away.
The city is known for its magnificent churches and cathedrals. Top of the list and Kiev’s most popular tourist attraction is Pechersk Lavra (the Caves Monastery). This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a huge complex of churches and museums, and if you see nothing else, you must visit this. Other notable places of worship are St Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery that is located in Kiev city centre, opposite St Sophia’s Cathedral, and is named after the patron saint of Kiev. It was originally built in the 12th century but destroyed by the Soviets in the 1930s as they believed it lacked any historical or cultural value. In the years after Ukraine gained its independence it was rebuilt and officially reopened in 1999. The cathedral itself boasts a sky blue exterior and is topped with seven bright golden domes. Other buildings of interest at the monastery include the refectory and a magnificent bell tower entrance.
St Sophia’s Cathedral is one of Kiev’s most impressive landmarks with its 13 golden domes. Construction began in 1037, although much of the Baroque exterior dates from the 18th century. Named after the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, the cathedral is famous for its ancient mosaics and frescoes. It also houses the tombs of several Kievan princes, including its founder Yaroslav the Wise. The cathedral and the associated buildings were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1990.
St Volodymyr’s Cathedral is the mother cathedral of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate. The design of is neo-Byzantine with seven cupolas, colourful interior, and striking yellow exterior. It was fully completed and christened in 1896.St Volodymyr’s Cathedral is one of the best places to experience an Orthodox service. They are held daily at 8 am and 5 pm. It is situated on Shevchenko Boulevard, opposite Universystet Metro Station and Fomin Botanical Gardens.
St Andrew’s Church is one of the city's best known landmarks. It was built in the late 18th century by Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli whose other works include the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg.
Kiev is a very green city with many beautiful parks and gardens to choose from. Many run along the western bank of the Dnipro River. You can start in the city centre at Kreshchatik Park and walk right to National Botanical Gardens around 5 miles away, passing Mariyinsky Park and the Park of Glory on the way.
Museums and historic buildings and sites are also popular attractive places. The Golden Gates date back to the 11th century and were once part of the Kiev’s city walls. The Motherland Monument, Soviet Ukraine’s answer to the Statue of Liberty, towers high above the Museum of the Great Patriotic War. 10 years after Ukraine gained its independence a similarly sized monument was erected at Independence Square.
For a pleasant day in the country visit the open-air museum at Pirogovo. Located on the outskirts of Kiev, this is one attraction that can’t be reached on foot or by Metro. To relax in the city take a stroll along Khreschatyk, which is Kiev’s most famous and well-trodden street or browse the colourful stalls at Bessarabsky Market.
Cuisine - Flavors and Colors of Ukrainian Culture
Ukrainian cuisine is very much a part of the population's culture, lifestyle and customs. Well-known for its great diversity and amazing flavors, Ukrainian cuisine has had a number of influences including Russian, Polish, German and Turkish. Popular ingredients in the cuisine of Ukraine are meat, mushrooms, vegetables, berries, fruits and herbs. As Ukrainians are extremely hospitable their meals are served in very generous quantities. Some of the best Ukrainian cuisine is actually very simple. Many ingredients used in it, that someone may consider to be an unusual combinations, create a unique and sumptuous dish. As it is considered the “breadbasket of Europe”, it follows that bread is a staple in Ukraine. There are dozens of methods used in preparing breads, which are often used in rituals and customs. Dishes often contain pickled vegetables when these are not in season and certain dishes can only be made when ingredients are available.
The most popular Ukrainian dish is borsch. This thick and delicious soup is prepared with a variety of ingredients including meat, mushrooms, beans, and even prunes.
Population and traditions of Ukraine
In terms of population of Ukraine occupies the fifth place in Europe (after Germany, Italy, UK and France) and 21st in the world. Ukraine has two main ethnic groups, Ukrainians who make up over 70% of the population, and Russians who make up most of the remainder of the population. There are smaller numbers of Jews and other ethnic groups.
Ukrainian culture is richly embedded in ancient traditions. Even today many historical songs such as the dumy and the playing of the kobza – which was popular during the 16th century – are still enjoyed. However, music has also come a long way since then and Polissia magic pop and Kolomiya rap have gained popularity. The culture scene has also seen a resurgence of Cossack songs and song poetry. There is also a number of cultural festivals such as the Tavriya Games which is the most popular.
The Ukrainian people also enjoy their culture in the form of traditional dances and dance games. Many of these originated in rural Cossack villages and some of the oldest dances can be traced back to ancient cults. Traditionally many of these dances were performed only by males or females, but today both sexes sometimes mix and enjoy the dance together. Appreciation of these dances is usually kept alive by Ukrainian dance troupes.
Many people do not know that the tradition of the Easter egg had it's beginnings in the Ukraine. In times gone wax paterns were created on thse eggs. Dye was then added to give the eggs their delightful colors – the dye not affecting the wax coated parts of the egg. Once the whole egg was dyed, the wax was removed leaving only the colorful pattern. The tradition is thousands of years old and predates the arrival of Christianity in the country. While Christian interpretations of this practice abound, many Ukrainians still believe that the egg has immense power and releases the earth from the restraints of winter. Even the designs have meaning and the eggs are usually given as gifts or used as decorations.
Ukrainians celebrate a number of holidays, namely Christmas, Easter, Whitsuntide, New Years and Ivana Kupala (St John's Eve). They also hold a festival every autumn to celebrate the end of the harvest. While some of these festivals are celebrated world wide, Ukrainians have their very own way of observing them. Ukrainian culture is very interesting and there is so much to say on the matter that it cannot be discussed fully here. The best way to find out more is to visit the country and learn from the locals.
Sightseeing in Ukraine
Ukraine is full of magnificent tourist attractions. There are many options of sightseeing at Ukraine like palaces, churches, museums archaeological sites and some old buildings. Apart from these attractions the country also offers some spectacular sights like mountains, landscapes, beautiful gardens, beaches and rivers. Many people like to spend their holidays in Ukraine exploring the cities of the country. Sightseeing at Ukraine is very exciting as it offers you many options to explore the beauty of the country.
To begin your sightseeing at Ukraine, visit Kiev first. Kiev is the capital city of Ukraine and it is filled with beautiful tourist sights. There are many interesting museums, palaces and shopping malls to go. At least a fortnight is required to see all the tourist sights of Kiev.
Your next destination can be Port of Odessa also called 'Black Sea Pearl'. It has got opera house and ballet theater, the opera house in Odessa is one of the largest opera houses in the world.
There are many other cities in Ukraine which will make your sightseeing exciting and fun filled. All the cities of Ukraine have got some spectacular castles and monuments which will help you to know more about the country. Other sightseeing at Ukraine includes Kachanovka park, Kamyana Mohyla, Sofyivka Park, Pirogovo Museum, etc. Ukraine has hotels where you can stay and relax. The structures and buildings of Ukrainian cities have got different architectural styles which make this big country look beautiful. Ukraine is a perfect place to spend the holidays as some beautiful tourist places are accommodated in the country.
The Carpathians are a crescent-shaped mountain system that was formed by the same forces that lifted the higher Alps to the west. The Carpathians begin as hills near Bratislava, Slovakia, reach their highest point in Slovakia's High Tatras (Gerlachovský peak at 2655 m), and continue east into Ukraine before turning south and bending through Romania, where they reach another high point at 2543 m (Moldoveanu) and then fade into the plains. The Ukrainian Carpathians are gentle peaks that rise as high as 2061 m (Hoverla). The higher peaks enjoyed some glaciation during the last Ice Age. There are numerous small ski areas and several larger resorts.
Carpathian Mountains are considered to be the Green Pearl of Ukraine. It is one of the most popular resorts and tourist centers of the country. A beautiful mix of natural areas, forests, meadows, shepherds and people living in harmony with nature is what makes the mountains so sttractive to tourists! An original nature of territory, beauty of its Alpine meadows and woods, rough rivers and mountain lakes, soft climate, curative mineral sources, the historical and architectural monuments can attract everyone to themselves. Thousands of tourists and people who like traveling and adventures come here. The Ukrainian Carpathians are relatively gentle peaks that rise as high as 2061 m (Mt. Hoverla). The largest resorts are located in Slavsko, Bukovel, Tysovets, and Dragobrat. Some of the smaller resorts are in Krasiya, Dolyna, Beskid, Polyana, Synevir, Yaremche, Verkhovnya, Kosiv, and Yavoriv.
The Carpathian mountains dominate the region with their forests, rivers, lakes, alpine meadows, towns and villages. The region is rich in culture, activity and history. It is ideal for summer holidays walking, riding, mountain climbing, exploring. Equipped campsites, hikers' refuges, groomed hiking trails or signs are very rare. Topographical maps with hiking routes can be obtained at the resorts or from the local inhabitants who provide accommodation to tourists. It is highly advisable to bring rain gear. Drinking water is widely available from the mountain brooks and streams.
History and culture of the Carpathian region
The Carpathians and Transcarpathian region (which is to the west of the main ridge of the Carpathians) have a mixture of ethnic groups and historical ties. The mountain people live a traditional lifestyle yet are suprisingly internationally aware, with a historical memory of belonging to different states. Also, many people from the region are seasonal workers in Central Europe and Russia and have had exposure to different cultures.
There are at least a couple of separate cultural regions that are even visible on the map as clusters of settlements that spread out from a central point and fill adjacent mountain valleys. Settlements in Lviv oblast seem to have a more recognizably "Ukrainian" culture, since historically they had more interaction with Ukrainian towns such as Lviv and Stryy. West of the main Carpathian ridge in Transcarpathia is a band of poor and undeveloped mountain settlements that are more like similar mountain cultures in Poland or Romania
Finally, the Hutsul region west of Ivano-Frankivsk has a culture of its own that is known internationally for its arts and crafts and musical traditions. Its towns and villages are quite tidy and colorful. During Soviet times the Hutsuls enjoyed a sort of privileged status as "postcard people" who were left largely to themselves. For this reason arts and crafts (essentially a form of private enterprise) have continued to flourished in the region.
Ukraine Customs Rules
Visitors should obey Ukraine's customs formalities and regulations. When you cross the Ukrainian border you must fill out a customs declaration. It's recommended to declare valuable items and money you bring with you in Ukraine.
You can freely bring money if it doesn't exceed $10,000. If your cash-in-hand is more than $1,000, the sum must be declared in writing. If you need to bring more than $10,000 in cash you will have to obtain a special form from the National Bank of Ukraine. The process can take up to several days. Note that you cannot leave the country with a sum more than stated in the declaration you have filled out upon arrival. The export of local currency is limited to UAH 85. Do not loose your entry declaration, as a custom office has the right to confiscate all your valuable items, including cash.
It's important to remember that one cannot send money through the international mail. Money sent this way can be a subject to confiscation.
You can bring the following items with you in Ukraine duty-free: alcohol (1 liter of spirits and 2 liters of wine); cigarettes (200 cigarettes or 200 grams of tobacco or cigars); foodstuff for private use; personal belongings and toiletries; gifts. Note that only persons over 20 years of age can bring alcohol to Ukraine.
Items of high artistic and historical value cannot be exported without a permission issued by the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine. The Ministry of Culture office on Prorezna Street can issue such certificates, but the process can be quite complicated.
There is a list of prohibited items you cannot import or export. The list includes weaponry, radioactive and other harmful materials; printed materials, films, records, scripts and other stuff containing propaganda of war, racism, discrimination, etc.; objects prohibited to import or export by Ukrainian laws.
Upon departure from Ukraine your customs declaration will be carefully examined. So it's better not to forget to declare all your valuable items upon arrival and to keep all the receipts for purchases in Ukraine and other countries if you just transit the country.
Ukraine Transportation Guide
Ukraine has a very well-developed system of public transportation, and the country is much less reliant on private automobiles than the U.S. or western Europe. Every large city and regional capital is connected to the railway network and receives passenger trains daily from other major cities. The train station is the main transportation hub of every Ukrainian city. From there minibuses, trolleybuses, and private taxis take passengers to other parts of the city.
The other main transportation hub of any Ukrainian town is the intercity bus station. Often, but not always, the bus station is located next to the train station. The largest cities generally have several bus stations located at different ends of town. Intercity buses leave from the station that is in the direction of their destination.
Most Ukrainian regional capitals also have an airport on the edge of town for domestic flights and, occasionally, a small selection of international flights. Ukraine has recently got its first low-cost connections.
Inter-city travel in Ukraine is quite a bit less expensive than in Europe, but prices have been rising steadily in recent years.
Every Ukrainian town and city has a complex network of public transportation dominated by minibuses, followed by trolleybuses, street trams, buses, and subway systems (only in the largest Ukrainian cities). These means are sufficient to get you where you need to go in town — after you learn how to use them (follow the links for detailed information).
Fare on public transportation is very low by European standards, usually costing 7 UAH ($0.25 USD) or less. In addition to public transportation, taxis are available everywhere at prices lower than in Europe.
A prepaid Ukraine SIM card with an international cell phone is the most convenient and economical solution for staying in touch while you travel around Ukraine. All incoming calls while you travel around Ukraine are free, regardless of where they originate from. The Ukraine SIM card provides service across Ukraine through domestic roaming. Pay the local rate for local calls and use a cellular phone in Ukraine like you do at home. And unlike home, your Ukraine SIM card and cell phone service is prepaid so there is no need for a contract.
The currency of Ukraine is Hryvnya (UAH) which is comprised of 100 kopiyok. You will be able to get coins in 50, 25, 10, 5, 2 and 1 kopiyok denominations. Notes are available in groupings of 200, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 UAH. If you need to exchange money, it is advisable that you do it only at a currency booth on the street or in banks, as exchanging money on the black-market can be dangerous. It is also a good idea to keep all receipts related to money changing. Most banks are open Monday to Friday from 9:30am to 5:30pm.