Once part of the Soviet empire, Ukraine became an independent state in 1991. Although it continues to have an uncomfortable relationship with its all-powerful neighbour, Russia, Ukraine is both a safe and truly fascinating country to visit with a host of historical cities and some of the most affordable prices in the whole of Europe. The country’s visa-free access gives visitors a taste of Slavic culture, without the paperwork, and an increase in direct flights from the UK makes it ever easier to make the short hop to Kyiv or Lviv.
City breaks to Kyiv, Lviv and Odessa are popular, and travellers looking to explore Ukraine a little deeper are rewarded with a host of off-the-beaten-track options, including Chernivtsi, Kamyanets Podilsky and Uzhgorod in west Ukraine. Dazzling frescoes, old cathedrals and charming baroque and renaissance architecture fill the popular cities of Kyiv and Lviv, where numerous galleries and museums line the cobbled streets.
History buffs will find plenty of points of interest; in Kyiv the National Museum of the History of the Great Patriotic War entertains for an afternoon, and enjoys far-reaching views over the River Dniepr. And, of course, Ukraine's most famous dark tourist attraction, Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, is open for visitors and overnight stays. Active travellers looking to combine the bustle of the cities with a trip into Ukraine’s peaceful nature, can venture to the dramatic Carpathian Mountains, where ethnic Hutsul people follow their traditions in hidden valleys, and hike to the peak of the highest mountain, Goverla, for superb panoramas.