When many people think of Ukraine, they may think of it as a poor, or corrupt, or war-torn country. But Ukraine is a great destination and a safe destination with many hidden gems. Ukraine offers cities like Lviv and Kiev - cities that boast some of Europe's finest architecture - and in Kiev, some of the most extreme nightlife. Ukraine offers everything from ancient cities to the breathtaking Carpathian Mountains to the radioactive site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

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  • Visa: Visa-Free For 90 Days For All Western Countries
  • When To Go: Late Spring, Summer
  • Currency: Ukrainian Hryvnia

Kiev

Kiev (also spelled Kyiv) is the capital and largest city of Ukraine and it's a center for those looking for wild nightlife or to see the best of far eastern Europe's old architecture. It is believed that Kiev was founded around the year 482 AD. Later it was taken over by the Vikings as they traded up and down the Dnieper River and they founded the powerful Kievan Rus state centered on this city. Kiev spent much of its history as one of the most important cities in the Russian Empire.

Related: 10 Awesome Things You Should Know About Ukraine That Aren't Related To Chernobyl

Do: Join A Free Walking Tour Of The City

Today as you explore Kiev you will see many large Eastern Orthodox churches and cathedrals and lots of architecture from the days of the Russian Empire.

Fun Fact: You Can Buy Beer At McDonald's And KFCs In Ukraine

Warning: Do Not Visit The South Eastern Cities Of Donetsk And Luhansk - They Are The Site Of An Ongoing Separatist War

Lviv

Lviv is a Ukrainian city in the far west of the country. The old city of Lviv is small, you will only need a day or two to explore it. Unlike most of Ukraine which were part of the Russian Empire, Lviv before World War 1 was part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, so the old architecture here is more similar to that of Central Europe like Poland or Austria.

Do: Check Out The Quirkly Bars And Pubs, and Join A Free Walking Tour

There are some awesome bars and pubs in this city. One of the most trippy places to visit is "Lviv Coffee Manufacture". Here you can see that coffee is not grown in countries like Ghana, but rather its "mining" underneath the city of Lviv. You can see all their mining equipment bringing up coffee from underground. If you want to see it for your own eyes you can go underground into the "mines." You need to don a miner's hard hat and then you can see them "mining" the coffee. Then enjoy a coffee or hard drink in the "mines" underground.

There are lots of other quirky bars and pubs in this city. Including one that is not advertised, you must knock on the door, a "soldier" opens and asks you for the password. The password is "Slava Ukraini! Heroiam slava!" - "Glory to Ukraine, Glory to the Heros!"

Carpathian Mountains

Romania is famous for its Carpathian Mountains - the mystical home of Count Dracula. But the Carpathians also extend into Western Ukraine. Here you can see the western part of these stunning European mountain ranges and explore the many forts and castles nestled in these mountains.

Some bonuses of exploring the Ukrainian Carpathians is that they are cheaper and less touristic than those in Romania.

Visit: Shenborn Palace In Trans-Carpathia (Stunning Hunting Lodge)

  • Admission Fee: Free

Chernobyl

Maybe you have watched the HBO miniseries "Cherynobol". Well, you can actually visit this site in Ukraine if you would like (if you would like to visit where the series were actually filmed, that's Vilnius in Lithuania). You can see how this abandoned city has been reclaimed by the forests and wild animals over the last 35ish years. The radiation exposure over a short visit is nothing to be concerned with. This site is not far out of Kiev and is very close to the Belarusian border.

Consider: Booking A Tour To Chernobyl

Odessa

The southern city of Odesa is another of Ukraine's popular cities to visit. This city is situated on Ukraine's southern coast on the Black Sea. This is one of the favorite destinations for Ukrainians and international visitors alike. Though be sure to visit during summer, it will be cold during the winter!

Related: 10 Most Instagrammable Locations In Russia

Crimean Peninsula

In the past, we would have recommended visiting the utterly breathtaking Crimean Peninsula. But since 2014 it has been controlled by and annexed by Russia. It is now very difficult to visit Crimea from Ukraine. There is no problem visiting it from Russia. However, if you do visit it from Russia, then you will be denied any further entry into Ukraine as Ukraine will have considered you entered the territory illegally.

Heads Up: Visa And Mastercard Do Not Work In Crimea Because Of US Sanctions Of The Annexation of Crimea

It is possible to cross "legally" into Crimea if you get special permission from Ukraine, but you will still need a Russian visa for the other side. This was one of the most beautiful destinations in Ukraine and has long been the summer holiday vacation destination for Ukrainians and Russians alike.

In short, Ukraine is a stunning destination and filled with adventures. It is safe and it is cheap.

Next: Myth & Legend: Exploring Russia's Strange 'City Of The Dead'