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An Eastern European giant, Ukraine is the largest country located entirely within Europe. A diverse nation, Ukraine houses a great variety of sights and experiences within its huge territory. From the majestic capital of Kyiv to the atmospheric Carpathians and the Black Sea resort of Odesa, a trip to Ukraine is sure to open up a world of travel opportunities. The historic cities of Lviv, whose Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and leafy Kharkiv are other major cities to consider on a tour of Ukraine.
Despite being an off-the-radar travel destination, Ukraine is a welcoming country, as Ukrainians are well known for being some of Europe’s most hospitable hosts. As well as its historic cities and cultural heritage, Ukraine also boasts a mouth-watering street food scene and a number of trendy neighbourhoods within its larger cities, where you’ll find plenty of interesting cafes, bars and galleries. Many choose to travel to Ukraine and it’s capital of Kyiv to contemplate the ornate beauty of its churches and cathedrals, many of which are UNESCO protected; but a trip to Ukraine can also be a fascinating journey through its Soviet past, rich folklore traditions and its tumultuous, ongoing history. A proud country, travel to Ukraine is sure to be an eye-opening and unique experience.
The Golden Age of the Kievan Rus’ is perhaps the most famous period of Ukrainian history and a good starting point for understanding the history of the nation. Founded by the Scandinavian Rus’ people in the 9th-century, the Kievan Rus’ soon became the largest and most powerful state in Europe, encompassing much of modern Ukraine, Belarus and parts of Poland and Russia. Much of Ukrainian identity can be traced back to this time and Kyiv, the capital, was the centre of this mighty state. The Saint Sophia Cathedral and Golden Gate, constructed during this period, are unmissable sights on a trip to Ukraine today.
The power of Kievan Rus’ was threatened by the Mongol invasion in the east during the 14th-century whilst western Ukraine came under the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth around the same time. In the 18th-century, Ukraine became part of the Russian Empire, following the annexation of Crimea in 1783. Fast-forward to the end of World War I and the Russian Civil War, and eastern Ukraine was once again incorporated into Russia, this time as part of the Soviet Union, whilst the western regions fell under the influence of Poland. During the Soviet years, Ukraine found its language and culture subject to repression, encouraging a popular desire for autonomy, only strengthened by the devastation of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. In 1991 a referendum resulted in independence for Ukraine, but the following decades saw much political corruption and vote-rigging, leading to the 2004 Orange Revolution. 2014 marked yet more protests following the annexation of Crimea by Russia and the War in Donbass continues against Russia and pro-Russian insurgents to this day. Despite this, the conflict is contained to the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, meaning travel to Ukraine is safe for travellers wishing to enjoy the most popular cities and tourist destinations.
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