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Belarus, Ukraine & Moldova: Undiscovered Europe

TOUR IN

EUROPE

  • 24 Jul
  • -
  • 06 Aug 2022
  • |
  • 14 days

$4823

per person

Availability: 12 places

    Of the 44 officially recognised countries in Europe, few if any are less well-known from a travel perspective than Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova. Yet all three have much to offer those looking for a truly fascinating and enlightening travel experience much nearer to home than you might otherwise have expected to be possible.

    From stunning UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Mir and Lviv to the traditional Hutsul people of the Carpathians and the vast wineries of Cricova, this journey traverses steppe lands and beautiful mountains to reach the shores of the Black Sea at Odessa. Along the way we’ll discover ancient fortresses, gothic castles, characterful medieval towns as well as soviet ghost towns and traditional villages. We’ll also visit the Moldovan self-declared republic of Transnistria, which seems caught in a time-warp and is perhaps one of the oddest places in Europe.

    Of course, you can travel to the far ends of the earth...but when destinations as rewarding as these are so near, they deserve not to be neglected. So be sure to visit soon before the inevitable influences of the West dilute their unique character.

    Day 1

    DAY 1: TOUR STARTS IN MINSK (BELARUS)

    The tour starts this evening in Belarus’ capital where we’ll meet for an initial group chat before heading out for dinner.
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    Day 2

    DAY 2: MINSK

    This morning we’ll head out to immerse ourselves in the history of Minsk, and explore some of the most impressive Soviet architecture found anywhere in the world, including the National Library, Victory Square, and the KGB office amongst many others. Later we’ll visit a factory that produces the world’s largest truck, the incredible Belaz which can carry an impressive 450 tonnes. This is probably Belarus’ most famous export and makes for a fascinating, albeit slightly offbeat, visit.
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    Day 3

    DAY 3: MINSK - KYIV (UKRAINE)

    This morning we will visit two of Belarus’ four UNESCO sites starting with the 16th century Mir Castle which combines elements of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles making it one of the most impressive castles in Europe. After lunch we will also visit the 16th century Nesvizh Castle and Gardens of the noble and prominent Radzivill family. Later in the afternoon we will transfer to the airport to catch a short flight to Kyiv, Ukraine’s vibrant capital where we plan to arrive in time for a late dinner.
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    Day 4

    DAY 4: KYIV - CHORNOBYL - KYIV

    This morning we drive north for a full day’s visit of Chornobyl. In 1986 this Nuclear Power Plant suffered a catastrophic meltdown releasing 400 times more radioactive material into the air than was unleashed by the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima 40 years previously. The plant, and the nearby town of Pripyat, have been deserted ever since, however the area has for several years now been deemed safe for visitors. As such we will be able to enter the Exclusion Zone to witness the stark remains of this famous old soviet ghost town for ourselves.
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    Day 5

    DAY 5: KYIV - LVIV

    We’ll spend most of the day taking in some of Kyiv’s better known sights including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of St. Sophia Cathedral, Independence Square and the gigantic Motherland Statue before heading to the railway station for our late afternoon intercity train journey (approx. 5hrs) all the way to Lviv in the country’s west. On arrival, we’ll transfer to our downtown hotel which will be our base for the next two nights.
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    Day 6

    DAY 6: LVIV

    We have the whole day to discover Lviv, considered to be Ukraine’s most charming city and one of Europe’s last undiscovered architectural gems. We’ll explore its UNESCO historic centre and atmospheric cobbled streets with ample free-time to enjoy the many coffee shops, street musicians and art galleries which have made this city their home. Today we will also enjoy a culinary masterclass with a local resident of Lviv and then enjoy lunch with her in her home.
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    Day 7

    DAY 7: LVIV - VERKHOVYNA

    This morning we depart Lviv and head to Kolomyia, the cultural centre of the Hutsuls. Hutsuls are an ethno-cultural group of highlanders who live in the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains and who have against-the-odds managed to retain much of their distinctive culture and traditions. Here we’ll visit the town’s famous if rather eclectic Easter Egg Museum (with over 6,000 beautifully decorated Easter eggs from all over the world) and have an opportunity to meet some local village women who are famous for their craftsmanship in painting traditional Easter eggs. Later we’ll drive further on up into the mountains to spend two nights in Verkhovyna, deep in the heart of the Carpathians at an altitude of 600m above sea level.
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    Day 8

    DAY 8: VERKHOVYNA

    Today we will gain an introduction to the unique lifestyle and culture of the Hutsuls by visiting the local museum and also planning a walk in the highlands. The walk (approx. 2-3hrs) enables us to meet some of the local shepherds who spend their summers in the hills tending to their flocks and making their delicious brynza cheese. This afternoon there’ll be the opportunity to join our host family making a traditional Hutsul dinner or to just relax and take in the beautiful mountain scenery. Please note the walk today can be quite steep in some places.
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    Day 9

    DAY 9: VERKHOVYNA - KAMYANETS - PODILSKY

    This morning we’ll drive to Chernivtsi to visit the hugely impressive architectural tour de force from the late 19th century, UNESCO-listed Residence of Bucovinian and Dalmatian Metropolitans. Later we’ll continue on to Khotyn with its majestic 14th century Fortress and stunning views out over the Dniester River, before we arrive at our night stop at Kamyanets-Podilsky.
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    Day 10

    DAY 10: KAMYANETS-PODILSKY – SOROCA (MOLDOVA) - BUTUCENI

    Today we will have the whole morning to enjoy the charms of Kamyanets-Podilsky and its historic castle before heading for the border with Moldova and crossing over to the town of Soroca where we will have lunch. We will visit Soroca’s fort and ‘Candle of Gratitude’ monument, which offers great views out over the Nistru River, before continuing our journey south to the bucolic village of Butuceni, which will be our base for the night.
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    Day 11

    DAY 11: BUTUCENI – CHISINAU

    Before we head to Moldova’s soviet-style capital, we will first take a tour of the open-air museum complex known as Orheiul Vechi (Old Orhei). This is the country’s most important historical site and includes ruins, fortifications, baths, caves and monasteries some of which date back over 2000 years. Later we’ll transfer to the Cricova winery. With over 60kms of bottled-laden underground tunnels, this is one of Europe’s biggest underground wine cellars and is one of the country’s hidden (literally) secrets. We continue our journey to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, we will take a short city tour to get to know the history of this fantastic city before enjoying dinner at a traditional cafe.
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    Day 12

    DAY 12: CHISINAU – TRANSNISTRIA – ODESSA (UKRAINE)

    Today should be one of the most fascinating of the tour as we cross into Transnistria, one of the oddest parts of Europe and a true ‘wild frontier’. Considered by some to be an independent mini-state (supported by Russia) and by others to still be a part of Moldova, it sits in a strategic east-meets-west location and has often been referred to as the place where time has stood still. After some border formalities, we’ll visit the impressive Ottoman-era Tighina fortress as well as Tiraspol, Transnistria’s bizarre ‘capital. From here we’ll continue to the Palanca border and eventually (after one final border crossing) we’ll arrive back in Ukraine and head for Odessa on the Black Sea coast.
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    Day 13

    DAY 13: ODESSA

    Odessa is Ukraine’s fourth largest city and a major sea port. With the loss of Crimea in recent years to Russia, its importance has only grown. Founded in the 18th century, it has an enchanting mix of Italian, French and Russian architecture and is a vibrant energetic place. We’ll have a guided tour around the main sights of the city and the afternoon will be free for personal exploration before we meet up for our final dinner.
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    Day 14

    DAY 14: TOUR ENDS IN ODESSA

    The tour officially ends after breakfast but those on the suggested group flights will have a few hours more to enjoy Odessa before being transferred to the airport for connecting onward flights.
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