I’m starting to get the travel bug again, as I know everyone else is with the chance of it opening back up soon. So, I wanted to share some travel love to hold us over... or maybe make it worse, we’ll see.
On mine (Erica) and my husband’s last travel trip, which feels like ages ago now, we fell in love with a country that we consider a true hidden gem. Our favorite country of the trip was the Ukraine! It was such an unplanned surprise, but it came out on top for many reasons.
We stayed in the capital, Kyiv for the weekend. Kyiv is full of beautiful, flawless, gold domed churches. The famous St. Andrew’s Church sits on a hill overlooking the city. It was a big bustling city, once we found the underground system where everyone was hiding from the bitter, cold, winter weather. There were paths, malls and escalators where you literally couldn’t see the end of because you were so far underground. We recently found out that the metro in Kyiv is the deepest metro in the world! Timed it takes roughly 15 min to reach top to bottom on the escalator! So cool!
The city was really clean and felt very safe to walk around. I was so happy to find out that their third wave coffee scene was surprisingly on point. We spend lots of time warming up in their cute coffee shops around town. The best flat white of the whole trip I had at Blue Cup Coffee Shop.
Cost comparison… 1 Canadian dollar was equal to 18 Ukrainian hryvnia. We could have a sit down meal including appetizer, main dish, dessert and drinks for 2 people, for $15 Canadian dollars. Whaaat, yeah I was shocked too! Speaking of food, yes it was amazing! I grew up in Saskatchewan in a little Ukrainian town named Sheho. So, I already knew I loved Ukrainian food but having it in the Ukraine was phenomenal! I recommend having Borscht (a beet based soup), lazy varenyky (perogies), and the pies!
For accommodation, we stayed at an Airbnb only a 2 min walk from independence square for $20 CAD a night. We find Airbnb is cheapest for couples travelling on a budget. The transit system was very confusing, but with the help of kind English speaking strangers we could ride the subway for $8 UAH (45 cents CAD) anywhere in the city. And Uber is a great option to get around quickly too. The people in the Ukraine were super friendly, and everything was SO affordable.
Oh, and one last thing, our favorite part of our time in Ukraine was going to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. I was a bit weary of spending time in a radiation zone, but after much research we decided it was safe to go. It was crazy seeing the destruction left behind as families were uprooted and the Soviet Union crumbled after Reactor 4 exploded. It was really interesting to learn so much history and how it affects a lot of the world today. Crazy to think how one night can change so much, how it could have changed the world as we know it. Learning how so many people gave up their life selflessly to save ours. You have to book a tour, as it’s still a regulated zone by the government, and you’ll want a guide, as they know the safe zones. There are still zones unsafe for humans to go to like the red forest, so having a guide is reassuring. I highly recommend going if you’re in the area.
We had so much fun exploring this city/country full of rich culture and beauty despite the hardship. You can tell the Ukraine is changing with the next generation and it was very positive to witness. We can’t wait to spend more time here, hopefully when the weather is a bit less bone chilling.
What’s your favorite place you’ve travelled to, or where’s number 1 on your bucket list? Let us know in the comments below. We love learning new hidden gems!