Are you familiar with the term Dark Tourism? It refers to travel to places associated with death and tragic occurrences. The 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero in New York City, Alcatraz in San Francisco, Pearl Harbor, Pompeii, and The Killing Fields of Cambodia are all popular examples. Visitors to Ukraine can add the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, ground zero for the disaster, to the list.
The explosion, which took place in 1989, is located in the town of Pripyat in northern Ukraine. The site has recently been open to the public—but you must visit with an authorized tour company. If you are worried about radiation, tests conducted disclose that travelers receive more exposure on a transatlantic flight than they receive during a visit to Chernobyl.
Close to 65 miles from Kyiv, it’s an easy, full-day trip from the capital with a Chernobyl Tour. Tour operators can pick up visitors at their hotel and drop them off after the tour. During the transport, you will see an informative video about the disaster. Narration and actual footage bring the incident into reality and prepare visitors for what lies ahead.
The tour takes visitors through many buildings, some looking like a stage set. It is an incredibly moving experience, one that will stay with you long after you leave.
2. St. Sophia’s Cathedral
As a UNESCO World Heritage Site since the 1980s, St. Sophia’s Cathedral (also called Saint Sophia Cathedral) is a favorite of visitors. With an elaborate Baroque exterior consisting of 13 golden domes, this cathedral stands out among the other historic buildings. Its beauty draws you into a jaw-dropping interior.
Inside, you’ll find the space filled with beautiful murals, ancient mosaics, and frescoes that are centuries old. Take a tour or sit through a service to get the full experience.
Named for Hagia Sophia, St. Sophia’s is one of Kyiv’s most noted landmarks since its construction in 1037. One of the best views in Kyiv is from the bell tower—it’s well worth the hike to the top!
Address: Volodymyrska St, 24, Kyiv
3. Visit L’viv’s Historic Center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
One of the most charming and well-preserved Ukrainian destinations for visitors is the city of L’viv. The entire historic center has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status, and tourists will love walking the cobbled streets taking in the sights.
Often called “the Paris of Ukraine,” the old city has a very traditional European feel, with the addition of modern conveniences and excellent restaurants. Coffee lovers will find the café scene hard to beat. This is an area that takes its caffeine in all forms very seriously.
For a bird’s-eye view of the town, climb the 1,000-plus stairs of the bell tower. The landscape in all directions is breathtaking.
4. The Pink Lake
The Pink Lake is located in Grygorivka village, Kherson Region in Ukraine. Locals call this lake the Ukrainian Dead Sea. It is truly a natural miracle as the waters of the lake have a tender pink color. The percentage of sea salt in the water reaches 35%. Rich in sulfur and an array of other minerals, these waters are considered to have endless health and beauty benefits. This is also a popular summer destination for many Ukrainians, that is why it’s better to visit this lake in mid or late spring or early fall to avoid the crowds of tourists and enjoy the beauty of this natural miracle.
5. Oleshky Sands
The Oleshky Sands is a huge desert that spreads over several districts of the Kherson Region and one of the most striking places in southern Ukraine. The Oleshky Sands is the biggest sand area in Ukraine, and some even call it the only desert in Europe. In recent years this amazing place has become more and more popular with tourists. And no wonder: endless golden dunes against the background of unbelievably blue sky framed by green pine forests are like a scene from a fairytale that came to life.
There are simply some places, some kinds of adventures, that make us want to fall in love. Discover Top 7 Natural Wonders in Ukraine to visit in summer.
6. Lutsk Castle
Lutsk castle, or Prince Lubart`s castle, is one of the strongest fortresses of the Volhyn region and a very important landmark of Lutsk city. The High castle had existed on the top of the hill since the times of the Rurik dynasty. In 1340-85, Lithuanian-Russian prince Lubart reconstructed the building so it became a typical European medieval feudal castle, which we can see today. Lubart`s castle served as a residence for Volhyn princes, and even as the capital of Galicia-Volhyn kingdom. The castle was reinforced in 1430-1542 in the times of prince Svydrygailo government. Lutsk castle complex includes three towers and few residential houses, surrounded by walls, and also basements and caves of John the Evangelist cathedral of the XII century, where prince Lubart and other Volhyn rulers were buried. The territory of complex offers few museums dedicated to the subjects of painting, bells, architectural pottery, printing, and weapons. The castle is being continuously restored; its territory provides great opportunities for archeological research.
Address: 1a, Kafedralna street, Lutsk city
7. Kamenets Podolsky Castle
Located in Kamianets-Podilskyi, a short walk from the old town, Kamenets Podolsky Castle is a striking landmark. This fortress, which has been in existence since before the 14th century, is the perfect place in the canyon to take pictures and explore. It’s reminiscent of a fairy-tale castle.
Take a tour around the inside with all of its passageways and marvel at the manicured grounds. Even though this castle is centuries old, it has modern amenities like bathrooms and a café to make sure you enjoy your visit. The castle is especially beautiful at night when it’s illuminated.
After spending the day exploring, take the short trip into the old town, and grab a bite to eat at one of the many diverse restaurants.
Address: Zamkowa St, 1, Kam’yanets’-Podil’s’kyi, Khmelnytskyi
8. Mezhyhirya: Former Presidential Palace, Kiev
Mezhyhirya is situated on the banks of the beautiful Dnieper River and is the former residence of the resident of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych. There is no shortage of things to do here, and it may be the most interesting and over-the-top place you have ever visited.
Today, in all its glory, the extravagant building is a symbol and reminder of institutional greed and corruption. Within its gated walls, there are tennis courts, a shooting range, an equestrian club, helicopter pad, ostrich farm, dog kennel, golf course, and hunting grounds.
Be sure to check out the auto museum that houses Yanukovich’s former exotic cars; head to the main mansion, nicknamed “Honka;”, or explore the grounds with heated lakes. Excess is the theme here, and some attractions are more ridiculous than others, from the exotic animals at the president’s farm to the restaurant in the form of a Spanish galleon.
Address: Novi Petrivtsi, Kyiv Oblast
9. Odessa Opera and Ballet
The Odessa Opera and Ballet is located in a historic building in the center of town and is the oldest theater in Odessa, opening in 1810. Visitors can take in shows like Swan Lake or Madame Butterfly, all for about the price of a cup of coffee here in the United States. The unique horseshoe hall allows for excellent acoustics and gives the audience a full view of the performers on the stage.
If you are here when they are offering tours, this is a great way to get a behind-the-scenes look at this magnificent piece of architecture. If you are lucky enough to be in town during the holidays, even better. The Christmas Festival is not to be missed.
Address: Chaikovs’koho Ln, 1, Odesa, Odes’ka oblast
10. Tunnel of Love, Klevlan
Just outside of the town of Klevan, the Tunnel of Love is another popular spot to visit in Ukraine. For lovers and singles alike, the Tunnel of Love is a two-mile stretch of private railway that gives the illusion of a never-ending tunnel. A canopy of trees over the tracks is actually what makes the “tunnel.”
Bridal parties and romantics head here to make a wish or take a romantic stroll. Legend says that for couples who make a wish together here if the love is real, the wish will come true. It’s also one of the most photographed spots in Ukraine