One of the more popular paths to follow along The Black Sea is Odessa to Kiev, leading to the well-known Chernobyl. These historic trails hold so much to see along the way. It’s an exhilarating route along an entrancing coast that will captivate the imagination with its rich culture and curious sights.
The Journey Starts in Odessa
The Potemkin Stairs, Primorsky Boulevard and Deribasivska Street are perhaps the most well-known sights in Odessa. But if you dig a little deeper and veer off course, you’re bound to find some hidden treasures in this historic destination. For example, heading just off Deribasivska Street you’ll find the Odessa Passage, an exquisite, Academic style shopping route with decadent décor that makes you think you’ve stepped into a Tsar’s palace.
Head deeper still into the underground labyrinth beneath the city in Nerubayskoye Village. The Odessa catacombs contain stories of thieves, smugglers and World War II hideouts that will surely keep you hanging on the tour guide’s every word. Looking for a more cultured experience? Grab tickets to a show at the Odessa Opera House for a classical rendition that will take you back in time.
For the night owl, “the Ibiza of Ukraine,” Arcadia, is the spot to be. The Arcadia district, famous for concerts and wild parties, lies a few miles away from the city center and contains plenty of clubs and bars to dance the night away.
The Road to Kiev
Stop #1: Uman. The main square market along Yevropeiska Street awaits with its colorful, authentic wares and flower vendors. Uman feels frozen in time with its architecture and cars built by the Soviet Union still in play on the streets. You won’t want to miss is Sofiyivka Park. Consisting of 150 hectares of landscape, it contains 60 points of interest within its bounds, from the Island of Love to the Grotto of Venus. Marble sculptures and replicas adorn the paths of the lush, green lawns and gardens, making for a breathtaking and scenic trek. You can get to Sofiyivka Park’s main entrance from the town center by taking a short walk directly down Sadova Street.
Stop #2: Vinnytsia (or Vinnytsya). The city’s main attraction, a red brick water tower with faux cascading waterfall, resides at the center of Independence Square in Kozitsky Park. But the true adventure starts when you go off course and down the backstreets. The paths between old, brick houses and laundry lines filled with clothing, rugs and blankets lead you through life in a small, Ukrainian town. These streets will take you through gritty sights, like abandoned buildings covered in fading graffiti, and classic landmarks that have stood the test of time, like Transfiguration Church.
Vinnytsia’s real claim to fame is the confectionary Roshen. Established by Petro Poroshenko, an eccentric billionaire and former president of Ukraine, Roshen’s reputation has a Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory energy surrounding it that brings out everyone’s inner child. The Roshen Fountain puts on a dazzling multimedia show every night throughout the summer months, with lasers, astounding audio and 3D projections.
Stop #3: Zhytomyr. For those that wanted to be an astronaut when they grew up, this city offers the Korolyov Cosmonaut Museum, an exhibition dedicated to Soviet-era rocket engineering. Zhytomyr’s historic cathedrals and Ukrainian Music and Drama Theatre offer some of the best views of Soviet Russia architecture. Find a canteen to get a sample of mouthwatering Ukrainian cuisine and try the local draft beers.
In 1986 the accident that took place at the power plant in Chernobyl shocked the world. Today, the remaining power plant has opened its doors to minimal tourism. It’s an active worksite, not a museum, so you must do your best to stay out of the workers’ way. But it’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the ins and outs of the plant and how it still holds scientific significance to this day.
Exploring the Exclusion Zone
Within the boundaries of the Exclusion Zone lies the Red Forest, an area with a four-square-mile radius around the infamous power plant. It was named for the ginger color of the pine trees that died after absorbing high levels of radiation. After the accident, the pine trees were bulldozed and buried under a thick layer of sand and planted over with saplings.
While the people in the Exclusion Zone evacuated to flee from the radiation, animals migrated in. Today, the Red Forest’s biodiversity has increased drastically, with some animals, like wild boar, multiplying in large numbers. It became a fertile habitat for many endangered species, becoming a thriving wildlife refuge.
Make your own way from Odessa to Kiev and Chernobyl on one of our luxe-adventure expeditions to The Black Sea.