The skyline of Kyiv

Europe's Frontier: Moldova & Ukraine

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8 days
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£1,249
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5 / 5 from 1 review >
Trip code: 
AWM8
Way to Travel:
Guided Group
Activity:
Culture
Min age:
16
Group size:
6–16

Visit two of Europe's least visited nations

With just 94,000 visitors in 2015, Moldova was one of Europe's least visited countries. Sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania is has often been caught in the middle of an East/West game of tug of war. The capital Chisinau has struggled to shrug off its Soviet past, but this is part of its charm, while the countryside offers historic monasteries and one of the world’s largest wineries. Not to mention ‘independent’ Transnistria, where citizens cling onto their Soviet past and monuments to reflect this.

Western Ukraine, by contrast, has always looked to Europe. Lviv, the country's cultural capital, certainly feels more European than Soviet, with its historic UNESCO listed old town and charming cafe culture. While its mighty capital Kyiv is just starting to emerge as a modern European hotspot of culture and nightlife. 

Highlights

  • Visit two of Europe's least known countries
  • Milestii Mici Winery - the world's largest wine cellar
  • Visit 'independent' Transnistria
  • Historic Odessa and Lviv
  • Optional post-tour excursion to Chernobyl (must be booked in advance) 

Key information

  • 2 nights comfortable and 4 nights standard hotel, 1 night sleeper train
  • Normally 6 to 16, plus leader. Min age 16 yrs
  • Travel by private bus and sleeper train

What's included

  • All breakfasts and 1 lunch
  • All accommodation including sleeper train
  • Transfer for group flights

 

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Visas & vaccinations
  • Single supplement
  • Chernobyl Extension
Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
+44 (0)20 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Responsible Travel

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Itinerary

  • Day 1

    Fly to Chisinau.

    Fly to Chisinau, transfer to hotel.
    Klassik Hotel or similar

  • Day 2

    Walking tour of Chisinau. Visit Ohrei Monastery.

    This morning we set out on foot from our hotel for a walking tour of the Moldovan capital. Although the city dates back to 1420, a huge earthquake in 1940 destroyed most of the historic centre, while WWII finished the job off. Chisinau was then rebuilt in a Soviet-style, leaving a city dominated by brutalist buildings, but there are some real quirky gems including the now abandoned Winter Circus, Triumphal Arch and the bell tower of the Nativity Cathedral. The central market is another highlight, first opened in 1825 it has been the centre of life in the city ever since. It's worth braving the crowds for lovely fresh fruit, nuts and wine. 

    Heading out of the city we stop for a traditional home-cooked lunch in a small farmstead. From here we visit the beautiful, isolated hilltop Orhei Monastery dating back to the 14th century. Our final stop before returning to Chisinau is the Milestii Mici Winery, home to the largest wine cellar in the world! Here we will drive down into the cellar in the tour bus, past hundreds of barrels of the ‘holy drink’ as it’s known locally. We will try several varieties of wine and learn about the fascinating history of oenology in this unknown corner of Europe.
    Klassik Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 3

    Full day excursion to Transnistria; transfer to Odessa.

    Our destination for today is one of Eastern Europe's strangest. Transnistria is a self-declared republic occupying a narrow strip of land in the east of Moldova. A microstate, officially only recognised by the people who live there, no one else! Yet they have their own currency, postal service and border force. The region harks back to the days of the USSR and is staunchly pro-Russian, although it gets little financial support in return. There are photo-worthy busts of Lenin all over the city. No trip to Moldova is complete without seeing Transnistria.

    In the late afternoon to transfer to Odessa on Ukraine's Black Sea Coast. Journey time is about 2 hours, however, the border cross between Moldova and Ukraine may take some time. 

    Hotel Alexandrovsky or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 4

    Full day in Odessa; morning city tour.

    This morning we wake up in Odessa, Ukraine’s third largest city, on the Black Sea coast. A warm water port, Odessa has had a short but turbulent history. When founded in the 18th century Russia's Catherine the Great invited immigrants from across Europe to come and make their fortune in Odessa, thus creating a thriving multicultural city of Jews, Turks, Armenians, Italians, Germans and Poles, with the outbreak of WWII this population diversity would sadly be its downfall. In more recent times the city has had its problems especially during the 2014 revolution, but now, largely because Crimea is off-limits for most Ukrainian holidaymakers, the city is booming once more. It beautiful tree-lined avenues and seaside boulevards are a perfect place to relax and see a different side to Ukraine. The ornate opera house and Potemkin Steps are architectural must-sees.

    After a city tour, we enjoy free time, before boarding the overnight sleeper train to Lviv.

    Sleeper train

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 5

    Arrive Lviv, guided walking tour.

    We arrive early into Ukraine's cultural capital Lviv, stopping for breakfast at our hotel and storing our luggage, we will try and obtain a couple of day rooms so you can freshen up, but please note this is not always possible.  We then head out for a morning walking tour of this beautiful city, before enjoying free time in the afternoon. We recommend climbing the clock tower of the town hall for a panoramic view of the old town. 

    Lviv's UNESCO listed old town easily competes with the likes of Krakow and Vilnius in the charm and history stakes! It's full of colourful townhouses, fine churches, cobbled streets and cosy cafes. Ukrainian cultural identity is stronger here than anywhere else in the country, but with a wonderful mix of Polish, Jewish, Hungarian and even Armenian history thrown into the mix. Lviv really is a delight and surprisingly untouched by mass tourism.

    Modern Art Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 6

    Transfer to Kyiv by train; free evening.

    This morning we board the train to Kyiv (journey time 8hrs approx.), Ukraine's mighty capital city and home to over 2.5 million people. The Ukrainian capital seems to have hardly left the news in recent years, sadly for all the wrong reasons, but its citizens are made of strong stuff and are keen to show their beautiful city to the world. 
    There will be some free time in the evening to enjoy the city or take dinner on the capitals most famous street, Khreshchatyk.

    Ukraine Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 7

    Morning tour of Kyiv; free time in the afternoon.

    This morning we enjoy a walking tour of Kyiv's main sights, including Maiden Square, the site of the revolutions of 2004 and 2013. As well as St. Sofia Cathedral and the Monastery of St. Michael Archangel. 

    The afternoon is free for you to enjoy this fascinating city at your leisure. You may choose to visit the Pechersk Lavra Monastery with its complex of caves housing creepy, mummified nuns. While the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War gives you a Soviet perspective. The museum also offers great views of the city. 

    Ukraine Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 8

    Fly London / Optional day tour to Chernobyl

    Those on the group flight will transfer back to Kyiv Airport. Alternatively, you may choose to stay another day for a guided tour of Chernobyl and the abandoned town of Pripyat.

    One of the most well-known events in Soviet history occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, 130km north of Kyiv in April 1986. Here reactor No.4 exploded, spreading lethal radiation, first over the town of Pripyat and later large swathes of Europe. Many see this event as the beginning of the end of support for the USSR in Ukraine.

    This tour takes you to the heart of the exclusion zone; you will see the power station and the abandoned town of Pripyat, frozen in time, like a scene from an apocalyptic future. Our expert guide will lead you safely through the area and tell the story of one of recent history’s most notorious disasters. This is a long day leaving the hotel at about 08:30 and returning to Kyiv at about 20:30, but certainly worth staying in Ukraine another day for. (Details and prices are in the Money Matters section of the trip notes).

    Ukraine Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info

Visas

Moldova

UK passport holders do not need visas for this trip. Other nationalities should check with the relevant embassies.

Ukraine

UK passport holders do not need visas for this trip. Other nationalities should check with the relevant embassies.

Eating and Drinking

Moldovan and Ukrainian cuisine is quite similar and consists mainly of traditional European foods, such as beef, pork, potatoes, cabbage, and a variety of cereal grains. Traditional for the Moldovan cuisine are dishes combining diverse vegetables, such as tomatoes, bell peppers, aubergine, cabbage, beans, onions, garlic, and leek. Meat products hold a special place in traditional Moldovan cuisine, especially as an appetiser or the first course. Roasted and grilled pork, beef meatballs (known as pârjoale and chiftele) and steamed lamb are common. Meat and fish are often marinated and then grilled.

Moldova has a long history of wine making, dating back thousands of years. Domestic varieties include Fetească, Rara neagră, and Busuioacă albă. The country is particularly well known for its sparking rose and red wines.

Ukrainian cuisine stems from peasant dishes based on the plentiful grains and vegetables grown in the country. Staple crops include sugar beets, potatoes, grapes, cabbages, and mushrooms. These are often key ingredients in soups and salads. The most popular dish is borshch , a hearty soup made in a variety of ways. Other vegetable dishes include holubtsi (stuffed cabbage) and kartoplia solimkoi ("straw potatoes"). Kotlety Po-Kyivskomy (Chicken Kiev), a chicken breast stuffed with a buttery filling, is a well-known dish outside Ukraine, but taste very different locally.

Weather

Moldova has a moderately continental climate; its proximity to the Black Sea leads to the climate being mild and sunny. The summers are warm and long, with temperatures averaging about 20 °C, and the winters are relatively mild and dry. Annual rainfall, which ranges from around 600 mm in the north to 400 mm in the south, can vary greatly; long dry spells are not unusual. Ukraine has a mostly temperate climate, with the exception of the southern coast of Crimea which has a subtropical climate. The climate is influenced by moderately warm, humid air coming from the Atlantic Ocean. Precipitation is disproportionately distributed; it is highest in the west and north and lowest in the east and southeast. Western Ukraine, particularly in the Carpathian Mountains receive around 1,200 millimetres of precipitation annually, while Crimea and the coastal areas of the Black Sea receive around 400 millimetres.

Is this trip for you?

This trip is graded as Leisurely/Moderate (2) and visits as much as possible in Moldova and Western Ukraine. There is a lot to see in a week yet the pace is not rushed. Although this itinerary is mostly based on sightseeing, please be prepared for a reasonable amount of walking between places of interest.

For our overnight train journey between Odessa and Lviv, we use second class compartments with 4 berths, and bed linen is provided. Hot tea is served on the train in the morning. Breakfast will be taken at the hotel in Lviv.

Our optional excursion to Chernobyl at the end of the trip is operated by a government recognised company and meets all the safety requirement set out by the National Tourist Board of Ukraine. Radiation exposure is similar to that of a standard x-ray.

Tourism is very much in its infancy in Moldova and you should come prepared for this. Hotels are of a good standard, but service may be a little slow.

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
+44 (0)20 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotels & sleeper train

2 nights comfortable 3-star hotel, 4 nights standard hotel all with en suite bathrooms and 1 night sleeper train. All accommodation is based on twin-share. Wi-Fi is now free in all hotels but is sometimes unreliable. We use 2nd class compartments (4 berths) on the overnight sleeper train. Linen is provided. Please note that there may be other passengers, not with Exodus, travelling in the compartment with you. 1st class compartments (2 berths) can be requested up to 4 weeks before departure yet these are expensive and generally do not offer any extra comfort.

Single supplement from £190 not including the night on the train. 

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade trips:
+44 (0)20 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

Embracing a healthy lifestyle can be a challenge, but if you’re going to keep it up there’s got to be more to it than

  • Reviewed August 2017
    Hannah Marder

    Excellent trip

    This is a fantastic trip which packs a lot into a week and visits two lesser known but fascinating countries. The itinerary works well, and you are kept busy without being too rushed. The group I travelled with were a pleasure to be with and we had a great time. Our tour leader was excellent. The hotels and transport were a very high standard. I couldn't have asked for a better holiday.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Kiev was the highlight, a stunning city full of beautiful monuments. The hotel is located overlooking Independence Square. If you visit in August you might see preparations for the independence day on 24th August, which we were lucky enough to. I particularly loved St Michael's Church of the Golden Domes, which is beautiful inside and out, and Landscape Alley which is a Gaudi-esque children's playground. Pechersk Lavra monastery is also well worth a visit. I also really enjoyed the winery tour in Moldova even though I don't like wine much!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our tour leader, Agata, was exceptional and one of the best I've ever travelled with. She always went the extra mile, and was really caring and looked after us very well without being overpowering. She was good fun, and good at spending time with everyone in the group and looking after us all equally.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Transnistria has its own currency, but you don't need to change very much as prices are low and its completely closed so you can't change it back. Your leader will advise you. But bear this in mind when budgeting for your days in Moldova - you only need cash for the first evening and one full day. Moldova has high quality and unbelievably cheap wine so if you enjoy wine, make sure you have space in your suitcase to bring back a bottle or two. That said, I strongly advise travelling light - I travelled hand luggage only and was very grateful. There's a lot of getting on and off trains and moving around stations that don't have lifts, so a medium backpack is the best thing to bring. You don't really need lots of stuff as it's a short trip with no special equipment. Bring good shoes as there's a lot of walking in cities and on cobblestones. The group flights depart very early from Heathrow, if that's likely to be a problem for you, book on the phone so you can discuss flight options and decide if you want to book your own. It's possible to fly direct, although it may cost more. Remember to bring a scarf for the churches (women). Don't be put off by the train journeys, it's a busy trip and the time to just sit is welcome, they're also nice trains. If you visit Chernobyl, you will only get an evening and few hours in the morning in Kiev (if you're on the group flights) and Kiev is amazing, so do consider carefully which you'd prefer to do or think about staying longer.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This is a new trip (I travelled on the second departure) and I hope it becomes a regular Exodus offering so others can enjoy it too. I hope that when travellers catch on to what nice things there are to see and do in these countries - as good or better than many other well known European destinations, but without the crowds - they will want to come too.

Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.

 

What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.

 

2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
 
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.

 

3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.

 

 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 

 

Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

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