Europe's Frontier: Moldova & Ukraine

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Leisurely
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Trip code: 
AWM
Way to Travel:
Guided Group
Activity:
Culture & Discovery Holidays
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 always 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, refusing to let go.

Western Ukraine by contrast has always looked to Europe. Lviv, the countries cultural capital, certainly feels more Germanic 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 day tour to Chernobyl (must be booked in advance)

Key information

  • 6 nights hotels all en suite, 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
  • Visa's & vaccinations
  • Single supplement

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

    Start Chisinau

    Fly to Chisinau, transfer to hotel
    Standard Hotel

  • 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 somereal quirky gems including the now abandoned Winter Circus, Triumphal Arch and the bell tower of the Nativity Cathedral.

    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, with the largest wine cellar in the world! Here we will board golf buggies and drive deep into the cellar, past hundreds of barrels of the ‘holy drink’ as it’s known locally. We will try several varieties of wine and learn about the history of oenology in this unknown corner of Europe.
    Standard Hotel

    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, only officially 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 support in return. There is plenty of photo-worthy busts of Lenin still standing and a wonderful flea market selling all kinds of Soviet memorabilia. No trip to Moldova is complete without seeing Transnistria.

    In the late afternoon to transfer to Odessa on Ukraine's Black Sea Coast
    Standard Hotel

  • 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, but on with the outbreak of WWII this 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 now 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.

    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, after a quick stop at our hotel we head out for a morning walking tour of this beautiful city, before enjoying free time in the afternoon.

    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 town houses, 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.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 6

    Morning transfer to Kyiv. Guided tour.

    This morning we board the high speed train to Kyiv, 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. Our morning tour will take in the ancient cathedrals, convents and monasteries and of course Independence Square, home to revolutions of 2005 and 2014.

    There will be some free time in the late afternoon to enjoy the city, you may choose to visit the Museum of The History of Ukraine in World War II or the eerie catacombs of Pechersk Lavra.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 7

    Free day in Kyiv. Optional Chernobyl tour

    Today you are free to enjoy Kyiv at your leisure, but we can also arrange a guided tour to Chernobyl. No event in Soviet history is quite as well know, yet as mysterious as that fateful night in 1986. Here reactor No.4 exploded, spreading lethal radiation, first over the town of Pripyat and later large swathes of Europe. The cover-up by the government in Moscow was a total shambles and many see this event as the begining 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 though the area and tell the story of one of recent history’s most notorious disasters. (details and prices are in the Money Matters section of the trip note)
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 8

    End Kyiv

    Our tour ends after breakfast.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast

Essential Info

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. 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. 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.

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 (1) 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 and plenty of time is left each day for self-exploration. 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, with bed linen provided. A simple breakfast is served on the train or at the hotel depending on our arrival time. Our optional excursion to Chernobyl 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.

Accommodation

Hotels & sleeper train

6 nights comfortable 3-star hotels with en suite rooms and 1 night sleeper train.
All accommodation is based on twin-share, with private facilities. Wi-Fi is now free in all hotels, but is sometime 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.

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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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