Country profile

About Ukraine

Ukraine is actually the largest country in mainland Europe, stretching from Romania and Hungary in the west to Russia in the east, and from Belarus in the north to the black sea in the south. It also borders Moldova, Georgia and Slovakia.

Once part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine gained independence in 1991 and has been a democratic market economy ever since. But that’s just a small part of its history. Ukraine’s proud heritage stretches back over thousands of years and this is reflected in every town and city through stunning baroque and renaissance architecture and a wealth of museums and historic sites.

Ukraine also boasts a rich cultural heritage, blending folk songs and puppet theatre with world class opera and classical music venues, especially in the capital Kiev. Fast growing in popularity as a European tourist destination, Kiev combines a genuine sense of history and grandeur with all the modern amenities you would expect from a cosmopolitan capital city. You can enjoy many of Kiev’s sites effortlessly by letting them drift by as you cruise the Dnipro River that splits the city.

Beyond the cities, mainland Ukraine forms part of the Asian Steppes, consisting of mainly level, agricultural plains, where life has changed little in decades despite the radical changes in the country as a whole. Plan your visit around the harvest time and you’ll enjoy a true taste of Ukraine at the autumn folk festivals.

Ukraine is not all farmland though. Head to the Carpathian Mountains to the west, and the wetlands of the coast, and you’ll find fascinating National Parks such as Shats’kyi, Podil’ski Tovtry and Cape Mart’yan that are well worth a visit.

For the best of the weather, follow the crowds to the Crimean peninsula, where miles of golden Black Sea beaches enjoy a subtropical, Mediterranean climate. An autonomous region with a character all its own, the Crimea is very much geared for tourism, with beautiful countryside, historic attractions and high quality hotels and resorts. A favourite holiday haunt of wealthy Russians, it is fast becoming a mecca for medical tourism too, combining excellent standards of care with delightful locations and comparatively low prices.

As with many former Soviet states, Ukraine has not fully recovered from the decades of under-investment and exploitation, but it is now well on its way, with new roads and infrastructure investment gathering pace as it moves closer to EU membership.

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Quick facts

Population: 44.9 Million
Currency: Ukrainian hryvnia
Capital: Kiev
Languages: Ukranian
Religions: No religion 62.5%: Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox minorities