Ukraine is not only the largest country located entirely within the European continent—Russia is larger, but spans two continents—it is also one of the most diverse. The heft of the Iron Curtain kept the country’s eccentricities, hospitality, and pluralism hidden from the world for many years. As it has emerged, though perhaps less smoothly than some former Soviet states, more and more people are catching on to the many surprises of Ukraine.

The sheer breadth of the country means that the landscape of Ukraine ranges from mountain to shoreline, with just about every terrain in between. Many natural attractions remain remote and ready to be explored, while others have been fully developed to facilitate ski resorts in the Carpathian Mountains, wellness resorts in the foothills, and the international coastal resorts in Crimea.

Visitors to Lviv will experience the riches of Ukrainian culture, and some of the best coffee in Eastern Europe. The cultivated city has seen its share of turbulence, but has emerged with grace, and its UNESCO World Heritage city center remains intact.

The country’s capital Kiev (Kyiv) hustles and bustles as the financial center trying to drive Ukraine to its feet. The coastal city of Odessa stands alone as an orderly and planned city with attractive coastal climate, and a wide array of architectural styles, indicating the inspiration of the many individuals who contributed to its appeal.

In addition to its geographical size, Ukraine boasts a wide range of ethnic and cultural people groups. The Hutsul peoples of the Carpathian highlands, with disputed nomadic origins, remain an energetic and festive culture representing the borderland of East and West. In Crimea, a distinct Turkish and Ottoman influence is still discernible, and in the major city centers of Lviv and Kiev the citizens are as cosmopolitan as anywhere in Europe. While gruff exteriors have made the region seem intimidating, the heartbeat of Ukraine is palpable and warm.

Ker & Downey’s local guides can help you connect to the people of Ukraine, beyond the shop counters and hotel staff, to meet the hospitable locals longing to tell their stories, and help the world understand their complex country. These kind of encounters set Ker & Downey’s journeys apart, taking you beyond headlines and histories into the heart and soul of the destination.