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Ukraine

Chernobyl by Day, Kyiv by Night

Adventure with Atlas Obscura on a unique tour that blends Soviet history with contemporary politics, breathtaking Orthodox monasteries with memorials to tragedy. Along the way, we’ll also find plenty of time to enjoy fantastic food, good company, mischief, mystery, and tipples of Ukrainian honey-chili vodka.

Your tight-knit group of 12 explorers will have a whole team of experienced guides at your disposal as we delve into one of Europe’s most fascinating—and drastically underrated—capitals. Our 7 days and 6 nights in Ukraine will be breathtaking, surprising, and occasionally challenging… but always memorable.

Trip Highlights

  • Hands-on History: We will visit everything from breathtaking UNESCO sites to hidden passages beneath the streets of the Ukrainian capital as we dive headfirst into centuries of Ukrainian history.
  • Post-Nuclear Wastelands: Accompanied by expert guides, we will (carefully!) explore the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and witness the incredible devastation left behind in the wake of the world’s most disastrous nuclear accident.
  • Soviet Legacy: The USSR left a lasting mark on Ukraine. We will visit towering monuments raised in tribute to Moscow and see examples of classic Soviet public art and architecture, as well as monuments that stand in defiance of Soviet ideology.
  • 21st Century Kyiv: Even now, Ukraine is making new history, and the country’s war for true independence is far from over. The 2014 Ukrainian Revolution saw Kyiv reborn, and we’ll meet the people who risked everything for their freedom; we’ll eat with them, drink with them, and hear their stories.
  • The Real Ukraine: Kyiv is complex, and it rewards a thorough investigation. We want to show you more than just the famous sites (and the infamous nearby Chernobyl zone). On this tour you’ll experience the good, the bad, and everything in between, getting to know the people, their traditions, and the unique national identity of Ukraine.

Kyiv

Kyiv (or Kiev) is one of the oldest and most important cities in Europe. It has been the capital of both Russia and Ukraine, a city stronghold on the eastern edge of Europe where the domes of monasteries and Orthodox cathedrals stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Soviet monuments and masterpieces of midcentury architecture.

Brutalist towers and socialist-modernist blocks overlook cobbled streets and markets. The 102-meter Motherland Monument—once a towering symbol of Soviet might—gazes out across a metropolis filled with parks and rivers, medieval fortifications, and quirky modern bars.

Join us for a total of five nights in Kyiv, with lodging in Soviet-era comfort as we head out for a curated tour of this eclectic and wonderful capital. We’ll take in the curious, the colorful, and the concrete on an immersive city tour with a firm focus on adventure.

And after that… we’ll head north for a private tour of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

Chernobyl

For two days and one night, you’ll get to witness firsthand the aftermath of the world’s most devastating nuclear accident. Accompanied by local experts, we’ll walk the streets of the abandoned city, Pripyat, and marvel at this would-be socialist utopia gone to ruin.

You’ll see the schools, hospitals, and kindergartens that were evacuated at speed back in 1986, gaze out on the ill-fated Reactor 4 with your own eyes, and even meet some of the people who refused to leave—the handful of residents who live inside the Zone to this day.

Trip Cost

A $250 non-refundable deposit is required to secure your spot; we have a very limited capacity, and we expect the trip to fill extremely quickly. The trip will cost $2,200—the $250 deposit plus $1,950 final payment—and will cover all fixed costs including accommodations, daily breakfast and dinner, and all the activities listed below.

Itinerary
Day 1
Welcome to Ukraine!
  • Arrive in Kyiv and meet your group of travel companions.
  • Check into to your accommodation at the delightfully brutalist Hotel Salute, conveniently located just down the road from the deepest metro station in the world.
  • Settle in with dinner and drinks at a traditional restaurant nearby, and get to know the people you’ll spend the next week exploring with.
Day 2
Old Kyiv
  • Learn about the history of Kyiv on a guided walk through some of the most iconic landmarks in the Upper Town district, including the Saint Sophia Cathedral, Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti), and the Golden Gate.
  • Enjoy a lunch full of local treats at a themed restaurant on Andriyivskyy Descent.
  • Take in the magnificent Lavra Monastery complex in the afternoon—one of Ukraine’s most important Orthodox sites—and then explore the system of catacombs beneath the church.
  • Head over to the nearby Motherland Monument to experience the sheer awe of this towering Soviet symbol. You’ll spend the rest of the afternoon in a subterranean space beneath the monument, which now houses Kyiv’s most prominent WWII museum.
  • Finally, you’ll end the day with a banquet at a rustic home-style restaurant situated in an ethnographic complex in a Kyiv suburb.
Day 3
The Rebel City
  • Today you will learn about recent events in Ukraine’s history, kicking off with a visit to Mezhyhyria, the private residence of exiled former president Viktor Yanukovych. Marvel at the disgraced leader’s insane display of wealth as you tour his estate, his classic car collection, and even explore inside his lavishly decorated home.
  • After lunch back in the capital, you'll hear all about the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution from Ukrainians who participated in the struggle for independence. You’ll visit the places where it happened, as well as learn about ongoing conflict in other regions of the country.
  • At the end of this long and thought-provoking day, we’ll finish with a sumptuous evening meal, settling in at a popular Georgian restaurant in Kyiv to eat, drink, and talk about all we’ve seen.
Day 4
Hidden Gems
  • Begin the day with a visit to Kyiv’s Chernobyl Museum. Focusing on the human stories connected to the catastrophe, this curious and colorful museum makes the perfect primer for your imminent trip into the Exclusion Zone itself.
  • Walk through the stalls at one of Kyiv’s largest indoor markets and experience a side of the city that has changed very little since Soviet times.
  • After lunch, you’ll have a choice: You can either head underground for a guided ‘urban exploration’ tour, navigating through storm drains and tunnels beneath the Ukrainian capital; or if you prefer, you can stay topside for a tour of Kyiv’s eye-catching street art highlights.
  • The rest of the day is all yours. Your guides can recommend other interesting sites to visit in the city, or if you wish, you can just enjoy some time to relax. (You’ll want to gather all your energy for the two-day expedition ahead.)
Day 5
Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant
  • Leaving early from your hotel, you’ll travel by private bus to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. You will meet your Chernobyl guide, while a documentary film playing on the bus will bring you up to speed on the accident, its causes, and its many repercussions.
  • On our first day in Chernobyl we’ll visit the reactors themselves. You’ll see ground zero of the accident, admiring the new containment structure installed in 2016, as well as exploring some of the other facilities around the nuclear power plant.
  • Take lunch in the Chernobyl workers’ canteen, surrounded by scientists and engineers currently stationed at the plant.
  • After a long day of exploring, dinner will be served at a restaurant in Chernobyl town. Your accommodation for the night is at a hotel nearby, located inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
Day 6
The Streets of Pripyat
  • At the time of the Chernobyl accident, the workers’ city Pripyat had a population of 49,000 people. It was evacuated soon after the event, and today it survives as one of the world’s most famous ghost towns. Today, you’ll get to know this empty city intimately.
  • Walk the desolate streets of Pripyat, visit schools, hospitals, and theaters. You will see all of Pripyat’s main landmarks, including the fairgroundpri, swimming pools, and also some fabulous street murals.
  • After lunch back at the Chernobyl canteen, you will get to visit one of the Exclusion Zone’s best-kept secrets: the DUGA radar installation, or ‘Russian Woodpecker,’ that rises to a height of 150 meters at the heart of an abandoned Soviet military base.
  • Late in the day you’ll return to the capital for one last night of comfort at your Kyiv hotel.
Day 7
Do Pobachennya & Departure
  • After one final group breakfast, we'll head to the airport for our individual flights home, say farewell (and see you soon) to new friends, and bid Ukraine adieu!
The Fine Print

 

Your Atlas Obscura Ukraine Expedition Includes

  • All lodging in double-accommodation rooms in modern, well-equipped hotels throughout the trip. (Single supplement for a private room is available for $299. Otherwise we'll work to place singles together.)
  • Breakfast daily (either in your hotel, or at recommended traditional breakfast spots).
  • A full meal every evening of the tour.
  • Two experienced Western tour guides to accompany you throughout the trip, in addition to four local Ukrainian guides each stepping in to tell you about their specialist subjects.
  • Private transport throughout the trip, in a comfortable, heated minibus.
  • Admission to all proposed activities and events, including museums, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and the ethnographic complex.
  • A full briefing packet for each explorer, including country information, final itinerary, logistical and contact information, recommended reading list, and packing list.
  • A great group of fellow Atlas Obscura fans, excited to explore all that Ukraine has to offer!
  • This Atlas Obscura Ukraine trip is conducted in partnership with Darmon Richter of The Bohemian Blog, and Nate Roberts of Yomadic.
  • Please email us at [email protected] with any questions about the itinerary, logistics, and payment.

NOTE ON ITINERARY

Itineraries and pricing are subject to change. This particular tour has been designed with specific activities and events in mind, whose schedules and availabilities may change in coming months. Though unlikely, fluctuating radiation levels may potentially prevent us from reaching some of the more restricted locations listed. If any activity or attraction that is advertised is missed or not available, then we will always replace it with another activity or location of significant interest and value.

NOTE ON PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

You should also be aware that some elements of this tour will be physically demanding. Our two-day exploration of Chernobyl involves no more than walking—but there will be a lot of that, and over rough ground, so be sure to bring proper walking boots or other outdoor footwear.

The urban exploration tour, on Day 4, will be particularly challenging. Expect to get wet as you climb up and down ladders and crawl through tight spaces beneath the streets of Kyiv. You’ll need to be in good physical shape for this section of the tour, and it’s absolutely not for the claustrophobic—but if that doesn’t appeal, just let us know and we’ll book you for the street art tour alternative.

PAYMENT

You will be charged a non-refundable $250 deposit to hold your space. The final payment of $1,950 will be due by June 15, 2017. All reservations will be final after this date and subject to our cancellation policy. By submitting your deposit, you agree to the Terms & Conditions. For travelers wishing to have single accommodations during the trip, an additional $299 will be included in the final payment.

Travelers are Responsible For

  • Transportation and flights to and from Kyiv, Ukraine.
  • Travel insurance (required).
  • Baggage charges.
  • Additional meals and drinks outside of Atlas Obscura offerings.
  • If applicable, applying for a Ukrainian visa (find out if you need one here).