Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine: Unknown Europe

Tour participants partake in an authentic Moldovian meal. MIR Corporation Pics.
Tour participants partake in an authentic Moldovian meal. MIR Corporation Pics.

Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine: Explore Europe’s best kept secrets

By Devinne Zadravec

Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova are three of the least frequented and most undiscovered countries in Europe. It is rare to see pictures floating around on Facebook or Instagram of vacationers in these mysterious countries, but  they deserve some serious consideration when you plan your next getaway.

Assumption Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine.
Assumption Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine.

This little known region of Eastern Europe is a truly magical place. Steeped in culture, tradition, and history, it seems almost as though time itself has slowed down in the post WWII era.

The result is a region that is both culturally diverse and wholly unique, filled with art studios and family farms, UNESCO World Heritage sites, old towns and churches, caves, and vineyards.This region manages to be simultaneously quaint and exotic, a perfect locale for travelers fond of Europe but looking for a destination with fewer crowds and greater allure.

Is your interest piqued? Planning a trip to this exciting region does not need to be intimidating or difficult. We talked with MIR Corporation, a Seattle based tour company that runs regular trips to this area of Europe to hear their tips and suggestions to experience Europe’s best kept secret.

MIR Corporation

MIR Corporation  was originally created to facilitate cultural exchange between the Soviet Union and the U.S. As the relationship between these countries has both a long and conflicted history, it’s easy to understand why many U.S. travellers may never consider this region for their vacations.

Companies like MIR aim to change this mentality. MIR today today specializes in trips and vacations to destinations at the junction where Europe and Asia meet– from Tibet to Tehran and every place in between. They provides daring and open-minded travelers unique journeys and special adventures in some of the planet’s most under-explored and challenging places.

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MIR, from the Russian word meaning both “peace” and “world,” specializes in bringing people together to discover more about the world and, consequently, about themselves. What better place to do so than in such a mysterious and unknown part of the world?

For every kind of traveller, companies like MIR offer a variety of trips and packages, ranging from custom and private journeys for couples, families and solo travelers, as well as scheduled small group departures and rail journeys by private train.

MIR Corporation founder, Douglas Grimes, explained why more travelers should consider this region for their next adventure.

“Belarus is a great place to catch a glimpse of the old Soviet Union, if you never had the chance to visit before its demise. Ukraine, although bigger than either France or Germany, is much less frequented and more unspoiled. Moldova, in spite of its growing reputation as a prime wine country, remains one of the most ignored [destinations] in Europe.”

Saint Andrew's Descent in Kiev, Ukraine.
Saint Andrew’s Descent in Kiev, Ukraine.

For your next European adventure, consider MIR Corp’s off the beaten track itineraries through these beautiful countries, like the trip detailed below.

Days 1-3: Minsk, Brest (Belarus)

Begin in Minsk, capital of Belarus, for a fascinating glimpse into the socialist past. At the Great Patriotic War Memorial, remember the half of Minsk’s population that perished during World War II. Visit an artist’s studio for conversation and dessert, and stop at the manor house of Polish and American hero (and friend of Thomas Jefferson) Tadeusz Kosciuszko. In Brest, admire the massive UNESCO site Brest Fortress, built by Czar Nicholas I in the mid-1800s.

Days 4-6: Lviv (Ukraine)

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Awaken in beautiful Lviv, founded in the 13th century. Wander its lovely UNESCO-listed Old Town Square, surrounded by 16th-18th century merchant dwellings.

Days 7-9: Kiev

Fly to the capital, Kiev, and visit some of Ukraine’s most important sites, including St. Sophia Cathedral, the Caves Monastery, and the Chernobyl Museum. Stroll and shop on the cobbled Andreevsky Street, filled with galleries, shops, cafes, and studios.

Days 10-11: Odessa

Drop in to Odessa, climbing its much filmed Potemkin Steps and explore the Partisan Caves, where resistance fighters hid during WWII.

Days 12-13: Chisinau (Moldova)

Finish your trip in Moldova’s capital, Chisinau, a tree lined city of only 600,000 inhabitants. Survey some of Moldova’s ancient monasteries and sample the deep red wines for which the country is famous.

A vacation to this special region of Europe is a truly unique experience. Much of the area has yet to be swarmed with tourists, and the history and cultural of these countries is unparalleled across the continent. Consider Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine for your next vacation, and discover Europe’s best kept secret for yourself.

Devinne Zadravec

Fond of big dogs, stargazing, and foods covered in hummus, Devinne Zadravec is a writer/photographer/explorer from New England. Her favorite hobbies include hiking, yoga and writing. Currently, you can find Devinne hanging with her sisters in her Massachusetts home, or off adventuring, writing, and loving life in some new corner of the globe.