Trip Type : Small Group Tour
Mountain carpathians-Ukraine-496342_1920_P

Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova Overland Experience

Undiscovered Destination
5.0 . Excellent
100%
Travel Style: You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level: Minimal walking. Motor vehicles for all major parts of trip. Wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Most cruises. Very Easy
Lodging Level: Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
18 days
From: $ 3,105 $ 173 / day
Checking price

Overview

Highlights

  • Experience 3 of the least known countries in Europe
  • The last bastion of communism in Belarus
  • A high emphasis on local culture and important historical sites
  • Experience local hospitality in rural farmsteads in all 3 countries
  • Travel to the glorious Carpathian Mountains
  • See the quirky breakaway republic of Transdniestr

Short Description

Belarus is an enigma, a corner of Europe that few have heard about and even fewer have visited. It has remained well out of the spotlight of international tourism, its secrets remaining hidden, its cities seldom visited and its countryside little explored. Too often associated with Soviet monotony, Belarus is slowly starting to reveal its subtle charms to the outside world. We take in the best of the country, from the sleepy capital Minsk with its fine churches and imposing Soviet architecture to the fortresses at Brest and Mir as well as the historic town of Njasvizh, packed full of 16th century buildings.

Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
Trip Type Small Group Tour
Spend most of the time outdoors. Common trip themes and activities include cycling, hiking, kayaking, whitewater rafting.
Itinerary Focus Active
Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Lodging Level Value - 3 star
Flights & Transport Only ground transport
Start City Minsk
End City Chisinau

Trip Includes

  • Arrival and departure transfer
  • All land transportation including overnight trains
  • All accommodation on twin share basis
  • Services of English speaking guides (please note that different guides will accompany the group in different countries).
  • Meals as listed on the itinerary (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
  • Entrance fees for sites described in the itinerary
  • Visa support if required

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Itinerary

Day 1 – Minsk
Arrive in Minsk and transfer to your hotel. Depending on when you arrive there may be time to explore the city or just relax after your journey. Overnight Hotel Planeta or similar.

Minsk
Minsk is a fascinating city and almost unique in Europe. Although it has existed for almost a millennium, gaining prominence due to its position on the strategic trading route between the Black and Baltic Seas, it was almost destroyed during the Second World War. Most buildings were obliterated as Belarus was occupied by Nazi Germany, but since then it has been reconstructed in the typical Soviet style. Presenting almost a blank slate for designers, it represents one of the best examples of Soviet planning to be found, and although things are starting to change now it has very much retained this flavor, giving a glimpse into a way of life that has largely disappeared from elsewhere behind the Iron Curtain. As yet it has largely resisted the onslaught of western commercialism, making it an intriguing place to explore. With a number of pleasant parks and wide boulevards, Minsk is a good place just to wander around, taking in its monuments to fallen heroes and visiting its old churches.

Day 2 – Minsk
This morning we explore some of the key sights of Minsk. We visit Independence Square with its collection of Stalinist buildings, Victory Square and the Island of Tears, a monument to the fallen soldiers in the Soviet campaign against Afghanistan, the Museum of the History of the Great Patriotic War, as well as the old town. This afternoon enjoys some time at leisure – Minsk has several impressive churches and cathedrals that are well worth visiting. Overnight Hotel Planeta or similar. (BL)

Day 3 – Dudutki and Belarusian Farmstead
Today we transfer to Dudutki. We spend time meeting local people and learn about the old customs and crafts that are still practiced here. We explore the surrounding area for an insight into rural Belarus – a real highlight of the trip. Later we stay overnight as guests of local families in their homes and have the opportunity to sample home cooked Belarusian dishes and experience national music and dance. Overnight farmstead accommodation (BLD)

Day 4 – Nesvizh – Brest
This morning we transfer to Nesvizh and visit the Radzivills Palace in Nesvizh, with its beautiful buildings, including palaces, monasteries, and 16th-century houses. Later we transfer to Brest. Overnight Hotel Vesta or similar (BL)

Brest
Pushed up against the border with Poland, Brest feels slightly less Belarusian, and more western, than other cities. The city is rich in culture, with numerous influences making their mark felt here, from Orthodox to Russian to Polish, and like many other cities have a fine collection of churches – St Simeon’s Cathedral is particularly beautiful. But Brest’s main center of interest is its fortress, dating back to the 19th century. The fortress was home in the Second World War to a regiment of Soviet forces who defended it against the onslaught of Nazi troops invading the region, and although they were eventually killed after a long siege they became renowned as heroes within the Soviet Union. Today the fortress stands as a reminder of Belarus’s troubled past and the resilience of its spirit and contains numerous monuments dedicated to the history of that period. Like Khatyn, Brest Fortress gives an insight into the psyche of Belarus today and is invaluable in understanding the nation.

Day 5 – Brest - Belovezhaskaya National Park
This morning we take a tour of Brest’s main sites including the imposing fortress, which played a significant part in the Second World War and is an important site in Belarusian history. After lunch, we transfer into the wilderness to Belovezhaskaya National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the largest forested areas in Central Europe. You will experience some of the most picturesque places in the park and appreciate the splendor of this wilderness. We stay overnight in the park. Overnight Hotel Kamenjuki or similar. (BL)

Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park
First established as a national park in 1939, this wilderness area has existed since the middle ages. It entered the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1992 and gained Biosphere Reserve status in 1993. The park contains primeval forest and stretches across the border into Poland. The park is home to 212 species of bird and 59 species of mammal, including the iconic bison. Several hundred are known to inhabit the park after becoming almost extinct in the early 1900’s.

Day 6 - Grodno
Today we transfer to Grodno and en-route we stop at Ruzhany to see the remains of the Sapega family palace. After lunch, we arrive in Grodno and explore the city. Overnight in a comfortable hotel in Grodno (BL)

Grodno
The name of the city is tightly connected to the history of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Under the rule of Grand Duke Vitautis, the town acquired equal status with Vilnius as a second state capital. It also used to be the main residence of the Polish King Stefan Batory in the 16th Century and his influence can be seen in much of the city's architecture. Interesting sites include Jesuit Farny Cathedral, Kolozhskaya Church of St Boris and St Hleb, the Old and New Castles, and Sovetskaya Street to name but a few.

Day 7 – Mir Fortress - Minsk - Train to Kiev
Transfer to Mir, a small town 90km to the South-West of Minsk. We visit one of the country’s most important, as well as beautiful, sites – the stunning 16th-century fortress at Mir – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Later we return to Minsk and board the overnight train to Kiev. Overnight on the train in shared sleeper accommodation (2 people per cabin) (BL)

Mir Fortress
Mir Fortress looks like something from a fairytale dramatically situated next to a lake and with white plasterwork a striking contrast to red brick towers and roofs. The fortress was built over a number of years, beginning in the 16th century, and various additions to it have been made throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. It played a significant part in the Second World War when Russian and German forces fought nearby. The fortress is great fun to explore, full of winding staircases and with great views from its towers over the beautiful surrounding countryside.

Day 8 - Kiev
On arrival, we check into the hotel where you will be able to enjoy some leisure time. This afternoon we explore some of the key sights of Kiev, including the ancient ‘onion-domed’ St Sophia Cathedral, its bustling main boulevard Kreschatyk, and the Golden Gates, the only remaining section of ancient Kiev’s original fortifications. This evening we may have the opportunity to visit the opera if you wish (depending on availability and dates of performance). Overnight Hotel Rus or similar. (B)

Kiev
Kiev is one of the oldest cities in the region, founded back in the 5th century and becoming an important center of Slavic culture. Falling under the rule of the Varangians sometime later it became the capital of Rus, benefitting from its position on the trade routes between Scandinavia and the Byzantine Empire and becoming infused with a wide variety of cultural influences which remain today. Over its time, Kiev has been sacked by the Mongols, incorporated within the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and then absorbed into Russia and the Soviet Union. Straddling the banks of the Dnepr River, Kiev is Ukraine’s most cosmopolitan city and a real mix of old and new. With a historic old quarter, the city is packed full of monuments, the most famous being the Lavra cave monastery, a collection of underground chambers and spectacular churches dating back to the 11th century. Kiev is a city with an enormous amount of churches and cathedrals, with a particular style that looks almost Russian but is unique to Ukraine, and in many areas these dominate the skyline, reminding visitors of the intense respect that ordinary Ukrainians have for religion. But perhaps one of Kiev’s greatest delights is simply walking around the city and seeing where you end up, discovering for yourself its corners, streets, and cafes and immersing yourself in Ukrainian culture.

Day 9 - Kyiv Pechersk Lavra – Lviv
This morning we visit the Lavra cave monastery complex, with its stunning churches and underground tunnels. Later you will have some leisure time before we board the overnight train to Lviv. Overnight on board the train in shared sleeper accommodation (B)

Day 10 – Lviv
Early arrival into Lviv where we have a little time to freshen up before heading out to explore the city. Lviv is renowned as one of the prettiest towns in Ukraine and its historic center has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We take in some of its highlights including the Opera House, the Dominican Church and the fascinating Lykachivsky Cemetery, one of the oldest graveyards in Europe. Overnight Hotel Dnister or similar. (B)

Lviv
Lviv is a fantastically eclectic city with a wide variety of architectural styles combining to create a place with a split personality, but which somehow definitely works. Founded in the 13th century, Lviv is almost dripping with history and walking around its wide boulevards and large squares you will see Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture among many other types. Its medieval atmosphere harks back to days when Lviv was at the forefront of regional events, and it was once a wealthy trading center. Unlike many other cities in Ukraine, it mainly escaped the terrible destruction wrought by Nazi bombers in World War Two, and its charming streets make it one of the most exciting places in Ukraine to explore. Lviv has been named as the best place in Ukraine to live and wandering around its historic center it is easy to see why.

Day 11 – Kamyanets-Podilsky – Ivano-Frankovsk
Drive to Kamyanets-Podilsky, an attractive town dramatically situated on an island of rock and surrounded by a river. We visit the 11th-century castle, one of the most impressive in Ukraine, as well as the old quarter with its colorful buildings. We then head to Ivano-Frankovsk where we spend the night. Overnight Nadiya Hotel or similar. (B)

Day 12 – Ivano-Frankovsk – Carpathian Mountains
This morning we take a brief tour around Ivano-Frankovsk, the economic center of the Carpathians before we head into the mountains. We stay on a local farmstead in Verkhovyna, a picturesque and very typical Carpathian village which is a superb base for exploring the mountains and the intriguing communities that live here. Overnight stay on a local farmstead (BD)

The Carpathians
The Carpathian Mountains stretch across a wide part of Eastern Europe, encompassing parts of Romania, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, and Serbia. Rich in wildlife they are home to some of Europe’s last remaining populations of large mammals, with bears, wolves, and lynx to be found prowling through the forests. The birdlife here is equally spectacular, with raptors such as eagles a frequent sighting. This is one of the most pristine environments to be found on the continent and excellent walking country, with superb views to be had from every angle and the possibility of seeing wildlife adding further excitement. The mountains are also home to isolated rural communities of Hutsul people, who use the region for pasture for their flocks.

Day 13 - Chernivtsi - Chisinau
This morning we leave our hosts and drive to Chernivtsi, situated in the foothills of the Carpathians. We will spend a few hours exploring some of the interesting buildings and monuments
in the town and after lunch travels to Chisinau in Moldova. Overnight Hotel Codru or similar (B)

Chernivtsi
The town of Chernivtsi is the capital of the Bucovina region and is has many different ethnic influences from neighboring countries. It is an attractive town surrounded by picturesque mountains and it is seen as a cultural center of Ukraine. It is also full of interesting architecture making it one of Ukraine's most interesting towns.

Chisinau
Chisinau was founded back in the 15th century, as a small monastery village within the province of Moldavia. Falling first to the Ottoman and then the Russian Empire, the city grew over the years and played a major part in the Russo-Turkish war of 1877. Sadly it was bombed extensively during the Second World War and most of the older buildings were destroyed – the city today has been rebuilt on a typical Soviet grid system of streets. It contains one of the highest proportions of green spaces within any major European city, with many parks and lakes within its boundaries.

Day 14 - Chisinau - Capriana Monastery - Hindu Monastery - Codrii - Chisinau
After breakfast we begin a walking tour of the capital, visiting key sites including the Arc de Triomphe, the cathedral, and the Moldovan Parliament. We then head to the village of Capriana to view its 14th-century monastery. We will continue on to the Codrii Nature Reserve where we can take a leisurely walk around the reserve and visit the museum of Nature. Later we return to Chisinau. Overnight Codru Hotel or similar. (BL)

Codrii Reserve
Founded in 1971 Codrii is the oldest nature reserve in Moldova. Its main forest consists of tall oaks and beeches and its boundaries are home to 1000 species of plants, 43 species of mammals and 145 species of birds, some of them close to extinction.

Day 15 - Cricova - Orheiul Vechi - Butuceni
This morning we drive to the vast underground tunnels of the wine cellars of Cricova, and take a train through the tunnels, before enjoying a tasting of some of the wines. We continue to Orheiul Vechi, an impressive monastery complex set amidst dramatic scenery. We will visit the traditional village of Butuceni and have lunch in a rural pension, which includes national Moldovan dishes and home-made wine. This afternoon you will have some leisure time in this traditional village and stay overnight at the rural pension (BLD)

Orheiul Vechi
The Orheiul Vechi Monastery complex is carved into a cliff, and dates back to the 13th century, although it has only recently come back into use after being abandoned in the 18th century. It contains a chapel and a sleeping area for monks, and the cliffside is dotted with small caves and places of worship, dug over thousands of years by ancient Dacian tribes.

Day 16 - Butuceni - Bender - Tiraspol
Cross the border into the breakaway republic of Transdniestr. Head to the city of Tighina, or Bendery, where you can explore the 16th-century fortress and visit the on- site museum. We will visit the War Memorial before continuing onto the capital, Tiraspol. We will have lunch in a Ukrainian restaurant and after lunch, we take a walking tour of Tiraspol, where we will spend the night. Overnight Russia Hotel or similar. (BL)

Transdniestr
Transdniestr is a curious entity, a self- declared republic that is to all intents and purposes a separate state – yet unrecognized by other countries. Historically, like Moldova, it had formed part of the Soviet Union but unlike Moldova, its population is mainly ethnic Russian who are opposed to being incorporated within Moldova. The territory was claimed by Russia following a conflict with the Ottoman Empire back in the 18th century, while the rest of Moldova fell under Turkish control – leading to claims in Transdniestr that it has never been part of Moldova. After the collapse of the Soviet Union Transdniestr declared independence, sparking war with Moldova and although peace reigns now, there is an uneasy relationship. Transdniestr has its own parliament, currency, and border controls, yet few people have ever heard of it.

Day 17 - Tiraspol - Clausen - Et Cetera
This morning we begin with a visit to Causeni town to see its 15th-century church, covered with antique frescoes (the church is currently closed for restoration but we can walk around it). We then move onto the small family winery of Et Cetera, where we will be given a tour by the winemaker himself, with the opportunity to taste some of the award-winning wines. We will then enjoy lunch prepared by the family before returning to Chisinau where the afternoon is at leisure. Enjoy a farewell dinner in a traditional Moldovan restaurant. Overnight Codru Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 18 - Depart
Time at leisure until your departure transfer to the airport (B)

Availability

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Price From $ 3,105
Price Per Day: $ 173 per day
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Checking price
  • Single Supplement (Single Occupancy): $ 404

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Details

Flights & Transport

Only ground transport

Group Size:

Intimate Group - 12 max

Maximum Number of People in Group: 12

Trip ID#:

BelMolUndDes

Trip Excludes

  • International flights
  • Travel Insurance
  • Visas if applicable
  • Meals not included on the itinerary
  • Drinks
  • Tips (discretionary)

Meals Included:

  • Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary

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