Today's independent-minded Europhile Ukraine is changing fast, with a nightlife that would have the Communist old guard rolling in its grave. But, from the snow-topped Carpathian Mountains of the west to the elegant coastal resorts of the Crimean Riviera at its southernmost point, the country and its people remain proudly protective of their Orthodox and Slavonic roots. Sample the bars and clubs of cosmopolitan Kiev and Odessa, or find tranquil spots among the church spires, tree-lined boulevards, and leafy squares of even the glitziest new city centres.
The River Dnieper separates the Russian-speaking industrial heartland of the East from the cosmopolitan cities of the Europhile West. Here, the ancient city of Lviv still keeps its Austro-Hungarian and Polish heritage. Further south, the rolling grasslands of the steppe give way to the rugged cliffs and old aristocratic resorts of the Crimea Peninsula.
If Kiev's Kievo-Pechersky Monastery is the spiritual heart of the country, then bustling Kreshchatik Street is its commercial nucleus. The Potemkin Steps will be recognisable to fans of Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin. But don't overlook Odessa's other Classical, Renaissance and Art Nouveau architectural gems, including its Italian Baroque Opera House. Lviv's Plosha Rynok (or Market Square) marks the centre of its romantic medieval town, while Sevastopol's secret history it was a closed city' until 1995 will make it a magnet for the curious.
If you're the adventurous type then head for the resorts of the Carpathian Mountains, particularly extreme-sports centre Bukovel. Alternatively, discover the secrets of the pastoral Hutsul people among the Carpathians' tiny mountain villages and craft markets. Further north, the fortress city of Kamyanets-Podilsky is one of the earliest settlements of Ancient Rus. On the Crimea's southernmost coast, Yalta's classical villas and vibrant street life make it the perfect summer holiday location.