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I was lucky enough to spend six weeks in Kiev (and three months total in Ukraine) so I got to experience first hand the stellar cuisine the country serves up.

I enjoyed almost every meal during my stay, but these are my top 11 favorite bars and restaurants in Kiev that I recommend to every visitor!

 

1. Pervak

Best for: Ukrainian food
Menu + Map and Reviews

Dan and I befriended a Ukrainian couple on a tour and hung out with them a few times before we left the city. So, we got the inside scoop on where locals eat in Kiev, and Pervak was their top recommendation. This Ukrainian restaurant not only dishes up spectacular dumplings, potato pancakes, and other traditional foods, but also has a great ambiance as well. Live music, eclectic decor, and rooms with different personalities all set the tone for a memorable Ukrainian meal at Pervak.

 

Ramen from Noodle vs. Marketing

 

2. Noodle vs. Marketing

Best for: ramen
Menu + Map and Reviews

My first meal in Kiev was ramen, and I don’t regret it one bit. This tiny shop had a wait but it was worth it because the spicy ramen with kimchi and meat was so freakin’ good. Sizes come in baby and standard (pictured above) which was actually pretty massive. Just note that they don’t have any to-go boxes, so you’ll have to eat everything or throw it away when you go.

 

Burger, fries, and burrito (in the background) from Burger Mexico

 

3. The Burger Mexico

Best for: burgers and burritos
Menu + Map and Reviews

I’m normally pretty skeptical of restaurants that mix cuisines, but the Burger Mexico does it right. This upscale restaurant in Kiev is a little pricey but the barbacoa burrito was spot on and Dan said he enjoyed his burger as well. If you’re looking for a crowd-pleaser in the city, this is your best bet – especially because they have fountain soda with free refills!

 

Enjoying tasty Turkish food at Kebab Dash

 

4. Kebab Dash

Best for: Turkish food
Menu + Map and Reviews

I spent two months in Istanbul before moving to Ukraine and still had some of the best Turkish food I’ve ever eaten right here in Kiev! You can judge a restaurant on how good their basic grilled chicken is, and at Kebab Dash it was the highlight of the meal. We got a huge spread and the bread, hummus, pide, and company were all pretty fab as well

 

Kolo vegan restaurant in Kiev

 

5. Kolo

Best for: vegan food
Menu + Map and Reviews

Neither Dan or I are vegan but we enjoy a nice, healthy, plant-based meal every now and then, especially in Ukraine where the traditional foods are pretty heavy. Kolo is one of the best vegan restaurants in Kiev and has a bunch of plant-based wraps, burgers, soups, and salads. Even better? The restaurant is surprisingly budget-friendly – expect to spend around 100 uah / 4 usd on a meal here.

 

Wood-fired lamb meatball pizza from Mimosa Brooklyn Pizza

 

6. Mimosa Brooklyn Pizza

Best for: wood-fired pizza
Menu (scroll down for English) + Map and Reviews

I’m a sucker for a wood-fired pizza. Plus the place had a chic interior and matching mimosas to go along with it. The menu offers a bunch of unique pizza toppings like lamb meatballs (pictured above) and our pizza also came with a dipping sauce which the Midwestern in me loved. All in all, Mimosa Brooklyn is a solid place for pizza in Kiev.

 

Deliciously unhealthy fried hotdog for less than a dollar

 

7. Kyivska Perepichka

Best for: fried hotdogs
Map and Reviews

This place serves hotdogs in fried dough and that’s it. There’s no seating or indoor space at all – just a window to order at and a line snaking down the street. I went because it has great reviews (I mean, it’s a hotdog in fried dough, how could it not) and didn’t even realize ’til later that Anthony Bourdain also recommends it on the Ukraine episode of No Reservations (watch a short clip here). This is one of the best restaurants in Kiev for a cheap meal or even just a snack while you’re exploring. Hot dogs cost 18 uah / .67 usd each and are as spectacularly delicious as they are unhealthy.

 

Craft beer and ostrich jerky at my favorite Ukrainian brewery

 

8. Varvar Bar

Best for: craft beer
Menu + Map and Reviews

Dan and I drink a lot of craft beer and we both agree that Varvar is our favorite brewery in Ukraine. They’re pretty big so they had 14 of their own beers on tap to choose from. My personal favorite is the Carribean Dream coconut porter but I like the Captain Salt gose a lot as well. The bar itself is pretty nice and looks like any other modern brewery in the US, with the only difference being the crazy low prices – pints of craft beer are only 50 to 60 uah / 2 usd each! Varvar Bar also serves ostrich jerky, horse jerky, and some other fun snacks along with a full menu, but the food is a bit expensive and has mixed reviews online, so I recommend just coming for a few beers before heading to another spot on this list for dinner.

 

Fancy cocktails at Lost & Found Bar

 

9. Lost & Found Bar

Best for: cocktails
Map and Reviews

I must admit I’m not really a cocktail person but Lost & Found bar had such good reviews I wanted to check it out. The bartender was super friendly and suggested drinks based on our preferences, and I kind of felt like I was in a speakeasy in the 20’s because it was so lowkey and atmospheric. If you’re looking for somewhere to chill out or meet new people this is a good choice. Just be aware that cocktails run on the more expensive side for Ukraine at 170 to 200 uah / 6 to 7.50 usd per drink.

 

Chill outdoor space at the lowkey AM Bar

 

10. AM Bar

Best for: homemade flavored liquor
Map and Reviews

The AM Bar is budget-friendly (only 40 or 50 uah / 1.50 to 2 usd per drink) and another lowkey place to chill at night if the rowdy and ridiculous ‘gentlemen’s clubs’ that dot Kiev aren’t really your style. It has indoor and outdoor seating and serves homemade flavored liquor drinks like coffee and apple pie. I don’t know what the base liquor is (vodka?) but I’m kind of a wimp and the alcohol flavor still wasn’t too strong for me to sip on. Even if you’re not really a liquor drinker Ukrainians definitely are, so if you want a little taste of their culture stop by the AM Bar for a drink on your night out in Kiev.

 

Three people taking flaming helmet shots at Palata No. 6

 

11. Palata No. 6

Best for: a weird night
Map and Reviews

Palata No. 6 is a weird place. I think the theme is like an insane asylum, but I can’t be sure. All I know is that there was definitely a girl wrapped in a straight jacket taking shots on a stretcher when we left.

The main draws here are the low prices, rowdy crowd, and flaming helmet shots that involve three drinks, loud whistles, fire, and smashing barrels on your head. I went with a group of four and we ordered a bottle of premium vodka to share, some sparkling water with lime, and a few appetizers and our total come out to only around 700 uah / 26 usd! If you’re on a budget or want to drink until the early hours of the morning, Palata No. 6 is the best bar in Kiev to do so.

 

Map of the Best Bars and Restaurants in Kiev

Ready to hit up some (or all) of my fav bars and restaurants in Kiev? This map includes all 11 spots so you can easily choose the most convenient places for dinner and drinks on your next night out in the city! Click on any of the dropped pins for more information
 

 
 

After you eat your fill at the best restaurants in Kiev, plan the rest of your trip with the Ukraine Series to learn what it’s like inside Chernobyl today (and how to visit the nuclear disaster site),  the 15 best things to do in Kiev (and how to DIY your own walking tour through the city) and so much more!

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Kiev isn’t all Soviet apartment blocks and gray skylines like you may be imagining. In fact, there are plenty of beautiful Instagram spots in the city that are just begging to be photographed and splashed across your profile for the world to see. This guide to the 11 best Instagram spots around Kiev will lead you to the prettiest and most iconic tourist sites in the city!

 

 

1. Independence Square

Independence Square is one of the most popular sites in Kiev. Climb up the stairs behind the monument to get an aerial shot and then have fun wandering around snapping photos of the buildings, glass domes, and street performers as well.

 

 

2. St. Sophia’s Cathedral – Bell Tower

St. Sophia’s Cathedral is 1,000 years old and an iconic piece of Kiev’s history. The church is hard to capture from the ground so pay 60 uah / 2.25 usd to climb the bell tower for the perfect overhead shot of the green and gold spires.

 

 

3. St. Andrew’s Descent

St. Andrew’s Church splashin’ out in super bright colors is enough to draw every photographer to this Instagram spot in Kiev but the whole walk down the hill offers plenty of photo ops as well, from the souvenier stalls, to the historic buildings, to the cobblestone street and everything in between.

 

 

4. Podil Ferris Wheel

It’s like you’re at Coachella, but not at all. I dig this colorful, old-school view of Kiev though, especially with St. Andrew’s Church peeking out behind the Ferris wheel from its perch on the hill.

 

 

5. St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery – Bell Tower

Another church, another bell tower, another gorgeous shot of Kiev for your Instagram. This bell tower costs 60 uah / 2.25 usd to climb up but the entrance to the church is free.

 

 

6. Motherland Monument

Did you know the Motherland Monument is taller than the Statue of Liberty? I recommend wandering around the massive park for a while to try out different shots, and definitely don’t miss the very-Soviet Bowl of Eternal Flames statue while you’re there.

 

 

7. Pechersk Lavra

No photos are allowed in the famous caves so you won’t be able to capture the mummies, but this sprawling monastery system has tons of other beautiful places to snap a pic in any season, especially when the flowers are blooming in the spring!

 

 

8. Landscape Alley

Landscape Alley is definitely one of the most unique Instagram spots around Kiev. This is a must if you want to get cute pics of your kids, but it’s fun for whimsical shots of adults as well.

 

 

9. Vozdvyzhenka Neighborhood

The Vozdvyzhenka neighborhood is a ghost town because the upscale apartments were too expensive and never sold. They’re still kept up in super bright colors though, so they make a great backdrop for Instagram photos. This ‘Make Money Not Art’ sign is probably my fav place in the neighborhood for that kinda-ironic-but-not-really Instagram shot that perfectly represents the spirit of Kiev. 

 

 

Timelapse of Kiev - YouTube

 

10. The Busy Streets of Kiev

I just like this timelapse and wanted a place to put it on my blog. But for those into urban/city photography, the busy streets and fashionable people of Kiev will make great subjects for your Instagram account.

 

 

11. St. Andrew’s Observation Platform

The St. Andrew’s observation platform (you’ll see the metal stairs on your left side as you walk down St. Andrew’s Descent) is a little oasis of green in a busy city. Even better, it has 360-degree views of the Vozdvyzhenka neighborhood, St. Andrew’s Church, and more just begging to be photographed and thrown up on the ‘gram.

 

Where to stay in Kiev to Capture These Shots

If you have only a short time in Kiev, the two best places to stay are the Podil neighborhood or the Pechersk neighborhood.

I lived in the Pechersk neighborhood for six weeks and recommend the artsy and hip Theater Boutique Apart Hotel (where my friends stayed when they visited) or the Aloft Hotel Kiev, a major international chain where you’re basically going to get the same room and service anywhere in the world. These two hotels (or anywhere near them) will have a good location in walking distance to almost everywhere on this list of top Instagram spots in Kiev.

Ready to go? Click here to book your stay in the city!

 

Then plan the rest of your trip with the Ukraine Series to get a pre-mapped walking route of the 15 best things to do in Kiev, learn how to visit Chernobyl, discover 7 reasons why you need to visit Lviv and so much more!

The post 11 Best Instagram Spots Around Kiev appeared first on Slight North.

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If you’re planning a trip to Scandinavia, you’ve heard all the rumors: it gets cold in winter, it never gets dark in the summer and everything is expensive. So when is the best time to visit Scandinavia? Well, whenever you get the chance. Each season has its advantages and disadvantages.

Go in in the winter and you’ll probably freeze and catch a cold, but on the bright side, you might catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Go in the summer and you might be overwhelmed by all the tourists, but you’ve got 24 hours of daylight to see the sights, instead of 12.

Two of the most popular destinations in Scandinavia are Norway and Sweden. They’re both beautiful and similar in many ways and that’s probably why it’s so hard to choose.

Whether you’re looking to settle down for a few months or planning a quick city break, Norway and Sweden are both great choices and if you have the opportunity to visit them both, that’s even better!

Keep reading to see which country I think is the final winner!

 

Northern lights from the Lofoten Islands in Norway

 

Tourist Attractions

From its stunning fjords to its spectacular mountains and glaciers, Norway is all about amazing scenery. Some of the top tourist attractions are…

  • Lofoten Islands, one of the best places to see the Northern Lights
  • Tromso, the largest city in Northern Norway, also known as the “capital of the Arctics”
  • Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen)
  • Viking Ships Museum, Oslo
  • Bygdoy Peninsula
  • Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf, Bergen
  • Vigeland Sculpture Park, home to 650 sculptures created by Gustav Vigeland
  • Atlantic Ocean Road
  • Akershus Fortress, Oslo
  • The Sognefjord Area

With its rich history and varied landscapes, Sweden will not let you down when it comes to amazing destinations:

  • Vasa Museum, Sweden’s most popular museum
  • Gamla Stan (Old Town)
  • Drottningholm Palace, located 11 km west of Stockholm city center
  • Stockholm City Hall, one of Sweden’s most famous buildings
  • Visby, Gotland
  • Liseberg Theme Park, Gothenburg
  • Lund Cathedral
  • Sarek National Park
  • Ales Stenar
  • Oresund Bridge, Malmo

I feel like it wouldn’t be fair to pick a winner when it comes to tourist attraction because both countries offer an amazing experience. While Norway focuses more on amazing landscapes and nature, Sweden offers a lot of cultural and medieval attractions that you won’t find anywhere else. I loved both, so it’s up to you to decide which is closer to your style.

Norway vs Sweden Tourist Attractions Winner: Tie

 

Old town of Gamla Stan in Stockholm, Sweden

 

Ease of Tourism

Being a tourist in a new country means that unless you’re planning on renting a car, you’re limited to public transport.

As much as I love Norway’s amazing landscapes, most of the attractions are in the middle of nature or in the Northern part of the country. Some attractions like Tromso or Lofoten Islands are impossible to reach by public transport and you will need to rent a car or even catch a plane. For example, there are 960 km from Oslo to Lofoten Islands, so if you don’t want to spend your whole trip on the road I recommend a flight to a closer destination, like Bodo, and then taking the ferry to the islands.

Sweden’s most attractions are easily reachable by public transport and don’t require extra efforts like catching a plane or renting a car and because of this, I consider Sweden the winner of this category.

Norway vs Sweden Ease of Transportation Winner: Sweden

 

Hiking in the Lofoten Islands in Norway

 

Nature and Hiking

When I was talking about ease of tourism, I excluded Norway because most of the attractions were in the middle of the mountains or surrounded by fjords. So it’s safe to assume that when it comes to nature and hiking, Norway could easily be on the top of the list.

One of the most popular attractions in Norway is the Preikestolen cliff, which rises 604 meters above the Lysefjorden. There’s also the Trolltunga rock, Gaustatoppen, the highest mountain in the Telemark county and considered one of the most beautiful in Norway.

That doesn’t mean that Sweden does not offer amazing hiking and landscapes. They’ve got the King’s Trail (Kungsleden) which is considered one of the most beautiful hiking trails in the world. Stretching more than 400 km through dark forests, it usually takes a whole month to walk the entire trail, but if you have a solid backpack and enormous dedication to hike it, you’ll find plenty of like-minded travelers along the way.

Norway vs Sweden Nature and Hiking Winner: Norway

 

Nightlife

When it comes to nightlife, the winner between Norway and Sweden is Denmark. But joking aside, if you’re into partying, neither Sweden nor Norway is going to be great for you. They both have pretty early ‘last calls’ when it comes to bars and nightclubs.

While in Norway the bars usually close at 3 a.m on a weekend night, in Sweden’s largest cities you can find bars open until 5 a.m.

Both countries are very strict when it comes to buying alcohol and the prices are very high. Because of this, most people prefer to gather their friends at home and organize house parties instead of going out.

Norway vs Sweden Nightlife Winner: Sweden

 

Fresh bread at a bakery in Stockholm

 

Food

When thinking of Scandinavian cuisine, many people think of pickled herrings, salmon, and meatballs at Ikea. However, Nordic cuisine is quite rich and diverse with distinct differences between countries and even regions.

You can’t talk about Swedish cuisine without mentioning the smorgasbord. Literally translated as “bread and butter table”, the word traditionally describes a table spread of home-cooked food such as beef, meatballs, and smoked fish.

Compared to Sweden, the cuisine in Norway is more heavily based on fish. Its coastlines and many fjords produce vast quantities of varieties such as salmon, mackerel, and cod, and of course, the Norwegian herring.

I loved the food in both countries, and since I’m no expert, they tasted pretty similar. But, I felt like there was more variety in Sweden.

Norway vs Sweden Food Winner: Sweden

 

The Overall Winner of Norway vs Sweden is…

Sweden! Although it’s difficult to choose since everyone values different things on their holiday, I feel like Sweden is a more touristy destination.

Norway is stunning with amazingly beautiful scenery, but you will need a lot of time, money and flexibility to be able to visit all the great attractions. If you’re looking for a quick city break with lots of things to do in a short time, Sweden is the place to go.

I hope my Norway vs. Sweden comparison gives you a bit of insight into what both countries provide. Good thing is, they are so close together you can easily visit them both if you plan smartly!

 

Nick is a programmer turned backpacker who loves to travel and explore both famous and off-the-beaten-path destinations. He is sharing his tips and experiences as the founder of Global Backpackers.

Still not sure where you want to go next? Explore the Country Comparison series for more showdowns in Europe (and around the world) from major players like England vs. Scotland to lesser visited destinations like Macedonia vs. Albania and many more in between!

The post Norway vs. Sweden: Which Should You Visit? appeared first on Slight North.

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I ducked my head under a low stone doorway and continued down the dark stairs into the basement. Heavy metal blasted through the speaker system and a man in overalls gave me a too-small hard hat to wear as we emerged into a… coffee mine?

My husband, Dan, and I sat down at our first of nine themed restaurants in Lviv and the waiter promptly set our coffee on fire.

 

Flaming Coffee at Lviv Coffee Manufacture in Ukraine - YouTube

 

Why are there so many themed restaurants in this Western Ukrainian city? I did a little digging during my five-week stay and found that almost all of them belong to one company: !FEST Holding of Emotions.

In 2007, three men got together and decided it was time for a change in the restaurant industry. “At the moment it was a lot of restaurants in Lviv, but there were no concept restaurants,” Tarek, my PR contact at !FEST, told me on an extended interview at the company’s sprawling offices. “You just go there and you get some nice food and stuff, and that’s it. But we started with this emotional part of the restaurant.”

The company sought to enhance the restaurant experience by focusing on something they deemed even more important than the food: the atmosphere.

 

Pravda Beer Theater, a craft brewery by !FEST Holding

 

!Fest Holding’s first venture, Diana, was (and still is) an outdoor cafe with dance lessons in the city’s central Rynok Square. But it was Kyrivka, their second venture, that quickly exploded in popularity and kickstarted their growth. Now the company has 20 different concept restaurants with more than 80 locations in Ukraine and abroad in places like Baku, Azerbaijan, and Krakow, Poland. The majority are in Lviv where the company was born, and Tarek tells me that !FEST Holding employs more than 2,000 people in the city.

What spurred the company’s phenomenal growth in the past 12 years, and why are their themed restaurants so popular? I ate at quite a few of the !Fest Holding establishments and decided that, for me, it comes down to a combination of three things.

First, the food is actually, surprisingly, pretty good at all of them. No two restaurants have the same menu so each establishment provides a completely different culinary experience.

Second, they’re not too kitschy or overdone. If, like me, you’re not a Disneyland-visiting, cruise-taking, Hard Rock Cafe-eating type tourist, don’t worry. Most !FEST Holding restaurants are more subtle than other themed restaurants you may be imagining like Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Company or the Rainforest Cafe.

Third, and most importantly, many of the concept restaurants showcase a unique aspect of Lviv’s history. Just like visiting a museum, tourists can learn more about the city every time they sit down to dinner.

 

Interior of the Kryivka bar

 

Let’s return to Kryivka. It serves traditional Ukrainian food and is described online only as being ‘somewhere in Rynok Square.’

We knocked on the unmarked door when we found it and an armed guard answered, demanding the password. Prepared by the Tripadvisor reviews of the visitors before us, we shouted “Slava Ukrainy!” (and then again in English, just for good measure, “Glory to Ukraine!”).  

Password procured, the old guard put down his gun and pushed a communal tin cup of vodka into our hands instead. We dutifully passed it around before descending into the underground bunker, one of the last hiding spots of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army during World War II, now repurposed by !FEST Holding into something part restaurant, part bar, and part military museum, complete with dress-up outfits and fake guns.

 

Entrance to the Gas Lamp Pub

 

A few blocks away, another !Fest venture called the Gas Lamp Pub rises four stories up a rickety spiral staircase and showcases one of the largest collections of gas lamps in the world. Why? The inventors of the gas lamp, Jan Zech and Ignacy Lukasiewicz, were local pharmacists from Lviv, so the restaurant display shares their legacy with every visitor who passes through.

In the same way, the Masoch-cafe, with suggestive art and whip-toting waiters, celebrates Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, another Lviv local and an erotic writer who coined a term you just might recognize: masochism.

 

One of many Drunk Cherry locations built into an old barrel

 

The rapidly expanding chain of Drunk Cherry bars serves the same cherry wine that generations of Ukrainians before them brewed from the regions’ abundant cherry trees and Lviv Coffee Mining Manufacture, with the blowtorch-wielding waiters, commemorates one-third of what I quickly learn to appreciate are the city’s three famous fares: coffee, chocolate, and beer.

Because of !FEST Holding, eating out in Lviv isn’t just about the food anymore. “You go to spend time, you go to have the atmosphere,” Tarek explains, “You go to see the legends of the city.”

 

Plan your trip to Lviv with the Ukraine Series to discover the 32 best things to do along with the top bars, best cheap eats, complete craft beer guide, and so much more!

The post Why Are There So Many Themed Restaurants in Lviv? appeared first on Slight North.

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I was given free access to this plugin in order to write an Amalinks Pro review but all opinions are my own. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff!

Most importantly, is Amalinks worth the price?

Of course, that’s up to every website owner to decide for themselves, but I’ll share a bit about what I like about the plugin and why I recommend it in this complete Amalinks Pro review – let’s get started!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Amalinks Pro?

Amalinks is a WordPress plugin for Amazon Affiliates. It connects directly to the Amazon API so you can easily create product showcases and add affiliate links, images, and buttons to your blog posts without ever leaving your WordPress editor.

This not only makes writing reviews and adding Amazon affiliate links to your articles faster and easier than ever before, it can also increase sales and your affiliate revenue because using buttons instead of text links can increase click-through rates. Amalinks Pro also has an additional Table Builder add on  to build product comparison tables in your reviews.

You can see a product showcase, Amazon approved buttons, and the Table Builder plugin in use in my Osprey Farpoint 55 review or throughout this article. You can also check out this demo video to learn exactly how it works in less than ten minutes (yes, it seriously is that easy even for non-techy people like me).

 

Osprey Packs Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack, Volcanic Grey, Medium/Large
  • Large panel zip access to main compartment
  • Lockable sliders on main compartment zipper
  • Stowaway backpanel, harness and hipbelt with zippered rear flap for protection
  • Laptop and tablet sleeve secure in lockable compartment
  • Two internal compression straps hold contents securely
  • Heat-embossed scratch-free zippered slash pocket
  • Padded top and side handles

Prices/Images/Reviews pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on the respective Amazon site that you are redirected to at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Amalinks product showcase for the Osprey Farpoint 55 backpack

 

How Much Does Amalinks Pro Cost?

The Amalinks Pro Basic package without the optional table builder extension costs $67 per year and can be used on up to five websites. The Premium version includes the table builder and can be used on 25 websites at a time. This costs $197 per year.

If subscriptions aren’t really your thing, you can also choose the Platinum package which requires a one-time payment of $497 and can be used on unlimited websites for the rest of your life. Nice!

Click here to compare Amalinks packages to find the best fit for your site.

 

Amazon compliant ‘Buy Now’ button from Amalinks – you can customize the text and color to create your own buttons as well.

 

Perks of Using Amalinks Pro for Amazon Affiliates

The two major perks of using Amalinks, in my personal opinion, are that my site gives a better first impression because the table, showcases, and Amazon buttons in my reviews look so professional, and, of course, that I make more money!

I had an Osprey Farpoint 55 backpack review on my site for eight months with no affiliate sales. When I updated it with the Amalinks showcase and Amazon buttons I made my first sale the next day. Seriously. It’s been one month since then and I can tell that the clean look of the review makes me seem like more of an authority because I also got my first two comments on the post from people looking for more information on my experience with the bag.

The month since I started using the Amalinks Pro plugin is also my highest earning Amazon affiliate month to date (excluding the spike in December sales before Christmas, but this month was only a few cents off from that even with no major holidays coming up), so I’m definitely happy with the results so far.

 

ImageTitlePricePrimeBuy
Osprey Packs Farpoint 55 Travel Backpack, Volcanic Grey, Medium/LargeBuy Now
Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack, BlackBuy Now
TETON Sports Explorer 4000 Internal Frame Backpack; High-Performance Backpack for Backpacking, Hiking, Camping; Metallic SilverBuy Now
MOUNTAINTOP 40L Hiking Backpack for Outdoor Camping-Buy Now
Loowoko Hiking Backpack 50L Travel Camping Backpack with Rain Cover for Outdoor (Green)Buy Now
Deuter ACT Lite 65+10 Hiking Backpack - Discontinued, Pine/GraniteXBuy Now
Fjallraven Abisko Friluft 45 - 45 Liter Lightweight Advanced Trekking BackpackBuy Now

Prices accurate as of:

Product comparison table built with the Amalinks Table Builder 

 

Is Amalinks Pro Worth the Price?

Now for the most important question in this Amalinks Pro review – is the WordPress plugin worth the price tag? I didn’t pay for Amalinks so this is a hard question to answer but I’ll try my best.

I know for new bloggers paying for a plugin is a big investment. If your website isn’t review heavy and you’re not getting a ton of traffic to the site, then I’d hold off on buying Amalinks and focus on creating great content for the time being.

But if you do have high traffic or are planning on monetizing specifically as an Amazon Affiliate, then yes, this plugin can help increase your sales. The Basic plan will let you include product showcases and official Amazon ‘buy now’ button on your reviews and throughout all of the blog posts on your site for only $67 per year. So if you’re thinking Amalinks could be a good fit, I’d say click here to try it out for one year and add up your Amazon sales at the end – if you make significantly more than the price you paid then you, my friend, have made a good purchase.

Personally, I love clean and professional look Amalinks gives my reviews and know it gives off a great first impression to new readers. Of course, I’m loving the increased revenue as well! It’s easy to use, doesn’t conflict with any of my current plugins, and is all around a great choice for Amazon Affiliates.

If you pull the trigger and try it out, let me know what you think in the comments below! And if you found this Amalinks Pro review helpful and are ready to get started, click here to learn more about the plugin!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making money from your blog may not be easy, but it’s definitely possible. Learn how to improve your SEO and get more organic traffic with the super easy guide to basic SEO for travel bloggers, check out 24 (mostly free) travel blogging resources for beginners, and then explore the complete Travel Blogging Series to learn more!  

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“Lancaster? I’ve never heard of it.”

When I told my friends and family I was visiting England for a weekend, they all assumed I was going to London. Inevitably, when I corrected them, this was their response.

But, one of my best friends from my teaching days in Abu Dhabi is from Lancaster (and more importantly, RyanAir tickets to get there were hella cheap) so I bought a flight to the nearby city of Manchester and spent the weekend in Rachel’s family home.  

It was my first time in England and it. was. fantastic.

In fact, I loved the city so much I’m already trying to convince myself I can afford to spend six months in the UK next year, and reminiscing on everything we saw, ate, and did (but mostly ate) in Lancaster in this article is making a very persuasive argument…

[Click here to compare flight prices on Skyscanner and find the best deals to the UK!]

 

If you look closely, you can see the Ashton Memorial (with the pale green dome) in the distance.

 

Lancaster UK Travel Guide: Top Attractions in the City

Rachel completely planned out the weekend outlined below to ensure we only saw the best of the best and got a truly English experience along the way – yes, that includes a pub crawl and a lot of unhealthy food.

If you’re looking for a super cultural guide to Lancaster with lots of museums and historical sites, this may not be for you. But if you want to experience a varied mix of food, drinks, and the top attractions, this Lancaster UK travel guide from a local has everything you need for a fabulous trip!  

 

1. Ashton Memorial in Williamson Park

Will you lose all trust in me if I tell you this was the one thing on our list we didn’t end up doing?

Ashton Memorial is located in Williamson Park and set high up on a hill overlooking Lancaster. You can see it from multiple points in the city.

Unfortunately, there was a weekend-long music festival in the park while we were there so we weren’t able to visit. But, Rachel wanted to take us there (which is the spirit of this article, dammit) and lamented the fact and we all missed out on some expansive views of Lancaster from above.

 

Lancaster Castle near the center of the city

 

2. Lancaster Castle and Priory

While I did get a bit of culture visiting the Lancaster Castle and Priory, I didn’t actually take the castle tour (in my defense it was closed for a private event) but I can still give ya all the info you need to know to do it.

The Lancaster Castle is 1,000 years old and offers hour-long tours 8 gbp / 10 usd per person. They run from 9:30 am to 5 pm daily.

The Priory next door (which just means church if you’re an uncultured swine like me and have never head the word before) is open from 9:15 am to 4 pm every day and entrance is free. Both are quite beautiful from the outside but I still recommend popping your head into the Priory when you’re passing by if you get the chance.

 

Consuming way too much food during afternoon tea at the Royal King’s Arms Hotel

 

3. Afternoon Tea

No Lancaster UK travel guide would be complete without afternoon tea, so we imbibed in the old English tradition at the Royal King’s Arms Hotel.

The serving size is large so I recommend splitting one order between two people. Each ‘Edward VII’ tower of deliciousness came with smoked salmon, beef, ham, and cheese sandwiches, cheesecake, sponge cake, a scone with clotted cream and jam, and a mini donut. You can also opt for the less traditional ‘Dickens’ service which includes cheese, a scotch egg, a quiche, and a sausage roll as well.

Both come with a pot of tea and we opted to enjoy a cheeky glass of prosecco as well to truly feel like English royalty. The total bill came out to 66 gbp / 83 usd for three, and you can see the full afternoon tea menu here to plan your trip.

 

I don’t have any photos from my pub crawl so enjoy this pic of the pretty streets of Lancaster instead.

 

4. Pub Crawl

Old habits die hard. Rachel, Dan, and I drank a lot together when we lived in Abu Dhabi and I’m not ashamed to admit we drank our way through this town as well. So, of course, my Lancaster UK travel guide includes a walking route for your very own pub crawl!

The city may not have as many attractions as London or Manchester but I’ll be damned if everyone we talked to didn’t have a different opinion on which pubs we should visit, and narrowing down the list for our bar crawl was a difficult endeavor.

In the end, it was still a bit ambitious, but this was our intended route through the city with the ones we actually reached in bold.

  • Merchants 1688 (yes, that’s really the year it was founded)
  • The Robert Gillow
  • The Sun Hotel & Bar
  • The Borough (housed in the old Mayors’ home and named the best pub in Lancaster in 2016)
  • The White Cross
  • Lancaster Brewery

Yeah, I know we only made it to three out of six and we’re pathetic but dammit we tried our best! If you think you can do better, here’s a map of the entire bar crawl through the city for you to follow. 

 

Lancaster UK pub crawl walking route

 

5. Coffee District

If you get a lil’ sleepy on the pub crawl, stop for a pick-me-up in Lancaster’s coffee district. There are plenty of places to choose from around town, but we ultimately ended up at Atkinsons, which produces much of the coffee for the surrounding cafes and shops in the city.

It was just as hipster as you’d expect a coffee shop to be in 2019 and was a nice, bright, airy spot to grab an espresso before continuing on our very merry way.

 

Fish, chips, mushy peas, and gravy from the Arnside Chip Shop.

 

6. Round Out Your Night With Fish n’ Chips

Last but certainly not least on my Lancaster UK travel guide is a culinary staple in England – fish and chips. Unsurprisingly, the best fish n’ chip spot in Lancaster isn’t even in the city proper. Instead, this hidden gem is on the coast but oh so worth the trek.

The Arnside Chip Shop (or chippy, as the locals call it) is a typical spot with a casual counter and a line out the door. Here, your patience will be rewarded with a box of piping fresh fish and chips just begging to be enjoyed on the outdoor picnic tables.

Of course, when at the chippy, do as the locals do. Rachel instructed me to order fish, chips, mushy peas, gravy, and a battered sausage. It was a ton of food (Dan and I at least split the sausage) but her recs were dead on – everything was freakin’ delicious. The gravy, in particular, is essential to a successful fish and chips experience and you should dip your fries in it for maximum enjoyment of the meal.

All in all Dan and I paid 21 gbp / $26.50 usd for two orders of fish n’ chips, two gravies, two mushy peas, a battered sausage, bottled water, and soda, so it was a pretty solid deal as well.

 

Bonus: 3 Lancaster, UK Day Trips

Lancaster has a great location in England near major cities, small towns coastal towns, and protected natural sites. Use this Lancaster UK travel guide to visit all three on easy day trips from the city! 

 

Coastal walk with the town of Heysham in the distance

 

1. Heysham

Distance from Lancaster: 6 miles
How to get there: 2X bus toward Morcambe fro the Lancaster Bus Station (Stand 16). Click here for more details.

Heysham is such a cute little town and while it’s nice to wander around in, the main draw is the coastal walk. The 5 km / 3 mile / 1-hour walk along the water between Heysham and Morecambe is gorgeous and impeccably maintained. After you complete it, reward yourself with afternoon tea in the conservatory at the Midlands Hotel (a local favorite in Morecambe) to immediately consume all of the calories you just burned.

 

Lakeside walk around Windemere Lake

 

2. Windemere (Lakes District)

Distance from Lancaster: 30 miles
How to get there: Direct trains run through Northern Rail and take 45 minutes. Tickets cost 15 gbp / 19 usd per person – click here for more details.

The town of Windemere has everything you didn’t know you needed in an English village – trendy restaurants, cute shops, lakeside trails, rocky beaches, bobbing sailboats, waterfront views – I mean, what more could you want? If you drive to it you can continue on to more lakeside towns through the 912 square mile Lakes District National Park, but even if you come by train and Windemere is all you see, I know you’ll enjoy it.

 

Chetham’s Library, the oldest public library in the English speaking world

 

3. Manchester

Distance from Lancaster: 55 miles
How to get there: Direct trains run through Northern Rail and take an hour and 15 minutes. Tickets cost 6.50 gbp / 8 usd and up – click here for more details.

I only spent a couple of hours in Manchester but that was enough to fall in love.

While here, walk down the pedestrian-only Market Street and visit the Manchester Cathedral before taking a free tour of Chetham’s Library. For photographers and pop culture fans, this is where the restricted section of the library in Harry Potter was filmed. For historians, it’s also where Karl Marx penned the Communist Manifesto. Afterward, grab a drink in the beer garden at Sinclair’s Oyster Bar, an old, picturesque black and white pub in the center of town.

If you still have time, take a walk through the trendy Northern Quarter before enjoying dinner at one of the best restaurants in Manchester. On the weekends, make sure to try the traditional Sunday roast before you go!  

Ready to visit Lancaster? Compare flights on Skyscanner to find the best deals to the UK and then click here to book your stay!

 

If you’re still not sure about your UK travel plans, read the England vs. Scotland country comparison to help you decide which one is right for you. Then, plan your trip with my tried and true packing list that fits in a carry on bag!  

The post A Local’s Guide to Lancaster, UK appeared first on Slight North.

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I spent six weeks in Kiev and was able to explore a lot of the city during that time.

When some friends came to visit for the weekend, though, I found myself really pondering the best things to do in Kiev during their short stay. So, I narrowed it down to this list, half of which you can see in one day on your own DIY walking tour of the city (I’ll give you all the details on that below, of course).

Ready to go? Use this guide to explore all that Kiev has to offer!

 

Frescoes inside St. Sophia’s Cathedral

 

1. St. Sophia’s Cathedral

St. Sophia is a 1,000-year-old cathedral in the middle of the city. It’s now surrounded by a monastery and a 200 uah / 7.60 usd ticket will get you access to the church itself, the bell tower, and all of the surrounding buildings. It’s one of the best things to do in Kiev because the whole area is a UNESCO site, but the interior of the church, covered floor to ceiling in frescoes, is undoubtedly the highlight. It’s dark, it’s brooding, and it’s a perfect place to really feel the weight of this city’s long history.

 

Monument in Independence Square

 

2. Independence Square

Independence Square is most interesting because of its recent history. In 2014 it was the site of the bloody Revolution of Dignity, in which 100 people, mostly students, were killed in protest of their pro-Russia president. I recommend watching Winter on Fire on Netflix to learn more about it so you can feel the true impact of this site when you visit. A museum to the revolution is in the works but for now, there are plaques up at the site that will walk you through the timeline as well.

 

The pedestrian street running from St. Andrew’s Church to Podil

 

3. St. Andrew’s Descent

St. Andrew’s Descent is the best place to buy souvenirs when you visit Kiev. Unless you want to walk uphill, just make sure you start at the top at St. Andrew’s Church. It’s closed to visitors for repairs (2019) but you can still pay 20 uah / .75 usd to get a panoramic view of the city from the walkway around it. Then, walk down the pretty cobblestone street browsing the art and souvenirs sold by the vendors on both sides of the road.

 

Kiev from above

 

4. Mount Uzdyhalnytsya Observation Platform

If you don’t want to pay for the St. Andrew’s viewpoint you can visit another one for free on the descent. Keep an eye out for a metal staircase on the side of the road that leads to the observation platform (or click here to find it on Google Maps). A quick climb will take you up onto a hill with a view of St. Andrew’s church on one side and the colorful Vozdvyzhenka neighborhood on the other.

 

Decaying bumper cars in the Pripyat ghost town in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

 

5. Chernobyl

The site of the worst nuclear disaster in history is only two hours from Kiev. You can only visit on a guided tour because the 30 km Exclusion Zone around the site is still heavily restricted. Tours cost $100 per person and must be booked at least two days in advance. Click here to read about my experience at the site. If you don’t have time for a full tour, you can also plan a visit to the Ukrainian National Chornobyl Museum instead.

 

Kiev Toilet History Museum

 

6. The Toilet Museum

The Toilet History Museum is a little strange but that’s what makes it one of the best things to do in Kiev! It only costs 50 uah / 2 usd per person and entrance comes with a free guided tour in English.

I actually learned a lot about the history of sanitation but most of it boils down to the fact that living in the Middle Ages was an unending nightmare. It’s also the home of the largest collection of toilet-related memorabilia in the world – as recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records – and is a fun place to stop for an hour on your visit to Kiev.

 

7. Eat Ukrainian Food

Obviously, this is a must. Ukraine has actually become one of my absolute favorite food countries – along with Mexico – which came as a complete surprise to me, but a welcome one. While you’re in Kiev try:

  • Borscht – beetroot soup
  • Dumplings – with meat and with potatoes
  • Salo – slices of fat on bread
  • Chicken Kiev – fried chicken with butter inside
  • Potato pancakes – pretty self-explanatory

My friends are Kiev locals and they recommended Pervak Kiev and the Opanas restaurant, both of which I personally tried and both of which are fantastic not just for the food but for the ambiance as well.

[Click here to book your stay in Kiev]

 

Ukrainian craft beer and ostrich jerky at Varvar Bar

 

8. Drink Ukrainian Beer

Getting drunk is always one of the best things to do in Kiev, especially when the weather isn’t cooperating with your travel itinerary. Ukraine has a surprisingly mature craft beer scene and the best brewery in Kiev (and the whole country, in my opinion) is called Varvar.

Their bar is a bit out of the way but so worth a stop if you can make it. They had 14 of their own beers on tap when we went and pints were only 50 to 60 uah / about 2 usd each. If it’s available, I strongly recommend the Carribean Dream, a coconut porter that’s truly one of the best beers I’ve ever had the pleasure to drink.

Varvar also has interesting snacks like ostrich and horse jerky on the menu but the food is a bit expensive. Like most breweries, it’s not super lively at night so it’s better for an afternoon drink before dinner out on the town.

 

The Motherland Monument is taller than the Statue of Liberty

 

9. Motherland Monument

This is definitely one of the most impressive tourist attractions in Kiev because it’s bigger than the Statue of Liberty! The Motherland Monument was built by the Soviets in 1981 as a war memorial for Soviet soldiers. It also has a huge park around it with tanks and helicopters on display, a World War II Museum, the Bowl of Eternal Fire, and a lot more.

You can pay 70 uah / 2.65 usd to visit the lower viewing platform (36 meters) or 300 uah / 11 usd to go the upper platform (91 meters) or, of course, admire it from the outside for free.

 

The sprawling Pechersk Lavra Monastery system

 

10. Pechersk Lavra Caves

The massive Pechersk Lavra Monastery system is within walking distance from the Motherland Monument so I recommend visiting them both in one go. There’s a ton to see in the monastery but, having already visited so many churches in the city, I opted to visit only the caves when I went. They’re free, but you should pay a small donation to get a candle to light your way through them. Monks lived in them and their mummies are buried there… it’s pretty spooky and a memorable stop in Kiev for sure.

 

Beaches dot the islands in downtown Kiev

 

11. Island Beaches

Catching some sun at the beach is one of the best things to do in Kiev in the summer. Just keep in mind, though, that the beaches in Kiev are really just for sunbathing and day drinking because the river is too polluted to swim in. This list of the best beaches in the city had plenty of private clubs and free stretches of sand to choose from.

 

Children’s Landscape Park in the quirky Landscape Alley

 

12. Landscape Alley

This small walkway has a bunch of cute and quirky sculptures along it, but the main draw is Children’s Landscape Park where you can snap pictures in the mouths of sculpted cats and other absolutely adorable creatures.

[Click here to book your stay in Kiev]

 

St. Michael’s in downtown Kiev

 

13. St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery

St. Michael’s is just down the street from St. Sophia’s Cathedral but free to visit. Stop in to see the massive gold-detailed altar. You can also pay a small fee (about 60 uah / 2 usd if I remember correctly) to visit a small museum and climb the bell tower as well (although I think St. Sophia’s bell tower offers better views if you’re debating between the two).

 

Central Podil

 

14. Podil Neighborhood

The Podil neighborhood is one of the most popular in Kiev and for good reason. It’s one of the most concentrated areas of bars and restaurants in the city and extremely walkable with the main street and square permanently closed to traffic. I recommend coming in the afternoon for champagne and oysters on the stairs of the Naprosecco restaurant while you watch the world go by.

 

Colorful streets in the Vozdvyzhenka neighborhood

 

15. Vozdvyzhenka Barrio

Last but not least on my list of the 15 best things to do in Kiev is a walk through the Vozdvyzhenka Barrio. This historic district next to Podil was totally flipped by developers hoping to turn it into luxury accommodation. But, the ultra-expensive apartments went on sale right as the housing market crashed so most still sit empty today, turning the neighborhood into a ghost town.

There are shops and restaurants on the streets, but walking through, you’ll definitely feel that something’s just off – still, the brightly painted and super ornate buildings make a fun backdrop for photos of the city.  

 

How to Create Your Own DIY Kiev Walking Tour

If you want to see most of this list of the best things to do in Kiev in one go, this walking route is for you. Go at your own pace on this DIY walking tour of Kiev and finish with lunch in the popular Podil neighborhood. From there, if you still want to see more, simply call an Uber to the Motherland Monument to visit the last two stops on the itinerary below. 

 

 

1. Begin at Independence Square

2. Walk 10 minutes / 650 m to St. Sophia’s Cathedral

3. Walk 6 minutes / 500 m to St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery

4. Walk 6 minutes / 450 m to Children’s Landscape Park

5. Walk 7 minutes / 500 m to St. Andrew’s Church and the descent

6. Walk 3 minutes / 201 m to the Observation Platform

7. Walk 6 minutes / 500 m to the Vozdvyzhenka Barrio

8. Walk 14 minutes / 1.1 km to central Podil where you can sit down for lunch and drinks and rest your weary feet.  

9. If you still have energy after eating, take an Uber to the Motherland Monument. It should take about 20 to 25 minutes and cost around 100 uah / 4 usd.

10. Finally, if you’re superhuman and STILL want to see more of Kiev, walk to the Pechersk Lavra Monastery and cave system to finish your day. It’s about 1.5 km away and will take about 20 minutes.

Ready to visit Kiev?

Compare flights on Skyscanner to find the best deals and then click here to book your stay in the city! I recommend staying in the Pecherskyj neighborhood (especially near the Bessarabsky Market area) to be near restaurants, bars, and tourist attractions.

Finally, plan your itinerary with the Ukraine Series for more insider tips on what to do, see, eat, and explore when you go!

The post 15 Best Things to Do in Kiev + DIY Walking Tour Route appeared first on Slight North.

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The ability to actually get inside Chernobyl, the site of the worst nuclear disaster the world has ever seen, was one of the main reasons why I came to Ukraine.

Of course, during my three-month stay I found that the country has vibrant cities, delicious food, welcoming people, and so much more to see and discover than just this one (very compelling) destination.

Still, I was intrigued by the very-close-to-being-almost-completely-apocalyptic disaster and the eerie photos I’d seen online, so on our last weekend in Kiev Dan and I finally pulled the $200 trigger and visited Chernobyl.

This is what it’s like inside today.

 

Decaying Soviet Ferris wheel in Pripyat, never used because it was set to open five days after the disaster

 

Where is Chernobyl?

If you’re anything like I was before I came to Ukraine, you probably can’t find Chernobyl, or even Kiev, on a map. The capital city is located in a northern but central part of the country and Chernobyl is two hours further north from there, located only 12 miles from the Belarusian border (which is why Belarus actually took the brunt of the radioactive fallout from the disaster).

 

How to Visit Chernobyl in 2019

The only way to get inside Chernobyl since the disaster is with a guided tour. There are plenty to choose from online and there’s no need to be very picky – each one is exactly the same because each one follows a very specific route going through only the areas deemed safe to visit in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

This zone encompasses 1,000 square miles (drawn as a 30 km circle around the site) and has two police checkpoints. The first is at the entrance to the first 30 km circle and a second at the more dangerous 10 km mark.

To pass through these checkpoints you need your passport and an electronic ticket from your tour company that matches it exactly. No one is allowed in on their own.

I used what seems to be one of the most popular operators – simply called Chernobyl Tour – and their tours cost $100 per person, increasing to $150 per person if you book on short notice (three days out). Because each visitor needs to be registered with the police before arrival at the site, tours close the day before they depart.

 

Overgrown home in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

 

Do people still live in Chernobyl?

Yes, but only illegally. A couple of hundred resettlers have returned to their homes inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone despite orders not to. Other than that there are also people who work at the Chernobyl power plant (but live outside of the zone and enter by train every day) and some workers who do actually live inside the town of Chernobyl, but only on 15-day shifts.

 

Is Chernobyl safe to visit?

Yep. Every person on our tour was given a dosimeter to wear around their necks and track their radiation exposure during the tour. At the end of the day, they reported that our group, on average, received only .002 millisieverts (mSv) of radiation during the eight hours we spent inside Chernobyl. That’s similar to the dose we’d receive during 24 hours in Kiev or on a one-hour airplane flight.

Teams of men called “liquidators” washed everything inside the Exclusion Zone after the explosion. Anything deemed too contaminated – like the entire Red Forest (given its name because the pine trees absorbed so much radiation they turned red) and all of the houses in the town of Kopachi – were razed and buried beneath the ground instead.

Of course, there are other areas inside Chernobyl that we couldn’t visit because the radiation levels are still too high, like the basement of the Pripyat hospital where the original 30 liquidators left their clothes after fighting the fire at the plant. Because of their proximity to the reactor, the liquidators’ clothes were so contaminated that the basement is still one of the most dangerous places inside Chernobyl today (and no, you won’t see it on your tour).

 

Homes left in disarray inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

 

Inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone – Tour Itinerary

Our tour started with a two-hour drive from Kiev to the first checkpoint at the entrance to the Exclusion Zone. One the drive we were given a run-down of the rules – no eating outside of the bus, smoke only in designated areas, touch as little as you can, don’t take anything (duh) and wear long sleeves, pants, and close-toed shoes. We watched a quick 30-minute documentary about the event and then we were at the gates!

We went on a Saturday, the busiest day of the week, in May and our guide told us that there were about 800 other people on tours inside Chernobyl that day – in the high season that number jumps to 1500, so getting through the checkpoint was a bit time-consuming. We drank some coffee, picked up our dosimeters, and then we were off to our first stop inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

 

Abandoned grocery store in Zalissya

 

1. Zalissya

Zalissya is an abandoned Soviet town just inside the borders of the Exclusion Zone. We hopped out of the bus and were given 20 minutes to walk around the now heavily forested town. I was surprised we were allowed to go into the collapsing buildings, including houses, barns, a doctors office, and a grocery store.

Because we were set loose on our own, I was able to stand completely alone in a silent home surrounded by overgrown trees and greenery and it was a truly surreal experience.

 

2. Second Checkpoint

Next, we arrived at the second checkpoint, called Leliv, where we entered the 10 km zone. Our tickets and passports were checked again but by then the many tour buses were more spread out and it went faster than the first.

 

Abandoned Soviet radar system

 

3. Radar Duga-1

This massive abandoned radar is actually completely unrelated to Chernobyl but was one of the most memorable stops on our visit. The Soviets built it to bounce radar signals around the earth to the US to see if we had set off any nuclear missiles.

Because the signals went over the North Pole there was a lot of interference and it never quite worked (although our guide insisted it was getting close). It was abandoned after the explosion when the computers’ ventilators sucked in contaminated air and – unable to be washed – were deemed unusable.

The most impressive part of the radar was the sheer scale of the thing, which rose 443 feet above our heads and was 984 feet long, and the great lengths the Soviets went to hide it by growing an entire forest around the site.

 

 

Geiger counters going off in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone - YouTube

Listen to this video clip with the sound on to hear the Geiger counters reporting high levels of radioactive contamination.

 

4. The Underground Town of Kopachi

Kopachi was so highly contaminated that all of the homes had to be bulldozed and buried underground. All that remains today is a decaying kindergarten, which we were able to go inside, and some radiation hotspots. Listen to the video above to hear our groups Geiger counters going off the rails from the increased levels of radioactive contamination.

 

Hearty lunch on the Chernobyl tour

 

5. Panoramic Photo Stop + Lunch

Next, we got our first glimpse of the power plant itself. Our bus made a quick stop on the roadside for panoramic photos of the Chernobyl power plant and the two cooling towers. One was abandoned while it was still under construction and is still surrounded by rusting cranes and building equipment, left untouched for 33 years.

Then it was time for lunch in the cafeteria which honestly wasn’t that bad. I had read some ominous reviews but the food was fine – soup, salad, chicken, rice, juice and a dessert – and filled me up. It wasn’t gourmet, but it did the job. You can add lunch to your tour when you buy it online for $5 extra or pack your own and eat it on the bus.

In the cafeteria, we also had our first radiation check, where we got into a device like a metal detector one by one to ensure nothing was contaminated before we ate.

 

New Safe Confinement cover over the radioactive ruins of Reactor 4

 

6. Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant

After lunch, we finally visited the plant itself. It felt a bit ironic that something that had caused so much decay around it was the only thing in the area that was actually well-kept and modern.

People still work on the site maintaining the area and clearing out the nuclear waste. Reactor 4 – the one that exploded – is covered by a New Safe Confinement system that was installed in 2016 (for a cool 1.5 billion dollars) to cover the deteriorating sarcophagus. Below this utterly unassuming front is a deadly mess of radioactive debris, but standing outside in the warm sunshine it was really hard to wrap my mind around that.

Our tour guide told us that reactors one through three were actually reopened and used only a few months after the explosion all the way up until the last one was finally decommissioned in 2000. They had to remain in use because Ukraine was so dependent on nuclear energy and still is today – 40% of the country runs on it in 2019. 

 

New growth over the buried remains of the Red Forest

 

7. Red Forest + Pripyat Welcome Sign

Our tour had a quick stop at the Red Forest, which is now buried and covered with new (and green, this time) growth. It was also the site of the Pripyat city welcome sign, built when the town was established in 1970.

You may notice that most photos and stories about the ghost towns around the power plant feature Pripyat much more heavily than Chernobyl, and that’s because Pripyat was closer and larger than the town of Chernobyl. The power plant only got its name from Chernobyl because Pripyat didn’t exist yet – it was built entirely to house workers at the nuclear site and only 16 years old when it met its untimely demise.

 

 

Inside Abandoned Classroom in the Pripyat Ghost Town - YouTube

 

Kindergarten classroom in the Pripyat ghost town

 

8. The Pripyat Ghost Town

In my opinion, this is the most compelling site inside Chernobyl. Pripyat was home to around 50,000 people who were kept almost completely in the dark about the dangers they faced by remaining in town, even while radiation levels were measuring at thousands of time their normal numbers. 

When the population was finally evacuated – an unforgiveable 1.5 days after the explosion – they were given only two hours to pack their bags and told to leave everything behind because they’d return in a few days.

Now walking through the ghost town is an eerie experience because the buildings are so badly weathered and decayed. The interiors look like a tornado ripped through them and in some sense, one did – in the aftermath of the explosion officials went through the homes one by one, throwing everything they found out into the streets to be tested. Anything salvageable was washed while the rest, deemed too contaminated, was taken outside of the town and buried. All of the family pets, denied evacuation because their fur was coated in radioactive dust, were killed and buried alongside it. 

 

The overgrown town square in the center of Pripyat

 

In Pripyat we visited the town square with restaurants, a hotel, and a grocery store, the iconic amusement park (never used because it was set to be opened to the public five days after the explosion), and a kindergarten school. Wandering along among the silently decaying classrooms, watched only by a dead-eyed baby doll, I really felt like I was in a post-apocalyptic world.

We were also given free roam to wander through the 10+ story decomposing apartment buildings (which was completely unsafe but so damn interesting) and finally visited the deteriorated track and stadium before stamping our feet on the ground to get rid of the radioactive dust and boarding the bus to leave Pripyat behind.

 

Monument to the Liquidators in the town of Chernobyl

 

9. Monument to the Liquidators

Our final stop on the tour was the Monument to the Liquidators in the town of Chernobyl. The liquidators were the teams of men who cleaned up the radioactive contamination, but this monument is in memory of the first 30 men on site after the explosion. Six firefighters and 24 workers at the plant contained the fire and prevented a second explosion that would have wiped out half of Europe. All of them were killed by radiation poisoning, but their selflessness saved the lives of millions of people.

 

Radiation detection machine before lunch, similar to those in the security checkpoints. 

 

10. Returning to Kiev

We went through the first 10 km checkpoint before visiting the Monument to the Liquidators and then crossed through the second 30 km checkpoint soon after. We were all tested for radiation once again – one carpet on our bus failed and had to have the radioactive dust shaken off before we could continue – and then it was a short two-hour drive back to Kiev. Our tour left from the Kiev Railway station at 8 am and returned around 8 pm, making it 12 hours total from start to finish.

 

Why Visit Chernobyl?

I saw the tour as a learning opportunity (I knew very little about the disaster and its effects beforehand) and felt that visiting the area was like visiting an open-air museum. Just like war memorials or concentration camps, we don’t go because it’s fun, but because it’s an important part of history and the impact is best understood when we physically stand on the site.

I think what was impressed upon me most while I was inside Chernobyl, that I wouldn’t have gotten from a book or documentary, was simply the scale and longevity of the disaster.

50,000 displaced people in Pripyat was just a number to me until I physically walked down street after street of empty buildings, stores, and apartment blocks. The urgency and panic of the two-hour evacuation period was much easier to grasp while standing among scattered, still-messy paint palettes left out in a kindergarten classroom. Normal levels of radiation clock in at .2 CPM on a Geiger counter, so watching them jump suddenly to 420 CPM at the worst hotspots in Chernobyl was a stark reminder of the staggering staying-power of radioactive fallout, even 33 years after the explosion.

Just remember that people were killed and tens of thousands of lives were upended both during and after the explosion, so try to keep that in mind and be respectful when you visit.

 

Abandoned apartment buildings in the Pripyat ghost town

 

Inside Chernobyl in 2019

Thousands of people visit Chernobyl every year on..

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The two best ways to travel between Kiev and Lviv are by plane or train.

Both options have their pros and cons but will, eventually, get you from one city to the other. I wrote up the prices, times, and a step-by-step guide for each so you can choose which is best for you!

 

How to Fly From Kiev to Lviv

Cost: $29 to $50 for a one-way flight and $55 to $90 for the round trip
Time: 1 hour

Flights are definitely the best bang for your buck when traveling from Kiev to Lviv.

One way flights between the two cities are incredibly affordable at only $29 each on the Motor Sich Airline and tickets for Ukraine International were only a bit more at $50 each – even on the day of the flight! 

Click here to compare flight price on Skyscanner and find the best deals.

 

How to get to the Kiev Airport

First, Kiev has two airports. Kiev Boryspil International Airport (KPB) and Kiev International Airport Zhuliany (IEV).

The Morot Sich flights from Kiev to Lviv fly from IEV and the Ukraine International flights depart from KBP.

From downtown Kiev (using St. Sophia’s Cathedral as the starting point) both airports require two forms of public transport to reach them – metro and bus – but Google Maps will walk you through the steps.

Uber is a more convenient option. From St.Sophia’s Cathedral to KBP the trip takes 40 minutes and will cost about 400 uah / 15 usd. To IEV, the trip is about 30 minutes and costs only 100 uah / 3.75 usd.

 

How to Get From the Lviv Airport to the City Center

If you fly from Kiev to Lviv you’ll land at the Lviv Danylo Halytskyi International Airport (LWO) located about 6.5 km from the city center. You can take tram 9 and switch to tram 7 to reach downtown Lviv or, again, take an Uber. The ride will be about 25 minutes and should only cost about 85 uah / 3 usd.

Compare flight prices on Skyscanner and book your tickets now, because this is the fastest way to get from Kiev to Lviv.

 

Flying over the Ukrainian countryside as we descended into Kiev

 

How to Take the Train from Kiev to Lviv

Cost: 340 uah / 12.75 usd for second class tickets, about double that for first class.
Time: 5 to 6 hours

I’m cheap, so I took the train from Kiev to Lviv and then again for our return from Lviv to Kiev. It’s cheaper than a flight but also (obviously) takes more time.

 

How to get to the Kiev Railway Station

If you’re flying into Kiev and then taking the train to Lviv, there’s a direct shuttle bus from the airport to the Kiev Railway Station. It’s clearly labeled in English and costs 100 uah / 3.75 usd per person. The trip takes 45 minutes.

If you’re coming from the Kiev city center, you can reach the Kiev Railway Station with public transport (again, use Google Maps for the exact steps you need to take from your location) or by Uber which should cost around 55 uah / 2 usd for the 15-minute trip.

Once you arrive at the railway station you will buy your tickets from the bank of booths on the left side – everything is in Cyrillic and the agents don’t speak much English but ask for Lviv and they’ll get it.

 

How to Buy Train Tickets in Kiev

Go to the Kiev Railway Station to buy your tickets. We had no problem just walking in and getting them for the next train out and it looks like travelers in other forums echo this sentiment. Unless you’re traveling in super high season or on a holiday, I’m guessing you’ll probably be fine doing this as well. Trains don’t run too often, we arrived at 11 am and had to wait until the 2 pm train.

Shockingly, I was able to find a timetable from Kiev to Lviv – click here to see it – that’s kind of confusing but may help you plan your trip. There’s also, apparently, a central ticket office downtown that you can buy tickets from – click here for more details on where to find it. 

Dan and I bought second class tickets for our train from Kiev to Lviv and the return from Lviv to Kiev. On the first trip, we were the only ones in our little six-passenger “room” and on the return it was full, but both were spacious and comfortable enough that I definitely recommend it if you want to save money and skip the flights. 

 

How to Get from the Lviv Railway Station to the City Center

Your train will arrive at the Lviv Railway Station where it’s easy to get to the city center. You can walk (about 35 minutes / 3 km), take the trams (1 or 9 will take you to downtown Lviv in about 25 minutes for 5 uah / .20 usd), or take an Uber (the 10-minute trip should cost around 50 uah / 2 usd).

The train from Kiev to Lviv takes between 5 and 6 hours and the scenery is super boring, but price and convenience wise, this trip is just right. If you’re on a budget and don’t want to splurge on flights, the train to Lviv is the next best option.

 

If you’re lucky enough to get your own car, the train from Kiev to Lviv is actually pretty great.

 

Easily Travel Between Kiev and Lviv With This Guide!

The best way to get from Kiev to Lviv is by plane because the tickets are so cheap and the trip is so short. If you’re on a budget, though, the train offers great value at only 12.75 usd per person for the six-hour trip. Both will get you from point A to point B (eventually) so it all just depends on how much time and money you want to spend in the process!

Ready to go? Compare flight prices on Skyscanner to find the best deals and then click here to book your accommodation in Lviv!

 

Plan the rest of your trip to Lviv with this comprehensive list of the 32 best things to do in Lviv, and then browse the Ukraine Series for more helpful guides on craft beer in Lviv, the best cheap restaurants, and so much more! 

The post How to Get From Kiev to Lviv by Train or Plane appeared first on Slight North.

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