Grade - physical rating 2 out of 5. This trip can be enjoyed by just about anyone with a reasonable level of fitness.
Duration - 13 days
Price - from $3145
Best time to go: May through September. Summers should be avoided by those not tolerant of hot weather.
Accommodation - Hotel and Pension (11 nights), Overnight train (1 night)
Welcome to Bessarabia, a land so remote that tourism is yet to get a foothold. Escape the tourist crowds on this unique trip to Eastern Romania, Moldova and the Black Sea Coast of Ukraine. From the breakaway republic of Transnistria – where Soviet values persist – to the eerie wastelands of Chernobyl, the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster, this itinerary showcases some of the least visited sights in Europe. Get ready for an adventure.
An off-the-beaten track adventure chock-full of unusual experiences and impressions. You will get an introduction to the Danube Delta, see the monasteries and experience the culture of Moldova, learn why Transnistria wants to be independent and enjoy cities like Odessa and Kiev. Three weeks of full on traveling (I added time in Romania, Kyiv and Lviv). I don't think I have ever had this many impressions in one trip. Saxon villages where people speak German and live off the land, medieval towns, modern cities, places stuck in a USSR time warp, the Danube Delta, cave monasteries, splendid churches where you can't but help get drawn in by the chanting, ballet and opera, witnessing the birth pangs of a new nation (Ukraine), the devastation caused by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, beautiful art, lively towns.... The list goes on.
Who will it appeal to
Intrepid's Moldova, Ukraine & Romania Explorer will appeal to people who like to get off the beaten track and visit a part of Europe few others have seen. This trip will appeal to people with an interest in history and geopolitics. Travellers must enjoy exploring on their own as there is a lot of free time on the trip. While most hotels were very comfortable, participants should also be prepared for some basic conditions. Expect some long travel days, heat and a huge amount of impressions.
Who will it not appeal to
Intrepid's Moldova, Ukraine & Romania Explorer will not appeal to people wanting luxury accommodation or round-the-clock guiding. Likewise it will not appeal to people who want a relaxing holiday, an active vacation or picture-perfect Europe like you would in Tuscany. This is a full-on expedition.
I added five days in Romania to see the traditional villages and do some hiking which were definite highlights. With Intrepid you can start the tour in Budapest which would give you some excellent home-stay experiences in Romania.
I loved visiting the villages and cave monastery in Moldova - it gave a real sense of how people lived and survived throughout the ages.
I enjoyed the quirkiness of Transnistria and the feeling of being stuck in a Soviet time-warp.
I fell in love with Odessa, its parks, squares, lively streets, fountains and facades. Having a night at the opera here, which I had booked as an optional extra, helped make this city memorable.
I was not prepared for the emotional impact of visiting Chernobyl and this turned out to be another highlight for me.
Adventure Coordinators rates Intrepid's Moldova, Ukraine & Romania Explorer 8 out of 10. I do not think I have ever been on a trip that gave me so many different impressions. The trip could be improved by adding a day each in Kiev and Odessa. If you have the time, start in Budapest.
The author travelled with Intrepid in June of 2018. Intrepid did not review this article.