A two-hour drive north of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv lies the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone, site of the worst nuclear accident ever recorded. In the aftermath of a reactor explosion in 1986, cities and villages were abandoned. Decades on, tourists can visit the zone to find an eerie landscape of crumbling buildings being reclaimed by nature. It’s a prime example of dark tourism. Not that the authorities in Ukraine take such tourism lightly. As our tour group takes photos of information boards outside the barricaded entrance to the Exclusion Zone located 30km from the reactor site, we’re warned by our guide not to photograph the checkpoint itself. Although it’s a beautiful sunny day, there’s tension in the air, a sense of anticipation and uncertainty about what we might find within this chunk of Ukraine emptied by the disaster. On 26 April 1986, Reactor 4 of the nuclear power complex exploded. Over the ensuing days, police, firemen, the military and other emergency workers struggled desperately to contain the unleashed radiation of the broken reactor core. It was 36 hours after the accident that the inhabitants of nearby settlements were hastily evacuated, never to return. Now, only a few weeks after the official 30th anniversary of the … Continue reading Entering the dragon’s lair: a tour of Chornobyl

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Croatia’s extraordinary coast has long lured wealthy sailors to its shores, but now, with dozens of operators offering reasonably priced bareboat (hired without crew) sailboat charters, it doesn’t have to be the exclusive cruising ground of the rich. Here is our guide to some of the most rewarding harbours and anchorages in the Central Adriatic. Idyllic isolation at Krknjaši Blue Lagoon This stunning anchorage may be less than 13 nautical miles (24km) from the Central Adriatic’s sailing hub of Split, but it feels a world away. There are only a handful of local homesteads dotting the rocky and forested slopes of Drvenik, the island that shelters the lagoon’s shallow azure waters to the north and west, and Krknjas Mali and Veli Krknjas, which sit to the east, are picture perfect deserted islands. The lagoon’s calm, crystal clear waters are a great place for a peaceful swim or an exploration with a kayak or stand-up paddleboard. There is a small restaurant nestled into the trees on Drvenik, which is accessible by dinghy at the north end of the lagoon – its serves simple, but very tasty seafood dishes. Sunrise at Krknjaši is spellbinding, so avoid the temptation for a lie in. Anchorage … Continue reading A Croatian sailing adventure: the best spots to drop anchor in the Central Adriatic

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The de facto capital of Ukraine’s folksy west, history-rich Lviv is a world away from most travellers’ notion of a post-Soviet city. Forever promising to become the next Prague or Kraków, this million-strong Austro-Hungarian gem, packed with a millennium of churches, a huddle of bean-perfumed coffee houses and Eastern Europe’s quirkiest bunch of restaurants, has been on the verge of bursting onto the international tourism stage for decades. Following the recent political changes in these parts, this seductive Ukrainian diva may just be about to enter stage left. And Ukraine’sabout-turn to the West is not the only thing making right now a great time to pay Lviv a visit. Following the devaluation of the Ukrainian currency, the hryvnya, never before has Ukraine been more affordable as a destination (a tram ride costs the equivalent of six US cents, a cup of coffee 80 US cents). But is it safe? Well, many travellers turning up in Lviv since the start of the conflict in Ukraine’s east have been surprised to find a city on the up, its famous cafes and restaurants packed and nary a Kalashnikov in sight. Viennese coffee traditions The international bean-frenzy has crept across Eastern Europe in a … Continue reading Five reasons to visit Lviv, the safe and affordable gem of western Ukraine

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The scent of freshly brewed coffee wafting past grandiose cathedrals, derelict houses, mysterious wooden doors and romantic courtyards – Lviv’s occidental civility and decadent elegance come as a surprise even for connoisseurs of Eastern European travel gems. This western Ukrainian city is a polyglot and cosmopolite which preserves the architectural and culinary legacy of various states and empires that possessed it throughout the centuries. With a good airport of its own and not far away from budget airports in neighbouring Poland, Lviv is one of Europe’s most intriguing weekend destinations – and it feels eons away from the troubles in Ukraine’s east. Day 1 Morning It might be wise to start your day in Lviv by losing some calories, because you’ll sure as hell gain more than you planned to while you’re here. There’s no better way to do it in Lviv than by climbing the City Hall tower located in the main square, Ploshcha Rynok. With a throng of city officials rushing to morning meetings, make your way through the corridors of power to the fourth floor, where you’ll find a steep spiral staircase leading to an observation deck at the very top of the Italianesque tower. From this vantage point, Lviv looks like a toy … Continue reading 48 hours in Lviv

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Ukraine has had a turbulent time recently, but what many don’t realise is that events have had little direct effect on the country’s west; some places have even prospered in the new order. One of those is Lviv, a wonderfully welcoming central European city, boasting the best Ukraine has to offer. It’s the festival capital of the region, with a record 100 events this year – the most popular dedicated to coffee, jazz and Ukrainian independence. These take place against a backdrop of by far the greatest concentration of architectural treasures in the country. And 2016 is the year to come; the locals are happier than ever to see foreigners wandering their country and favourable exchange rates get you more bang for your buck. Comparisons with Prague and Kraków are often made – so get here before the secret’s out for good.

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