Ukraine

Much of the Ukraine is a level, treeless plain, the Steppes, but the Crimean and Carpathian Mountains draw adventurous hikers to their undisturbed forests of pine, beech and oaks, the home of deer and elk.

There's skiing in the Carpathian Mountains also, centred around the resorts of Yeremcha and Vorokhta.

Tourism is undeveloped in this former Soviet state and many of the rural farming areas, mountains and forests are hard to explore unless with a guide, driver and interpreter. If you have the opportunity to wander off the beaten track take it. Ukranians are renowned for their hospitality; accommodation will be basic, but food - like borshch (beetroot soup) deruny (potato pancakes) and holubtsi (stuffed cabbage rolls) and drink (vodka) will be plentiful.

In contrast, the cities are busy, ancient and monumental. Kiev, the capital, is the third largest city of the ex-USSR and regarded as the cradle of Russian civilisation.

Candlelit tours of the Caves Monastery catacombs, a visit to the icons and frescoes of the 11th century Sofia Cathedral and an excursion to the 7th century city of Chernihiv should be on every itinerary. Lviv also has catacombs. These run for many hundred km under the city and surrounding area and have served as a hiding place for revolutionaries, criminals and resistance fighters over the years.

It's not all history. Ukraine's modern culture is best experienced in the opera houses, concert halls and galleries of all its major cities.