Waterfalls and ancient places of worship: we go to Dnipro and Zaporizhia
Gape the most beautiful places in the Ukrainian steppe. We explain what locations to visit and what incredible things you can see in the Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhia regions
When we think of the south-east of Ukraine, we imagine the cities of Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia, and usually think only of industrial images of factories and quarries. Indeed! Over the past 100 years, these regions have built a strong industrial complex. Kryvyi Rih still has the most powerful metallurgical complex, ArcelorMittal (former Kryvorizhstal before 2005), which attracts the largest foreign investors to Ukraine. Zaporizhia NPS, the largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine and Europe, and one of the top 10 largest nuclear power plants in the world, operates in Enerhodar. But the industry is not the only story of these regions. They have surprisingly charming areas, shrouded in Cossack legends, and high mounds of Scythians (the famous Scythian Pectoral was found in the Dnipropetrovsk region). When you see photos of the secret nooks, you can only react: "Where? Near Dnipro? What? Is it on the way to Kyrylivka?" So, Rubryka wants to share the most fascinating places that rarely get to Ukrainians' standard tourist itineraries.
Speaking of the Dnipropetrovsk region, it's hard to miss such a beautiful object as Tokiv Waterfall. Enwrapped in local legends since the time of the Cimmerians and Scythians, the waterfall is the only cascading waterfall in steppe Ukraine. It's located on the Kamianka river, a right tributary of the Dnieper. In some spots, it forms picturesque small canyons, where it exposes the ancient depths of gray and pink granite. In total, the cascade reaches 30 meters in length and 6 meters in height, and the granite rock outcrops reach more than 30 meters. One feels cozy to listen to the water grinding the stone for centuries and mentally moves to the times when Petro Kalnyshevskyi and Ivan Sirko were enchanted by Kamianka.
How to get there: the cascade of waterfalls is located on the Kamianka River, 160 km from the city of Dnipro. The most convenient way to get there is by car. The nearest railway junctions are Apostolove or Kryvyi Rih.
St. Nicholas Church in Kamianske
The building of one of the oldest churches in Eastern Ukraine, built in 1897, is somewhat reminiscent of the church of the same name in Kyiv because it was also built in the Neo-Gothic style. The architect was Marian Hormanskyi, who wanted to build a church like Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages. The church is a basilica-type building with two 33-meter towers on the east facade. Large ferrous metal crosses above the two towers seem to float in the sky above the roof, and rainwater enters the gutters, made as gargoyles, fantastic figures. The architect paid considerable attention to the main facade, i.e. the central entrance with two "Gothic" doors decorated with wooden carvings and elements of artistic forging.
This temple's history has many twists and turns. Built for the Polish community of Kamianske (from 1936 to 2016, Dniprodzerzhynsk), the church was a Catholic monastery before Stalin's repressions. After the Soviet authorities confiscated the parishioners' premises in 1929, the church building was a military enlistment office for a long time and even a car wash. It was not until 1991 that worship services resumed in the temple. Since 1999, the church has been cared for by the Capuchin Brotherhood, which is restoring the territory. Restoration works after the Soviet period are being carried out to this day.
How to get there: Kamianske is located 45 km north of Dnipro. It's most convenient to get there by car or intercity transport.
Stari Kodaky Quarry
A charming flooded quarry is located in the village of Stari Kodaky on the outskirts of Dnipro. The water here is surprisingly clean, even emerald, and entirely different from the water in the Dnieper, which flows literally 20 meters from the deep quarry. In general, the depth reaches 40-42 meters, but some scuba divers say that there are deep cracks at the bottom, which can reach 80 meters. The quarry is one of the locals' favorite recreation places, and is located on the "Cossack" territory; once there was a famous fortress Kodak, which was an outpost of Ukraine's Cossack defense from the raids of the Tatars from the Crimea in the XVII-XVIII centuries. Unfortunately, the fortress ruins haven't survived to this day, but it's no reason not to visit the surprisingly scenic quarry.
How to get there: the village of Stari Kodaky is located 20 km south of Dnipro. It's most convenient to get there by car or suburban minibus.
A small village on the left riverbank near Dnipro City is one of the "most Instagram" recreation places in the region. The pine forest is close to the river, equipped with picturesque cottages. One of the most popular recreation areas is "GoodZone," a hotel complex with a spa, swimming pool, bars, and restaurants. Striking scenery and excellent service contribute to relaxation, reloading, and enjoying the last warm rays of the sun.
How to get there: the village of Pishchanka is located 30 km from the city of Dnipro. The most convenient way to get there is by car or intercity transport.
People call it a relict forest. It means it's an ancient forest that has existed here for over 1000 years. Samara relict forest is an ideal forest-steppe location for a hike with tents, observing centuries-old trees, and let's not forget that the mushroom season is coming soon! The forest stretches in a narrow 6-kilometer strip along the river. Deciduous species predominate, but there are also coniferous thickets, which are considered to be Ukraine's southernmost natural coniferous forest. There are numerous floodplain lakes, old lakes, reed, and sphagnum bogs in the forest. Remains of the endemic sandy steppe are preserved on the sand-hills in the middle of the forest. Also, worthwhile locations are the areas on the right bank of the Samara, which combine riparian forests (those that grow in beams and ravines) and the remnants of virgin chernozem steppe. So September is the perfect time for long walks through the unique old forest, gradually becoming crimson and orange with autumn coming.
How to get there: the forest is located in Novomoskovsk and Pavlohrad districts on the left bank of the Samara River. You can get there by long-distance transport from Dnipro or Novomoskovsk.
It's the first association and the most important object of the region. Khortytsia Sich was established in 1556. According to historians, it was one of the first fortifications of the Cossacks. Although it lasted about 1 year and was defeated by the Tatars, Sich on the island of Khortytsia remains the center of the glorious Cossack times and preserves their way of life, traditions, and numerous artifacts. The historical and cultural complex looks like a real Sich, only in a slightly reduced format, considering all its construction rules. In this open-air museum, everyone can have something to do, from learning about the history of the Cossacks to observing nature. Besides the picturesque landscapes, you can participate in active recreation, like bicycles, kayaks, orienteering… everything your heart desires! And you move to four centuries ago, feel the spirit of Bohdan Khmelnytskyi's national liberation war and Ivan Sirko's endless adventures.
How to get there: Sich is located in the city of Zaporizhzhia on the famous island of Khortytsia. Entry to the complex for adults costs 48 hryvnias; for children, students, pensioners, it's 24 hryvnias. Visiting the island itself is free.
Odesa is the pearl of the Black Sea, but there are two of them in Ukraine! If we were asked which city is the pearl of the Sea of Azov, our editorial office would undoubtedly say Berdiansk. This resort town and seaport has a developed infrastructure and a picturesque coast. Although the holiday season is over, no one forbids us to watch the sea, and to breathe its healing salty air! And in autumn, you can see the most beautiful sunsets, due to the clean air and different temperatures in the atmosphere. Berdiansk has a long beautiful promenade, so locals often arrange morning and evening jogs here. And picnics by the sea with delicious food and the funniest companies!
How to get there: the city is located 200 km from Zaporizhzhia, can be reached by car, intercity bus and railway.
The large estate of General Vasyl Popov was founded in the 1780s on land donated by Empress Catherine the Great (later named after General as Vasylivka), but the final construction was completed exactly 100 years later by the general's descendants. It was the largest estate in Eastern Ukraine before the advent of Soviet power. Its owner Yurii Popov turned it into a cultural development center of the Azov region. Made in a symbiosis of northern Italian, Moorish, and Gothic styles, the castle had a ballroom, living room, art gallery, library, collection of ancient weapons. Since 1907, an ethnographic museum has been located here, with exhibits of 15 different national cultures. In the early XX century, the estate was equipped with a meteorological and power station, and on the roof, they created an astronomical observatory with a telescope. The terrace with a telescope was decorated with sculptures by Italian master Langobardi. Unfortunately, during the Soviet era, the castle was completely abandoned and looted and housed the boarding school and local college dormitory. With Ukraine's independence, the question of restoring the castle and turning it into a museum arose. The estate's restoration hasn't been completed yet, although the museum was opened in 1993. Anyone can visit the museum to learn about its history, or just walk around the pictorial estate.
How to get there: The castle is located in the village of Vasylivka, 55 km from Zaporizhzhia. The most convenient way to get there is by car or intercity transport, there's also a railway connection with Zaporizhzhia.
Biriuchyi Island Spit is another picturesque place in Zaporizhzhia on the shores of the Sea of Azov on the border with the Kherson region. The name is translated as "Wolf Island," which is known since Scythian times because many artifacts were found on the spit. Some scholars believe that the Scythians even depicted this island on their coins in the first millennium BC. The spit begins in the resort town of Kyrylivka (mostly on the coast of the Sea of Azov) and stretches for tens of kilometers to the Gulf of Sivash. The island has been opened to tourists since 2015 before there was a protected area controlled by the state, and in Soviet times, there was even a dacha built for Nikita Khrushchev, which he visited only once. The island doesn't have a developed tourist infrastructure yet but has numerous offers for comfortable accommodation. Although many of them are already closing, as the holiday season is over, you still can get a tent and meet the sunrise in nature. It's great that it's a place of wild beaches and endless sea to the horizon.
How to get there: the island is located 220 km from Zaporizhzhia on highway E105. You can get there most easily by car.
Kamiana Mohyla is a unique geological formation that has served as an altar for pagans for several thousand years. Today this archeological monument is a place of Kyivan Rus history research. Kamiana Mohyla is a natural formation, the height of which reaches 12 meters. It covers an area of 1.6 hectares, on the territory of which there are about 3 thousand slabs. The slabs were arranged not randomly: it was a properly ruined stone shell, and its caves and grottoes became convenient for cult purposes. Drawings were left on the slabs, which the ancestors didn't paint, but wiped with a piece of stone. These abrasions were sometimes covered with mineral black and red paints. Here you can see the traces of different cultures and origins of peoples. Ancient hunters, herdsmen, and farmers lived in this place at different times, and later the Cimmerians, Scythians, Sarmatians, Huns, Khazars, and Cumans passed through this land. The Kamian Mohyla caves and grottoes contain more than three thousand rock paintings from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age and later. Among many of them are clearly traced images of humans, wild and domestic animals. Remains of ancient altars have been found here. The drawings can be traced to primitive religions: totemism, magic, animism, fetishism, ancestral worship. The place is surprisingly interesting, and where else in Ukraine can you see rock paintings right in the middle of the steppe open to all sides? So be sure to dive into this ancient art.
How to get there: located 135 km from Zaporizhzhia, near Melitopol. It's most convenient to get there by car or intercity transport.