When you think of hotels in Ukraine, you’d be forgiven for imagining them all to be in soviet styling with dated décor and poor service. Whilst it’s true that in almost every city in Ukraine there is at least one such a hotel, there are also some real gems to discover such as Radomysl Castle which I mentioned briefly in my recent Year in Review post. In the first of a series of reviews, I hope to highlight some of the best places I’ve stayed during my travels starting with the Radisson Blu Resort in Bukovel, Ukraine which I’ve stayed in 3 times now, twice in summer and once in winter.
The hotel is newly built, fully up to European standards and wouldn’t look out of place in the mountains of Switzerland or Austria. It’s a 4 star hotel and every room has a balcony with a half the rooms looking out onto the ski slope or mountains and the other half looking forward towards the centre of Bukovel. The majority of staff speak English, so you won’t have a hard time communicating like you might in more typical Ukrainian hotels. I first visited the property in 2013 and since visiting again in 2015 and 2016 service and quality has remained high.
We stayed in a standard room (they call them Deluxe) which has a nice comfortable king sized bed, a glass enclosed bathroom (with curtain) that contained both a bath and separate shower. The advantage of this is you can lay in the bath and watch TV (there’s speakers in bathroom). Tea/coffee/Nesquik is provided along with a paid mini-bar. It’s all nicely decorated and very relaxing to drink your morning coffee whilst looking out the window at the mountain scenery.
There is an onsite spa with free access to the swimming pool, 4 saunas and a 24 hour gym along with some extra specialist services which you can book in advance.
Breakfast is included in the room rate and branded as “Super Breakfast” which includes a large buffet and omelet station. In summer you can sit on the terrace and enjoy your breakfast in the great outdoors. In an evening, there are 2 restaurants, a lobby bar and an onsite night club, but be prepared to pay at least twice what you would than if you walked down to the village.
You can can also check out this cool photo sphere on Google Maps that I made on the terrace just after breakfast in the virgin snow.
The hotel is situated in Bukovel, which is the largest ski resort in Eastern Europe and the fastest-growing ski resort Worldwide. Bukovel is fairly new after only being founded in 2000 and therefore fairly modern and built to European standards. In Winter it’s popular for skiing and snowboarding, whilst in Summer it’s useful for a relaxing break or hiking in the Carpathian mountains. It’s also around an hour’s drive from Ukraine’s highest mountain which I climbed last year.
The biggest problem with Bukovel is the transport connections. You can fly from Kiev (Ukraine’s capital) to Ivano-Frankivsk fairly cheaply, but then you need to take a 2 hour drive either by taxi or bus along poorly maintained roads to get to the resort. The drive is nicer in Summer when you can stop off at towns along the way such as Yaremche to visit a picturesque waterfall and local cafés. Another alternative is to take the train from Kiev or Lviv, however this still involves an hour or longer drive after the train to get to Bukovel.
The hotel is located mid-way up the number 7 ski slope allowing direct access from the hotel on to the piste which is very convenient and allows for some amazing views. If you want to visit the nearest restaurant or shop outside the hotel, you need to walk 20 minutes down a windy road or take a 10 minute shortcut down the slope itself. Watch out for the snow ploughs if you do this, as we were warned it’s dangerous to walk down on a night because of this.
The main attraction of Bukovel is winter sports consisting of skiing, snowboarding, snowtubing, skating and dog sledding. With direct access to the slope from the hotel, it’s the perfect place to stay. There is on-site ski hire, ski room, ski pass kiosk and ski school which all add to the convenience. As I’ve never skied before, we opted to have 2 days with an English speaking instructor who taught us the basics on day one and took us around the resort on the second day including up the highest mountain. I found it quite difficult to begin with, but by the second day it came more natural to me and enjoyed it immensely.
All the slopes we visited were in good condition and there was a good variety of beginner/intermediate/advanced slopes, although most did close at 4:30pm which was a little early with 3 staying open till later including the one next to the hotel. Some of the main slopes which lead to the village can get quite busy, but if you take one of the side slopes, you’ll often find yourself alone in some awe-inspiring scenery. We even Skyped my parents from the top of one of the mountains to show them the views!
While in Bukovel, we also took a dog sled trip. It was quite expensive considering the time you were actually riding, but I don’t suppose we’ll ever do it again so it was well worthwhile and the dogs were very soft and friendly.
I do like to travel in relative comfort, so some of the prices here are quite excessive by Ukrainian standards. If you are on a budget you should be able to reduce the costs on the hotel and transfers signicantly by staying in a local hotel and taking a shared bus transfer instead.
Total cost for 5 day trip for 2 people (excluding meals) – Approx. 30,000 UAH / £800
Bukovel is an up-and-coming resort that’s well worth a visit if you are tired of the more traditional European ski resorts and looking for a change. If access was improved with faster and more comfortable transport, it’d likely to attract many more foreigners and be easier for people to visit. If you are staying at the Radisson Blu hotel, ask for a mountain or ski slope facing view for the best rooms and book a standard/deluxe room which is more than adequate.
I’ve never visited a European ski resort in Winter, but I’d assume that the prices are much lower than those in France or Switzerland for something comparable. If you’ve never skied before, it’s a comfortable and cost-effective place to learn and an instructor is highly recommended for beginners.
Overall, the resort and hotel and well worth a visit which I’d recommend to anyone as long as you can manage to get there.
If you work for a hotel you’d like me to review or have a product you’d like reviewing, please contact me and I’d be happy to consider writing about it on my blog.