A travel agency offers guided tours in Ukraine’s war zones

A travel agency called Visit Ukraine launched a campaign to bring tourists to some of the war-affected areas in Ukraine. In an interview with CNN Travel, the founder of Visit Ukraine, Anton Taranenko, explained that these trips are intended to show the world how Ukraine continues its daily life, despite the war and to witness the rebuilt areas, as well as to help this country. Ukraine welcomed more than 4 million visitors last year.

“Visit Ukraine starts working on launching dark tourism in Ukraine,” the website says. Tours are usually made up of around 10 people led by a guide and last around 3-4 hours. The tours involve guides, tourism experts and memory specialists so tourists can see what happened in Ukraine. The site says that people who sign up for guided tours of “Brave City” could visit cities such as Cherniv, Bucha, Irpin, all affected by the war.

Foreign tourists return to Ukraine. Of course, not like before the war, but they are coming back.

Anton Taranenko, founder of Visit Ukraine

Taranenko told Business Insider that the company has offered several dozen tours since updating the site and has booked more than two hundred. Some of those interested in tours are Ukrainians who were displaced or had moved to other countries before the war, Taranenko said, although there have been many bookings from US nationals.

The company, which “works very close to the government” of Volodymyr Zelensky, according to Taranenko, offers various excursions to kyiv and its surroundings and other regions which bore a heavy burden at the start of the war, such as Kharkov, the second city the largest city in Ukraine. These days, the fighting is concentrated in the south of the country and the eastern region of Dombas.

Among the excursions offered are a day in kyiv (“kyiv fascinates you with its hospitality and will open your heart”), Kamianets-Podilsky (“it is the only city located on a natural island surrounded by a deep canyon), Odessa (the pearl of the Black Sea and now besieged by Russia), Mezhyhirya (the former presidential residence) and Buki Gorge (“visit little Switzerland”) Prices vary from 38 to 200 euros.

But other tours allude directly to the war. For example, the excursion to Cherniv (“the heroism of the northern capital”), “the indestructible Kharkov”, Bucha and Irpin (“strong and invulnerable”), all for 50 euros from the capital. Bucha was the scene of a massacre attributed to Russian soldiers last March. Meanwhile, Irpin, on the outskirts of the capital, was one of the main centers of Ukrainian resistance at the start of the war.

Some like this little dangerous. There are always these guys. They want to see it for real.

Anton Taranenko, founder of Visit Ukraine

Taranenko noted that many famous foreign artists have already visited Ukraine since the beginning of the war” such as Angelina Jolie, Jessica Chastain or Ben Stiller. “And many more are planning to do so in the short term,” he said.

The portal provides all the necessary information on how to act in a critical situation, where to go, how to enter/leave the country or how to evacuate a dangerous region. He also recalls that martial law is in force in Ukraine and that air traffic is suspended, but the entry and exit of foreigners by land is allowed.

Checkpoints on the border with Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova “are open and secure”, he stressed. Quite the opposite of those on the borders with Russia, Belarus and the Transnistrian region.

According to Business Insider, the tourist site has not received any official approval from the Ukrainian government. Ukraine is currently under the highest travel advisory level. The US State Department has warned that it will not be able to help Americans in Ukraine. All proceeds from travel sales will go to aiding Ukrainian refugees, the website explains.

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