Last updated on September 22nd, 2023
For some reason, there is such an opinion that Ukraine in winter is like Siberia. Some people until this day believe that extreme cold makes eyelashes freeze, that everything gets covered with so much snow that you need to dig yourself out, that polar bears walk on the streets, and that locals drink vodka to stay warm.
I am not kidding, people told me these things so many times that I almost believed in them myself. And I’ve heard it not only in America but in Europe too.
Guys, common. Winter in Ukraine is definitely cold and often snowy but it doesn’t differ much from Germany or the Czech Republic, for example. And you don’t need to drink vodka to stay warm, just glintwine, haha. No, there is actually a wide selection of teas in Ukraine that can keep you warm too.
On a serious note – winter in Ukraine is just fine. Nothing extraordinary happens besides occasional strong frosts and snowfalls. The only thing that can be depressing is the absence of the sun. Most days are overcast and skies are grey but I give you tips below on how to enjoy them in any case.
Traveling around Ukraine from December to February can be quite an interesting experience and season alone should not be stopping you from planning an adventure!
What is Ukraine Weather in Winter Like?
Before I get to talk about how to make the most of your visit to Ukraine in winter, I’d love to mention a few words about the weather. To help you plan your trip, here’s a quick overview of what to expect from the weather each month – in December, January, and February.
Weather in Ukraine in December
Ukraine weather in December is characterized by the onset of winter. Even though cold, gloomy skies and wet snow usually come in November, December is truly the first month when you feel winter in the air.
The average temperature in most Ukrainian cities drops below zero and is around -2 -3C degrees. In Odessa, a city by the sea, it is usually higher, around +2+3C degrees. Eastern Ukraine is usually the coldest and in Kharkiv, for example, the average temperature is -3-5C.
December is that month when snow is starting to fall steadily almost throughout the country, although it also rains from time to time causing icy roads.
Ski resorts in the Carpathians are already accepting lovers of skiing or snowboarding but they are not the only destinations where you can go in Ukraine in the first month of winter. Snow-covered streets of Ukrainian cities have their own unique charm due to lots of decorations and Christmas markets. It is especially pleasant after walks to go to a cozy cafe and enjoy the local cuisine, delicious coffee, or a glass of mulled wine which tastes different than anywhere in Europe.
December is also characterized by high humidity, some of the highest for the entire year. So make sure you wear layers of warm clothes, otherwise, you risk (as we say in Ukraine) freezing to your bone.
What to Do in December in Ukraine
Some travelers who missed a warm season in Ukraine wonder if visiting in December is a good idea.
Yes, visiting Ukraine during this month is amazing, particularly because of the holiday season! In fact, if I could pick only one winter month when to recommend you visit in winter, without any doubt I’d choose the first month. Why?
Because this is the time for a celebratory mood, decorations, Christmas lights, first fluffy snow, and the spirit of holidays that swirls everyone in a festive whirlwind. And the amount of things to do is ample.
If you are visiting Kyiv, you can make your way to the Kyiv Rus’ park which offers many exciting show programs for adults and children. In another direction from Kyiv, there is ethno complex ‘Ukrainian village’ where you’ll find interesting ritual performances and entertainment for families in the old traditional Ukrainian style.
Lviv in December has such a special atmosphere. Ancient streets and elegant shop windows get decorated with lights. There are holiday souvenirs everywhere, mulled wine, coffee, hot chocolate, celebrations, festivals, and a lot of entertainment for children and adults.
Odessa in December is cloudy and gray. But! If you like fogs (they create this special atmosphere) and cafes decorated with Christmas garlands – you will even like it. In the first month of winter, Odessa holds a festival of glintwine, lots of Christmas markets,
Any city you’ll go to will have dozens of interesting museums. During the holiday season, visiting them is also special due to decorations and new temporary exhibits that are often set around this time of the year. Ice skating rinks, cafes, theaters, cooking classes, gastro tours, and history walks (that include stops in restaurants) are all great for December travel too.
If wish to spend days in nature – go to the Carpathian Mountains (such as Yaremche, Tatariv, Verhovyna, Yablunytsia, Bukovel), Transcarpathia, Mizhrichynskyi Regional Landscape Park near Kyiv, Polis’kyi Nature Reserve, or Oleksandria Park in Bila Tserkva.
Ukraine Weather in January
January weather in Ukraine doesn’t differ a lot from region to region. Most of the country is dominated by subzero temperatures and snow is common. The Black Sea coast is the only exception since for the most part, it’s raining there rather than snowing. Odessa in January is dank and windy, strong unpleasant winds occur too often.
Overall, January is considered the coldest month in Ukraine and also the time for frequent frosts. At this time, there is already a lot of snow in the Carpathian and Transcarpathian regions and most cities experience steady frigid temperatures.
For many years in a row, Northern Ukraine (particularly Chernihiv oblast) has been seeing many days with temperatures -12-15 during the day and -18-22 at night. While it does sound too cold, in reality, it is much easier to tolerate this temperature and enjoy winter activities since the air is very dry and crispy. In the south, where the daily temperature fluctuates between 0+4 it may feel much colder because of the high humidity and cold strong winds.
Kyiv in January has an average temperature of about -4C degrees. Lviv is one degree warmer. The average January temperature in Kharkiv is -5C degrees. In Odessa, it is much warmer, about +4 (but again, it doesn’t really feel that warm), the temperature of the sea is about +7 degrees. In Dnepropetrovsk about -4. The average January temperature in Zaporizhzhia is -3C.
If you want to travel to Ukraine in January, you can expect more sunny days than in December (yet, there are too many gloomy days as well) and more sunlight since days are becoming longer. January is the best winter month to go on excursions and to museums, do a bit of shopping, and visit ski resorts. Bukovel during this month is fully sold out every single day.
The amount of precipitation on the territory of Ukraine in the first month of the year is much less than in the summer months. Normally, about 40-45 mm of precipitation falls around the country in the form of snow.
What to Do in January in Ukraine
January is another excellent winter month for a bit of travel in Ukraine. It offers slightly different activities due to the end of a holiday season but overall you can still have a high quality time.
For many Ukrainians, January is the most magical month of winter because the country celebrates Orthodox Christmas on Jan 8th, followed by Orthodox New Year (Jan 14th), and Epiphany on Jan 19th. All this time until Epiphany, everything still stays decorated and you feel a holiday spirit.
In Catholic Europe, lights and decorations are taken down on Jan 1st while in Ukraine (as well as other Orthodox countries) they are up until almost the end of January.
So it’s still a wonderful season to see Christmas processions and parades, admire gingerbread houses, watch different performances near Christmas trees, and become a participant (or at least witness) in the most mass performance of carols.
All cities still keep Christmas markets that look like mini towns with neat houses from a fairy tale filled with souvenirs and craftsmen. There, you can try traditional Ukrainian foods and drinks as well as take part in various masterclasses.
January is really great for visiting Ukrainian cities (while participating in all the activities) and the Carpathian mountains. For other people, it can be a good month to go on a tour in Western Ukraine to see castles or fortresses. In winter, with heavy skies and layers of snow, they acquire a special charm.
Among nature places (besides the mountains) if you have more time in the country, I’d recommend you pay a visit to Shatsky Lakes near the border with Poland and Belarus or Synevir Lake in Transcarpathia.
Shatsky Lake has many natural areas around it where you can walk in the snow, look at the castle, palace, and village situated nearby. If the temperature is low enough and the lake freezes, skating is available. Coming here is well worth it if you plan to visit the ancient city Lutsk and Rivne.
Synevir Lake is located in Transcarpathia not far from a lesser-known ski resort Pylypets. In winter, it is truly mesmerizing – majestic spruce trees, sprinkled with fluffy dazzling white snow, incredibly clean mountain air and the comfort of a Carpathian wooden hut. You can walk around the lake or ride in a sleigh pulled by a pair of low Carpathian horses.
Weather in Ukraine in February
February in Ukraine is somewhat warmer than January (warmer meaning temperatures are higher but not warmer in the sense of warmth). This month the snow cover reaches its maximum. The ski season in the Carpathians is in full swing and even the most popular hotels drop in price. Yet, the weather in different regions can differ since there are several climatic zones in Ukraine.
February is that mischievous month when the air temperature in different parts of the country can vary by 10-15 degrees. So, one of the warmest cities is Odessa where the average temperature in February is about +9. The average water temperature in the sea is approximately equal to the air temperature which is too cold to swim.
In Kiev and Lviv, the thermometer on average shows -1-2C. In Zaporizhzhia and Dnepropetrovsk -3C. And in Kharkiv, about -4C degrees.
The amount of precipitation, like the temperature, is also different in different regions of Ukraine. Yet all parts of the country have one thing in common – there is more precipitation in summer than in winter.
Among all winter months, February is the one with the highest number of sunny days (in total there are 10). However, often the end of the month can be more overcast with unpredictable weather than the beginning or middle.
What to Do in February in Ukraine
Spending February in Ukrainian cities can be somewhat depressing due to many grey slushy days and wet snow. The holiday season is over, decorations are gone, and staying outdoors for extended periods of time is challenging.
The best thing to do during this season would be to go to South or Southwest Ukraine that has its own microclimate with warmer days in February. Berehove, Velyatyn, Khust, and Solotvyno offer a wide range of hotels, including those with mineral water spas and hot springs. Odessa and Black Sea Coast start seeing more sunny pleasant days.
Mukachevo and Uzhhorod are two other destinations worth traveling to in the last month of winter.
Mukachevo has a large number of historic homes and quite a lot of religious buildings, decorated with paintings, frescoes and motifs on biblical themes. In the vicinity, there are also several castles and palaces where it’s worth going in the evening.
In Uzhhorod you will find an interesting medieval castle that hides many secrets. Be sure to take a stroll along the main street of Korzo and through the Czech quarter. Also, try local cuisine and coffee as it differs from other cities.
February is also that month when Uzhhorod holds a gastronomic festival “Palachinta” which is traditionally accompanied by songs, dances and large-scale feasts that include a huge number of baked crepes and pancakes with sweet and sour fillings.
The area around Uzhhorod and Mukachevo is also famous for wineries, farms, and spa hotels with thermal pools. It is a really nice destination to come to for Valentine’s Day or on a romantic getaway.
If you’ll be traveling there, pop into Leanka winery famous for excellent tours and tastings and Monastic Dairy cheese shop. In the dairy shop, you can have a mini-tour and purchase finest locally made cheeses.
My Top 3 Places to Visit in Ukraine in Winter
Besides cities and the famous Bukovel ski resort, I’d love to highlight a few other places that I love and believe are special during winter travel. You can visit them any time of the year but in winter, they are particularly nice.
Slavske – For Winter Magic & Mountains
Slavske is second after Bukovel ski resort in Ukraine which is very popular among Ukrainians and not so popular among foreigners. It’s very different from Bukovel in terms of the mountains surrounding the village, vibe, and atmosphere. Yet, it’s no less beautiful.
Slavske is famous for B&B hotels (some offer full board), cheese farms in the area, and lower slopes. We personally like just to come here to recharge, swim in hotels’ pools, visit a spa, and enjoy stunning nature.
Today it’s very easy to reach Slavske from many cities of Ukraine but the easiest and quickest is from Lviv. In about 2 hours by car or train from Lviv, you can be enjoying winter wonderland in Slavske. If you can splurge a bit, book a nice hotel. If you are on a budget, there are many nice guesthouses in the area.
Berehove – For Wellness & Hot Springs
If you are a fan of active recreation, the best option is to visit the ski resorts. But if you prefer a slow relaxing holiday, then look at thermal springs in the Transcarpathia region. Berehove town-resort is one of the best places for that.
There, the temperature of thermal water that reaches 57C degrees comes from igneous intrusions which were formed under the influence of volcanic activity. The greatest value of such water is that it is rich in useful compounds and is not subject to chemical treatment. So it adds healing properties to the therm.
Visiting Berehove in winter is not only the best way to see a different part of Ukraine but also to improve your health.
When visiting Berehove, you can also go to thermal pools in Kosino, see nearby castles in/around Mukachevo and visit local farms. The best way would be to include Berehove in a road trip. But there is always a possibility to go by train to Mukachevo, from where to Berehove by marshrutka or taxi.
My top property where to stay in Berehove is Family House Lambert.
Kam’yanets-Podil’skyi City – For a Romantic Trip
Kam’yanets-Podil’skyi in Khmelnytskyi region is a small romantic city full of rich historical past. Fortress and stone bridges together with narrow streets with decorations make it look cozy. In winter, the city organizes different fairy-tale programs named “Fairy Tale of the Old Fortress” full of activities and performances.
What is worth seeing in Kam’yanets:
- Podil’siki Tovtry – national park with hills, caves, and mineral springs. There are many tourist routes through this park for independent travelers and for group tours.
- Russain gate with towers and fortifications – fortified building on the banks of Smotrych River.
- Saint Peter & Paul Cathedral – cultural monument including the cathedral, minaret, triumphal gate, and the bell tower.
Many local tour companies offer different walking tours around the city and outside it to Podil’sky Tovtry National Park. And if you feel like seeing even more, you can take a bus (or tour) to the nearby Khotyn Fortress. Visiting Ukrainian fortresses in winter holds its own magic!
Other Great Tours to Join in Winter
What to Pack For a Winter Trip to Ukraine
In all cities, you need to have a warm jacket, beanie or trapper hat, scarf, gloves/mittens and insulated boots. For jackets or coats, I recommend you have a long down jacket that is well-insulated, windproof and water-resistant. It should be covering your butt and legs (like my jacket on the photo above. Or like here for women and here for men).
If you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors or venture to the mountains, you’ll also need thermals or terry tights (for women) that you can wear underneath pants or with a skirt (for women) and all the woolly accessories you can get your hands on.
Having thermal wear is important since most of Ukraine in winter has temperatures below zero and high humidity. Having the right type of thermal wear will surely keep you warmer, cozy and comfortable.
For winter boots, I recommend you choose either insulated waterproof snow boots or high fur boots. These particular high fur boots are very popular in Ukraine. They are handmade and keep you warm for the entire time of wearing them. I have a pair of this type of boots and they help me go through Ukraine winters and prevent freezing feet.
Do not pack jeans (your regular denim jeans that you wear back home). Denim is very bad fabric for cold, snowy, winter weather. You will be freezing. The only time I’d pack jeans for winter in Ukraine would be if you plan to travel only by car or with a guide on organized tours. But even then, you won’t be able to spend a lot of time outdoors.
A better solution is to pack flannel lined jeans, warm fleece joggers, or thick wool trousers (for both men and women). I personally often wear tights and high waist fleece leggings like this with a long jacket. You can also see on the photo above on the left.
If you find you haven’t packed enough warm gear, it’s fairly easy to buy jumpers, gloves, etc. either new or second-hand in any city or big town.
Tips For Ukraine Winter Travel
Before I finish my post, I’d love to give you a few more tips for wintertime in Ukraine:
1. Choose your wardrobe smartly. I can’t stress enough how important it is to pack the right type of clothes for winter in Ukraine. If you don’t have enough warm clothes, you’ll be cold and won’t be able to spend 5 minutes on the street, not to say half a day.
In Ukraine, we joke that 50% of winter happiness depends on the right clothes.
2. Do not be afraid to rent a car. Traveling by car in Ukraine has become my favorite activity. I explain why in my post about driving in Ukraine. And winter is no exception here.
The best company to rent a car in Ukraine is VIP Cars. They offer just the best prices and good amenities with free and easy cancelations. But don’t miss my guide to find out more details.
3. Wake up and go to bed early. Days in Ukraine in winter are short and not only because of the sunlight but because of this overcast we often have. Many times December and January afternoons look like late evenings rather than daytime. The clock shows 3 pm but it feels like the night is near.
On sunny days, often, the sun shows up mainly in the first part of the day and hides behind grey clouds after 12 pm. So if you don’t want to get the impression that you are staying in forever winter twilight, wake up before 9 am. Being outside in the city center when lights are on is also nice.
4. Choose accommodation with more natural light on a higher floor. This is another important tip to make sure you get enough natural light during the day.
Once Mark and I rented an apartment in Lviv on the ground floor facing the inner courtyard and oh my god, I started to feel depressed on the 3rd day. We had to turn the lights on after waking up in the morning because there was so little light from outside.
Ground floor apartments or hotel rooms are great for hot summer days because they give extra shade and cool. In winter, they are cold and depressing. Choose a room on a higher floor, possibly facing south.
5. Book train tickets and car rentals in advance. If you plan to visit Ukraine anytime in December or January and plan to travel around the country (especially go to the Carpathians), I recommend you purchase train tickets in advance.
This is that time of the year when Ukrainians travel a lot (the holiday season is rather long here) and tickets for some routes may be sold out with a lot of time in advance. Especially first-class and 4-bed compartments.
So better buy your tickets ahead of time. In case the trip gets canceled, you can always return them and get a refund. The refund although is not in full amount and depends on the date of return.
More Winter Travel Inspiration For Europe
- Visiting Spain in Winter – what is it like?
- Montenegro in Winter Travel Tips – where to go & what to do
- Croatia in the Winter – should you go or not?
- Lucerne in Winter – how to get the most of the season
- Turkey in Winter – 8 Things to Know Before You Go
- Visiting Cyprus in Winter – Best Things to Do + Travel Tips
- 12 Cheapest Places Where to Travel in Europe in Winter – best for budget travelers