If climbing mountains is already checked off your to-do list, it might be the time to consider the new highs, or, rather, the new lows. Not everyone knows that Ukraine is abundant with caves and dungeons, some of which are the record-breakers in Europe. Wrapped in legends, they attract hundreds of researchers and tourists each year. While the caves are mostly located in the central and Western Ukraine, dungeons can be found in all regions from south to far west.
Often dubbed the most mystical city in Ukraine, Lviv has various underground spots that have been preserved well since the old times. One of them is a network of dungeons of the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. The first written mentioning of the church dates back to 1648 when Lviv Catholic delegation was passing the place on the way to negotiations with Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky.
Read: Mysterious Legends of Lviv
Throughout the years of its existence, the dungeon labyrinth was used as a prison, shelter, infirmary and food warehouse. Archeologists still explore this mystical spot and discover intriguing artifacts — for instance, a 600 kg whole stone sarcophagus, where the 18th century Bishop of Lviv Mykolai Vyzhytskyi is buried. The access to dungeons is free.
Address: 82A, Lychakivska Street
Another popular and astonishing dungeon is located in a Dominican Church. The 13-th century building that lies in the heart of the Old Town of Lviv hides the secrets of Prince Lev Danylovych, also known as Leo I of Galicia. The Dominican monastery was built for Prince’s wife Constance, who had dearly missed her native Hungary and wished to pray in the church familiar to her. Thus, the dungeons became a sacred place. Later they became a hiding place for Princess Elizaveta Ostrogska who was married against her will. The young girl has been hiding in Dominican Church with her mother, but soon both of them were forced to surrender to the King’s will. Besides, the oldest pillory in Lviv is located here as well. The access to the dungeons is UAH 15 for adults and UAH 5 for school kids.
Address: 1, Muzeina Square
Finally, the more gleeful underground spot is located in the Pharmacy Museum. Officially called Under the Black Eagle, the pharmacy was a favorite place among the city's bohemia to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and discuss the latest events. Visitors are welcome to visit building’s dungeon, which used to house an alchemy lab. Here guests can learn how the lab was equipped back in the 16th-17th centuries as well as examine various materials for alchemical experiments.
Address: 2, Drukarska Street
Read: Castles of the Western Ukraine
A grand winding labyrinth of Odesa catacombs is one of the most popular tourist attractions among those who come to this south city. The overall length of the catacombs located in Odesa and its suburbs is estimated to be 2.5 thousand kilometers. These underground tunnels were first used as quarries to extract the building stones and in the 18-19th centuries used for smuggling and slave trading.
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The catacombs became largely known after their usage as a shelter for partisans and an antinuclear bunker during the WWII. Sure enough, archeologists and historians didn’t miss a chance to explore such a rich historical spot. Nowadays many companies offer tours with an English-speaking guide to learn the history of the place. Visiting without a guide isn’t recommended, as sometimes tourists, usually kids, get lost in the winding tunnels.
Address: multiple locations, the most popular ones are Nerubais'ke village, Velyka Balka village
The most popular underground location in the capital of Ukraine is, without a doubt, a complicated network of Kyiv Pechersk Lavra caves. This unique monastery complex, which is included in UNESCO world heritage list, is one of the seven wonders of Ukraine. It is regularly visited by 43 millions of tourists. However, many of them limit themselves with the excursions in the churches, while the caves are left unexplored.
Read: Renovations of Kyiv Attractions in Spring 2018
Hundreds of narrow passages and caves where monks once lived lie beneath the lower Lavra. Over 100 bodies remain there mummified in niches carved in stonewalls of the caves. Besides, the caves host three underground churches that are so old they’ve been already reconstructed in the 16-th century. The excursions in Lavra caves are available in English.
Address: 15, Lavrska Street
The far-away but the exciting underground dungeon is located in Zverynetsky men’s monastery. Founded in the 11-th century, it carried the mysteries of Kievan Rus — according to legends, one of the monastery’s hermitages contained the famous Library of Yaroslav the Wise. The dungeons have stood undiscovered for more than 800 years and hide incredibly old artifacts — for instance, a whole monastery that dates back to the era before the 1240 Seige of Kyiv. Nowadays the caves can be easily accessed. Local monks organize excursions daily from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M.
Address: 20-22, Michurina Street
Finally, a hidden gem among the dungeon complexes in Ukraine is located in Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral in Lutsk. This Roman Catholic church was established at the beginning of the 17th century. Apart from the church itself, the complex had a Jesuit college which conducted education on the highest level and was free for all students. The dungeons, however, didn't carry any holy function – for a long time, it was a food supplies stock in case of siege and later it was used as a chamber to hold prisoners and torture room.
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The remains of victims, as well as wealthy dwellers buried here, lie in piles altogether after the burial places have been scavenged. The excursions to this dark place are pretty cheap — UAH 10-15.
Address: 6, Kafedralna Street
Sure enough, Ukraine has much more than just several explored and well-prepared for tourism landmarks. Each year building companies and archeologists find more and more underground artifacts in cities all over Ukraine. We hope such places will be carefully preserved and opened for visitors soon.
Photo source: shutterstock.com., unsplash.com / jorge rojas. All images belong to their rightful authors.