Quad K Pre-tour Option – Moldova, Somewhere that Doesn’t Exist, and Odessa

Odessa’s much photographed Opera House and other stately buildings show its past prominence and prosperity.

Why not add another four days to your 12 day Quad-K experience and add time in another country – Moldova, in its capital of Chisinau, and also visiting Tiraspol which does double duty as Moldova’s largest regional city and also the capital of a country that doesn’t exist!  We then cross into Ukraine and enjoy two nights in beautiful Odessa on the shores of the Black Sea.

Chisinau was called Kishinev in Soviet times, and so we deem that to be the “fourth K” in the Quad K tour – Kishinev, Kiev, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

To enjoy this extension, we recommend you plan to arrive in Chisinau on Sunday 14 October.  If you’re coming from North America, that probably has you leaving on Saturday 13 October and taking an overnight flight.

You could of course arrive earlier, or even a day later if you wished.  At the end of our tour extension, you should then arrange a flight from Odessa to Kiev, on Thursday 18 October.  There are nonstop flights at 7am and 4.55pm, so you can decide which city you’d prefer more time in.  It is an easy quick one hour flight.

Here’s how we will spend our time on this extension.

Pre-tour Option Day 1 – Arrive Chisinau (Sunday 14 October or earlier)

A broad main street in Chisinau flanked by ‘book-end’ apartment blocks.
Welcome to Moldova!  In order to arrive into Chisinau today, you should fly out of the US the previous day, ie, Saturday 13 October.  You’ll probably arrive late morning or early afternoon today.

The rest of your day  is at leisure for you to relax after your flights and enjoy Chisinau as you wish.

Pre-tour Option Day 2 – Chisinau local touring (Monday 15 October)

Grand train station exteriors seem to be a universal element of former Soviet cities.  Here’s the one in Chisinau (or Kishinev as the Russians call the city).

There are over 100 miles of underground wine cellars in the Chisinau region, so huge you can drive a truck through them. They house 2 million bottles of wine.
This morning we’ll enjoy a half day city-sights tour around the Chisinau area.  Moldova, like the other countries we visit, was formerly one of the Republics within the Soviet Union.  It was an independent nation – the Principality of Moldavia for about 500 years prior to being handed over to Russia in 1812, and then changed hands several times between then and its current independence in 1991.  The balance of former Moldavia is now part of Romania, and Moldova’s official language is Romanian, although Russian is also common.

Moldova is now a small independent nation of 3.6 million people, with Chisinau (more properly spelled as Chișinău) as its capital and largest city, having a population of almost 700,000 people. 

Moldova is the least visited country in Europe in terms of tourist numbers, although the LonelyPlanet guide says it is finally being discovered and becoming more popular.  Only 11,000 people visit every year.  Grape growing and wine making is a large part of the country’s economy, and it has the largest cellar in the world, some 135 miles long (not all is currently in use) and holding almost 2 million bottles of wine, with the cellars at an average depth of 200-260 ft.

We’ll visit these cellars as part of our tour around Chisinau today.

Included meals :  Breakfast

Pre-tour Option Day 3 – Travel to Tiraspol then on to Odessa (Tuesday 16 October)

It is only the date on the Soviet-style billboard that tells us this picture in Tiraspol isn’t from 50 years earlier.
The sacred and the profane juxtaposed in Tiraspol.

Statues of Lenin are almost never seen in Russia these days. But here he is, looking like nothing has changed, in front of Tiraspol’s parliament building.
This morning we’ll leave Chisinau and head south-east, first to Tiraspol, about 50 miles and just over an hour away.

Tiraspol is described by Lonely Planet as “one of the strangest places you’ll ever visit”.  Although officially Moldova’s second largest city, with a population of 134,000, it is unofficially also the capital of the largely unrecognized breakaway nation of Transnistria (sometimes also spelled as Transdniestr and it seems the locals call their country Pridnestrovie).  Transnistria coexists in a strange relationship with the rest of Moldova, which describes it as “the Transnistria autonomous territorial unit with special legal status”.

Only three other “places” recognize Transnistria as a nation, and the quotes are because these three places are themselves unrecognized breakaway regions – Abkhazia, Artsakh, and South Ossetia.  Crossing the ‘border’ to enter this region is easy, and fortunately they don’t require visas, because no other countries recognize them.  They will however give us a ‘migration card’ that allows us to stay for up to 10 hours without further formalities, and in our case, that will be more than plenty for a quick look-see.

So this will be a very interesting experience – visiting a country that only exists in its own mind!

Tiraspol itself is a fascinating leftover from Soviet times, sort of stuck in a timewarp and perhaps wishing for a time now long since passed.  Plenty of Soviet style statues and posters, and they remain as the only ‘country’ to still feature a hammer and sickle on their flag.  Definitely an experience to tell your friends about.  Here’s more about this really fascinating city/(non)state.

After experiencing Tiraspol, we continue on and cross the border – a real border, this time – into Ukraine.  Our destination is the lovely coastal city of Odessa, which is just under 70 miles away.  Depending on how long the border takes to cross, this is probably two hours.

We will spend two nights in Odessa.

Included meals :  Breakfast

Pre-tour Option Day 4 – Enjoy Odessa (Wednesday 17 October)

One of Odessa’s many amazing buildings and palaces.

A 115 yr old cable car is a fun way to ride down to Odessa’s Black Sea port.
Odessa is a lovely city with a varied history.

Between 1819 – 1858 its status as a free port saw it boom and grow to become the Russian Empire’s fourth largest city (after Moscow, St Petersburg and Warsaw).  Traces of its earlier grandeur and wealth are everywhere to be found.

These days it is Ukraine’s third largest city, a major transportation hub and seaport, and a popular tourist destination.

We include a half-day city sights tour of Odessa (these days increasingly spelled with only one “s”) this morning to show you the major sights and attractions.

You then have the afternoon free to tour around as you wish.

Included meals :  Breakfast

Pre-tour Option Day 5/Main Tour Day 1 – Travel to Kiev  (Thursday 18 October)

There are two easy one hour nonstop flights connecting Odessa to Kiev.


At some time today you should travel from Odessa up to Kiev.  There are two easy and quick one-hour non-stop flights; one leaves at 7am and the other at 4.55pm.  You can arrange whichever you prefer, or travel any other way (the train journey, while pleasant, is indirect and so takes more time than the 300 mile distance would suggest – just over seven hours; we don’t recommend it unless you love trains).

Today is the day that most of our other tour members also arrive into Kiev (although some might choose to arrive a day or so early).

Please now click on to our main tour itinerary for information about our time in Kiev, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, or go to the Main Quad K Tour Page for more general information and to register your interest in joining the tour.

Included Meals :  Breakfast


Please also visit our master tours listing page for a complete listing of all currently scheduled
Travel Insider Tour opportunities.

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