Weather: Ukraine

Like southern Canada, the Ukraine experiences summers warm enough to allow grains to thrive despite the high latitude. Even in Kiev, toward Ukraine's northern border, high temperatures average 22°C/72°F, or better, for more than three months of the year. Summer storms usually drop enough rain to keep crops healthy (although drought is always a concern), and even the thundery days usually see some sunshine. Both late spring and early autumn tend to be quite sunny as well, with fewer showery days than midsummer. Winter sets in by November, and snow typically covers the ground for months. A few thaws can send temperatures just above freezing, while the worst cold waves can push them well below –20°C/–4°F.

There's more to Ukraine than endless wheat fields. Eastern Europeans have long gone to Crimea to escape the worst of their winters. Surrounded by the seldom-frozen Black Sea, most of the Crimean peninsula averages more than 5°C/9°F warmer than Kiev in winter (although light snow is still common), and it's a touch warmer than Kiev in summer as well. Just over a row of limestone hills, the south Crimea coast, including Yalta, is warmer still, with a Mediterranean feel to the climate. It's cool rather than cold in winter (though wetter than the rest of the Crimea), and snow is rare. Mid-summer can be sultry: lows average close to 20°C/68°F and afternoons often top 27°C/80°F. Beyond Crimea, Odessa and the surrounding Black Sea lowlands are swept by mountain-dried westerly winds passing over the Carpathians. Both winter snows and summer thunderstorms tend to be light, and temperatures can soar or plummet quickly – and often – as downslope winds trade off with cold northeasterlies from Russia. The Carpathians are best explored in late summer and early autumn; it can take until May for the mud, slush and flooding of snowmelt season to subside.