Although it likely was brought to the attention to most of the world by the 2014 Winter Olympics, the Black Sea resort city of Sochi has many assets that make it a great place to visit. Spanning 145 kilometers across the coast of the Black Sea, Sochi is the second longest city in the world, giving it plenty of room to pack in many attractions that’ll keep you busy no matter how long your trip.
Sochi is one of Russia’s most popular destinations. It’s also one of the few places on Earth where you can spend the morning on the slopes and the afternoon swimming in the sea. This is possible because Sochi has multiple mountain resorts that are open throughout the year, including the summer.
Sochi’s popularity as a tourist destination began during the time of the Soviet Union, with people from all over Eastern Europe visiting for their annual holidays and has remained popular ever since. Like any good beach resort, there are plenty of nearby attractions and the goal of this article is to highlight the best things to do in Sochi.
Explore the Krasnaya Polyana Mountain Cluster
Krasnaya Polyana (the Beautiful Meadow) is one of the main reasons why Sochi is referred to as “The Russian Switzerland”. It is one of the most popular and most beautiful mountain clusters in all of Russia. Krasnaya Polyana features brand-new facilities, stylish luxury resorts, superb ski slopes, hiking trails, and of course, traditional Russian saunas. It’s a fantastic place for practicing winter sports but also for enjoying the mountains and some of the most amazing views of the magnificent West Caucasus Mountains.
Chase waterfalls (33 of them to be exact)
The area surrounding the city boasts beautiful nature that features 33 waterfalls. These waterfalls are a part of the Dzhegosh Stream. There are both, large and small waterfalls, with the highest one set at 90 feet or 27 meters. The best time to go waterfall chasing in Sochi is the early spring. The snow starts melting from the Caucasus Mountains, feeding the falls with more water and making them look even more spectacular.
Visit Mount Akhun and the Monument to the Heroes of the Great Patriotic War
Located around 15 km away from the city center, Mount Akhun is a popular site for people who want to see the best views of Sochi and the Krasnodar Region. The mountain summit is marked by a fascinating 100-foot tall Romanesque tower. From here, you can enjoy panoramic views that stretch all the way to the remote coastal parts of Turkey. This tower was once a sacred site for the local Unykh community.
On your way to the summit, you will find a monument devoted to the heroes of the Great Patriotic War. If you’re a history lover, you’ll definitely want to visit this site.
Interact with animals
Sochi has numerous different attractions for animal lovers. One of them is the Aquarium-terrarium, which features more than 200 species of birds, reptiles, and fish. If you have a particular love of owls, you’ll want to visit the Sovarium that describes itself as an “interactive exhibition of owls” with over 30 different types. A particular highlight is the Husky Center, which provides visitors with the opportunity to experience and learn about the culture of northern Russians, with a focus on the Siberian Husky – a breed of dog that is essential to human life in remote regions. In winter, guests are able to take part in dog sledding, being pulled along by the Huskies.
Check out the Dendrarium Botanical Gardens
Visiting Sochi’s Dendrarium will make you feel like you’re taking a trip around the forests of the world. Where all of them are located in one place. Sochi’s Dendrarium is one of the most diverse botanical gardens in Russia and the world. It features species from around the world organized in sections that represent different continents. Visiting this garden is a great way to get some fresh air and experience some amazing views of the Caucasus Mountains and the Black Sea coast.
Visit the northernmost tea plantation in the world
The Dagomys Tea Plantation is the northernmost tea plantation in the whole world. This tea plantation owes this unique status to the region’s microclimate and the fertile ground in the area. The plantation is a fully-fledged tourist attraction where a wide range of events and activities take place. You can participate in a traditional, 19th-century tea party in a Russian wooden log at the top of a mountain and listen to traditional Russian folklore songs.
See Stalin’s holiday home
Many people that belong to the Russian elite have a holiday home in Sochi and the former Soviet dictator was no exception. Stalin’s Dacha has remained untouched since Stalin’s death in 1953 and many of his possessions are still in the dacha.
Get in touch with nature in Sochi National Park
The National Park in Sochi is the second largest in Russia. The park contains a lot of waterfalls, caves, gorges, and canyons that offer incredible views of the Caucasus mountains. It also has many accessible hikes that offer stunning views and a lot of camping spots where you can reconnect with nature. However, camping isn’t recommended due to the fauna in the area that includes bears, wolves, and leopards.
The park also includes a lot of interesting places to visit. One of them is the Loo Byzantine Church from the 10th century, located at the top of the mountain. If you are looking for a fascinating insight into one of the oldest remains of Russia’s Eastern Orthodox Church, you really shouldn’t miss visiting this church.
See one of the longest cave complexes in Russia
Not only is Vorontsovka one of the longest cave complexes in Russia but it also hides evidence of human existence dating back to over 20,000 years ago! This, along with the cave’s fascinating visual look draws visitors from around the world. You can enter the caves by foot from one of the many entrances in the slopes of the Kudepsta Valley.
Related: Popular Russian stereotypes which aren’t true
Take a look at the Olympic Park -for free!
Outside of Sochi’s Olympic fame, sporting events are at the heart of this Black Sea city. It hosted a number of matches in the FIFA 2018 World Cup, has been featured on the Formula One calendar since 2014 and hosts a round of the 2019 World Poker Tour in January. Also, inside the Olympic Park, there are famous “Singing Fountains”, which provide visitors with a one-hour show of music and colorful, dancing fountains.
Prior to the Winter Olympic Games, a number of modern sporting facilities were built, including the $50 billion Olympic Park. The park continues to host sporting events, including the aforementioned Russian Grand Prix and ice hockey games. It’s not just athletes that can use the facilities. The Iceberg Skating Palace is open to the public, allowing you to skate around on its two 1800m² ice arenas, practicing your figure skating skills, or perhaps just trying to not fall over. The entrance to the Olympic Part is completely free for all visitors.
Check out Russia’s number one skiing destination
Rosa Khutor might not be so famous as its counterparts in Northern and Southwestern Europe but this part of Russia is an absolute must-visit for skiing enthusiasts. It’s the number one skiing destination in Russia that features some beautiful winter resorts, nestled deep in the Caucasus Mountains. The resort is one hour’s drive of Sochi and it was the main scene of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Rosa Khutor features 132 kilometers of ski slopes, 56 ski lifts, and multiple luxury hotels and fine restaurants.
Relax on the beaches of Lazarevskoye District
This district is one of the best destinations in Sochi when it comes to summer tourism. The district today is a peaceful country settlement with the potential to become one of the best seaside resorts in the region. There’s a range of different hotels in the district suitable for everyone’s budget with quite high service standards. Lazarevskoye even has its own private 5-star recreation center reserved for Russian celebrities. This is proof of the status this summer retreat has in Russia. The best part is that the prices are still relatively low in order to stay competitive with the Russian standard of living since most of the visitors are still locals.
Visit a fortress that’s more than 1,500 years old
Sochi is a city where you’ll find a lot of ancient ruins scattered across the city but there’s one site that’s the most impressive one of them all. I’m talking about Godlik Fortress. This fortress with a triangular shape was built around the end of the 4th century and it’s still in a great condition today, 1,500 years later. This is one of the most important historic sites in the region and visiting will make you feel like you’re stepping back in time. If you’re a history lover, this is one place you really shouldn’t miss while in Sochi.
Related: Tips on taking the longest train journey in the world (Moscow to Vladivostok)
Enjoy art at the Sochi Art Museum
Sochi’s Art Museum has been around since 1936 and it’s obviously not one of the oldest sites in the city. However, it sure is one of the most visually-striking landmarks with its ornate classical architecture that will take your breath away and lure you to visit. After you enter the building, the experience becomes even better. The museum features a huge variety of artworks from different time periods from different parts of Russia. Visiting is also a great way to learn about the city as many of the exhibits featured in the museum are about Sochi’s fascinating and at times, turbulent history.
Try fresh Russian lavash
No trip to Sochi is complete without trying the delicious local delicacy, Lavash. Lavash is a flatbread that’s the tastiest when it’s just taken out of the oven. In Sochi, you’ll find fresh lavash on every corner and many bakeries prepare it right in front of your eyes. The bread tastes even better with savory meals but locals also serve it with sugar and a cup of tea/coffee.
Buy caviar from a trout farm
You must have heard about salmon caviar. It’s arguably the most famous Russian delicacy. But what you might not know is that here in Sochi, you can find everything pertaining to caviar. If you’re curious about how caviar is made and placed on the market, you should definitely visit a farm in Sochi. This is where you can buy caviar for the lowest price since there won’t be any intermediaries between you and the farmer.
A few other places you should visit in Sochi
If you’re looking for the best place to eat and drink, head to Primorskaya Street.
If you want to take a glimpse of the best of Sochi’s nightlife, check out Cabaret Lighthouse, Hart’s Irish Pub (one of the largest Irish pubs in the world), and ABBA bar
As you can see, Sochi is a city of many faces, allowing it to cater for almost every taste. The recent regeneration and redevelopment brought on by the Winter Olympic Games, Formula One and the FIFA World Cup have helped to boost tourism in the area. However, there were already plenty of other reasons for tourists to visit before this.
Want to visit Sochi?
A good first step would be to get a Russian visa. However, this isn’t always that easy. Russia’s visa policy is quite and only a handful of countries have visa-free agreements with Russia. So, unless you come from South America or some of the former Soviet countries, you probably need a visa to enter Russia. If you want to get your Russian visa without spending a lot of time and money, check out this website.
Have you ever been to Sochi? Would you like to visit? Let me know in the comments below.