To the Russians it is known as the Black Sea Pearl. To the rest of us it is known as Sochi - the host of the 2014 Winter Olympics. It is estimated that some 4 million tourists visit Sochi each year. But only 3% of those are international travellers. For many international travellers who want to travel to Russia visa is mandatory. The same applies for British residents – if you want to visit Russia visa is required. But do not let that deter you. We look at the top 5 reasons to visit Sochi now that the Olympic hoopla has died down.
Sochi Russia. Photo credits
Beaches, beaches and even more beaches. Black sand beaches stretch as far as the eye can see. Since Sochi is located in the southern most part of Russia and has a subtropical climate, it gets in the region of 300 sunny days per year. Which means that from mid-May until end of October Black Sea is warm enough to take a dip. If lounging on the beach is not your thing, Sochi has an abundance of water parks and water sports to enjoy.
And then there are the mountains. Sochi is just 40 kilometres away from Krasnaya Polyana, the winter sports complex where the Olympics were held. The Russian government invested 600 billion USD into the Sochi’s infrastructure. Winter sports enthusiasts will be overjoyed with all the activities that are on offer (such as skiing, cross country skiing and snowboarding). The public slopes at the Alpika Service Mountain Resort cover an area of 25 kilometres and include tracks for both the beginners and the experienced skiers (who can enjoy off-piste skiing).
Majority of Sochi's outdoor sights are located within the Sochi National Park. You can explore the Akhtyrshskaya Cave or the Vorontsovka Caves, you can do some mountain walking at Mount Akhun (and enjoy the panoramic view of the city from the summit) or visit the largest trout farm in Russia. Yew-and-Box Grove (located on one of the slopes of Mount Akhun) is a Caucasus State Biosphere Preserve and one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. It is home to more than 700 species of plants - some endangered, some endemic and some over 2000 years old.
If nature is not your thing, but you would still like to see some wildlife in Sochi you can find the Oceanarium, Sochi Discovery World Aquarium and Aquarium and Marine Zoo. Within the city limits there are a number of parks just perfect for a leisurely stroll (Riviera Park, Dendrarium and Park of Southern Cultures to name a few). You can pay a visit to Sochi's Art Museum or Sochi's History Museum. Or visit Stalin's former summer residence (not for the faint-hearted as it is allegedly still haunted by his ghost).
Abundant accommodations and transportation links
Just prior to the Winter Olympics Games Sochi was a giant construction site. And it was not only the Olympics venues that were under construction. In order to accommodate all the tourists, more than 100 hotels were built in order to satisfy the demand for the accommodations. No matter what your preference or your budget might be, you are bound to find a good hotel deal in Sochi.
All the things that make Sochi unique (such as having both the sea and the mountains just an hour away from each other) would be meaningless if there was no transportation infrastructure in place. Sochi International Airport connects the city with the world and the rest of the Russia. There are two train stations that connect Sochi with some international cities in the region and most of the major cities in Russia. You can also take the train to travel from Sochi to the nearby mountains. If you are a British resident who wants to visit Russia visa is mandatory. However you can avoid applying for a Russian visa if you visit Sochi onboard of a cruise ship. That way you can visit the Russian territory for up to 72 hours (if you stay aboard the cruise ship or alternatively at a hotel as a part of a group).
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