Set on the foothills of the Caucusus Mountains on the Black Sea coast is the gorgeous city of Sochi. With long stretches of beautiful shingle beaches, snow capped mountains that offer excellent skiing, several challenging hiking trails, parks, waterfalls, museums that display the region’s rich heritage, and a buzzing nightlife, Sochi is a fun and happening place. Summer is an especially good time to visit Sochi to enjoy the sun and the sea. This southern Russian destination boasts of around 300 sunny days a year! Even in winter, which is very mild compared to winter in the rest of Russia, Sochi is enjoyable and the winter sports are great in the mountains.
Among the city’s attractions are museums, monuments and samples of neoclassical architecture—all pointing to the rich history of the place. You also have botanical parks, and a whole host of outdoor activities to keep you entertained.
Year round cultural activities that include music concerts, theatre and exhibitions is another feature of the city. Kinotavr, the annual film festival held in June is Russia’s largest film festival and attracts the top movie talent of the country. Sochi puts on a grand show at night when its numerous bars and nightspots come alive. With the 2014 Winter Olympics—which Sochi is hosting—around the corner, the city along with its tourist infrastructure is getting a facelift. Rest assured, you are in for a great time here.
Sochi Discovery World Aquarium
One of the largest oceanariums in Europe, a visit to this popular tourist attraction is a wonderful experience for both the young and old. Its marine life includes both sea water and fresh water species. You can see dolphins, sharks, penguins, seahorses, medusa, rays, sea anemones, and an array of other marine inhabitants. Visiting hours are from 10 am to 6 pm.
Town History Museum
Recently renovated, this museum was originally opened in 1920. It displays an impressive collection of art, artefacts and photographs mostly connected with the city’s rich history and milestones. One of the major museum attractions is the Soyuz 9 capsule that went into orbit in 1970. One of its occupants was a Sochi resident - cosmonaut Sevastyanov.
One of the oldest and biggest parks in Sochi, the Riviera Park was opened in 1898 and used by Russia’s Tsars who vacationed on the Black Sea. Beautifully maintained and renovated a few years back, this lovely park is great for leisurely strolls, picnics and fun especially on sunny summer days. Sports facilities, restaurants, bars, theatres and a cinema are also part of the park. It also features a Friendship Alley that sports trees planted by famous personalities, politicians and local celebrities. A botanical garden next to the park has exotic trees from all over the world.
Beautifully designed and built in 1892, the Dendrary Park or Sochi Arboretum has on its premises more than 1,500 varieties of trees and shrubs from around the world. A must visit attraction in Sochi, this leafy park has a relaxing and pleasant atmosphere. A cable car takes you up the heights of the park where you are greeted with an incredibly panoramic view of the sea and the scenic coast.
Built in 1937, Stalin’s favourite dacha sits atop a mountain range and is open to the public. He used to visit the villa often and held several meetings with leading political leaders of the time. You can even rent a room here provided you are not deterred by stories of Stalin’s ghost still haunting the place at nights. A small museum displays Stalin’s waxwork and personal belongings.
Sochi Art Museum
Housed in a beautiful building which in itself is worth a visit, the Sochi Art Museum was built in 1936. Over 5,000 art pieces are displayed here and they depict Sochi’s illustrious past quite aptly. Along with works of renowned Russian artists like Isaac Izrailevich Brodsky are displayed paintings by talented local artists. Solo exhibitions of local painters are regularly organised here.
Blessed as it is by nature, Sochi boasts numerous waterfalls of which the most impressive is this collection of cascading falls commonly referred to as 33 waterfalls. Though not very high—the highest one is only 10 metres—these falls are very picturesque, particularly when melting snow from the mountains brings water gushing down during spring. Organised tours are available to this rather remote location near Bolshoy Kichmay.
Sochi is mostly about taking it easy and having a relaxing vacation. The spas—and there are many of them here—are obviously a big part of the Sochi sojourn. The beaches attract lots of tourists particularly during summer when it is also great for swimming. Yachting, kitesurfing and cruise boat tours are popular activities. Regular boat tours are organised by the Sochi seaport during summer (May to October).
The views of the Sochi coast with the mountains looming large in the background are best enjoyed from boats out at sea. Trekking, white-water rafting, rock climbing, caving and canyoning also find many takers. The mountains in winter offer excellent opportunities for skiing, heli-skiing and other winter sports. The mountain resort of Krasnaya Polyana attracts several visitors during the winter months.