Russia is many things to many people – and so is Sochi. Sochi was the host of the 2014 Winter Olympics, and you’re probably wondering why there’s still a lot of fuss around it – especially since the Winter games ended a while ago.
Well, by now, you’re probably assuming that Sochi is a destination for winter lovers – but here, I’m gonna give you quite some reasons for which it’s pretty much the contrary – a subtropical beach destination, Sochi is one of the locals’ favorite summer attractions, and over four million visitors come here every year, out of which most are Russians.
Before even beginning our list with great ways to spend your holiday here, you should know that, if what you’re aiming for is some must-see monument or place, you’re looking for the wrong destination. However, there are lots of impressive attractions. And what’s most surprising for a first-timer here is that the mix of things to do offers you the possibility to spend the time in ways that define you.
So even if you’ve heard about this place because of the Olympics or generally since 2007 (when it started being relatively known among foreign travelers), it’s neither this or the winter sports why you should visit, but some of the things we’re going to list below.
Stalin’s summer residence is here. In fact, Stalin was the first popular character in history to notice the beauty of this place and it’s partly because of his influence and taste for travel why the city is known until today. And taking into consideration the proverbial cold weather in Russia, it’s no wonder why some of the country’s known names loved it here during the summer.
What’s a little wondrous about all this is the fact that, despite over a hundred kilometers of Black Sea shoreline, the residence was built somewhere in the wooden hills in the upper part of the city. The faded green on the facade and the very well preserved interior are going to immerse you into the atmosphere of the times. As about the locals, they’re so sure of the unconditional love Stalin had for this place, that they’ll tell you all sorts of stories about his ghost never actually leaving the building. And while this is quite impossible, a mere short visit here would be enough to explain this rumor – it’s peaceful and quiet, and most probably you wouldn’t even believe that a dictator would have liked it here.
Russian Tea plantations are not quite popular, as nobody thinks of Russia as ‘oh yes, the ones with the amazing tea!’, but visiting one is quite an experience because they’re northernmost tea plantations in the world. And it’s merely about the place itself, as what would completely surprise you is the landscape: the never-ending, crystal clear sea on one side of the plantation and towering, high, snow-capped mountains on the other. Thinking there are people who will never see either glorious mountains or the sea, it really puts this weird, antinomic natural combination in perspective. Dagomys Tea Plantation is where you won’t only understand how tea is produced in Russia and what are the specific ways of drinking it, but you’ll also immerse into the most inner layer of their national culture. Live music and traditional food in a rustic log home is the most you can get out of the Russian experience.
The authentic Russian life can be explored at the local markets as well, the only place where you’ll definitely understand the true pulse of the Russian society, where you’ll find everything from souvenirs to Georgian old wine. The Central Market in Sochi dates from the ‘30s, and it’s the most recommended place for whoever wishes to find the most bona fide local delicacies.
And since we’re speaking for the gourmets as well, there are some must-try dishes part of the local cuisine that you simply can’t leave the premises without trying! One of these is ‘Magnolia Cheese Balls’, one of the most appetizing snacks you’ll ever eat. From white to dark red, pink and pastel rose, the wine is definitely a must for all the tourists. The region of Abkhazia has offered its Russian neighbors some of the culinary secrets, so try all there is stranger in the menu!
The Black Sea. The beaches are more going to remember you of Alabama than Siberia, as you’d probably imagine at first, the place is warm (both literally and figuratively)and during summer months the beaches here would make the best destination for whoever’s searching for some peace and quiet away from the city rush. Well, we do understand how this can be confusing for the average tourist, but the thing is that Sochi, despite of the reputation formed during the Olympic Games, is more used to seeing swim suits than skis. A dip in the relaxing waters and there’s no more that you could ask for a summer holiday, but you should know that it’s not only kilometers of sand and beaches that you’ll find, but lots of people as well.
The Byzantium Ruins watch the city of Sochi from over the hills above the Black Sea, northwest downtown of the city. There are three huge sets of decaying ruins of the Byzantine Empire. Godlik Fortress, much older than its smaller siblings, was built somewhere during the 15th century. Once imposing and feared by the enemy, there’s not that much to be intimidated of today, but the influence of time over even the stronger constructions. But if you take enough time to look carefully from a distance, you’ll understand the power and the function of these ruins.
Plus, not very far from here you’ll find Loo Temple, another Byzantine remain of the empire, built sometime during the 10th century and reinforced during the 14th. For someone who’s the least passionate in either trekking or exploring old ruins, the place would be a perfect match. The condition in which you’ll find the former majestic construction is quite poor, but it’s really worth visiting given the tumultuous history that it bears within the walls.
Abkhazia. It’s quite weird that one of the best things about Sochi isn’t even in Sochi, but it’s a place in Georgia that it’s pretty close to it and also the definition of ‘off the beaten path’ itself. Its charms would delight all the possible kinds of tourists, the most seasoned travelers have loved it at the first sight. This very disputed territory is considered by most of the international powers as part of Georgia, although it’s declared and autonomous republic. The tumultuous history of this place has never affected the creativity of the people here, and if there’s something you would ever wish to take home from here, let it be a book with the Nart Sagas, tales of mythical heroes and other Caucasian peoples.
The local architecture is another huge plus. If you don’t get to see St. Petersburg or Moscow, and even if you do, the Russian architecture never ceased to amaze the tourists (and even the architects) from all around the world. The art museum, the port or the train station, all these apparently typical buildings hide something of a great significance for the Russian architectural style. And don’t just punctually visit these, spend some time walking and admiring the surroundings. Go for a walk on the boardwalk net to the beach if what you’re looking for is some relaxing time, but if you’re curious to discover some of the city’s most appealing buildings, streets and attractions, the best way to fit in is by walking as much as possible.