World Cup host city and probably Russia’s most famous beach resort town, Sochi is a glamorous get away on the Black Sea. It has also been the presidential summer residence since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a role it took over from the Crimea. Not the destination for those who want to strip everything back to basics and nature, Sochi has booming nightclubs, a busy boardwalk, water and amusement parks, as well as a dynamite sunset. Stretching 150 kilometres along the coastline it has plenty to discover.
If you make it to Vladivostok, Russia’s most eastern major port town, well done you – it’s quite the hike. As your reward, the city has several options should you want to soak up some rays. Vladivostok itself has a few beaches. The best being Sportivnaya Harbor, where there is a half submerged mermaid statue, which, as per custom, you should salute to as you jump in. Alternatively there are the easily accessible islands of Popov and Reyneke, each with beaches imploring you to explore.
In the enclave of Kaliningrad, the Kurshskaya Kosa National Park is nestled in the Curonian Spit. A Unesco World Heritage Site, the Curonian Spit divides the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea and is a 98 kilometre stretch of pristine white sand, dunes and remote, rugged beauty. Kurshskaya Kosa is only 50 kilometres, but that is still big enough to make sure your neighbouring beach-goer is nowhere in sight. Aside from relaxing in the sun, roam and explore this beautiful spot and get a feel for Kaliningrad’s wild beauty.
If you are in St Petersburg, another World Cup host city, and need to escape the heat, follow the locals and head up to the Gulf of Finland. It’s an easy day trip from Russia’s second city although there are plenty of options should you want to stay a little longer. Picturesque beaches, both sandy and pebbly, are flanked with pine trees creating the ultimate forest bathing experience. Popular beaches include Laskovy Beach, Tarkhovka and Repino, but there are so many others for you to explore.
Above the Arctic Circle in Murmansk, the Kola Peninsula might be a chillier beach holiday, but in summer the days are literally endless. One of Russia’s most northern destinations, you’re almost as far north as Finland’s Lapland. The region is probably more well known for spotting Aurora Borealis, but a jaunt up here in the warmer months, when it can reach a not-so-scorching 15 degrees Celsius, is still worth it. Soak up the peninsula’s stunning wilderness under the glow of the midnight sun.
Also on the Black Sea, Gelendzhik is somewhat quieter – but not really quiet – than Sochi. Lesser known than its neighbour, it is still exquisite. While it is another resort town, the surrounding beaches and nature are a sublime pay off for those who venture out of the city. In fact, just outside of the city there are nature walks through conifer trees and mountains if you need to break up the lazing about.
Another Kaliningrad gem, Baltiysk sits on the enclave’s south, on the Baltic Sea. And it is stunning. Year round strong winds make this an ideal windsurfing and sailing destination. This wind, which can build up a fair bit of momentum, blows the sand dunes about, creating the phenomenon of the dancing sand dunes – a major draw card to the town’s beaches. On top of this, the sand and the dunes are coloured with amber, the fossilised tree resin which is common to the region, giving the sand and the dunes a warm yellow colour.