While Sochi’s warm weather may lull visitors into a relaxed daze, the city and its surrounds have plenty of sights compelling enough to warrant stepping away from the sun-lounge for a moment. From Soviet dachas to political memorials, from ancient relics to the region’s natural beauty, don’t miss out on these incredible sights.
Whether you’re after a day trip, an afternoon walk or an overnight stay, there are plenty of opportunities for nature lovers to explore the Caucasus Mountains. Mount Fisht offers some epic views that sweep out across the Black Sea. The Caucasian State Biosphere Reserve has rugged peaks, serene mountain lakes, waterfalls and alpine meadows to explore. Permits are required for this, but can be purchased easily .
More of a country estate than a country cottage, Stalin’s Black Sea retreat is worth a look for its design and for what it reveals about Stalin’s character as well. Tucked away among the greenery of the Caucasus Mountain foothills with a view of the ocean, the former Soviet leader built his seaside retreat in 1937 as a sanctum in which to relax and recharge. Stalin couldn’t swim, and so he built a small but deep pool he could enjoy so he didn’t have to go in the ocean. His dacha also has a rooftop cinema and a billiards room, as well as parquet floors throughout, so he could hear the footsteps of approaching people.
Probably the first thing on most people’s to-do lists in Sochi is to hit the beach, and there are plenty to choose from, depending on your seaside style. Riviera is Sochi’s most popular beach, which offers all the standard boardwalk trappings, and the central beach stretches along the length of the city’s embankment. However, there are plenty of more secluded and even private beaches to choose from. To enjoy the ocean and the mountains at the same time, take a sea cruise, as they will offer the ultimate panorama of the Black Sea, the Sochi sprawl and the mighty Caucasus Mountains.
For nature lovers who don’t have the time to get out of town, the Arboretum Botanical Gardens are a little slice of serenity in the city centre. Once a private collection of exotic and subtropical plants, the gardens have over 1800 species of flora from all across the globe. For a bird’s-eye view of the city and the sea, take a trip in the park’s cable car.
In the centre of the city, an eight-metre tall mosaic of the founding leader of the Soviet Union observes all the nearby goings-on. The mosaic was unveiled in 1980 for what would have been the revolutionary’s 110th birthday. Lenin led the Bolshevik Revolution that ended imperial rule and paved the way for the formation of the Soviet Union. While there are mixed feelings among Russians about him, many still admire and revere him.
At the top of Mount Akhun is an observation tower, built in 1936 to resemble the North Caucasus lookout towers from the Middle Ages. At 700 metres (2,300 ft) above sea level, the stand-alone mountain offers a sweeping view of the city and the surrounds. A wedding tradition has evolved where new husbands carry their betrothed up to the tower’s top, which is equal to walking to the top of a ten-storey building.
A twelve-kilometre labyrinth of caves lies underground near the Black Sea. Around 500 metres of the network are open to the public to explore, about 40 kilometres outside of the city. Many of the cavernous chambers are adorned in stalactites and stalagmites and have underground lakes and rivers running through them. Remember, even in summer it is cold underground, so wear trousers and bring a jumper.
Russians love their tea, and Sochi’s subtropical weather has made the region the tea-growing capital of the nation. The region is also the most northerly tea growing area in the world. A tour around the plantation is another opportunity to soak up the beauty of the Caucasus Mountains, as well as an opportunity to sample tea along with locally made jams and freshly baked pastries.
Markets are always great places to sample local life, and Sochi’s central market is no exception. An ideal opportunity to get a taste of regional flavours, the market is filled with fresh produce, locally made tea as well as aromatic herbs and spices. Spread over several floors, the market is also the place to sample and buy regional and Georgian wine as well as Caucasian desserts.