Olympic splendour: How to enjoy the perfect day trip to Sochi
Located in the southern region of Krasnodar Krai, the city of Sochi is one of Russia’s busiest destinations. Although the rest of the world knows it as the location for the 2012 Winter Olympics, its nickname at home is Russia’s Summer Capital, making it clear that the Black Sea City’s appeal lasts all year round.
With skiing in winter and swimming in summer, Sochi’s list of attractions might be more typically associated with the Alps than the Caucasus. However, travelers willing to venture a little further afield will discover a charming seaside resort with a subtropical climate, bordered by imposing mountain peaks. Located just over an hour’s drive from our Park Inn by Radisson Rosa Khutor, it’s worth waking up early to make sure you arrive in Sochi with plenty of time to explore the city and its surroundings.
A world beneath our own
Underneath a village on the outskirts of Sochi you’ll find the Vorontsovskaya Caves, which reach an incredible 12km into the mountains. The cave system is the largest of its kind in the Caucasian Mountains, with the 120m-long Prometheus Grotto one of its most famous attractions. Archeological surveys have discovered signs of prehistoric habitation, and you can still see the bones of now-extinct cave bears. The tour takes around 5-6 hours, including transportation to the caves.
If the words “Monkey Nursery Center” make you picture a kindergarten just for adorable baby monkeys, you’ll need to think again. Part of the Russian Academy of Medical Science, the historic center in Abler opened in the ’60s and is where the first monkeys were trained for space exploration – so just a little more advanced than the kind of thing humans toddlers typically learn. Still an active research and training facility, the Nursery is open for public tours, learning about the eleven different species and thousands of different monkeys housed at the facility.
Founded in 1898, the park now includes a Dolphinarium, an Aquarium, an amusement park and several exhibitions. Divided into themed sections within sections, you could easily spend a whole day here, especially if you’ve brought the whole family along. There’s also an extensive sports center, so you can brush up your tennis skills or practice your golf swing while you’re here. Make sure you don’t miss some of the more unusual attractions, like the animatronic dinosaurs or the ‘Glade of Friendship’ – an enchanting cluster of magnolia trees, each one planted by a cosmonaut or important local.
Tea for Two
Russia is deservedly famous for its black tea, traditionally made using a samovar and served with sugar, jam, lemon or honey. All Russian-produced tea originates from the area around Sochi, with much of it produced by the Dagomys Tea Plantation, built in 1887. Tours of the plantation culminate with afternoon tea in one of the ornate wooden teahouses, accompanied by live musicians. You’ll be able to taste several different varieties of local tea, along with the staple black bread and delicious fruit jams, and can buy your favorites to take home as souvenirs.