A trip around Great Sochi

With its mountain peaks and seafront natural parks, a trout farm and Stalin’s summer house, Russia’s leading resort boasts an impressive variety of natural attractions and tourist sights.

Aleksandr Demianchuk/TASS
The resort of Greater Sochi stretches for 150 kilometres along the sea. By car, this journey can be completed in two and a half to three hours, but take your time and stop to see the sights.
This itinerary starts at the Roza Khutor mountain ski resort and gradually descends down the mountains along Route А148, going through Krasnaya Polyana and Kazachy Brod to Adler. From there, head along Route А147 to Khosta and then on to Matsesta and turn right to Semyonovka.

Krasnaya Polyana features mountains, waterfalls, ancient dolmen tombs, ravines and mineral water sources. It also has three mountain ski resorts: Roza Khutor, Laura and Gornaya Karusel, which are the best of their kind in Europe today. Chalets, restaurants, shops, clubs and children’s playgrounds are connected by paths and rope ways. In the summer, when there is no snow, the cycling season opens in the resorts. Twenty minutes away by car, heading towards the sea, the Sochi district of Adler spreads out. The famous resort city has recently acquired many new sources of pride: a new airport and a plethora of sports facilities, the centrepieces of which are the new Fisht Stadium and Russia’s largest aquarium, Sochi Discovery World.
One of the unique attractions found in the mountain village of Kazachy Brod is the private Sea Museum. Its creator Nikolay Topchiyan, a professional sailor and former ship mate, took up making ship models after he retired, and these now form part of the museum’s exhibits. Each model is perfect down to the last detail, depicting real ships, such as one of Columbus’ caravel, but at a scale of 1 in 50. Topchiyan also pays attention to the technology behind the manufacturing of the details, for example he forges nails and butts from ordinary rusting metal and puts wooden corks over nail-heads.
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Near the trout farm is the studio of glass art where visitors can watch a glass-blowing demonstration and buy glass souvenirs, including those in the form of Olympic medals.
Following the signs from here, you will reach a mountain path leading to Akhshtyrskaya Cave. This cave was discovered at the beginning of the twentieth century by French scientist Edouard-Alfred Martel and his guide Gavriil Revenko. In 1936, prehistoric human remains were found in the cave, including traces of Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons. Excavations revealed that the cultural layer here was up to five metres thick. The entrance to the cave is situated 120 metres above the river level. You do not need to be an experienced caver or have specialist equipment to visit the caverns: there is electric lighting and information panels with historical information have been installed.
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The History Museum of Khosta District is located in the inhabited area of Khosta and houses an interesting collection of artefacts, from a fourth-century Greek helmet to a Persian samovar.
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On the way to Matsesta, there is a viewing platform offering an astonishing panoramic view of Greater Sochi. In clear weather, even the Turkish coast is visible from here. The platform is located on the tower constructed at the peak of Akhun Mountain, which rises 663 metres above sea level.
Not far from the summer house lies the famous Sycamore Alley, with its Singing Fountains. The alley was founded and opened back in 1913 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the House of Romanov. In 1970, the Singing Fountains appeared in the alley, developed by engineers from Yerevan. The current fountains were built at the beginning of the twentieth century.
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Close to Matsesta are the early twentieth-century tea gardens, where visitors can take a walk and enrol for tasting sessions.
Aleksandr Demianchuk/TASS
Twenty kilometres from Matsesta on the road leading from the sea to Semyonovka Village is Volnitsa Ethnographic Complex - an attraction which illustrates the way of life of nineteenth-century Russian frontiersmen. At Khutor Remeslennikov (Farm of Craftsmen), visitors can enjoy lessons in pottery, smith-craft, or making straw toys. Barnyard fowl and cattle live in the open-air cages of the animal farm, along with buffalo, chamois, boars, otters, eagles and pheasants. Visitors can collect their own small jar of chestnut honey from the beehive, ride a horse, paddle a boat, or hire a fishing rod and catch a carp or trout from the pond, which they can then fry on the grill themselves or give to the kitchen, where it will be smoked, fried or turned into fish soup.

From Volnitsa, picturesque paths covered with box-trees and cherry-laurel lead to a cascade of 18 waterfalls, known as Gnomiki (Dwarves), Egipetskie Piramidy (Egypt Pyramids), Konsky Khvost (Horsetail) and Usy Dyadi Styopy (Uncle Stuyopa’s Moustaches).
Alexander Demyanchuk/TASS

Boasting one of the richest collections of marine inhabitants on the Black Sea coast, the Matsesta Aquarium opened in 2005. Besides the traditional aquariums with saltwater and freshwater fish, the aquarium offers several pools with crocodiles, a hippopotamus, penguins, iguanas and animals from the northern seas such as the walrus and several varieties of seal. The real stars of the aquarium, however, are the river otters Ashley and Garry. In 2014, this pair foretold the outcomes of sporting events at the Sochi Olympics! Visitors to the aquarium can also watch sharks, penguins, the crocodile and the hippo being fed, or enjoy one of the daily shows with the walrus and seals.

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The dacha for Joseph Stalin, who led the Soviet Union between the years 1922 and 1953, was built in Sochi in 1937 to the design of Miron Merzhanov, the creator of the Bocharov Ruchey Dacha and the Voroshilov resort centre in Sochi. Stalin’s family spent summers here, but Stalin himself preferred to visit in autumn. He would also receive foreign heads of state here. In memory of the visit of Mao Tse-tung, the founder and ideological leader of the People’s Republic of China, the silver stationary set he gave Stalin is on display at Stalin’s Dacha. Both the dacha’s exterior and interior have been kept intact, complete with the interior finishing of fine wood, the chandeliers, leather couches, Stalin’s custom-made writing table, and his family photographs. The first thing visitors see on entering the ground floor is Stalin’s wax figure at his writing table.

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The yew and box-tree grove is a unique old-growth forest in the Khosta District of Sochi, which has existed since before Ice Age, miraculously surviving both major construction projects and great natural calamities. Even though it has seen some major damage from the boxwood fungus in the past two years, the grove is still spell-bindingly beautiful.

Specially appointed pathways lead the tourists through the thickets, precipitous rocks and stone labyrinths past the ruins of an 11th/12th-century fortress and some caves, dead-ending at a turbulent mountain stream. The sprawling tops of the mighty, ages-old yews keep most of the grove in the cool shade even on a scorching summer day.

There are two excursion routes one can follow, two and five kilometres long. On the way, you can rest in the secluded arbours or on benches. The sign-posts will inform you of the local florae and faunae, as well as the directions.

One of the places you should definitely visit while in Adler district of Sochi is the trout factory, which is located on the way to Krasnaya polyana. There in the lakes with purest water – it is the one, where only can live the trout fish – there are thousands of fish of different types, including the one fish-farmed in Sochi – the coast rainbow trout Adler and Adlerskaya yantarnaya.

Today this is the only factory in Russia, which provides fish seeds and caviar for fish-farming to other fish farms in the country. Tourists may also come on a tour there. You can come on an excursion to the farm and find out everything about the fish-farming of the “royal fish”. The most captivating experience is feeding of huge fish in open ponds.

The main part of the program is a meal in the tasting hall. In the farm shop you may buy fresh fish, as well as semi-processed food and caviar.