Most people picture Russia as a Northern country with Taiga, Siberia, polar bears, vodka and a never-ending freezing winter. Despite all those things being Russia’s trademarks, and 65% of the country’s territory being covered with permafrost, there is more to this country.
Located in the far southwest, the Southern Russia impresses with its beauty: warm summer meadows, captivating sea shores, and soaring mountains with snowcapped tops.
The most notable Russian summer destination is Sochi, a humid subtropical resort. Located on the Black Sea shore, the “Summer capital” is small and gorgeous. A long summer from June to October gives rise to pleasant weather, plenty of sunshine and a warm sea.
Sochi boasts clean air, mineral springs, and unspoilt nature—the forests near the city are on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
Sochi has something for about any traveller. Its lively, pedestrian-only sea embankment is packed with restaurants, cafes and bars, from which it is perfect to watch the sun drop slowly behind the Black Sea horizon. However, while the Black Sea waters are warm and pleasant, the beaches are mostly pebbly. Away from the embankment, magnolia- and cypress-filled parks provide a great setting for relaxing strolls. If relaxing wander is your cup of tea, then you can not miss Arboretum, a huge park with over 1500 species of trees, shrubs and palms. And right outside of town you can discover scenic, easy-to-access hikes in the middle of waterfalls and breathtaking views in the Agura Valley.
Matsesta spa in Sochi deserves a special mention. Known for its hydrosulphuric and mineral waters, Matsesta mud and baths actively restore health.
Vorontsovskaya Cave also deserves a visit. Located one hour from Sochi, it has about half a kilometer of illuminated passages with stalactites and the like.
Leaving nature wonders aside, Sochi has yet a lot to offer. There are museums, monuments, wonderful architecture, theatres, aqua- and amusement parks.
A little further north lie the towering peaks of Krasnaya Polyana, another highlight. What was once a sleepy mountain village, it is now home to a popular winter ski resort. A new high-speed railway line, built especially for the Olympics, whisks passengers along the Black Sea coastline to Krasnaya Polyana from Sochi's main train station.