It would be a crime to visit Sochi and not make time to explore the lush Black Sea coast or venture up into the mountains that tower over the city. If you can escape the crowds of holidaymakers, the sun-drenched land around the city is full of sites of natural beauty and opportunities for adventure. You can even visit the — somewhat creepy — site of a country house once used by Soviet leader Stalin.
Eagle Rocks & Kavkazsky Aul
Legend has it that space pioneer Yuri Gagarin loved visiting Kavkazsky Aul, something visitors won’t find hard to believe after they’ve seen the Soviet-era architecture of the place, which boasts several verandas, a winter hall replete with open fireplace and an impeccable wine cellar. This is the perfect destination after a day spent walking along the nearby Eagle Rocks, which look out over the Agura Waterfalls. The restaurant itself looks more like a fully-fledged ethnographic museum than a gastronomic hub. It has daily shows with Georgian dancers and a choir, the waiters dress in traditional mountain clothes and you can play with the many of the curious cats that live nearby.
Address: 1 Agurskoye Ushchelye, Sochi
AJ Hackett park
This AJ Hackett Park is the perfect spot for adrenaline junkies: not only can you tread the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world, you can bungee jump from its head-spinning height of 207 metres. Compared to this, the world’s highest swing, which opened in Sochi in 2014, is mere child’s play. The hour-long journey into the mountains is straightforward. Regular bus transfers from Sochi, Adler, the Olympic Park and Krasnya Polyana are available every hour. Those who enjoy snaking car journeys with breathtaking views can use the local car sharing service Uren, which will prove much cheaper than a taxi.
Address: Krasnoflotskaya Street, Kazachiy Brod
In the village town of Medoveevka high up in the hills above Sochi, it’s not uncommon to hear jackals howling at night. But here you can find a delightful back-to-basics guesthouse: Old Boys is built in the style of the traditional local houses and made of clay, wood and straw. As authentic as that may sound, the hotel is actually well equipped and comfortable. Not only will you find a supply of locally crafted body care products in the bathroom, but your shower water comes to you straight from the mountains.
Address: 19 Medoveevskaya Street, Village Medoveevka
If Soviet legend is to be believed, this austere house, set against the backdrop of a picturesque coniferous forest, was Stalin’s favourite country residence. Today, you can take a leisurely stroll around the grounds, cooled by the shade of cedars and palm trees, just as the former owner of the dacha would have done. The building itself is painted a deep green to make it near invisible through the trees. You can take a tour of the Soviet despot’s living quarters (individual visits are not allowed), including his study and a purpose-built swimming pool. In the past it was possible to spend the night here, though this is no longer the case.
Address: 120/1 Kurortny Pereulok
This trim timber building, with it’s all-carved ceilings and opulent decoration, is a Mecca for tea-lovers a short drive from Sochi. Forget about boring old Earl Grey, here you’ll be treated to some fragrant Dagomys tea, which, prior to 2012, was considered the northernmost tea in the world. Waitresses in traditional Russian garb will fire up the samovar and ply you with delicious pirogi, pancakes and Caucasus honey. After you’ve eaten and drunk your fill, you can enjoy a view of the mountains or take a stroll to walk off the meal – it’s said that the nearby woods are haunted by the whispers of sylvan spirits.
Address: 302 Zaporozhskaya Street