Surprising Sochi: An Off-the-Radar Travel Gem of Olympic Sites, Beaches, and More

Surprising Sochi: An Off-the-Radar Travel Gem of Olympic Sites, Beaches, and More

Sochi, Russia’s favorite resort on the Black Sea coast, is sometimes called the “Russian Riviera.” Its theaters, clubs, casinos, and spas fill with European and Russian vacationers from spring to fall, and its surrounding mountains attract skiers from fall to spring. The black sand and pebble beaches encourage young and old to kick back and relax.

Sochi / Black Sea map

By Created by User:NormanEinstein (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

We’re not the only ones who love SochiHumans have been drawn to Sochi’s Mediterranean climate for 400,000 years, but its popularity really took off after the Bolshevik Revolution when Sochi was transformed into a vacation spot for ordinary working people throughout the Soviet Union. Soviet citizens would spend their mandated holidays here at huge “sanitoria,” or resorts. 

2014 Winter OlympicsWestern travelers rarely visited Sochi before 2014, when the city hosted the Winter Olympics. It was the first Olympics in Russia since the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union. That year, spectators from 124 countries converged on the city, buying more than a million tickets to different events. The broadcast audience was a record 2.1 billion people worldwide. Sochi had arrived on the world stage.

A photo opp in Sochi, Russia. Photo: John Seckel

A photo opp in Sochi
Photo: John Seckel

Russian Formula One Grand PrixOn the heels of the Olympics, the annual Russian Formula One Grand Prix — which ran for the first time in the fall of 2014 and has since been held each year in Sochi — continues to bring visitors back. In 2017, close to 150,000 spectators lined the four-mile track, which winds around the Olympic venues near the Black Sea. The modern light rail brought them from the airport into the city, down to the racetrack, or up to the mountain ski resorts for free on race weekends. The 2018 race takes place on September 30.

The four-mile track used by the annual Russian Formula One Grand Prix, held each year in Sochi. Photo: Michel Behar

The four-mile track used by the annual Russian Formula One Grand Prix, held each year in Sochi
Photo: Michel Behar

2018 FIFA World CupAnother reason for continued world interest in Sochi is that it’s one of the Russian cities hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The huge Fisht Olympic Stadium, built to hold a crowd of 40,000 for the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, has been revamped to accommodate nearly 50,000 soccer fans for the June and July dates, including the quarter-finals on July 7.

Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi - one of the Russian cities hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Photo: John Seckel

Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi – one of the Russian cities hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup
Photo: John Seckel

Why travel to Sochi and how do I get there?

With inviting beaches to enjoy in warm weather, and snow sports to pursue in winter, Sochi is a year-round destination for all budget-types. As our Senior Private Journeys Specialist Olga Hayes reports, “The good thing about Sochi is that there’s something for all price ranges. You can overnight and dine in luxury and be pampered at exclusive spas, or sleep simply and cook your own food or eat out casually.”

Sochi hotel. Photo: Alla Shishkina

There are hotels of all price ranges in Sochi
Photo: Alla Shishkina

It makes a great (and easy) pre- or post-tour addition to any trip your planning to the area. 

Air travel is simple to arrange from Moscow, Istanbul, or Yerevan. It’s best to ask a MIR destination specialist or a travel specialist from your own city to get the most up-to-date and comprehensive information on the best ways to get to Sochi.

For such a place that’s still fairly off-the-radar for Western travelers, there are a lot of reasons to add Sochi to your travel bucket list — even when there’s not a world-class event going on.

A view of Sochi from the water. Photo Courtesy of Olympstroy State Corporation

A view of Sochi from the water
Photo Courtesy of Olympstroy State Corporation

Things to do and see in Sochi

Olympic Sites

If you’re in Sochi, you really should check out the Olympic sites. Two compact districts, called the Coastal Cluster and the Mountain Cluster, contain the completed venues for the Sochi Olympics.

The Coastal ClusterThe Coastal Cluster in the lowlands — where the Formula One races are held — accommodated the skating, hockey, and curling arenas, as well as the Fisht Olympic Stadium, where the World Cup matches will be played.

A birds-eye view of some of the Olympic sites in Sochi, Russia. Photo Courtesy of Olympstroy State Corporation

A birds-eye view of some of the “Coastal Cluster” Olympic sites in Sochi, Russia
Photo Courtesy of Olympstroy State Corporation

Inside the venue where Olympic speed skating events took place in Sochi. Photo Courtesy of Olympstroy State Corporation

Inside the venue where Olympic speed skating events took place in Sochi
Photo Courtesy of Olympstroy State Corporation

The Mountain ClusterThe Mountain Cluster in Krasnaya Polyana includes the modern Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort, ski-jumping and racing facilities, and the Olympic Village. A funicular and a light rail travel between one cluster and the other.

If it happens to be winter, bring your gear and ski the Olympic slopes!

Olympic Village in the Mountain Cluster of Olympic Sites. Photo: John Seckel

Olympic Village in the Mountain Cluster of Olympic Sites
Photo: John Seckel

Sochi winter scene. Photo Courtesy of Olympstroy State Corporation

A Sochi winter scene
Photo Courtesy of Olympstroy State Corporation

Dagomys Tea Farm. Photo: John Seckel

Dagomys Tea Farm
Photo: John Seckel

Dagomys Tea Farm

Set among the hills outside of town, the Dagomys Tea Farm offers an opportunity to see how the aromatic leaf is cultivated, harvested, and packaged. This area is the only one in Russia where tea can be cultivated. Learn about the long history of Russia’s favorite hot drink, including its arrival from China along the Great Tea Road through Siberia, and the way it is grown around Sochi. Enjoy a tea-tasting accompanied by subtropical jams, hazelnuts, and piroshky while you take in the views from a mountain izba, a traditional Russian log home.

If you have more time…

An active adventure to Vorontsovsky Caves

Located in the Khosta and Adler districts of Sochi, the Vorontsovsky cave system is one of Russia’s most extensive limestone cave systems. It runs along the coast of the Black Sea for about 11 km, and has several entrances. The most popular trail meanders some 3km through a relict forest to an opening that leads to Prometheus Grotto. Near the entrance, ancient bones protruding from the walls have been identified as those of a cave bear. Archaeologists have also found evidence of human habitation in the caves dating back 15-20 thousand years.

Vorontsovsky Caves. Photo: John Seckel

Vorontsovsky Caves
Photo: John Seckel

What the locals recommend


When you ask the Russians who flock here for their summer vacations, they say the best thing to do in Sochi is to slow down and relax!

As our travel expert and Russia native Olga Hayes explains:

Sochi’s a popular destination for Russians who only have a few days off from work and want to chill out a bit — a little R&R. Foreign travelers like to book Sochi at the end of a tour, a chance to simply rest and relax after their culturally and perhaps physically challenging adventures.

This is what you can do to relax in Sochi:

  • Walk in the gorgeous parks.
  • Breathe deeply: the air smells like roses.
  • Sit on a sandy beach and watch the waves, play in the sand, and of course, swim.
  • Splurge on a spa; there are plenty to choose from.

Travel to Sochi with MIR

MIR has over 30 years of travel experience in Russia, with affiliate offices in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Siberia offering on-the-ground support and tour managers that clients rave about. Our full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”

There are several ways to travel to Sochi:

  • A small group tour:
    • MIR’s Return to the North Caucasus (NEW for 2018!) small group tour has an eight-day pre-tour that takes the traveler from Sochi to the Caspian Sea before setting out to explore the food, culture, and scenery of Dagestan, Chechnya, and more!
  • A rail journey by private train:
    • NEW for 2018! Travel on the North Caucasus & South Russia by Steam Train itinerary and inspect Russia’s balmy Black Sea resort, Sochi, and its 2014 Winter Olympics venues, including the alpine skiing areas in nearby Krasnaya Polyana.

Chat with one of our destination specialists by email or by phone at 1-800-424-7289 to start planning your travels today.


Top photo: Sochi, Russia. Photo: Michel Behar

PUBLISHED: February 6, 2018

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