Sochi, located on the Black Sea’s eastern shores, was established as Russia’s primary coastal resort beginning in the Stalin era of the 1930s, eventually eclipsing Yalta in the Crimea. Its semitropical climate drew the top Soviet leaders (and their favored subjects), who traveled the 1,000 miles from Moscow to bask in the warm climate, bathe in the Black Sea, and enjoy the high life. Sochi’s backdrop is the impressive line of Caucasus Mountains, and on a clear day from nearby Mount Akhun, you can make out the coast of Turkey far to the south.
What We Love
Spruced-Up Facilities: The 2014 Winter Olympics had a good deal to do with tidying up and enhancing the city: Major draws are the shingled beaches, a seafront promenade, the Riviera Park, and the Dendrarium botanical gardens. Plus, there are plenty of bars and restaurants and a double line of trees planted by celebrities, including Russian cosmonauts and American astronauts.
Best Known For
Monumental Buildings: Some of Sochi's grand-scale edifices are executed in the familiar Stalinist style, including the maritime station where the cruise ships arrive, the columned main railway station, Winter Theater, and the Sochi Art Museum.
Sanatoriums: Book a guided tour of these neoclassical health facilities, remnants of the former Soviet empire.
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Who It's Best For
Sports Fans and History Buffs: You can spend hours visiting sites from the 2014 Winter Olympics or Joseph Stalin’s dacha, where he spent days at leisure, entertaining world leaders and hatching plots.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Beware of Tourist Traps: Take caution when purchasing almost anything — make sure you're paying a fair price, and keep an eye on your personal items in crowded shopping areas.
The Visa-Free Policy Has a Catch: Cruise passengers can have up to 72 hours in a Russian ocean cruise port, but you'll need to stay within your authorized group when onshore. Check with your cruise line for more information.
Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.