One Day in Sochi
Sochi is an amazing place to visit in Southern Russia. It's sub-tropical climate is not what you would expect from Russia, with palm trees, beaches and resorts. It's one of my favorite places in Russia. The country is so big, the biggest in the world, and there is so much to explore! But what happens if you only have a day in Sochi?
Is Sochi big?
Yes. Specifically it is very large geographically. The Greater Sochi coast spans for 90 miles or 145 km, and is broken up into several districts that you might want to visit. Lazarevskoye, Central Sochi, and Adler cover the entire length of the coast, alongside where most of the population lives. Keeping the distance in mind, that will limit what you can do in one day in Sochi. I've excluded the popular ski hills of Sochi, Rosa Khutor and Krasnaya Polyana. They take about an hour to get there, depending on from what part of Sochi you are staying in.
The population of Sochi is about 400,000 permanent residents. However, according to the Deputy Mayor of Sochi, Yurchenko, there are about 6 million visitors a year that enjoy the beach and snow that Sochi offers. About 85% of the visitors are Russian. It's one of the few places in the world that isn't over run by Western tourists, leaving a pretty authentic travel experience. Although as Sochi's popularity grows, so does it's foreign visitors.
What to do in 24 hours
I suppose it all depends on what you want to experience from Sochi. I wanted to explore the old Sochi town or Central Sochi, instead of the newly developed areas of Adler. The international airport is located in Adler, close to the Olympic venues. There you can walk through the olympic sites such as the famous Fisht Olympic Stadium, explore the Olympic torch and all things sports related. Lazarevskoye is simply too far from Adler, and is not as built up as Central Sochi or Adler. So I focussed my time on Central Sochi. I will share the things that I did which I loved. A night cruise to see the city lights, visiting the Sochi Markets, walking to the marina and exploring the city beaches (and going for a swim). A nice and relaxing day, leaving enough time to catch an evening flight while still experiencing some of the best of Sochi.
Sochi Marina Night Cruise
Maybe I was lucky that my flight into Sochi was at 7pm, leaving me enough time to get to Central Sochi and explore the city. Yandex Taxi is the only way to taxi around Russian cities, and is just like Uber (but I find it easier to use). Walking through the main promenade from the Sochi train station to the port is beautiful at night and full of people. Russians love dressing up and catching up with friends for dinner and going for a walk. I felt more safe in Russia at night than I do in some cities in Australia at night. Now you need to be careful wherever you go and be street smart as crime does happen anywhere.
When you get to the Sochi Grand Marina, there are a few large boats/yachts or cruisers that are looking to take tourists for a ride. It's not strange if someone comes up to you and asks you to go for a ride in a boat. That's exactly what I did, and it was a perfect way to relax and see the city after a long flight. I also met some nice people that made me feel very welcomed on the boat. The ride went for about 45 minutes and I got to see the city and a bit of the city at night. If you are too tired to walk back to your hotel, just get a Yandex Taxi. You don't even need to know where you are, they will come to you. The wonders of technology! Just remember to get a local sim card, it will save your walking feet!
This was one of the highlights of my trip to Sochi. The sights, sounds and smells of an authentic Russian market, such a gastronomic experience. So much so that I wrote a whole post just about the market. Some of the highlights for me were the smoked cheese they sold. It was real smoked cheese. It's said to know that when we buy smoked cheese, most of the time there is 'smoke flavor' added to the cheese, and it's not really smoked. Just read the ingredients of your smoked cheese, it's like false advertising. It was amazing seeing that real food was still being made and eaten in Russia. Everything from the sausages, the cheeses, to the fresh fruit and vegetables. I have to laugh at myself when I went to this market. I became a stereotypical Russian who smelled like garlic, buying smoked cheese and smoked sausages to take back to my friends and relatives. It was all in my carry-on and I smelled of smoked kolbassa and garlic. You could smell me across the terminal. But the food was so tasty, it was worth it. Sorry to the people sitting next to me on the flight! You will need to click on this Sochi Central Market post to read all about it and to see the video. You won't be sorry.
What does Russia look like?
I love talking about what Russia looks like, because Sochi doesn't fit in the stereotypes of what people expect. There are no bears walking the streets of Sochi, but what you will find is streets lined with palm trees. The sub-tropical climate is perfect for balmy winters and warm summers. In this video below, I'm walking along the promenade from the train station to the marina, in the daytime. You get a better sense of a typical street in Sochi, the people and the sights of this part of Russia.
Sochi Grand Marina
Along the way, we came back to the famous Sochi Grand Marina. A historical building with a unique Soviet spire and architecture, that is now filled with high end western shopping stores beneath and restaurants above. That was a bit rich for my blood, so I just walked around admiring the yachts and super yachts, seeing the locals fish off the pier. My favorite part of the marina was the monument to the Heroes of the Soviet comedy, The Diamond Arm. This was the first Russian film I saw, and we watched it every New Years. Now this video won't change your life, but it's a snapshot into the marina in the daytime, and is worth a stop to take some photos on your way to the beach-side.
Sochi City Beach
This is the highlight of the day, enjoying swimming in the Black Sea. Sochi is famous for relaxing in the Black Sea, and it was a busy place. Even at 10am, the beach was filled with locals and holiday makers. Walking from the marina takes just a few minutes and you are at the beach promenade (Primorskaya Ulitsa). There are shops and restaurants to enjoy, and beach clubs along the entire waterfront. It seems a bit daunting at first, not knowing what to do when you see so many umbrellas on the beach. The access to the water is free, and sitting on the rocks by the shore doesn't cost anything. But for around $5, you can rent a chaise with an umbrella and rest your bum on something softer than the famous Black Sea rocks. There are even some water parks along the promenade. It was the perfect way to rest and relax before I had to catch an evening flight.
I absolutely fell in love with Sochi, a wonderful place to visit in Russia. Although it's modernized, the older parts of Sochi still felt quite Soviet and quaint. There is so much more to do here, from Stalin's summer dacha, visiting garden arboretums, exploring olympic venues, seeing the ski hills, to soaking in the famous sanatoriums where you can get treatment for all that ails you. There is too much to see and do, one day in Sochi simply isn't enough. Next time we will be back for a few weeks and get the full sanatorium treatment, and experience the best that this part of Caucasus Russia has to offer. Thank you Sochi! Bon Appetit! Приятного аппетита!