Sochi, with a permanent population approaching 350,000, holds the record as the largest resort city in Russia. As the unofficial capital of the Riviera of the Caucasus, its many beaches make the city popular in summer, while skiing in the nearby mountain makes it the place to be in winter. It is here that many well-to-do Russians go to rejuvenate in some of the most popular healing mineral springs in Russia. The best known of these vibrant spas is the Matsesta Sulfur Springs, renowned since antiquity as the “fiery river” springs because of the tanned hue that a treatment in its waters leaves. Legend says that a local girl bravely wandered into the underworld and brought back its healing waters to the surface as a gift from the spirits below.
Natural mineral springs are but a component of Sochi’s vast collection of natural attractions encompassed in the nearby Caucasian State Nature Biosphere Reserve. The Agura and Orekhovskaya waterfalls are perhaps the most strikingly beautiful representations of these attractions, but the mountains also hide mysterious caves where traces exist of the first humans who migrated northward through here into Neanderthal-dominated Europe some 35,000 years ago. Sochi also boasts a large trout farm, as well as a spectacular dolphinarium and aquatheater.
Sochi itself boasts a beautiful collection of parks, including a botanical garden and arboretum with rare and exotic species of tropical flora, as well as beautiful coastal promenades and trails. Daily walks are considered by many local experts as important for the restoration of health to the body and mind, so its not unusual to find a large number of strollers on scenic pedestrian byways like the gorgeous Eagle Rocks path. Sochi also contains a special tea plantation, the only one in Russia, and the northernmost in all the world. Its tea-house’s picturesque view of the Black Sea from the exclusive Dagomys district provides the perfect setting for sampling Russia’s home-grown offerings.
| Sochi Olympic Calendar
With so much local attention to health and exercise, the International Olympics Committee found Sochi to be the obvious choice to host the 2014 Winter Games. The 22nd Winter Olympiad will draw thousands of visitors, and the attention of millions of international television viewers, to this proud resort area. These Games will be a first for the Russian Federation - the Moscow Olympics of 1980 were, in fact, hosted by the Soviet Union, a now extinct country. Even more than a year before the arrival of the Olympic torch, the city has already undergone a number of immense changes, with billions of rubles spent on preparing the city and the nearby Krasnaya Polyana skiing area for hosting this world event. All competitions will take place in two areas: the newly constructed Coastal Cluster, which will host indoor ice events in the city, and the Mountain Cluster, which features a renovated Krasnaya Polyana for all downhill and skiing sports. The two clusters are only 30 minutes apart from each other, and Russian officials are quick to boast that these games will be one of the most compact ever held.
The Olympics will certainly draw a lot of attention to Sochi, but this resort center is already used to being among the most glamorous spots in Russia. Since 1909, Russian glitterati have thronged here, and movie stars have been a regular feature at the city’s Kinotavr Film Festival every June since 1991. The Russian president himself maintains a dacha near the tea plantation in Dagomys, which is used to entertain foreign heads of state. Even without the Olympics, this would be a worthy stop on any autograph-hunter’s itinerary. However, after the Games close, Sochi will also host Formula One racing and the extremely popular 2018 FIFA World Cup. Getting to know this beautiful glamorous Russian city during the Games will put any globetrotting trendsetter well ahead of the style curve.