The 5 best day trips from Sochi

The 5 best day trips from Sochi

View of the Black Sea coast from the top of Mount Akhun near Sochi in the South of Russia

The first time you step in Sochi you wonder if you are truly in Russia or some postcard-like holiday destination in a subtropical country. Sochi, at the very south west of the Russian Federation, in the Caucasus, is a unique place.

Conquered by the Tsar’s army in the 19th century (but shush, the genocide of the the circassian people has never been recognised – they kept the name though, short and exotic), it’s litterally stuck between the Black Sea and the Great Caucasus mountains.

Now, holiday-like destinations aren’t really my type of place but I went to Sochi multiple times because it’s kind of unavoidable : cheap flights from Turkey, easy access to Abkhazia, gateway to the Western Caucasus Nature Reserve …

Of course I visited the city : layed on the beach between a siberian tourist red like a freshly cooked lobster and a Muscovite babushka who’s been sunbathing for the past 3 months : check ; had too many drinks with local friends : check ; ate seafood by the seaside while watching russians struggling to eat their mussels à la française : check. Sochi is Russia’s top summer destination for sure !

But my favourite part was out of the city, so here are 5 fantastic day trips to do from Sochi to experience the best of what the area has best to offer !

Sochi is a great place to base yourself for a few days, even weeks, there are plenty of cheap hostels to stay in, endless options of food and entertainments. These day trips are all tested and approved by me : easy to do from Sochi city, by bus, train, cable car and on foot. Outdoor enthusiasts will be thrilled by the variety of nature places to explore near the city.

Mountain and rainbow over a valley on the road to Solokh-Aul near Sochi, Russia
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1 – Yew-tree and Boxwood tree Grove, a subtropical forest

The Yew-tree and Boxwood tree Grove is a unique remnant of the preglacial era within the Caucasus Biosphere Reserve and Sochi National Park, located in Khosta only 20 minutes by bus from Sochi’s city center and 2 kilometers from the Black Sea coast. More than 200 endemic plants can be found and these were covering Europe about 18 to 25 million years ago : yew (Táxus baccáta), boxwood (Buxus colchica) etc. A not fun fact : Following the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, the box tree moth was introduiced and almost destroyed entirely the native boxwood trees in the area.

There are 3 walking routes through the forest that takes you to a suspended bridge, a medieval fortress, along the crystal clear water of the Khosta river, a white canyon and more :

– the grand circle – 5 kms
– the small crircle – 1.6 kms
– the “in ancient times” circle – 900 m

I’ve walked the big circle late June, it was wet but lovely and not too crowded as I went early morning. If you go in spring (March/April) you can spot blossoming caucasian helleborus (winter rose/christmas rose). In this bubble of luxurious green forest, humidity is as high as in South East Asia, it’s inbelievable, so take plenty of water with you, you will sweat in the summer. I also advice you to watch your steps, I saw snakes on the path. There are signs in english along the way but the lovely ticket lady didn’t speak any.

  • Take a marshrutka from Sochi city center to “Khosta most” bus stop. Walk 20 minutes along the Samshitovaya road to the entrance of the park.
  • Open from 9am to 6pm, daily, year-round.
  • Entrance fee 300₽ per person (you’ll get a paper wristband)
  • Note : despite the fact that it’s located on the territory of the Western Caucasus Nature Reserve, a pass is not required. You must only pay the entrance fee.
  • View location on Yandex maps or Google maps

2 – The Great Caucasus mountains in Krasnaya Polyana

Krasnaya Polyana is one of Russia’s best mountain resort and it’s located only 50 kilometers from Sochi (one hour by train), you can swim in the Black Sea in the morning and enjoy mountain views of the Great Caucasus in the afternoon. Krasnaya Polyana has nothing to envy to ski resorts in the Alps : there are great cable car systems, restaurants for all tastes and budgets, and expensive prices overall, just like in any mountain resort. However, the mountain paths are a lot less crowded than in the Alps in the summer.

If you enjoy mountain hiking you can get great views within a few hours from there, and if you’re not so keen on it, simply get a cable car up the mountain and enjoy a drink or a meal with awesome views over the Caucasus.

I went there in July for the rhododendrons blossoming season (endemic Caucasasian rhododendrons) and was not disappointed, they were everywhere !

I wrote a detailed guide on Krasnaya Polyana, with hiking route suggestions and a proper explanation to what is what between the Greater Sochi, Krasnaya Polyana, Gorki Gorod, Gazprom resort and Roza Khutor, all refering to the same place. Click here to read it.

  • Daily trains from Sochi to Esto Sadok/Roza Khutor from 7:30am
  • Cable cars open around 8:30am
  • Train ticket from Sochi to Krasnaya Polyana around 500₽
    Cable car ticket from 1500₽
  • Check out my guide to Krasnaya Polayana
  • View location on Yandex maps or Google maps

3 – Solokh-Aul, tea plantation and blinis

You may have heard of the Krasnodar tea already. If not … well, simply put, these are the northernmost tea plantation in the world. The Kaushman’s tea plantations in the Solokh-Aul village are Russia’s very first tea plantation. Located less than 50 kilometers from Sochi, deep in the mountains surrounded by forests. Back in the early 1900’s, a jewish ukrainian man named Kaushman, bought some land with his family and started to grow tea after working in plantations in Chakvi in the Adjara region of Georgia.

Today you can visit the small museum located in Kaushman’s house, walk around the property and the tea fields, pay your respect to the man as he’s burried in the middle of them and finnish your day drinking local tea and eating delicious blinis on the spot.

You may have to wait a little for a table inside in the summer as there are bees all over if you choose an outdoor table in the garden. Ask for local honey and feijoa jam with your blinis.

Along the main road nearby is the “Solokh-Aul park”, for kids to play, you can get a a hot air balloon tour at sunset and there are bigger tea fields around.

  • You can go from Sochi to Solokh-Aul by marshrutka. Change in Dagomys. See detailed itinerary and bus numbers on Yandex Maps. Note : part of the route to get there is a winding road, I recommend to seat in the front if you tend to get motion sickness.
  • You can roam around the Kaushman’s museum on your own or take part on a tour (most likely only in russian). There’s a little shop to buy the tea produced on the plantation.
  • Blinis & tea start from around 300₽/person
  • You can stay overnight at the Soloh SPA Village Hotel for about 100€ a night for 2.
  • View location on Yandex maps or Google maps

4 – Mount Akhun, the 5 legends’ mountain

Mount Akhun is the highest mountain in Sochi, from here you get awesome panoramic views of the entire city, Adler, Mont Fisht and the Black Sea coast. If the sky is clear you can easily see all the way to Abkhazia. A 30 meters high tower was built by the order of Stalin and you can go up the observation platform at the top for 100p.

There are in fact three peaks on Mount Akhun : Bolchoy Akhun the highest one at 663 m, Maly Akhun at 501 m and Eagle’s rock at 380 m. The later is believed to be where Zeus chained Prometheus in the greek mythology, left to have his liver being eaten by an eagle for 30 000 years. Another version is mixed with local pagan Ubykh beliefs that it is where the Akhyn (which in the circassian languages “Akhu” can mean a hill, a home on top of a hill or a priest) who was sort of the “saint” patron of cattle breeding, watched over Prometheus chained to the rock.

The second popular legend of Akhun is the ghost bride’s. A newly wed couple had an accident on their way to up there early 2000’s and the bride died. Many claim to see her ghost on the road’s side or have pictures with a female silhouette in the background …

Anyway, Mount Akhun has great views, caves to visit and even an abandonned soviet restaurant to explore. There are plenty of organised tour heading up there but you can totally go on your own if you’re willing to walk a little.

  • You can take a bus from Sochi to “Maly Akhun” or “MTC Sputnik” bus stop and hike up or take a taxi. 2nd option is to take a train to Matsesta and then again hike up or go by taxi. Maybe you can get a taxi on the way up and hike down the way back. See the detailed itinerary on Yandex maps.
  • There is a restaurant next to the observation tower called in russian “the cheese factory” with caucasian food like shashliks, ossetian pie etc.
  • 100₽ to enter the tower and access the observation platform at the top.
  • View location on Yandex Maps or Google Maps

5 – Abkhazia

How do you feel about going to a non-existent country ? Ok, it’s not the most obvious day trip from Sochi yet russian tourists do it all the time (there are tones of tour offers in Sochi for a day trip to Abkhazia, most likely all in russian but never know, you may ask), and you can do it, if you prepare a bit in advance. Abkhazia is a de fascto state that proclaimed its independance from Georgia in 1993 and is still unrecognised by the majority of the world. Georgians say it’s the most beautiful part of “their country” … Indeed it is, a hidden gem truely. It’s populated by some 250 000 abkhazians, ethnically and linguistically related to circassians.

From Sochi you could easily do a day trip to Gagra to get a feel of the former Soviet riviera, and Novy Afon to visit the gorgeous Orthodox Monastery built in 1875 by Greek monks from Mount Athos and the Anacopia byzantine fortress for great views of the bay.

Easier said than done, to get there you need a double entry russian visa (Abkhazia is its own country) and a letter of invitation (sort of a laissez-passer) from the abkhaz authorities which you can apply for online.

  • Either take a bus from Sochi to the border, cross on foot and take another bus to Gagra on the Abkhaz side or if you book well in advance you can catch the Moscow – Sukhum train in Sochi.
  • Visa : you can buy an Abkhaz visa right after the Psu border crossing
  • Learn more on the visa and border crossing on my Abkhazia travel guide
  • View location Yandex maps or Google maps
RUssia travel insurance

It’s mandatory to have an insurance to travel in Russia and apply for a russian visa (including the e-visa)

I recommend Attollo Assistance (24/7 assistance, medical expenses up to 35 000 €, repatriation)

View of the Black Sea coast from the top of Mount Akhun near Sochi in the South of Russia
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