Krasnaya Polyana is the mountain resort of the North Caucasus. Openned all year round, you can enjoy skying in the winter and hiking in the summer only 50 kilometers from the famous Black Sea resort city of Sochi, which make it even suitable for a day trip !
However I definitely recommend you to spend a little longer to enjoy the stunning views of the Caucasian Aibga ridge. It is truly worth it.
This post contains everything you need to know to travel and hike independently around Krasnaya Polyana : from buying a cable car ticket/multi day pass to easily accessible hikes.
Note : There are hiking routes, mountain biking routes and also viewing platforms if you’re not into hiking.
Last updated : 04/07/2023
How to travel from Sochi to Krasnaya Polyana
Sochi is very reachable from other cities in Russia as well as abroad. It has an international airport and daily flights from/to Serbia, Turkey, Armenia and even Dubai.
From Sochi city to Krasnaya Polyana there is a distance of roughly 50 kilometers. You can either travel by bus or on the many daily trains (a bit over an hour). The last one is much more comfortable than the bus in my opinion. In july 2022 a one way ticket cost 416₽ (about 6 or 7€).
Buses and trains are also available from the airport and Adler.
The different resorts explained
The names of the places can be confusing as locals refer to Sochi not only for the city itself but also a whole area called “Bolshoy Sochi” – Greater Sochi, that includes the resorts of Krasnaya Polyana.
Krasnaya Polyana is mostly used by many to designate the three resorts along the Mzymta river : Krasnaya Polyana village itself + Esto Sadok (Gorki Gorod) where the main train station is, Gazprom and Rosa Khutor.
There are plenty of unreliable buses running the route.
Each of these places have its own cable car system, you need to buy a different ticket for each of them. There’s no “one ticket for all” to be used in all the cable car networks : you need one for Krasnaya Polyana cable car (which is Esto-Sadok + Gorki Gorod), another one for Roza Khutor’s and a different again for Gazprom’s.
Cable car ticket
You can buy “walking tickets” for the cable cars for 1 day, multi-days and even a summer pass. Many options are available.
Purchase directly at the cable car’s entrance, there’s an information center and an english speaking staff.
Opens daily at 9 am in summer. Prices start at 1800P. Official website
Hiking trail suggestions
On the map above (english paper version available in the information center), you can see the the marked hiking trails. Many of the black and red paths are literally steep and large ski slopes free of snow, not little goat paths.
I hiked some of them and honeslty it’s very unpleasant, even downhill. Choose your trails carefully or you might be disappointed.
Alpine Meadows & Medvezhniy waterfall
A short hike to a stunning viewpoint of the Aibga ridge and the mountains of Abkhazia. Early summer you can see Caucasian mountains goats running on the still frozen slopes and plenty of blossoming rhododendrons.
In late june 2022 this trail was closed but I did “as locals do”, went around the barrier and hiked anyway. Obviously I don’t recommend you to do that, there were parts of the trail coverred of frozen snow (pro tip : let some people go first and literally walk in their footsteps, especially men’s, they leave very large footprints) – and some tricky muddy slippery parts too, but it was feasible.
The 72 meters high waterfall is one of the highest in the south of Russia. The path goes through lush forest and giant beech trees. It’s a 30 minutes walk from the nearest cable car or a 6 kilometers steep hike if you follow the Alltrails way.
Kardyvach lake is located at 1838 meters above sea level in the Western Caucasus Nature Reserve and is one of the most beautiful lake in region. Its temperature never go above 12°C.
A border zone permit is mandatory, there’s a military post on the way, without it you won’t pass. Most hikers take a minivan from Krasnaya Polyana to nearby the post to shorten the hike.
For more information on the border zone permit, see my detailed guide.
#1 From Gorki Gorod (Esto-Sadok) to the viewpoint at 2200 metres, there’s an easy walk down to circus 2 where there are the rodhodendron valley (Долина рододендронов) take an half open lift.
#2 The cable car passing above Iceberg lake weren’t open in late june 2022, there was still plenty of snow there.
#3 In Polikarya waterfall there was a barrier and a guard when I went there, prohibiting tourists to get too close unfortunetly.
#4 There’s a small pond called kupel 960 on the river Tobiasa. It’s easily reachable from Gorki Gorod, you can even swim in there if you dare but the water comes straight down from the mountains.
#5 The fern trail is very easy and accessible from the cable car, it goes through the forest.
#6 Half of the trails shown in Krasnaya Polyana seem to be simply ski slopes without snow. Some of them very steep and not very suitable for hiking in my opinion.
#7 There’s a small supermarket in front of the cable car entrance in Gorki Gorod, across the road, behind the bus stop open 24/7.
#8 There’s daily (in summer at least) small fresh food street market on Voznesenskaya street in Krasnaya Polyana village : fruits, veges, dairy products etc
Gazprom’s resort is the way to the Western Caucasus Nature Reserve, a UNESCO site not to miss !
To visit the Reserve, or at least bits of it, you must obtain a special pass (different from a border zone permit). It costs 300₽ per day to stay in. E.g. if you plan to go hiking for 3 days you must pay 900₽.
There are differents ways to get it : directly online which is tricky for foreigners without a local bank card, in the store named Alpindustriya in Krasnaya Polyana.
Apparently, lso it can be obtained directly at the counter where you buy also the cable car ticket at the Gazprom resort. I saw people getting it right in front of me but according to people I spoke to, some years ago it was only possible to get it online. A bit confusing, I wouldn’t count on this place to get it.
The whole form and application is obviously in russian but the most important to write down is your full name and the dates you will be in the Nature Reserve.
From Krasnaya Polyana there are no checkpoints on the paths while hiking, but someone came to check in the evening at the Bzerpinsky Corniche camping spot when I was there. She checked everyone’s pass.
Cable car tickets
The “walking ticket” named Laura (Лаура) costs 1500₽ per person, you get one way up and one way down over the course of 6 days.
Meaning if you go up on the monday, go hiking for 6 days and come back down on the saturday the ticket is valid.
Purchase at the cable car station. There’s an english speaking staff. Official website
Hiking trail suggestions
The Bzerpinsy Corniche trail is popular for hiking groups (loud and unpolite) including yelling children, teenager groups, trail runners etc. It is a busy trail in summer time.
Beyond the Corniche’s camping spot there are a lot less people, if not barely anyone. I recommend you to camp at least one night to enjoy the Reserve.
Located at 2100 meters above sea level, the Bzerpinsky Corniche is named after the river Bzerb nearby. Breathtaking views await you if the weather is clear.
Stay away from the loud groups of people and you might be able to see wildlife including bears ! I did, it was magical. (No worries they are scared of humans and run away).
To reach the trail head, take the A3 lift, about 20 minutes in a huge cable car up to 30 people.
You can hike well beyond the Bzerpinsky Corniche. Less people, more peaceful, you will be walking in the beautiful Urushten valley covered of summer mountain flowers.
Rosa Khutor’s resort is as popular as Gorki Gorod for tourists to enjoy the mountain views in summer.
There’s a really good information center next to the cable car “Olympia” under the bridge. The staff is super friendly, helpful and speak very well english. I can’t recommend them enough.
Cable car ticket
A “walking ticket” giving you access to all cable cars is available for 2800P for the day.
It can be purchase at the cable car station Olympia. Opens daily at 8:45 am. Official website
Hiking trail suggestions
There are plenty of short distances / day hikes and well marked hiking trails around Rosa Khutor’s resort.
Kamennyi Stolb pic AKA stone pillard is located at 2509 meters and is the top of the Aibga ridge. At the end of the hike you will reach a observasion platform with a 360 degress panoramic view. If the sky is very clear you can even sea the Black Sea !
The Mendelikha waterfalls is a short hike along which you can see 7 waterfalls, including Zolotoy standing at 77 meters high. It’s well marked and can be divided into 3 different itineraries.
Permit & pass
Most of the short day hikes around Krasnaya Polyana don’t require any special pass or permit. However, the Western Caucasus Nature Reserve does, and the area along the border with Abkhazia as well.
The Caucasus Biosphere Nature Reserve
Aka the Western Caucasus UNESCO Reserve is a 275,000 ha of protected land around Krasnaya Polyana, the south of the Adygea republic and even includes part of the Sochi National Park.
The biodiversity and ecosystem is unique in Europe with enmedic wildlife and plants. They even reintroduced bisons !
You must buy a pass when hiking and camping in the Reserve. It’s 300₽ (less than 5€) per day per person.
The pass can be bought online (in russian) if you have a russian bank card or in Krasnaya Polyana village in the sport shop called Alpindustrya.
During the day nobody will probably ask you for that pass but if you camp at the designated campsites (please do, they serve their purpose), someone comes to check.
Your money doesn’t go to waste, it’s used to preserve the nature and wildlife of this unique biosphere Reserve.
Border zone permit
The border area along Abkhazia requires a special border zone permit. A permit is mandatory to be roaming around there.
There are checkpoints on the way or big signs in russian and english to warn you. If you don’t have the permit and get cought you’re facing deportation.
Locals registered in Sochi area don’t need any, only their IDs. However, other russians and foreigners must have such permit.
I wrote a detailed border zone permit guide, check it out.
Note : some places like Kardyvach lake require both, a Nature Reserve pass and a border zone permit.
Where to sleep in Krasnaya Polyana
The cheapest accomodations are located in Krasnaya Polyana village itself, there are plenty of hostels there. It’s much nicer and quiet than in Roza Khutor or Gorki Gorod.
You can find all sort of options on Ostrovok.ru and Yandex travel.
I’ve stayed in ABC hostel in Krayana Polyana, I definitely recommend it : the staff speaks english, is very friendly, the place is clean. It’s near the main road where the bus stops are, there’s a big supermarket 10 minutes walk, plenty of cafés and restaurants around and the store Alpindustrya (to get a Caucasus Nature Reserve pass) is also nearby.
The mountains can be dangerous. I don’t claim to be a super experienced hiker but here are some basics to know :
The hiking season in Krasnaya Polyana starts from late June to roughly early october. Before and after that the trails and paths are closed because of the snow. Some trails like Kardyvach’s can open later during the summer due to persistant snow.
The rhododendrun blossoms usually starts from mid june for about 3 weeks. It’s splendid, they are everywhere ! I highly recommend you to see it !
If you wish to find more hiking paths and long distance trails around Krasnaya Polyana, here are a couple of websites where you should look :
Let me know if this Krasnaya Polyana guide has been helpful ! Safe hiking !
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