Crimea may be in the spotlight these days, it is still off most traveler’s radars for security reasons (even though it is actually safe) and a huge lack of up-to-date information.
If the peninsula is on your buket list (if it’s not, keep reading, you will soon be convinced to add it) here’s my list of the 18 must-see places in Crimea so you can get inspired and plan your next Adventure !
Note : I’ve visited all these places while solo backpacking Crimea in 2022. I’ve included locations on Google maps as well and Yandex maps (the one you should definitely use while travelling the peninsula) and some of my favourite food and sleeping addresses.
Last updated : 04/07/2023
1 – Sevastopol
Севастополь | Let’s start with the obvious : Sevastopol. This is the best place to start your Crimean adventure. Home to Chersones an ancient greek city, large battery forts turned into museums, and the russian black sea fleet daily parading for epic sunset views. It is such a pleasant city that even if you’re not a history buff, you will enjoy it.
Sevastopol is one of the best russian city out there, you will fall in love with the place for sure !
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2 – Cape Fiolent
Мыс Фиолент | Cape Fiolent is no doubt one of Crimea’s most breathtaking place. It offers a stunning panorama of the surrounding coast. Rather easily accessible from Sevastopol if you don’t mind the bus overcrowded with babushkas.
A short hike takes you from Fiolent to Georgievsky monastery. An 800 staircase goes down to Yashmovy beach. Make sure to go on a sunny day !
3 – Balaklava
Балаклава | Balaklava is surrounded by mountains and its location is basically invisible from the sea. Over the course of its 2500 years old history, this naturally hidden bay went from a Genovese trading post to a british settlement during the Crimean war and a secret soviet submarine base.
Today it’s a very pleasant little town where you can go for a boat tour to the nearby beaches, climb up to the ruins of the genovese fortress of Cembalo, visit the Nuclear Bunker/Cold War museum, start (or finish) the Great Sevastopol Trail, and have sea food and wine in one of the many restaurants on the port.
4 – Bakhchisarai
Бахчисарай | Bakhchisarai, the historical capital of the Crimean khanate is sure to spice up your journey with oriental vibes ! Located along the Churyuk-Su river, the old town (the rest of it is rather sleepy) is where you will find remnants of the khanate.
Tour the Khan’s palace and its gardens, then make you way up to the Chufut-Kale jewish fortress built on a plateau. On the way you can also visit the Holy Assumption monatesry.
There are many hiking trails in the area, proper shoes and water are recommended to roam around Chufut-Kale.
5 – Mangup – Kale
Мангуп-Кале | The impressive ancient fortress of Mangup – Kale is built on a plateau and believed to date from the 3rd century. Due to its strategic advantages, it was controlled over the centuries by different tribes. In the 13th century the Crimean greeks turned it into the Independant Principality of Theodoros.
It was under the Mongols conquest that Theodoros was known as Mangup-Kale. The Ottoman Turks managed to take the city in the 15th century after half a year siege.
Today you can visit the ruins of the fortress and religious sites such as orthodox monasteries, churches, a mosque and a Karaim kenassa.
There is a 30 kilometers or so hike from Bakhchisarai through Chufut-Kale and Tepe Kerman to Mangup-Kale.
6 – Evpatoria
Евпатория | The underrated town of Evpatoria (also spelled Yevpatoria) is home to the last ottoman era old town in Crimea. A place not to miss ! It is a delight to follow the “Little Jerusalem” route to discover the Juma-Jami mosque built in the 16th century, the Jewish Karaite kenassa, the 15th century Dervish Tekiye monastery (no more dervishes though), the Yegiya Kapay synagogue and the Gezlev gate.
Truly a little Jerusalem, minus the overcrowd of tourists and israeli soldiers of course.
PS: I adored Evpatoria, I found it much more peaceful and agreable than the towns of the southern coast.
7 – Ai-Petri
Ай-Петри | One of the most popular natural place in Crimea, Mount Ai-Petri is a 1234 meters high peak located in the Yalta Mountain Forest Reserve. The view of the coast from up there is gorgeous.
Easily reachable by cable car (not working if windy), taxi, organised tour or even on foot. The snow covers the summit from winter to spring and I recommend to avoid going there if the weather is cloudy or rainy, you will miss the spectacular view.
Tip : take a winder breaker jacket, it gets chilly up there even in the middle of summer
8 – Yalta
Ялта | The most popular Crimean resort is exactly as the 2013 Bradt guide described it : “a tourist trap”. It’s overcrowded and overpriced, yet the town is rather nice : plenty of food places, a new and clean embankment to walk along the sea side.
Yalta is a great base to make day trips to the surrounding castles. The town was the cure for any poor constitution russian aristocrates back in the 19th century and the area is now doted with exentric castles and fancy dachas.
I found Yalta much overrated, yet I’d recommend to go for the mountains coverred of forests that seem to fall into the sea, the local market that was by far the best I visited in the peninsula and Lenin’s embankment where at every sunset babushkas gather to dance the waltz under the supervision of a huge granite Lenin.
According to locals and recurrent tourits, the city has much MUCH improved since the russian takeover of 2014.
9 – Swallow’s nest palace
Замок Ласточкино гнездо | Swallow’s nest is a mini-castle (yep, it’s not as big as it seems on picture) at the top of a cliff on cape Ai-Todor.
Back in the 19th century there was a wooden dacha already hanging there. In 1912 some German oil magnate built instead this gothic style castle as a gift to his mistress. It was partly destroyed by an earthquake and the castle we see today dates from the 1970’s.
Now it serves as a museum with various small exhibitions and cultural programs. Make sure to go on a sunny day, fantastic views of the coast await you !
10 – Sudak Genovese fortress
Судакская крепость | Sudak was a major stop on the silk road and the Genovese built this massive fortress to protect their trades. About 2 kilometers of walls remain to this day with dozens of towers still left standing.
The fortress is truly impressive, I was surpised by the good state of it, it was clean and well organised with museums in some of the towers. During the high season, a small medieval festival takes place with stalls and performances.
Sudak is an overcrowded little resort but its fortress is well worth the visit !
11 – Livadia Palace
Ливадийский дворец | The must-visit palace in Crimea in my opinion is Livadia palace : it’s beautiful and full of history !
You can freely roam around the garden overlooking the sea and visit a place of historical significance where the 1945 Yalta conference took place. This is where the “Big Three” naming Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin decided on the future of Europe, splitting Germany in two, and giving parts of Poland to the Soviet Union.
A controversial “Big Three” monument representing bronze statues of the three leaders was erected in 2015 behind the palace to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the 1945 conference. Speculators say Stalin’s is slightly taller than the two others.
Among the many reasons why the monument is controversial is the fact that the entire Crimean Tatar population was deported to Central Asia under Stalin after being wrongly accused of collaboration with the Nazis. In case you can’t spot the monument, it is located right here.
12 – Vorontsov Palace
Воронцовский дворец | Built by the Count Vorontsov in the mid 19th century, this bizarre looking castle is a blend of Scottish and oriental style. Quite unique ! The palace and its amazing garden full of exotic species are the main sight of Alupka resort.
The interior of the palace is of english style as Vorontsov was educated in England. Lots of little trails can be found around the park surrounding the caslte, take your time to explore it !
In 1945 Churchill stayed there. Legend has it that he joked one of the lion marble statue near the castle looked like him.
13 – Kertch
Керчь | Kerch is the first town you will come by when entering Crimea. It’s very peaceful during the holiday season compare to the rest of the Crimean coastal towns.
It was the capital of the ancient Bosporan Kingdom (around 5th to 2nd century BC). If you’re a history enthusiat, you will love it.
Visit the Byzantine church of Saint John the Baptist dating from the 8th century, climb up the 400+ stairs to the Mithridat Hill for awesome views, explore the ruins of the Yeni – Kale fortress built by the Ottoman Turks and a few burial grounds of Bosporian Kings (Melek Chesmensky tomb and Tsarsky Kurgan).
There are plenty of ancient greek and scythian sites to discover !
14 – Foros
Форос | Foros is a popular little resort on the southern coast. It’s reknown for its golden onion Resurection church built on a cliff by some rich nobleman in the 19th century after his daughter’s horse went wild and luckily for her, stopped right at the edge of the cliff.
To get even more scenic views of the coast and church, head to the Baydar gate, a mountain pass on the 19th century Yalta – Sevastopol highway. If you hike the Great Sevastopol Trail, you will pass right next to it. Don’t miss it out ! (plus there’s a restaurant there in case you’re tired of you hiking food).
Fun fact : Gorbachev was put under house arrest in 1991 in his Foros dacha.
15 – Golitsyn trail in Novy Svet
Тропа Голицына – Novy Svet was the property of Prince Lev Golitsyn, a russian aristocrat/winemaker. He went broke trying to make champagne popular in Russia and was commissioned by Tsar Nikolai II to build the Massandra winery near Yalta.
Golitsyn ordered a path to be build along the Koba – Kaya hill all the way to Cape Kapchik for the visit or the Tsar in 1912.
The almost 6 kilometers long seaside trail takes you through the Novy Svet Reserve by mount Orel with breathtaking views of the coast all the way.
16 – Gurzuf
Гурзуф | Gurzuf may well be one of Crimea cuttest little town. Its winding streets, old wooden houses and hanging balconies are giving it Mediterranean vibes. Once upon a time, this is what all of Crimea used to look like.
One could easily spend a couple of days roaming around Gurzuf streets, visiting Chekov’s dacha, Pushkin’s museum and joying the peble beach with a view on the Ayu – Dag mountain.
17 – Feodossia
Феодосия | Feodossia was founded in the 6th century BC by the Greeks, hence the name. When the Genovese took over they renamed it Kaffa and built a fortress to protect the Silk Road trades. Some walls and towers are still standing and can be visited.
The Mongols brought the plague and some of the suburbs of today’s city are even named “Quarantine” and “Chumka” (plague).
In the 19th century russian aristocrats built fancy dachas facing the sea like the famous dacha Stamboli.
Fun fact : the reknown russian-armenian painter Ivan Aivazovsky was born and died in Feodossia, and of course there’s a museum were you can see a large collection of his work.
18 – Simferopol
Simferopol isn’t the most touristy city in Crimea but I think it deserves to be listed here because it’s the capital after all.
The city is quite pleasant for a day with some nice museums to visit such as the Scythian Neapolis Museum Reserve and the Taurida central museum to learn more about the Scythian and Greek history of Crimea.
Also, don’t miss the 16th century Kebi-Jami Tatar mosque dating from the time of Ak-Mechet, the town on which Simferopol was built on.
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