Sochi serves as Russia’s most popular summer resort, and during these months its normal population of around 350,000 is greatly increased. Surprisingly, it still caters to an almost exclusively Russian clientele, and even up to 2011, only 3% of its visitors came from abroad. However this is all set to change in coming years.
The area has seen huge investment from both the government and private companies in the run up to its imminent prominence on the world stage. Costs for Olympic preparations have risen to US$50 billion - over four times what was originally projected. If this isn’t enough, they’re clearly aiming to impress when they send the Olympic Torch all the way into space.
But what does this enormous investment mean for anyone looking to go to Sochi? As well as the venues being built to host events, there will be extensive improvements to local infrastructure. The Sochi Light Metro is currently under construction, and when it’s completed in 2014 will serve a variety of destinations within Sochi, along with taking passengers to the nearby town of Adler and the alpine resort of Krasnaya Polyana.
Krasnaya Polyana is Russia’s most sophisticated winter resort, and has advanced lift infrastructure complemented by plenty of bars for aprés-ski. As might be expected, this also makes it Russia’s most expensive alpine retreat. Despite this, it’s still cheaper than most of its North American and European counterparts.
Rather unexpectedly, given its close proximity to such a great ski resort, the city of Sochi itself bucks the trend associated with Russia’s extreme temperatures. In fact, it enjoys relatively mild winters, with an average temperature of 11°C during the day, and pleasant summers of an average of 24°C. Although the beaches are pebble rather than sand, at least the sea is a very comfortable temperature, and remains warm enough to bathe in throughout a long period over summer.
An amazing nearby sight is Stalin’s old dacha. This was the infamous leader’s favourite summer residence, and over the years has been kept almost exactly as he left it. Located a short drive away from Sochi through forest, it’s painted green for camouflage and decked out with machine guns and high walls. Along with this, there’s an impressive selection of the leader’s personal belongings, and even a waxwork of the man himself, sat at his desk just as he used to. To add to its air of mystery, local rumour says that his ghost still remains to haunt it.
Getting to and from Sochi
As with much of Sochi, the airport has been given a significant revamp in the run up to its coming years in the limelight. As such, you can expect it to be both modern and reasonably efficient. It primarily serves domestic locations, with flights going to and from Moscow and St. Petersburg everyday. There are limited international flights, of which the main destinations are Istanbul, Vienna and Tel-Aviv. Buses run at all hours between Sochi and the airport terminals, and taxis are also always plentiful.
Trains run on a daily basis to assorted destinations throughout Russia, as well as the Ukraine. However, the issue here can be the long journey times, thanks to the vast distances involved. Trains to Moscow currently take around 30 hours, although there is plans to introduce a 15 hour service in the run up to the Olympics.