Nestling in the North Caucasus region of southern Russia is the federal district of Krasnodar Krai, which is also referred to as Kuban, due to a historical region of the same name, which sat between the Black Sea and the Kuban River. While Krasnodar city is considered the economic and industrial centre of southern Russia, boasting a thriving industrial sector, further to the south lies the coastal city of Sochi, which is quickly overtaking its inland neighbour in terms of international renown.
Thanks principally to being one of the few locations in Russia with a subtropical climate, enjoying long hot summers and mild winters, Sochi and the Caucasian Riviera has enjoyed great popularity as the go-to Russian holiday destination for many decades. Even former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was known for his great love of the city, building his favourite summer residence there and encouraging the development of opulent neoclassical resort complexes and sanatoriums along the coastline.
From the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev, through to the Mikhail Gorbachev years, until the fall of communism and the demise of the Soviet Union, Sochi was even considered to be the unofficial summer capital of Russia, as it’s municipal area continued to grow and expand. It remains the summer presidential residence for Vladimir Putin in the modern era and the premier beach town for Russian holidaymakers.
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Sporting legacy of the 2014 Winter Olympics
Although the resort already was popular and famed within Russia, there’s no doubt that hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics really catapulted Sochi to the attention of international holidaymakers. Hosting such an important sporting event firmly placed the Black Sea resort on the global map of go-to destinations, but the massive $50 billion outlay raised initial fears that Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s plans were little more than a hugely expensive folly, with no tangible legacy in the following years.
Nevertheless, the Washington Post recently highlighted the success of Sochi, in the years since the city hosted the costly event, showing that it was worth the investment after all. In 2017 alone, the resort is estimated to have hosted over 6.5 million visitors, with year-round attractions bringing ever increasing tourist numbers flocking to the Black Sea Riviera.
As a sporting hub, the facilities built back in 2014 are still being put to good use, along with further additions and upgrades that have brought big-money events, such as Formula One racing as the home of the Russian Grand Prix. The 45,000 capacity Fisht Stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics were held, hosted four of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup football matches. In 2018, the ultra-modern and tech-friendly venue will host six matches during the FIFA World Cup in Russia, putting Sochi firmly back into the international spotlight for sports fans around the globe.
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Booming leisure and entertainment hub
Without the manufacturing or heavy industry found in the neighbouring urban areas further inland, Sochi is entirely reliant on tourism to drive its economy and provide valuable jobs in the service industry sector. More and more hotels are springing up every year, to meet the continually growing demand. One of the most popular, according to over 1,000 positive reviews at TripAdvisor.com, is the Radisson Blu Paradise Resort and Spa, which overlooks the azure waters of the Black Sea and is just a short walk from the Fisht Stadium World Cup venue.
Amidst a wealth of leisure and entertainment options, Sochi genuinely has something to offer everyone who visits, besides being just a seaside resort with beaches and maritime pursuits. The Sochi Casino and Resort which opened in 2017 benefits from being within one of very few special “gambling zones” in Russia, which Betway highlighted as a leading 2018 gambling destination for international travellers. The casino floor features 569 slot machines, 70 gaming tables with 22 alone dedicated to American roulette, alongside those for blackjack, Russian poker, Texas hold’em and baccarat; plus a more exclusive poker area for VIP guests and high-rollers.
Beyond the obvious maritime and beach pursuits of this coastal location or the thriving nightlife with packed bars and discos, a short trip inland to Sochi National Park rewards those who enjoy outdoor travel and the chance to get closer to nature, away from the hustle and bustle of the resorts. The Western Caucasus UNESCO World Heritage Site treats visitors to wonderful scenery such as the Valley of 33 Falls, or the chance to see rare Persian leopards, which were re- introduced to the area in 2009. Lonely Planet also suggests a visit to the Eagle Cliffs, where, according to Greek mythology and fables, Zeus had Prometheus staked after stealing fire from the gods.
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Sochi as an international tourist hotspot
For many decades, famed Black Sea Riviera was perhaps one of the best-kept secrets for Russian tourists alone, but after the 2014 Winter Olympics brazenly opened Sochi’s doors to the rest of the world, it’s now a tourism hotspot that’s firmly on the global map and seems to have justified the massive investment of recent years. Not only is there plenty to see and do, as touched upon in this article, travel links and infrastructure have also significantly improved over recent years, cutting down journey times by land, air and sea.
International travel operators are also taking a keener interest in Sochi, offering package deals to suit every budget, while a friendly atmosphere amongst the local populace makes the city and its resorts a welcoming destination, aiming to encourage tourists to come back again and again. It’s fair to say that that Sochi does indeed live up to the hype, as a location genuinely making the most of its Olympic legacy, and then some!
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