Tourism on Foot
Not unlike a number of top world destinations, Crimea is a place that must be explored on foot. For only the one who discovers the area’s marvels by hiking its peninsular coastline, trekking up and down its mountains, and exploring its unique Scythian burial grounds, can truly say he knows this magnificent isthmus. So, rather than hang about just one city, town or vacation locale, cognise yourself with Crimea’s valleys, forests, cliffs, caves and mountain peaks, where such excursions are not necessarily for pros only. Depending on the itinerary you choose, anyone can plunge into the adventure, from just a couple of days to a week or more!
With that in mind, we would strongly advise that you start off with the Demerdzhi Plateau, also called Valley of Ghosts. From the north of the plain, there are two mountains, called Elkh-Kaya and Pakhal-Kaya (Curly Mary and Bold Ivan, translated from Tartar). Looking down their peaks, you’ll be able to see the Alushta resort just below. You’ll no doubt be enchanted with the scenery, so plan for at least an hour once you reach the summit. Then, take the trek down, where you’ll be on your way to check out another of Crimea’s many wonders.
A three-hour walk from the Demerdzhi Plateau will bring you to a 19-metre waterfall called Dzhur-Dzhur (ever-purling), no less exceptional than the Niagara or the Victoria Falls. While far smaller, there are extreme opportunities here that travellers are not given at the more well-known waterfalls, which involves getting up close and personal with the cascade, climbing through its many crevices, and swimming in its pools of chilly mountain water.
Another idea for exploring Crimea on foot is to take a trek through the cave-city, Tepe-Kerman (which means “castle” or “fortress on the hill”). Located not far from Bakhchysarai, at 535 metres above sea level, those who have seen the abandoned town say it is full of secrets and mysticism. Different caves have been given the name “hotel” and “church”, signifying places nomads utilised for both rest and meditation. Taking pictures from the cave’s “windows” also happens to be a favourite activity of professional photographers.
Another cave city, not too far away, and also worth your time, is Eski-Kerman, which means Old Castle. As a noisy centre of trade and crafts in the Middle Ages, it now sits silently and peacefully, awaiting the visit of 21st century nomads.
A Mystical Seabed
Do not immediately chuckle at the thought of diving opportunities in the Black Sea. True, it has neither coral reefs nor exotic flora, but it does have many a grotto, underwater caves with steep walls, shipwrecks, ancient settlements, and it’s all located on the Black Sea bed. Discover it all in the Balaklava area, especially the Aya Cape (“the holy one” in Greek). There, you’ll find an alley of anchors, an outstanding museum created by divers themselves at a depth of 15 metres. Check out the Dragon Cave with an “entrance” cliff in the shape of a dragon’s head; it is just one of a good dozen or so of such mystical underwater hideaways. Also, make time for the “Lost World” where grottos create a bizarre underwater stage.
After discovering the diving wonders of Balaklava, move on to the Chersonesus Taurica Cape. As an ancient Greek colony founded more than 2,500 years ago, it has been nicknamed the Ukrainian Pompeii, and if you head down to the sea floor, you will find a whole museum of antique ceramics, architectural fragments and maybe even a coin or two. Those not so experienced with diving will be happy to learn of Omega Bay, where diving lessons are offered. As a quiet little inlet, the water ranges between 4 – 15 metres and is so clear, it feels as though you might just be in the tropics.
One more worthwhile place for diving is Fiolent Cape, not far from Sevastopol. Some scientists believe this place has a strong link to Greek mythology, most especially the myth about Orest and Pilad, with two cliffs named after these fairytale figures. Dive down 15 metres and swim through the underwater grotto of one of the cliffs. Complete with canyons, harbours, and miniature piers, this underwater world is a sight to see. More than that though, it also offers its own history lesson: where if Chersonesus amazes with its antique remains, Fiolent Cape educates with weapons of war, all lying untouched at the bottom of the sea.
Crimea’s options for an active vacation are indeed boundless, and so we move onto Chatyr-Dag (tent-mountain in Tatar), where there is no better place for potholing. This massif is the fifth highest on the peninsula, and has more than 150 caves to explore, allowing for a great vacation of discovery just on this mountain alone! Should your time be limited, however, concentrate on the most picturesque and popular, such as Marble and Emine Bair Hosar – these caves have an inner world worthy of any Hollywood script. Also, many caves have recently become accessible for tourists even without caving equipment, making the experience that much more convenient.
Extremists will really enjoy the caving opportunities in Suuk-Koba and Binbash-Koba. A 19th century traveller once called Suuk-Koba “a diamond kingdom that lacked only in choirs of underground spirits and dancing dwarves!” At 210 metres long, you never know what you might find! Binbash-Koba is twice as short, but still competes with its sister in terms of beauty. One interesting fact that links these two caves, both figuratively and literally, is the first mountain shelter built in Russia for travellers was built between these two caverns. People would come to explore all of the hidden legends hidden inside the caves of Chatyr-Dag and then have a place to stay the night.
Going up the Cliff
Well, we’ve found what lies below, it’s high time to take a picture of you standing at the mountain’s peak! Surely, you have dreamt about conquering the sky, perhaps saying to yourself, “I’d never be able to do that, I’m not a professional!” Although you might not be experienced at climbing mountains, there are classes and climbing sessions even for the most beginner of beginners. Training typically takes place at Nikitsky Cliffs, where all equipment and insurance are included. In addition to pushing yourself, gaining valuable skills in the process, you’ll also be able to take a walk through the beautiful Nikistky Botanical Gardens afterward.
Feeling as though you’ve gained enough climbing practise, move onto Foros, where climbing itineraries are set. Taking on Sokol’s cliff massif will be an experience you’ll be eager to repeat again and again, as it’s actually an ancient exposed coral reef, one of the biggest in Europe. In fact, its location couldn’t be more perfect for fitting in a visit to Noviy Svet or Sudak. Here, you you can top off your climbing experiences with a walk along Golitsin Path, and sunbathe along the deserted beaches.
This peninsula has unlimited opportunities when it comes to adventure and discovery, and comes with all manner of magical stories and legends free of charge. So what are you waiting for? Get your adventurous spirit flowing and make it down to Crimea this summer!
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