Though the 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics may have come to an end, there's much more to Sochi than winter sports. For hikes, historic sites and spa breaks, now is the time to go
Nestled on the coast of the Black Sea, home to pebble beaches, botanical gardens and Stalin’s first dacha (holiday home), Sochi wasn't well known to the wider world as a travel destination. But all that changed between 7 February and 23 March when it was flung into the spotlight by the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Now that the games are over, the hordes of spectators, journalists and sweaty athletes will take their leave, hotel prices will plummet and toilet-related controversies will be long forgotten. Normality will begin to return, making it the perfect time for a visit.
For romantic seafront strolls, yachting, horseriding and hikes through the jagged Caucasus Mountains. Subtropical temperatures range from 11-18ºC in the winter to a balmy 25-29ºC in summer with little in the way of rainfall. The lack of snow made it an unusual choice for the Games and even prompted concerns about the venue's viability. In the end, the organisers had to store 450,000 cubic metres of last year's snow to make sure the events went off without a hitch!
UK flights to Sochi, via Moscow or Turkey, cost £140 one way with Pegasus. There are transfers to hotels by taxi, shuttle or the Sochi Aeroexpress which departs ten times a day for 200 roubles (£3.80).
In the 1930s, a typical Russian holiday involved relaxing at one of Sochi’s many sanatoria – health retreats set in beautiful grounds with tennis courts and private beaches. Today the experience is much the same, making the city an ideal spa spot.
History buffs won’t want to miss Zelenaya Roscha, Stalin’s dacha. The interior of the building has been meticulously preserved so that the presence of the Soviet dictator can still be felt – especially when stood next to his eerie, cigar-smoking wax model.
For panoramic views of the city, head for the observation tower on Akhun Mountain. Other nearby must-sees include the waterfalls in the Agura Valley and the confounding Vorontsovskaya Caves, 40km away.
Sochi has a population of 343,000 people and is in Krasnodar Krai, south-west Russia. You must apply in advance for a Russian visa (£50 plus service charges).