Thursday 27 October 2016, 07:57

Experience Sochi: Mountains, nature, seas and an Olympic legacy

Sochi is one of the premier destinations on FIFA's map of upcoming global football tournaments. The city is set to host group stage matches, a Round of 16 tie and a quarter-final at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, plus four games at the Confederations Cup one year earlier, including a semi-final.

Sochi is primarily known as a resort and, despite being relatively young – the city was founded in 1838 – it is the favoured holiday destination in Russia. The stunning views all around (where else can you enjoy seaside views and snow-topped mountains in the same panorama?) would be perfect for calm meditation, but instead Sochi has always been a place of action. It is a city for energetic people who prefer active pursuits on their holidays. reveals what to do in Sochi during the Confederations Cup in 2017 and the World Cup one year later.

Relax on the beach and swim in the seaBy Russian standards, Sochi is a medium-sized city with a permanent population of over 400,000 people, although its position in the sub-tropics means this number swells during the summer as holidaymakers from all over Russia head here. However, do not be fooled into thinking you will manage to explore every corner of Sochi; The Greater Sochi Area is the most extended area of population in the country. Stretching down along the coast of the Black Sea, its waterfront measures 145 kilometres from tip to toe. In total, the area making up Sochi is larger than some countries.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that rather than being a resort city, Sochi is a beach city. In total, there are 131 beaches with a combined length of 118 kilometres. Some are free to access for everyone and are equipped with all the usual conveniences, while the remaining beaches are privately owned by hotels and health spas. The hotels in Sochi can accommodate 200,000 people at any one time, and the city's popularity peaks in June when the beaches are an absolute delight. The weather is warm but has not yet hit the scorching temperatures of July and August, and there is more sunshine than any other month. June also has the lowest average rainfall of the whole year.

Try your hand at extreme sportsAs mentioned above, Sochi is a city for active people and offers the opportunity to go rafting, windsurfing, paragliding, mountaineering, mountain biking, rock climbing and horse riding. There is a huge number of varied hiking routes and excursions to waterfalls, gorges, caves and canyons. Finally, you can enjoy the amazing rides and attractions at Sochi Park.

Sochi's majestic mountains are just a short journey from the city centre (40 minutes on the fast train and just over an hour on the bus), and here you can find the popular ski resort Krasnaya Polyana. Skiing or snowboarding on the Olympic runs is obviously not possible in June, but this does not mean there is nothing to do, quite the opposite in fact. The stunning surroundings of Krasnaya Polyana provide an endless supply of mountain activities, ensuring you will not go away unsatisfied.

For the braver ones among you, there is the sky-diving facility at the Skypark adventure centre. The longest suspension footbridge in the world measuring 439 metres stretches across the Ahshtyrskaya Gorge, which the Mzymta River runs through. Halfway across the bridge is the largest bungee jump in the world, 207 metres off the ground! The jump is completely safe and, provided you pluck up the courage, it is guaranteed to be one of the most memorable and exciting experiences of your life.

Another fascinating thing to do is exploring the Vorontsovskaya Caves on the upper reaches of the Kudepsta River. This labyrinthine network of caves is 12 kilometres long and has a unique microclimate with a stable temperature that provided an ideal location for early human settlements.

Receive a health boostThe environmental conditions in Sochi, mixing mountain and sea air, make it a unique place. As a result, the city is also the most popular destination for hydrotherapy treatment in Russia. Dozens of different health spas are open throughout the year, including the most famous ones in Matsesta, where there are sulphur and iodine-bromine springs. Even when it becomes too cold to swim in the sea in autumn, these health spas continue to attract tourists to Sochi.

Explore the Olympic ParkThe 2014 Winter Olympics were held in Sochi and many of the facilities built specially for the games, including the Fisht Olympic Stadium, are still open and functioning. You can visit the Sochi Olympic Park located in the Imereti Lowlands, where various shows are put on at the ice domes and sports venues throughout the year, as well as the Olympic Village.

The Olympic Park is also home to the Sochi Autodrom racing circuit, which once a year hosts the Formula One Russian Grand Prix (the 2017 edition is planned for 30 April). A beautiful six-kilometre Olympic embankment was also built in this spot and has since become the city's most popular promenade.

Enjoy the city's cultural sideSochi is not only a place of unrivalled natural scenery and the winter Olympics, there is also a large number of landmarks in the city itself. The impressive Winter Theatre with its 88 columns hosts many concerts, theatrical performances and international theatre and film festivals. Many films used to be shot in Sochi and the surrounding countryside as well, enough for the city to be thought of as the Russian Hollywood.

During your stay, you simply must visit the train station, port (where you can see the most beautiful sunsets in the city), Akhun Tower, Sochi Art Museum, arboretum with 1,500 different species of exotic plants, aquarium and Riviera Park. Finally, summer in Sochi is one long party, so you will not be short of options for the city's nightlife.