“Sochi is a very special place, even for Russians,” explains Russian Olympic swimming gold medallist and IOC Member Alexander Popov. “For a very long time it has been regarded as one of the most prestigious resorts in the country.”
While Sochi has long been regarded as a summer destination, thanks to its seemingly endless pebble beaches, there are many other sights and attractions for visitors to enjoy.
Popular parks include the Dendrarium, where visitors can take a cable car to the top of the hill to enjoy panoramic views of the coast, and Riviera Park, the biggest and most popular park in Sochi, which features restaurants, bars, sports facilities, leisure centres and a cinema. Other attractions include Sochi Art Museum, which features more than 5,000 pieces from myriad artistic styles.
Many visitors also make the trip to the observation tower at the top of the 700-metre Mount Akhun, which is the highest point of the coastal area and offers spectacular views of the local countryside. There are also many ancient caves in the area around Sochi, with the most famous being those in Vorontsovka village, in the Khosta district, which consist of three interconnected cave complexes with a total length of around 11km.
Sochi is also well known for its tea production, boasting some of the most northerly plantations in the world. Many tourists choose to visit the Dagomys Tea Plantation, where they enjoy a tea party in a traditional wooden ‘izba’ (country log home), along with a performance of Russian folk songs while drinking tea from a traditional Russia ‘samovar’.
During the Games, visitors will also be able to enjoy a number of arts, ballet, music and theatre events as part of the conclusion of the four-year Sochi 2014 Cultural Olympiad, which has so far attracted more than three million spectators.
More than 5,000 artists from 70 regions of Russia will perform at numerous venues around the two Games centres during Sochi 2014, and many events will be free. Games-time performances will include a ballet gala, throat singing from the Chukchi region in eastern Siberia, lezginka dancing from Dagestan and traditional Kuban Cossack tunes. Sochi Art Museum will also feature an exhibition charting the history of sport in Russia and the favourite sporting pastimes of historical Russian figures.
While the world-class sporting action will be the main attraction in Sochi during the Games, the city is set to continue attracting more and more visitors even once the Games have left town.
Currently, around one million people visit Sochi each year, although that figure is expected to rise after the Games, when the city will become a year-round destination thanks to the venues that have been constructed and new transport and engineering infrastructure that have been put in place. In addition, a total of 42 new hotels with 27,000 rooms have also been constructed.
After the Games, the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre, for instance, will be used to develop Russian winter sport and will also be the basis for the main leisure and relaxation centre in Sochi, attracting tourists from all over the world.
"The key achievement of the Sochi Winter Games will be that Sochi is no longer regarded simply as a summer resort, but as a place where people can visit all year round,” explained Sochi’s mayor, Anatoly Pakhomov, last year. “Sochi has 300 days of sunshine a year. It has a unique sub-tropical climate, so in March and April you can come skiing here and still find people sunbathing on the coast. It can be 10 or 15 degrees below freezing in Krasnaya Polyana and 15 degrees on the coastline.
"This is really a unique place. Sochi has always had the capacity to be an all-round resort, not just the most popular Russian summer resort. We never had the infrastructure or the conditions to make it happen before – but the Winter Games have prompted us to take that opportunity.”