With the Winter Olympics finally being hosted in Russia, travellers looking for a winter vacation destination have yet another great reason to visit a country that already has so many attractive traits: a long, interesting history, a beautiful natural landscape, diverse and welcoming international metropolises, and a healthy tourism industry that offers a great number of tours and attractions for the curious visitor. Of course, it is the Olympics themselves which currently offer a wonderful experience, but you don’t have to limit your Russian vacation to the Olympics; in fact, you’d be missing out on quite a bit if you did!
What Waits for You in Sochi
2014’s Winter Olympics are famously hosted in Sochi, a city in Krasnodar Krai that up ‘till recently was largely unknown to the international community. The Olympics, however, has a transformative effect on its hosts, and this is no less true of Sochi. Even before the Olympics came to Sochi, however, it was one of Russia’s largest resort cities. Compared to the rest of the often-cold and snowy Great Bear, Sochi has a subtropical climate that lends itself to hot summers and mild winters ideal for travellers looking to escape inhospitable weather and enjoy sunny, welcoming days.
Two million people visit Sochi every year, largely drawn by the great view of the Caucasus Mountains, the pebble and sand beaches, a subtropical environment, various monuments, and beautiful Stalinist architecture spread throughout the city’s design. Nature lovers are especially attracted to the nearly 3,000 square kilometer Caucasian Biosphere Reserve just north of the city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For those more interested in culture than nature, Sochi also hosts an annual film festival, Kinotavr, also known as the Sochi Open Russian Film Festival.
The Heart of Russia
You would be remiss to visit Russia and not take the time to visit its capital and one of Europe and Asia’s greatest cities, Moscow. An ancient stronghold of Russian rulers and cultural elites for centuries, Moscow has something to offer to everyone. For those interested in the unique architecture and history of Russia, Saint Basil’s Cathedral – with its beautiful and colorful onion domes – and the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and the Seven Sisters all provide a unique experience that can only be had in Moscow.
Any history buff will be obligated to visit the Kremlin, which has served as an armory, a fortress, a palace, and a center of government at varying points in Russia’s long and storied past. The Red Square, the birth place of revolutions have that had lasting effects on the world for years to come, is a common destination for tourists who want to stand where so many have given their lives in the pursuit of freedom and justice.
Of course, beyond historical landmarks, Moscow is home to a large number of museums, including the Tretyakov Gallery, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, and the State Historical Museum. Moscow’s devotion to the arts is only matched by its diverse nightlife; Russians really know how to party, after all! With so many different kinds of clubs, restaurants, and bars, ranging from the traditional to the luxurious, it isn’t hard to immerse yourself in Russia after dark!
Why We Love the Olympics
Of course, it is the Olympics themselves that you will want to devote a good amount of time to. The Olympics isn’t just about the sports, the medals, or even the athletes, however; they are also about the international community coming together to connect, grow closer to one another, and learn from each other. This is a great chance to meet people from around the world, sharing food and drink and taking in everything Sochi has to offer together.
This may be the start of a beautiful friendship; you may learn something new about a country or a culture that you would never have otherwise learned. You may well decide to go visit other countries based on the people you’ve met, starting a lifetime of travel and discovery! When we step outside our comfort zones and dare to learn of peoples and places that we had never even given a thought to before, we end up doing more than learning about the world – we learn about ourselves. We learn about what we really want, and what we are capable of. That, in the end, is what the Olympics does for us.