Top 5 places to visit in the Crimea, Ukraine
Though Crimea might conjure up stories of Florence Nightingale, the First World War, the Charge of the Light Brigade and woolly hats (Balaclava), in the south of Ukraine, its coast has now developed as a very attractive holiday destination, especially for Russian tourists. As well as its beaches, the Crimea is a beautiful area with lots of interesting places to visit. Accommodation is relatively cheap and airport car bookings will supply competitively priced car rentals.
Here are five top places to visit in the Crimea, Ukraine:
Between Simferopol and Sevastopol is the village of Bahkchisaray. Visit the magnificent Khan’s palace, former seat of the Tatar rulers of Crimea since the 15th century. The Khans became vassals to the Ottoman Empire from 1475 and following the Crimean war and Russia’s victory were turned into Russian nobles, but the capital of Crimea moved from here to Simferopol. As well as the Palace, there are impressive gardens in the Palace grounds, some old Mosques and cemeteries, and a harem.
Walking from the Palace is the 15th century Uspensky Cave Monastery, built in caves in the limestone walls of a valley that leads to the ancient cave city of Chufut- Kaleh. Originally a Byzantine outpost, it was captured by the Tatars in 1299 who lived there until the 16th century. It was eventually abandoned in the 19th century.
2) Foros – Church on the Rock
Perched on a 400m rock, the church at Foros commands an impressive view across the Black Sea. In classic Byzantine style, the Church of the Resurrection of Christ was built in 1892 by a rich local tea merchant. After the Revolution it closed and vandals damaged some of the murals. The church was turned into a cafe for tourists until 1969, and then it was abandoned only to reopen as a church again following Gorbachev’s reforms in 1992.
Home to the Soviet Black Sea Fleet, it was for a long time off-limits. Since 1997 however, the town has opened its doors to visitors. The Black Sea Fleet is still here, but you can now take a boat ride around the harbour for close-up views of the Fleet. If naval history is your thing, don’t miss the Sevastopol Navy Museum.
Sevastopol is probably best known for its defence during the Crimean War. On Sapun Hill, Diorama (or the Panorama) occupies most of a circular building and forms a huge 360 degree re-creation of the defence of Sevastopol depicted on a 4 x 115 metre painting.
4) Balaclava and the Charge of the Light Brigade
A top-secret naval base with tunnels in the sea cliffs providing a secure hiding place for Soviet submarines during the Cold War, Balaklava is now seeing its old houses being restored and restaurants or tavernas doing good business from tourists who come here to enjoy the beautiful coastline. Climb up to the ruins of a Genoese fortress on the headland to admire the views and see the strategic importance of the place.
The battle of Balaklava in 1854 took place in front of Sevastopol’s Sapoun Hill and the valley became known thereafter as the `Valley of Death’ as a result of the Light Brigade’s ill-fated charge. Out of the 700 horsemen who charged up the valley only 195 returned.
On the outskirts of Sevastopol is one of the most important archaeological sites. Next to the sea are columns and the portico of an early 4th century Christian church among ruins of a city that was originally a Greek colony founded in the 3rd century. Even if you’re not interested in archaeology the place is worth a look at for its lovely views across the sea.
Crimea is still little-known to western tourists, but as well as offering beautiful beaches and coastal scenery, that are many interesting places to visit and many more than just these five.