Crimea looks like an upside-down cooking pot hanging from the Ukraine in the Black Sea. Favored by tsars and Communist dictators alike and Praised by Catherine the Great as the finest pearl in her crown, this Vermont-size peninsula is perhaps the most idyllic spot in the entire former Soviet empire with stunning coastal scenery and popular resorts. It is currently recognized by the international community as belonging to Ukraine but is claimed, control and occupied by Russia.

Covering and area of 27,000 square kilometers (10,000 square miles), the Crimean peninsula is almost completely surrounded by the Black Sea and, to the northeast, the smaller Sea of Azov..The largest city is Sevastopol, with about 340,000 people. The second largest city, Simferopol, is the capital of the (Autonomous) Republic of Crimea and an important political, economic and transport hub for the peninsula. It is home to about 333,000 people. The highest elevation in the Crimea is 1,545 meters (5,069 feet).

Crimea is an ancient land of the Cimmerians, Hellenes, Scythians, and Taurs. It is the homeland of Achilles, the hero of the Trojan War. According to legend, Dionysis taught mortals here how to grow grapes and make wine. Archaeological monuments describe the history of Crimea from prehistoric people to today. Crimea has always attracted people for health reasons; the combination of mountain and sea air, and the relict juniper groves invigorate without the need for any medical procedures.

"Former palaces, and more recently built health resorts," wrote Peter White in National Geographic, are "all set amid pretty parks with trees and shrubs from around the world—cedars, cypresses, sequoias, Chinese palms. The fragrance of native Crimean pines, I'm told is good for your lungs. Sit in a grove of junipers, breath deeply, and all sorts of undesirable bacteria will be gone from your system. People here firmly believe this, and they don’t like it questioned.” [Source: Peter White, National Geographic, September 1994]

About 65 percent of the 2.3 million people in the Crimea are Russian. Many are elderly people living on pensions. Around 11 percent of the population are Crimean Tatars, by some reckonings the native population. Only around 15 percent are Ukrainian, a small number considering the peninsula in supposed to be part of Ukraine. Among the other ethnic groups found in the Crimea, are Belarusians (o.9 percent), Armenians (o.5 percent) and Others (7.4 percent), including: Pontic Greeks, Krymchaks, Crimean Karaites, Ashkenazi Jews and Crimea Germans

Two thirds of the economy is tied to agricultural production. The orchards of the Crimea are famous for peaches, apples, pears and grapes. Marble and limestone is quarried in the mountains. Fertile farmland and popular resorts were thought to guarantee a bright future. The economy deteriorated under Ukrainian rule and got worse when Russia took it over and it became a war zone. .

Geography and Climate of the Crimea

The Crimea is one of those places people recognize by name but can't locate it on a map or tell you anything about it. The Crimea is diamond-shaped peninsula that juts into the Black Sea. Practically an island, it is connected the Ukraine (Russian) mainland by a couple of narrow isthmuses. To the south and northwest of it lies the Black Sea. In the northeast is the Sea Azov, a branch of the Black Sea.

The Crimea is comprised of three parts: 1) a steppe lowland in the north; 2) a range of foothills and low mountains in the south; and 3) a narrow coastal lowland along the Black Sea. Steppes cover about three quarters of the Crimea. The Crimean Mountains occupy 20 percent of the peninsula and stretch 147 kilometers (90 miles) along the southern coast and are partly covered by conifer forests. The largest mountain is 1,332-meter (4,331-foot) At Petri and an unnamed 1,545-meter (5,029 foot) peaks. Where the mountains meet the coast there is a three-to-thirteen-kilometer (two- to eight-mile) wide strip between the water and picturesque limestone cliffs

North of the Crimean mountains are fertile plains with wheat, sunflowers, cotton, barley orchards, vineyards and cattle pastures. Along the coast are resorts pebbly beaches, vineyards, tobacco plantations, and cherry, apple, peach and apple orchards.

The Crimea has the same latitude as southern France and northern Italy. It enjoys a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and a mild winter, and over 250 sunny days a year. It gets between 27 and 40 centimeters of precipitation a year. The Crimean Mountains provide a shield against the chilling winds from the north and the sea and mountains keep it from getting too hot in the summer. The Crimea is especially beautiful in autumn — known as the "velvet season" — when the deciduous trees, mixed in the with evergreens, turn yellow, maroon, and red; vineyards blaze purple and gold, the sea is calm, the sun is bright.

History of the Crimea

The Crimea has been the home of multitude of civilizations. Before the time of Christ it was occupied by Cimmerians, Tauri tribesmen (who reportedly sacrificed shipwrecked sailors) and Scythian and Sarmatian horsemen. The Greeks planted vineyards and exported wheat grown here and Romans occupied it until it was claimed by Gothic invaders from the north in the A.D. 5th century and later by Venetians and Genoese trades and navigators.

The Mongols (Tatars) settled in the Crimea in the 14th century. Later it was taken over by the Turks and then annexed by Russia. When the Turks tried to get it back the Crimean War (1854-56) resulted. The Charge if the Light Brigade occurred near the Crimean port of Balaklava.

Crimea became fashionable with the tsarist elite when the imperial family built the palace of Livadia in 1860 and remained one of the last hold outs of the Whites in the Russian Civil War. In World War II, German held the Crimea for about three years and the Tatars that lived there were accused of collaborating with the Germans and sent to Central Asia by Stalin. Only since the 1980s have they been allowed to return.

In the Soviet-Era, the Crimea was an important military zone and a vacation spot for elite members of the Communist party. It belonged to Russia until 1954 when Khrushchev gave into the Ukraine as a "gift" to celebrate 300 years of Russian and Ukrainian unity. At the time the move seemed only symbolic as nobody thought it made much difference since both states were part of the Soviet Union. It was only the break u p of the Soviet Union that full implications of the move were realized. Many Russians hold a grudge against Khrushchev for that decision.

Crimea After the Soviet Union Collapse

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine was reestablished as an independent state in 1991, and most of the peninsula was reorganized as the Autonomous Republic of Crimea within Ukraine, with city of Sevastopol given special status. The 1997 Partition Treaty on the Status and Conditions of the Black Sea Fleet partitioned the former Soviet Black Sea Fleet and allowed Russia to continue basing its fleet in Crimea: with both the Ukrainian Naval Forces and Russian's Black Sea Fleet headquartered in Sevastopol. Ukraine extended Russia's lease of the naval facilities under the 2010 Kharkiv Pact in exchange for further discounted natural gas.

After the Soviet Union collapse the Crimea was a semi-autonomous region within the Ukraine with its own parliament. After the break up of the Soviet Union, Russian nationalists tried to get the Crimea back. The Ukrainian government offered autonomy to the Crimea in part to delay attempts by Russia to claim it. At that time there was talk of putting an initiative on the ballot to make the Crimea an independent state. Ukrainian officials rejected this proposal. Among other reasons they believe that Russian officials were plotting to take over the Crimea after it become independent.

The Crimean parliament passed legislation for close ties with Russia and weaker ties with the Ukraine. In a referendum-like "opinion poll" in the 2000s Crimean voters overwhelming supported more autonomy from the Ukraine. At one point an adopted constitution asserted "equal status" with the Ukraine and elected a "president." The presidency was won by a three to one margin by a candidate that promised to split the Crimea way from the Ukraine and join it to Russia. Once in power he declared men drafted in the army could only serve in the Crimea. The Ukraine government viewed these acts as provocation and declarations of independence. There were concerns that civil war might break out. Russians in the Crimea had hoped that relatively pro-Russian President Leonid Kuchma would further their goal of reunification with Russia. Kuchma disappointed them. He declared Crimea’s separate constitution and presidency invalid.

In February 2014, following the 2014 Ukrainian revolution that ousted the Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, pro-Russian separatists and Russian Armed Forces took over the Crimea. A controversial Crimea-wide referendum, unconstitutional under the Ukrainian and Crimean constitutions,was held on the issue of reunification with Russia; its official results showed majority support for reunification, however, the vote was boycotted by many loyal to Ukraine and declared illegitimate by Western governments and the United Nations. Russia formally annexed Crimea in March 2014, incorporating the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol into Russia.

Tourism in the Crimea

Tourism in the Crimea centers around its towns, sanatoriums and beaches, The beaches unfortunately are rarely sandy. They are usually made up of pebbles or rocks. The water near the cities is often dirty. Many beaches are pay beaches belonging to sanatoriums that define the limits of their beaches with concrete walls.

In the tsarist era, the Moscow and St. Petersburg elite visited the Crimea for treatment for diseases like tuberculosis. Some built huge places. In the Soviet era around 7.5 million visitors came annually to the Crimea's 600 sanatoriums, hotels, guest houses, and tourist camps. Some of the sanatoriums are former palaces. Others are Soviet-era concrete monstrosities. Many the Soviet-era vacations were subsidized with vouchers provided by trade unions, factories, and organizations such as the Young Communist league, which sent children to camps here for free or nearly so.

In the early post-Soviet era tourism was down more that a third. Rooms in subsidized hotels that cost 10 percent of a worker's monthly salary suddenly went to costing twice his monthly salary, and if he brought his wife and two children it would costing almost a year and half of wages..Even the numbers of so-called wild tourists, who brought tents and sought out cheap accommodation on their own, fell off. The tourism industry recovered in the 2000s, in part as a result of tourists coming from all over, but has fallen off since it was annexed by Russia in 2014 and has been the site of urban warfare and plane crashes.

Crimean Sanatoriums and Health Resorts are mostly located on the south coast of the Crimean peninsula. They include (from west to east): 1) Yevpatoriya, an industrial city with dozens of sanatorium for children; 2) Saky, famous for it black-mud rheumatism treatments, 3) Foros, 4) Simeyiz, 5) Alupka, 6) Miskhor, 7) Livadia, 8) Yalta, 9) Masandra, 10) Hourzuf and 11) Alushta. Each resort offers a wide range of therapeutic treatments including acupuncture, massages with soft music for the reduction of stress; electromagnets for varicose veins; and even pebble therapy which is based in the idea that walking on the beach stimulates nerve endings on the feet that in turn transmit positive pulses to other organs in the body.

Hiking Destinations in the Crimea: 1) Bolshoy Kanyon, the Grand Canyon of the Crimea, over 320 meters (1,000 feet) deep and one and a half kilometers (two miles) long; 2) Dzhur-Dzhur waterfalls; 3) a stream where visitors can a dive in a frigid pool known as the fountain of youth; and 4) Maromorna (Marble Caves). Among the higher peaks are Roman-Cosh, deyr-Kapu and Kemal-Yeherek.

Crimean Wines: The tradition of winemaking has existed in Crimea since ancient times. The products of local wineries are famous in Russia and eastern Europe and known all over the world. Yalta is known for “Massandra.”. Sudak has the “Noviy Mir” (“New World”) champagne factory. In Feodosia you can find the “Koktebel” winery. Sevastopol has “Inkerman”.

Accommodation: The cost of accommodation depends on the season and varies greatly. In the summer, many residents who live in vacation areas have traditionally rented their apartments to vacationers and moved into summer houses. During the winter it is easy to find and rent an apartment.

Transportation to the Crimea

To enter the Crimean peninsula from the north you have to pass through Ukraine and travel through area of the Crimea that are still unsettled by conflict. In southeastern Crimea, the Kerch Strait separates the Crimean peninsula from Russia. Until recently it was only possible to reach Crimea this way only via a ferry. But now it is easy to get there directly. In December 2019, the new Crimean bridge allow people to get there not only by car, bus and train.

By Plane: . Most flights from Moscow arrive at Simferopol airport, the main air hub of Crimea, with many international flights. The travel time is about 2.5 hours. The minimum cost of a round-trip ticket from Moscow is RUB 5000-7000. But it can fluctuate significantly depending on the season. There are many direct flights. Connecting flights are often through Moscow or Rostov-on-Don. The cost depends on the airline, season and type of flight. The minimum cost of a round-trip ticket is RUB 9,970.

By Train: .In December 2014 Ukraine cut the railway line to Crimea at its northern border with Ukariane. The only trains going are regional commuter trains and the daily Moscow- Simferopol train, which can be used to connect with other cities in Russia and the former Soviet Union. The direct train from Moscow to Simferopol departs daily from the Kazan railway station in Moscow. The travel time is 33 hours. Russian Railways also offer a single ticket allowing you to get to the Crimean bridge byy train, then you can go to the most popular cities by bus. The single ticket service is available from April 30 to September 30. Just remember to pre-book a bus ticket to the desired city since the sales end the day before departure. Trains to Simferopol and Sevastopol from St. Petersburg depart from the Moscow Railway Station. The travel time is about 2 days.

By Bus: There are daily buses from Moscow to Simferopol. The average travel time is 30 hours, the ticket price is about RUB 3000. It's up to you to decide whether you want to experience a noisy bus road trip, since you can comfortably get to Crimea by train for the same money and the same travel time. The bus trip from St. Petersburg to Simferopol takes 46 hours, the ticket price is RUB 5000.

By Car: Any navigation system will help you find an easy and simple route to Crimea. You can get there from St. Petersburg through Moscow by following the free M10 highway or the partially paid M11. Then you need to take the M4 “Don” highway and head south. The travel time is about 20 hours from Moscow and 30 hours from St. Petersburg.

E105 is part of the International E-road network and one of the main roads in Europe. Begins in Kirkenes, Norway and follows the M18, M10 and M2 in Russia and the M18 in the Ukraine, ending in Yalta, Ukraine. Some cities on its route include Kirkenes, Murmansk, Kandalaksha, Saint Petersburg, Novgorod, Tver, Moscow, Kharikiv, Simferopol and Yalta. The road may be closed due to heavy snows or rains. Long delays may occur at the border crossing. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the road is closed to vehicles with a foreign registration


Simferopol (35 kilometers northeast of Sevastopol) is the second-largest city on the Crimean Peninsula, with a population of about 320,000. The capital of the (Autonomous) Republic of Crimea, it is an important political, economic and transport hub of the peninsula. Located in the inland part of the south-central portion of the Crimean peninsula, where the northern plains meet the southern mountains, it was once inhabited by ancient Scythian horseman and some scholars believe it was their capital. The current city was founded on the site of the Crimean Tatar town of Aqmescit. The city adopted its current name after the annexation of the Crimean Khanate by the Russian Empire in 1784.

Simferopol lies on the Salhir River near the artificial Simferopol Reservoir, whose earth dam is the biggest in Europe. Simferopol is the kind of place you don’t seek out to visit but you need to pass through if you are traveling overland. Sights include the Crimean regional Museum, with an exhibit on the Crimean War; Three Saints Church, with five onion domes; Holy Trinity Cathedral; Church of SS Peter and Paul and a restored mosque. The massive building that once headquartered the Crimean Communist party is now the Supreme Soviet (parliament) of the Republic of Crimea. There is also a Central Market. Lenin Square is a skateboarder hangout.

Simferopol has a major railway station, which serves millions of tourists each year.In December 2014 Ukraine cut the railway line to Crimea at the border. Currently, the station serves only a regional commuter train and the daily Moscow- Simferopol train. Simferopol International Airport was constructed in 1936. A new terminal has at least eight gates and a main hall with a wave-like layout. Zavodskoye Airport is situated southwest of Simferopol. The city has several main bus stations, with routes towards many cities, including Sevastopol, Kerch, Yalta, and Yevpatoriya. The Crimean Trolleybus The line is the longest trolleybus line in the world with a total length of 86 kilometers (53 miles). It surmounts a 752-meter (2,740-foot) mountain pass connects Simferopol with of Yalta on Crimean Black Sea coast.

Scythian Neapolis (three kilometers east of Simferopol), archaeologists believe, was the Scythian capital beginning in the 3rd century B.C. Located on a 20-hectare hilltop site, it embraces some burial mounds and excavations and is is unimpressive to most tourists. The large royal mausoleum yielded 1,200 small plaques and other gold ornaments. A neapolis is a “new city.” It is said the site was occupied "with a mixed Scythian-Greek population” and had “strong defensive walls and large public buildings constructed using the orders of Greek architecture" This city was controlled by Crimean Scythian tribes, led by Skilurus and Palacus, who are believed to be buried in the royal mausoleum. They ruled a kingdom that covering the territory between the lower Dnieper river and Crimea. The Neapolis was destroyed in the A.D. mid-3rd century by the Goths

Bakhchisarai and the Palace of the Crimean Tatar Khan

Bakhchisarai (32 kilometers southwest of Simferopol, between Simferopol and Sevastopol) is where the Tartar sultans ruled. A small town with 20,000 people, it contains the Khans' Palace, a mansion originally built for the Tatar sultan with Russian and Ukrainian slaves. Largely been rebuilt, the palace complex includes a mosque, with a wooden pulpit; cemetery, with octagonal rotunda tombs and exquisitely carved tombstones; Ambassador's Gate; Fountain of Tears; the Holy Paradise Fountain; the Lullaby Fountain; and the Fountain of Life; the harem; and historical museum.

The Bakhchisarai Khan's Palace was built as the capital residence of the Crimean Khanate and a palace for representatives of the Giray dynasty. For centuries it served as the center of political, spiritual, and cultural life of the Crimean Tatars. Surrounded by mountains with sharp limestone precipices, smooth bends of forest slopes, and orchards, Khan's Palace is located in garden and park zone that in days of the Giray dynasty covered 12 hectares, but has now been whittled down to four hectares.

Bagçesaray Palace of the Crimean Khans was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2003. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The Bagçesaray Palace of the Crimean Khans is a compact architectural ensemble consisting of 17 buildings and 9 inner closed courtyards. The total area of the ensemble is about 500000 square meters (including 7190 m of the built-up area). The Bagçesaray Palace of the Crimean Khans was built in the third-fourth decades of the 16 century. The oldest dated construction of the initial ensemble bears the date of 1532, while the written records mention the Palace under 1539. The Palace built as the main residence of the Crimean Khans (the monarchs of the Crimean Khanate - the state of the Crimean Tatar people) kept this meaning during about 250 years - from the 1530s till the collapse of the Crimean Tatar statehood in 1783. [Source: Delegation Permanente d'Ukraine auprès de l'UNESCO]

“The architectural ensemble includes two religious buildings (Big and Small Palace Mosques), official halls (Hall of the Divan or State Council, Hall of Embassies), living buildings of the khans, their retinue and families (Living and Retinue Blocks, Harem), recreational premises (Summer Arbor, Falcon Tower), auxiliary outbuildings (chambers for guards, bathes, stables, kitchen yard etc.), small architectural forms (portals, fountains and basins) and closed inner courtyards with gardens and parks. Basically the architecture of the Palace belongs to the general cultural tradition of the Middle East harmonically interlaced with original local Crimean Tatar tradition. Decoration of the palace buildings and interiors represents various architectural and art styles spread in the Crimean Khanate in the 16th-18th centuries. Playing the role of the main residence of the Crimean monarchs the Bagçesaray Palace (along with neighboring capital town) was the political, religious and cultural center of the Crimean Tatar people in the times of the Crimean Khanate.”

In 1917, the first National Museum of the Crimean Tatars was established in the Khan's Palace. The palace collection holds more than 100,000 items, including: fabrics, clothes, hammered tableware, wooden items, and ceramics — everything that the Crimean Tatars used in everyday life. In the museum there are also rare books printed in the one of the first writing systems of the Crimea — the ancient Karaim script of Chufut-Kale.

Cave Cities Near Bakhchisarai

Outside of Bakhchisarai there are several cave cities bored into the limestone hills of southwest Crimea. The largest of these, Chufat-Kale, is located in a tall bluff. Originally built by Christians between the 6th and 12th centuries, they were taken over by the Tatars after their emir was killed by Tamerlane in the late 14th century and later used by Jews.

Some of the caves were used as prisons for Russian, Ukrainian and Polish prisoners. Others were housed churches, Jewish prayer rooms, mausoleums, stone walls and burial chambers. Paths connect the caves. There are splendid views. Chufut-Kale can be reached from the abandoned 9th-century Uspensky Monastery, which itself incorporates caves dug to a cliff face. There are lots of hiking opportunities in the area. Buckle Cave City is located to the southeast of the village of Rocky Bakhchsarai. It is an open, not protected.

Kachi-Kalon (eight kilometers from Bakhchisarai) dates to the A.D. 6th century. Its defensive wall was built no earlier than the 10th century. Strengthening it and the cave monastery there, probably took place in the 13th-14th centuries. Kachi-Kalon is located on the right bank of the river Kacha under the rock shelter formed by Fytski mountains. The medieval monastery and the settlement were in caves carved into the rock. In many places in Kachi-Kalon there are carved crosses. Most of the early ones are inscribed in a circle. Check out the grotto of St. Anastasia, often referred to as the Temple of Nature.

Cave City Tepe-Kerman (1.5 kilometers northwest of the village Kudrino) contains the remains of a medieval fortress located on the plateau of the mesa (an area of about 1 hectare), with steep cliffs. Of the nearly 250 cave structures in Tepe Kermena, 37 are located on the edge of the plateau. These served various defensive, residential, economic and religiouspurpose. All single- and multi-chambered caves have been carved into the limestone bedrock. The floor plans are rectangular, oval and multi-faceted. Dimensions vary from one to three meters to 1.5 to seven meters. Their height varies from 1.4 to 2.3 meters.

Of the religious sites, a cave church and baptistery, is located on the east wall has three small skylights. The Chancel (part of a church near the altar, reserved for the clergy and choir) is adjacent to the eastern wall. It occupies the central part of the church. An altar barrier consisted of six columns — of which only three have survived — carved into the rock. In the floor are three carved tombs in the southwest corner of the church. The baptistery is in the form of a stone box, the edges of which are raised by 0.35 meters from the floor. Along the western and northern walls are carved stone bench where the two tombs are carved. On the walls is poorly preserved graffiti. Discovered in 1912, the 5.2-by-2.3-meter so-called temple of the sacristy was first structure in Tepe-Kermen found with Greek inscription. Technical condition and safety of the upper tier of caves is unsatisfactory. Destruction of caves is mainly due to erosion (weathering, leaching, temperature fluctuations) and tectonic movement, as well as negligence and vandalism by some visitors.

Chufut-Kale Cave City

Chufut-Kale (in the Bakhchysarai suburbs) is considered to be one of the city’s main attractions along with the Khan palace. In ancient times it was called Kyrk-Or, (“Forty Fortresses”). Today it is called “Judaic city”. In 13th century in the cave city was occupied by a powerful clan made wealthy by agriculture and trade. The location and power of the fortress appealed to first khan who placed his residence there.

After the Crimean khans’ came to Bakhchysarai, Chufut-Kale became a citadel and a prison. In the 17th century the Tartars left it to Karaites. Tartars considered them to be Jews, and renamed the city to Chufut-Kale (Jewish fortress). Chufut-Kale fortress became a home for Karaites for the next two hundred years.

The entrance to the city is through the souther gates Kuchuk-Kapu. Sometimes they are called “secret”, because they are seen only when you are close to them. In some ways these gates are a trap. It is possible to come to them only from the right side. If you came from the left side you were unprotected, and if you were an enemy you could be showered with arrows. It was impossible to knock out the gates with a battering ram, because the slope approaching it was steep. Even if somebody managed to make it to gates, the were easy prey for big rocks or boiling pitch dropped from above.

Southwards from the main square and is well with a reservoir, carved right in the cliff. The fortress buildings and pathways are designed so that water always flows downhill into the well. Two precipitation tanks are cut nearby. Water kept here was brought from springs. There was also a secret deep well that provide water during sieges. Later, when the fortress stopped being a fortress, information about the secret well was lost. The secret knowledge had traditionally been passed on only to elders and city keepers.

Mangup-Kale Cave City

Mangup-Kale (24 kilometers south of Bakhchisarai) is an interesting cave city. It is similar to Chufat-Kale but is more difficult to get to and thus less crowded. The caves are located among narrow ridges, wooded mountains and ravines. One of the main attractions of this cave city is that you can camp here.

The biggest ancient city’s ruins are preserved on the Mangul mountain’s top. This majestic mountain massive rises above Karalezskaja, Aj-To-dorskaja and Djan-Dere valleys. There are four capes in the north: Dyrjavyj (Hole-ridden) is represented with oblong hole, Vetrenyj (Windy), Zovushhego iudeja (Calling Israelite) cape. The capes are cut with three ravines: Kozhevennyj (Tanning), Bannyj (Bathing) and Kapu-Dere (Gate ravine).

Archeologists ascertained the settlement appeared before Christ. In the 3rd and 4th centuries the people here managed escape raids by the Alans, Sarmatians, Goths and Huns. In time this cape was protected from the rest of plateau with defensive wall. Gradually the amount of citizens grew and the tribe went out the fortress boundaries. In the 10th century Mangul was a rather big city.

It is known that, in the medieval times the city was called Feodoro, the same as the capital of the principality which it was located in. Mangul princes belonged to the noble Armenian family the Gavrases from Trapezund, who were relatives of Byzantine imperators, the Palaiologos. One of the princes, Stefan Vasiljevich was the ancestor of Russian dukes the Golovins. The medieval principality was located on the wide territory, and besides cities and castles on the tops of neighboring table mountains, it possessed the South coast from Alushta to Balaklava.

The landscape of the mountains makes much of it inaccessible. The south slope is shee and the northern side is difficult of access. To reach the plateau one has to climb up ravines, which are topped with strong defensive walls. The city was not damaged by Nogai raids in 1299. A hundred years later, Khan Edigey’s hordes could not conquer it either. Later part of the Feodoro principality was taken by Tartars. In the 13th century Genoeses settled there; they captured southern coast ports and established trading stations.

Despite all this Mangul principality was still a powerful state. It wasn’t conquered until 1475 when the Ottoman Turks starved the city into surrendering with a six month siege. The city was robbed and burnt, the people were killed and captured. Later on, Turks built a fortress and placed a garrison there..


Yevpatoriya (80 kilometers northwest of Simferopol) is an industrial city with 110,00 people and a long history. It is famous for having nice sandy beaches and dozens of sanatorium for children. There is a pleasant old town near the coast that if far enough from the main part of the city so that it isn't spoiled by factories and noise. The old Town is comprised of narrow, twisting streets lined by charming stone houses. Worth checking out are the 18th century kenasses, prayer houses used by the Karaite Jewish sect; their synagogue; Turkish baths; and the Armenian Church. There are some old churches and mosques and several museums.

Ancient Kerkinitida Archaeological Complex is housed under a glass pyramidal dome on Duvanovskaya street and consists of the remnants of the western defensive wall, dwellings, a round tower of plate pavement and altar. Kerkinitida was founded in the third quarter of the 6th century B.C., the ancient Greek Ionian immigrants. It was mentioned by Herodotus and existed for about 700 years until it was destroyed by the Scythians. The building remains were found during the reconstruction of Duvanovskaya street in 2000.

Audun Bazaar Kapusy Cultural and Ethnographic Center is located where the gates of the 15th century Kezlev fortress once stood. Built in the time of Khan Giray Mengli, the gates stood for over 400 but were destroyed in 1959. In 2003 the gates were rebuilt at expense the local business people. No the gates are a kind symbol of the rejuvenated Old Town. The Yevpatoria museum is located on the third floor of the fortress gates. On the second floor is Crimean-Tatar-style coffee shop offering more than 15 varieties of coffee.

Kara-Tobe Museum (in Saki, 13 kilometers east of Yevpatoria) is in an area with ancient Greek and Scythian settlements. In 2002, as part of an experimental archeology project, a reconstruction of a Scythian farmstead, which is a replica of a typical Scythian house of the 1st century B.C. Was built. It consists of a courtyard and two rooms: an apartment for the family and an adjacent room. In the courtyard you can look at Scythian grater device. Among the exhibits on the second floor of the museum are women's jewelry, fragments of terracotta figurines and weapons of Scythian warriors. Two floors of the museum are combined by an observation deck, where opens a panoramic view on the northern part of the Gulf Kalamitsky and Yevpatoria. In good weather one can see outer ridge of Crimean mountains Chatyr-Dag, settlements and roads.

Beaches in Yevpatoria

Yevpatoria has a number of sandy beaches. Most are situated on the shores of the Gulf Kalamitsky, which stretches for 50 kilometers. The swimming season lasts from May to October. The water temperature is comfortable, generally around 21°C (70°F). Belogorye Beach has fine sand and is very popular. Riviera Beach Riviera is located in a protected area of the Gulf Kalamitsky and has shallow, smooth, comfortable slope into the water.

Solaris Beach is a sandy beach located in of Yevpatoriya, near the terminus of the tram. On the beach there are many of attractions for children. Drummer Beach is a sandy beach located in a popular a walking area of Yevpatoriya, next to the promenade on Gorky Street, near the Yevpatoria aquarium. Municipal Beach No. 12 is located close to the famous medicinal lake Moinaki, whose estuarine, highly mineralized water is said to have medical benefits.

Plyazh Union has a small comfortable sand near Yevpatoria’s pedestrian zone. Municipal Beach No. 3 is a cozy sandy beach. The sea is shallow here. Municipal Beach No. 2 is located at the entrance to Yevpatoria from Simferopol. There is a wonderful view of the bay and city of Calamita. Beach No. 1 CLC is a former medical beach located in Yevpatoria pedestrian zone. The sea is shallow, the descent into the water is gentle.


Kerch (160 kilometers east of Simferopol) is located at eastern tip of Crimean Peninsula. Across the Kerch Strait is the Russian mainland. A new bridge just opened here that allows Russians to enter the Crimera without passing through Ukraine. Kerch is situated on a peninsula with the Sea of Azov to the north and the Black Sea to the south. There are beaches with golden sand and azure water. There is reasonably good tourist infrastructure and is fine place to relax by the sea with a glass of Crimean wine.

The Kerch area has a long history and many ancient archaeological sites. It is located near a burial site with 2,500-year-old mounds where artifacts from the ancient Greek colonies and the gold Scythian jewelry on display in the hermitage were found. There is evidence that Neanderthals and mammoths lived in the area. Remains from the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Iron Age, the ancient Greek and Roman periods, the Byzantine Empire the Middle Ages have been found. The Ottomans, Imperial Russians and the Genoese also staked out claims here. . Each of these historical periods left their energy and cultural footprint in the shape of the city.

The famous Kerch Lapidarium is ranked in 12th place among repositories of classical epigraphic monuments based on the number of Greek inscriptions. The collection contains inscriptions, sculptures and architectural details from ancient Greek Black Sea colonizers as well as Turkish tombstones. The city’s Great Mitridatskaya staircase was built in 1833-1840 and designed by the Italian architect A. Digby. A total of 432 steps lead to the top of Mithridates mountain, where you can find the Kerch obelisk of Fame, honoring Kerch as a World War II War hero-city. The feats of Soviet soldiers in the war are immortalized in a museum complex in the Adzhimushkaya quarries. In addition, visitors can check out the 18th century Eni-Kale Fortress and the 19th century fortress of Kerch (Totleben fort).

Sandy beaches in the Kerch area including the Municipal Beach, a well-maintained beach on the Arshintsevskoy spit overlooking the banks of the Kuban. The water consistently warm from late spring to mid-autumn. There is a gentle descent into the water. Geroevka Beach features lots of of greenery: shrubs and trees under which you can sit in the shade. The sea itself is very clean here.

Bosporan Kingdom

The Bosporan Kingdom, also known as the Kingdom of the Cimmerian Bosporus, was an ancient Greco-Scythian state located in eastern Crimea and the Taman Peninsula on the shores of the Cimmerian Bosporus, the present-day Strait of Kerch (it was not named after the more famous Bosphorus beside Istanbul at the other end of the Black Sea). It was the first truly 'Hellenistic' state in the sense that a mixed population adopted the Greek language and civilization and was the longest surviving Roman client kingdom. [Source: Wikipedia]

According to Greek historian Diodorus Siculus the Crimea and northern Black Sea region was governed between 480 and 438 B.C. by the Archaeanactidae line of kings, who were usurped by the Thracian tyrant Spartocus (438 – 431 B.C.). The Bosporan Kingdom was an independent kingdom from roughly 480 to 107 B.C. Then it was a part of the Kingdom of Pontus from 107 to 63 B.C. From t63 B.C. ro A.D. 370 it was a client kingdom of the Roman Empire. Its capital was Panticapaeum; its common languages was Greek. Important leaders were Satyrus (431 – 387 B.C.) successor to Spartocus and Satyrus' son Leucon I (387 – 347 B.C.) , who claimed Theodosia,, a wealthy port that unlike other cities in the region was ice free ice throughout the year The Bosporan Kingdom endured until it was annexed by Mithridates VI of Pontus, who was famously defeated by the Roman General Pompey in 66 B.C..

The prosperity of the Bosporan Kingdom was based on the export of wheat, fish and slaves. The profit of the trade supported a class whose conspicuous wealth is still visible from newly discovered archaeological finds, excavated, often illegally, from numerous burial barrows known as kurgans. The once-thriving cities of the Bosporus left extensive architectural and sculptural remains, while the kurgans continue to yield spectacular Greco-Sarmatian objects, the best examples of which are now preserved in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. These include gold work, vases imported from Athens, coarse terracottas, textile fragments, and specimens of carpentry and marquetry.

Archaeological Sites in the Kerch Area

Among the archaeological sites in the Kerch area are: 1) Panticapaeum (5th century B.C. to A.D. 3rd century) on Mount Mithridates; 2) Tiritaka, an ancient settlement 11 kilometers from Panticapaeum: 3) Nymph, an ancient Greek settlement in Geroevskoe (Eltigen) village; 4) Mirmekiy, an ancient city founded by Ionian Greeks in the middle of the 6th century B.C; 5) the Demeter crypt, with a famous painting from the A.D. early 1st century; 6) Royal burial mound with the tombs of Bosporus kings (4th century B.C.); and 7) Malak-Chesmensky mound (4th century B.C. ). Melek-Chesmensky Kurgan in Kerch has the unusual distinction of the being the only Scythian burial mound located at a bus station. It covers the grave of a small boy, thought to be a Bosporan prince.

A multi-layered ancient settlement and necropolis Artesian is located five kilometers to the east from the Sea of Azov and 2.5 kilometers to the northwest of Chistopole village, Leninsky district of Crimea. It is the only monument in the Eastern Crimea showing active military penetration of the Roman Empire into on the territory of the Bosporus state.

Archaeologists have also discovered 11 burials from Eneolithic-Bronze Age periods, a citadel from the A.D. early first centuries. The first period of the fortress ended when it stormed in the Bosporus-Roman war and completely burned. Among the artifacts found in the fire layer are several hoards of coins, ornaments and jewelry, dozens of terracotta figurines, thousands of bronze coins, dozens of silver Roman coins, ten gold Bosporus coins and remains of weapons, housewares and various sacred objects.


Panticapaeum (on Mount Mithridates in Kerch) was the capital of the Bosporan Kingdom, also known as the Kingdom of the Cimmerian Bosporus, an ancient Greco-Scythian state located in eastern Crimea and the Taman Peninsula on the shores of the Cimmerian Bosporus, the present-day Strait of Kerch founded in the 5th century B.C. . The remains include ruins of a high dome, walls, and a royal dwelling. Of particular interest to archaeologists are the remains of a pritaneya, a A.D. 1st century public building. Some of the archaeological finds on display in St. Petersburg in the Bosporus Hall of the Hermitage, The majority are in the Kerch Historical and Archaeological Museum. There are also some old white stone churches and houses of the wealthy on Mount Mithridates, where excavations have been carried out a long time.

Panticapaeum called Taurica by Greeks.. It was founded by Milesians ( inhabitants of Miletus, an ancient Greek city in Anatolia, modern-day Turkey) in the late 7th or early 6th century B.C. The city minted silver coins from the 5th century BC and gold and bronze coins from the 4th century B.C. At its greatest extent it occupied 100 hectares (250 acres).

The last of the Spartocids, Paerisades V, apparently left his realm to Mithridates VI Eupator, king of Pontus. This transition was arranged by one of Mithridates's generals, Diophantus, who earlier had been sent to Taurica to help local Greek cities against Palacus of Lesser Scythia. The mission did not go smoothly: Paerisades was murdered by Scythians led by Saumacus, and Diophantus escaped to return later with reinforcements to suppress the revolt (c. 110 B.C.) Half of a century later, Mithridates took his life in Panticapaeum, when, after his defeat in a war against Rome, his son and heir Pharnaces and citizens of Panticapaeum turned against him.


Nýmphaion (near Geroevskoye, 14 kilometers south of Kerch), was a significant center of the Bosporan Kingdom in the northern Black Sea. The ruins of Nymphaion lie on a rocky cape approximately 200 meters west of the shoreline. Centuries of coastal erosion meant when the settlement was occupied it was 500 meters from the ancient shoreline. Today the ruins are bordered by lakes that were ravines with sea gulfs at their mouths. These ravines were about seven kilometers apart, enclosing an area ed a territory of more than 40 square kilometers.

Nýmphaion (also spelled Nymphej) was mentioned by Aeschylus, Pliny, and Ptolemy. Strabo called it “a town with a beautiful harbor.” It natural borders made it relatively easily defendable. The rich chernozem around it was well suited to agriculture and received ample rain so that it produced abundant crops of grain that helped the local community prosper and was exported to Greece.

Nýmphaion was located on a coastal plateau with gentle southern slope to a hollow. The acropolis contained the temples of Aphrodite (with several rooms) and of the Cabeiri. The lower terrace by the sea centered on the sanctuary of Demeter, first erected in the 6th century B.C. and several times rebuilt. Other ruins indicate that the town's architecture was unusually refined, perhaps the most sophisticated in the Bosporan Kingdom. One structure has no parallels in the Hellenistic world: it goes back to the 3rd century B.C. and is built of rose marl. The site also yielded the oldest winemaking facilities found the northern Black Sea coast and several horse burials, associated with the Sarmatians.

Nymphaion city was founded by Greek colonists from Samos between 580 and 560 BC. There is no archaeological evidence for the presence of Scythians in the area before the city's founding. The town issued its own coins and generally prospered in the period of classical antiquity, when its citizens controlled grain trade, which was vital for the well-being of mainland Greece. Athens chose it as its principal military base in the region around 444 B.C.. During the Mithridatic Wars, the town allied with the Roman Republic and withstood a siege by the army of Pharnaces II of Pontus. Nymphaion endured until the 4th century, when it was sacked and destroyed by the invading Huns.

Nymphaion maintained lively trade contacts with the cities of Greece and Asia Minor. With Athen and Attica it exchanged grain for black-lacquered and painted ceramics, fabrics, different decorations and jewelry. After the conquest of North Africa by Alexander the Great, Nymphaion became a major exporter of wine. In its the city was built up with stone houses with paved courtyards, there was a system of water supply and sewage. The main monument of the city was a huge architectural complex on the slopes of the terraces.

Imperial Barrow Tomb

Imperial Barrow Tomb (four kilometers from Kerch) is a unique funerary mound dating to 4th century B.C. It is not known who tomb belongs to. Historians believe maybe one of the rulers of the Bosporus kingdom is buried here. Perhaps King Levkon I of the Spartokids dynasty, who ruled in the mid-4th century B.C.

One unusual thing about the construction is that no cement or bonding was used in laying the stones. The whole structure rests on the beams and struts mounted in special grooves. On top of the barrow ( large mound of earth or stones over the remains of the dead) is a mixture of clay and algae that has prevented erosion. In ancient times, the barrow was plundered and damaged. destroyed. A restoration of the tomb was completed in 1865.

The mound is 17 meters high and made of alternating layers of earth, sea grass and stones. Buried 8.4 meters under the top is stone crypt, covered by terraced, concentric conical dome masonry. The dromos (ceremonial pathway) that leads to the crypt is 36 meters long, 2.8 meters wide, and 7.14 meters in height, with an overlap of ledged rusticated blocks. Its walls are lined with large slabs, and they are parallel to each other. This architectural creates an illusion that the dromos is longer than it actually is. This effect is particularly visible from the crypt, which has a corridor leading to the dromos.

Sudak and Its Genoese Fortress

Sudak(130 kilometers east of Yalta) is home to a huge five-tower Genoese fortress. The Great 13th century Plague in Europe supposedly began in Genoa with rats transported from here. The roads wind along the sea and the fortress is spectacularly perched above the sea. In modern Sudak district you can find 30 sanatoriums and resorts and five children's summer camp that can accommodate 8000 adults and children. In the village of Novy Svet you can interesting rock formations, caves and picturesque coves.

Sudak was founded by Alans at the beginning of the A.D. 3rd century and was named Sugdeya, which means "pure” or “holy." Sudak bay extends for two kilometers close to mountain with Alchak gorge, Aeolian harp and Castle Hill with the 14th Genoese fortress. The main mountains are 499-meter-high Ai-George and 576-meter-high Perch. The mountain slopes are covered with pine and juniper trees. The area is also famous for “New World” Russian champagne.

The Genoese Fortress is a monument of medieval architecture and is the only Genoese citadel that has survived to date in the Crimea. Located on an ancient coral reef and sprawled over an area of 30 hectares, the Castle Mount overlooks the emerald-green Sudak Bay. Its strategic location and powerful defensive structures helped the Genoese control Black Sea trade and with it, key final link between the Silk Road and Europe. The fort had two separate fortifications: internal and external. The external fortifications, surrounding the northern slopes of the mountain consisted of 14 towers, connected by massive walls, with a main gate. The inner line of defense — the citadel — embraced four towers, the Consular Castle and the free-standing Watch, or Maiden Tower on the top of the Castle Mount.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation (official Russia tourism website ), Russian government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in September 2020

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from, please contact me.