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The Crimea: Ukraine's Peninsula on the Black Sea

The Crimea is the name of the Ukraine's diamond-shaped peninsula that is juts out into the Black Sea. The Crimea is one of the most fascinating corners of Ukraine, with the most varied scenery and climate, the most ancient history, and the greatest opportunities for tourism. The climate of the Crimea's South Shore is near-mediterranean, making the Crimea's beaches a prime vacation destination for millions of Ukrainians and Russians and growing numbers of foreigners each year. Health resorts abound on the peninsula, which is famous for its mineral waters as well as wines. Just a few kilometers from the Black Sea, the Crimean Mountains rise to 1500 m above sea level. There are 30 curative lakes, 120 thermal medical springs, 10,000 historical and cultural monuments in the peninsula.

The Crimea's high season is July and August. However, it is generally warm from mid-April to the end of October. September is a perfect time to enjoy the resorts with fewer crowds, and October brings wonderful colors to the peninsula. Even during winter months which bring occasional snowfalls there are usually periods of sunshine every day. Spring in the Crimea begins in early April and is especially scenic, with the Crimea's wide variety of flora all in bloom. Summer itself can be scorching at times, especially when there is no wind.

The Crimea (Krym) attracts mountain bikers, tourists, rock-climbers etc. 3 main ridges are found in the mountains of the Crimea. The main one reaches a height of 1545 meters above the sea level, the Internal, represented by separate rocky massifs which heights are ranging from 500 to 600 meters above the sea level, and the External with insignificant heights. The Southern coast is known for its mild climate. That is a narrow strip of ground between the Main ridge and the Black sea.

There are at least 11 nice climbing sites with fully equipped routes grading from 4 to 9a climbing grades. The most popular sites are situated in the area of Great Yalta, from the Foros to Krasnokamenka. It is therefore convenient to stay in one of hotels in the city of Yalta and do one-day climbings at various sites. Most of routes are about the climbing grade of 7a. The climate in the Crimea allows climbing from April through October months.

The Black Sea is not as warm as some seas, but the water reaches 22-25° C during summer months and is often warm enough to swim in till late October.

Getting to the Crimea

The Crimea's transportation hub is Simferopol. There is a Ukraine's only airport with flights from other Ukrainian cities and a few international destinations situated there, and this is where most people get off the train to travel to Yalta and the Crimea's South Shore. Planes fly to Simferopol from Kyiv Zhuliany airport every day and cost between $35 and 60 USD one-way. Train tickets are much cheaper. All the trains are overnight (14-16 hours) and have beds to sleep in (more on traveling by train in Ukraine). Trains go to Simferopol, Sevastopol, Kerch, and Feodosiya. Other destinations — particular the South Shore — must be reached by car or bus. Yalta can best be reached by taxi ($40-50 USD), trolleybus ($2), or bus ($4) from Simferopol train station (100 km trip), but buses and minibuses run from Sevastopol as well.

If you plan to visit the Crimea during the high season, book plane or train tickets far in advance. At other times of the year, one or two weeks ahead are usually enough.
 
Transportation within the Crimea

The Crimea, like most of Ukraine, has an efficient transportation network consisting mostly of private minibuses, or marshrutki. These inexpensive buses reach almost all places of interest. The hard part is finding out where they stop and where buses go! You may have to do a lot of asking around like the Ukrainian and Russian tourists do.

The Crimean resorts
While each Crimean resort town has its unique set of sights and historical monuments, they are all alike in certain ways — there is always a beachfront area full of restaurants, discotheques, hot-dog stands, musicians, jugglers, caricaturists, "find out how powerful your punch is" stands, and locals selling everything from trinkets made in China to fresh milk. If you enjoy hanging out at crowded beaches in the daytime and having fun at night, these resorts are for you. You'd probably enjoy spending a couple of days in each town as you move down the Crimean coast.


Noviy Svet
Near the coastal town of Sudak, lies the beautiful town of Noviy Svet. It is safely tucked away in a small cove, so it offers visitors the privacy and seclusion so many seek. Even though accommodation is very scarce here, many local inhabitants of Noviy Svet will gladly provide visitors with a comfortable bed and a taste of local life. The breathtaking views of the bay and surrounding country make every second in this hidden Ukrainian destination a memorable moment.
The town of Noviy Svet is known as a champagne producer, and champagne has been made here since the 18th century. Not surprisingly, the locals have perfected the art of making champagne and tasting some of the local produce is highly recommended. A visit to the factory, founded by Prince Golitsyn, will definitely be a fascinating and surprising experience. Visitors will have an opportunity to view the wine making process and take a look inside the tunnel running for a few kilometers into the mountain, which is used for the storage of the wines.

Mountain Sokol is a noticeable landmark of Noviy Svet and many visitors accept the challenge of doing some mountain climbing. Climbing this mountain at a steady pace should take about one and half hours, and if Mountain Sokol doesn’t interest you, there is always Kush-Kaja. Kush-Kaja is located on the other side of the bay and is just as beautiful and picturesque as Sokol. The Golitsyn’s Trail is a spectacular natural hiking trail that leads visitors from the town past the bay to the clean beaches along the coast. Emperor’s Beach is a peaceful beach where visitors are able to unwind and enjoy the tranquility of the sea and calming waves. Noviy Svet region is also home to three breathtaking lagoons and the unique wildlife.

When a day of exploring the region has come to the end, visitors will be able to enjoy a relaxing meal at one of the quaint restaurants with some local cuisine. Noviy Svet is an amazing destination in Ukraine that overflows with the beauty of nature and gracious hospitality.

Stariy Krym

The town of Staryi Krym is one of the most historical destinations in Ukraine, and tourists should not let its size discourage them from visiting. With a population of approximately 10,000, it is also one of the smallest towns in Ukraine. It is speculated that the town was founded during the 13th century under the rule of Batu Khan. Over the years, it was known as Surkhat and Solkhat, but it was during the reign of the Russian Catherine II that its name was secured as it known today - Staryi Krym.

One of the most significant attractions in Staryi Krym is Surb-Khach, a monastery complex of Armenian origin. It is known that during the 14th to 15th centuries Staryi Krym had no less than nine churches and four monasteries in the town. Today the Surb-Khach monastery is amongst the oldest Armenian sites in Crimea. This medieval site is an architectural masterpiece and, as it is the last of the four monasteries, authorities are proceeding restoration work to preserve this historical site. Its importance to the culture of Staryi Krym is connected with the preserved documents, handbooks and manuscripts that date back to the days of Solkhat, and were written in the Surb-Khach monastery.

The Madrassa and Mosque ruins are two other sites of Staryi Krym that have a great significance to the history of the town. These buildings were constructed by Uzbeg Khan during the year 1314, but started falling into disrepair and ruin after Bakhchisarary became the Crimean Khanate capital. The population of the town also started to dwindle after that.

Staryi Krym is also the home to one of Ukraine’s most memorable museums, which was opened in honor of Alexander Grin. Grin was a well-known writer of Russian descent who made this quaint town his home until he died on 7 July 1932. He was famous for his short stories, fantastic tales of the ocean, romantic novels and thrilling adventures. A vital cardiac sanatorium is also located in this small town. This sanatorium was run by Nikolai Amosov, one of Ukraine’s celebrated heart surgeons and surgical pioneers.

The history and beauty of the landscapes that surround Staryi Krym has catapulted this quiet little town into the spotlight. Today it is ranked amongst the noteworthy destinations in Ukraine, and has awoken this once declining town into a vital historical tourist attraction.

Outdoor recreation in the Crimea

The Crimea's incredibly varied relief and scenery provide wonderful opportunities for all kinds of outdoor recreation — hiking, cycling, mountain biking, horseback riding, spelunking, rock climbing, hang-gliding, scuba diving, windsurfing, and even skiing. Local travel agencies specializing in outdoor recreation are available to organize these activities.
The Crimean Mountains are home to magnificent caves, forests of beech, oak, pine, juniper, and endemic species, windswept mountain plateaus, called yayly, and curious "cave cities" from the Middle Ages. The mountains are most accessible from Simferopol and the old Tatar town of Bakhchisaray, but you can also use an aerial tram that goes from Miskhor (between Alupka and Yalta) to Ay-Petri Mountain at 1200 m above the sea level. There is even downhill and cross-country skiing in the winter here.

The Crimea’s history
 
The history of the Crimea is long and varied.  It was first settled in the Early Paleolithic period and its earliest settlers called the Cimmerians lived on the peninsula in 15-7 BC.  The coastal and mountainous regions were inhabited by the Taurians, after whom the peninsula was named Taurica. (UN Internet Project, copyright 1995-1998).

In 4 BC, the Scythian kingdom was established on the Steppes of the Crimea.  The Greeks also formed colonies nearby.  The colony of Chersonese was established in the district of present day Sevastopol.  At the beginning of the new era, the Scythian kingdom was conquered by the Germanic tribes of the Goths.  In the 4th century, the Crimea was invaded by the Huns who destroyed the greater part of the peninsula's population.  Later the Khazar tribes, whose descendants are the Karaims, appeared on the land.  They were first ousted by the Pechenegs, and later by the Polovtsians.

The Slavs gained a foothold in the Crimea in the 10th century, and established the principality of Tmutorokan.  In the 13th century, some of the coastal lands were captured by Italian traders.  Also, during this century, Taurica was captured by the Mongols who gave the Crimea it's present name of Kyrym (Krym). (UN Internet Project, copyright 1995-1998)  For two centuries, the Crimea hadf been the seat of the Golden Horde and the Crimea became one of the largest slave trade markets.  In 1441, the Crimean Khanate was established  by Haci Giray Khan, a direct descendent of Ghengis Khan.  The Giray dynasty ruled Crimea without interruption until April 8, 1873.

After winning a decisive victory in the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774, Russia annexed the Crimea under the rule of Catherine II.  Due to the oppressive tsarist policy towards the Crimean Tatars, hundreds of thousands of Crimean Tatars left the Crimea in waves of massive migrations, which continued throughout Russia's rule of the Crimea. The Crimean Tatar population was estimated to be over 5 million during the height of the Khanate rule, and decreased to less than 300,000 at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution.

After the annexation of the Crimea by Catherine II, the peninsula became the home to Ukrainians, Russians, Bulgarians, Germans, and Swiss.  Many of the deserted Tatar villages were inhabited by those peoples who migrated into the Crimea at the invitation of Catherine II, and the Tatar village names were retained at the insistence of the Russian government.  Villages also sprung up on the now vacant estates of the once bourgeois Tatars, and in many of these cases, the villages were named after the previous Tatar estate owners.  You will find many German villages in the Crimea bearing two names, one Tatar, one German.  For instance, the village Byten (or Bjuten), which is the Tatar village name, is also called Herrenhilf, which is the German village name.
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photo. Ukraine. Crimea

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photo. Ukraine. Crimea

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photo. Ukraine. Crimea

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photo. Ukraine. Crimea

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photo. Ukraine. Crimea

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photo. Ukraine. Crimea

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photo. Ukraine. Crimea

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photo. Ukraine. Crimea

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photo. Ukraine. Crimea

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photo. Ukraine. Crimea

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photo. Ukraine. Crimea

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photo. Ukraine. Crimea

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photo. Ukraine. Crimea




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