Shaped like a diamond, this tiny subtropical gem has always been an eye-catcher for imperial rulers – from Romans to Russians. The latest invasion, albeit a largely peaceful one, took place in March 2014, when the peninsula was annexed by and once again incorporated into Russia after 23 years as part of independent Ukraine.
Although this takeover has not been recognised by the international community, Crimea is now only visitable via Russia and on a Russian visa. The future of its tourist industry was uncertain at the time of writing.
In Crimea's south, mountains rise like a sail as if trying to carry it away into open sea. Protected from northern winds, the coast is covered in lush subtropical vegetation. This is where Russian royals built summer palaces, later transformed into sanatoriums for workers.
The mountains are the heartland of Crimean Tatars – a nation of survivors, who brought back from 50-year exile their traditions of hospitality and excellent food. They live surrounded by limestone plateaus – a magnet for trekkers and cyclists who come here for great vistas and to explore ancient cave cities.