Yalta's air – an invigorating blend of sea and pine forest sprinkled with mountain chill – has always been its main asset. Back in the 19th century, doctors in St Petersburg had one remedy for poor-lunged aristocrats: Yalta. That is how the Russian royal family and other dignitaries, such as playwright Anton Chekhov, ended up here.
It is easy to understand why the Russians are lamenting the loss of Sevastopol more than any other chunk of their vast empire. Orderly and clean as the deck of a ship, with whitewashed neoclassical buildings surrounding a cerulean bay, it has everything most Russian cities badly lack.
With its odd mixture of Levantine and Soviet, the Crimean capital is not an unpleasant city, but there is no point lingering here, as everything else on the peninsula is much more exciting – and it's only a short bus ride away! If you have a night to spend in Simferopol, use this opportunity to chill out in one of its quality restaurants and cafes – a bit of a rarity on the c.
More a village than a town, the former capital of Crimean Tatar khans is cradled in a narrow valley squeezed between two limestone escarpments. Its name means 'garden-palace', and it's a garden that needs a lot of tilling after 50 years of neglect, when its owners lived in exile.
Touted by local tour operators as a mini-Jerusalem, Yevpatoriya lures visitors with its Muslim, Christian and – most intriguingly – Karaite places of worship.
Neighbourhood names like Chumka (Plague) and Quarantine are not exactly romantic, but they hark back to the city's illustrious past. Founded by the Greeks in 6th century BC under its current name, it was rebranded Kaffa by the Genovese who took over the city in 13th century AD, turning it into meeting point for caravans from the Orient and European merchants.
Many people feel grateful when the holiday tsunami, which engulfs the rest of Crimea in summer, throws them on this quiet shore. A decidedly untouristy town of ramshackle low-rise buildings, Kerch is the place to chill out and dream of new frontiers. Looming across a narrow strait, the Russian coast invites for a Eurasian adventure.
From the bloodthirsty pirates featuring in Homer's Odyssey to the Soviet nuclear submarine fleet – everyone used this beautiful curving fjord, invisible from the sea, as a secret hideout. The British army wintered here during the Crimean War when a storm destroyed many supply ships moored outside the bay.
Although the following natural attractions are closest to Alushta, they can also be visited from Yalta (on organised tours) or Simferopol (if hiking from the Simferopol–Alushta road).
A merry band of Russian bohemians led by the gregarious bearded artist Maximilian Voloshin descended in the 1900s on what was then a small and remote village of Bulgarian refugees, transforming it into a favourite playground for the intelligentsia. This boho atmosphere lingered for a century, but the tide of wild capitalism has largely washed it away.
As an important stop on the Silk Route from China, Sudak was a major and well-defended trading centre run by the Genovese. Its central claim to fame is the fortress that survives from that era, but that's not quite all in this overcrowded resort. Just a few kilometres away lie the popular beaches of Novy Svit.
Gurzuf's steep, winding streets and old wooden houses, backed by Mt Roman-Kosh (1543m), were traditionally a magnet for artists and writers. Today they're a site for more inquisitive travellers. The village, 18km northeast of Yalta, is built around a picturesque bay with the rocky Genoese Cliff (Skala Dzhenevez) at its eastern end.
East of Yalta
West of Yalta
Yalta's most popular attractions are lined up like ducks in a row several kilometres west of the city. Many marshrutka routes (most notably the 32 and the 27) pass them all. From piers 7 and 8 in Yalta in summer there are eight boats a day to Alupka via Miskhor (for Ay-Petri Cable Car) and Swallow's Nest. Additional boats go to Swallow's Nest only.