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a mock-medieval castle near Gaspra
Flag of Crimea.svg
Quick Facts
Capital Simferopol
Government Annexed and de-facto controlled by Russia
Republic of Crimea
City of federal significance (Sevastopol)
Currency Russian ruble (RUB)
Area 26,103km²
Population 1,965,177 (2013 estimate)
Language Official: Russian, Ukrainian, Crimean Tatar
Religion Russian Orthodox, Sunni Islam
Electricity 220V at 50Hz, European-style outlets type C, E & F
Country code +7
365 (Crimea)
869 (Federal City of Sevastopol)
Internet TLD (Russia)
Time Zone UTC+3(Moscow Standard Time)
Position of Crimea in Ukraine
Position of Crimea in Russia
Travel Warning WARNING: Crimea is a Russian Federal Republic annexed from Ukraine in 2014. Most Western governments do not recognize the annexation, and thus advise against all visits to Crimea, due to inability to provide consular assistance. While the region is relatively stable, violent protests can occur at any time and the security situation could change rapidly. Visits to the region could result in a ban on entering Ukraine, or difficulty at Ukrainian customs.

Crimea is a beautiful island in the south of Ukraine on the Black Sea. It is known as the Crimean Peninsula which is connected to Ukraine by two narrow necks of land, making it more like an island with a couple of natural land bridges than simply a bit of land jutting out into the sea.

Crimea is a disputed region claimed by both Ukraine and Russia as part of either southern Ukraine or southwestern Russia. Although most of the international community doesn't recognize Crimea as part of Russia, it is administered by Russia, and most citizens identify as Russian. Russian currency is used and Russian laws apply.

The peninsula was the site of the Crimean War, between 1854 and 1856, and gave rise to modern nursing, live war reporting, the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade and the Balaclava (woollen head garment).


Dawn in the Ai-Petri mountains

This little diamond features many landscapes: Crimean steppe or prairie in the East and North, Feodosia's sandy beaches, undulating hills of vineyards and fruit trees, castles reminiscent of Bavaria cling to cliffs plunging into the warm sea and there are forested mountain ranges with fabled cave cities to the West.

On 30 March 2014 at 03:00, when it would normally have changed to Eastern European Summer Time, Crimea advanced the clocks even more to be in the same time zone as Moscow.


Crimea has a long history, mostly separate from neighbouring regions. Many empires and Turkish vassals existed along its coast, before it belonged to independent local states or foreign powers like Roman & Byzantine Empire, or Genoa. In medieval times the region was conquered by Tatars who became later vassals of Ottoman Empire. The Crimean Khanate survived until 1774, when it was conquered by Russia for the first time in its history. Russians persecuted native population and colonised the land with new settlers, still until World War II it was a multi-ethnic territory with Crimean Tatars, Russians, Ukrainians, Greeks, Armenians, Germans and many others living together. After the War though Soviet Union expelled virtually all Tatars to Central Asia, and many new settlers arrived. Most of modern day inhabitants are settlers from post-war times, thus explaining high pro-Russian sentiment. The Crimean Oblast was transferred from Russia to Ukraine in Feb 1954 while both countries were constituent parts of the former Soviet Union. In 2014 Russia annexed forcibly Crimea causing international crisis. Officially it was acknowledged by local population in referendum, although its legality and results are highly controversial. Official data say that 95.5% of voters voted yes in the referendum to join Russia again according to the BBC.

Genealogy & research[edit]

All historical documents (including birth records) for all nationalities currently and historically represented here (Russians, Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews and Germans) are kept in the National Archive, in Simferopol.

You may contact them by email at [email protected] although the best way to receive a response to your email will be to send it in Russian. The archive is open M-F 08:00-17:00. Individual access to much of the archive is not permitted, although for USD30 you can pay someone who works in the archive to do the work for you. Nobody in the archive speaks English so either be prepared to speak Russian or bring along a translator.

The archive is located at No. 3 Kechkemetskaya St, which is the main street running directly east from the train station in Simferopol (about 1km).

The archives and its staff are not accustomed to foreigners so be prepared to explain to the guard at the front desk what it is you want to do.

The Lutheran Church in Simferopol supposedly has a list going back to the early 1800s of all German families who emigrated to Crimea under Catherine the Great, or so it was said at the Archive. This information has not actually been confirmed at the Lutheran Church. For that matter, finding the Lutheran Church, although mentioned in the guide book, is actually a quite difficult task.

The city of Feodosiya has a Jewish Community Centre that has been very active in doing research on the Jewish community of Crimea.


  • Ruth Maclennan's film Theodosia is a good introduction to the place of Crimea in the Russian psyche.

When you get to Crimea you can buy the local guide book "TIME to COME to CRIMEA!" (in both English, Russian and Ukrainian) at many of the small booths on the street. For your reading entertainment here are some quotes from the book:

"The attitude of the population to lesbians is curious and benevolent; to gays it is hostile, except for the famous ones."

"The modern military tourism including, for example, shooting from grenade launchers and flights by supersonic fighters, is developing at numerous polygons and air stations that used to be secret ones."

Weather and water[edit]

The weather in Crimea during the summer season is very much Mediterranean. Expect relatively hot weather and lots of thunderstorms that come and go. Hot and very humid at night. In the winter snow can cover the mountains and make the roads almost impassable. However it almost never snows on the southern coast of Crimea.

The water is fairly warm, although not as warm as the Adriatic. The water is clean and clear, although also a bit less clear than the Adriatic, and its mostly warm June through September.

Weather Averages[edit]

January Hi 7*C (47*F) Lo 6*C (38*F)

February Hi 47*F (7*C) Lo 38*F (5*C)

March Hi 54*F (11*C) Lo 44*F (6*C)

April Hi 60*F (15*C) Lo 49*F (10*C)

May Hi 72*F (22*C) Lo 55*F (12*C)

June Hi 77*F (26*C) Lo 60*F (15*C)

July Hi 81*F (28*C) Lo 66*F (19*C)

August Hi 90*F (32*C) Lo 70*F (21*C)

September Hi 79*F (26*C) Lo 64*F (18*C)

October Hi 70*F (21*C) Lo 58*F (14*C)

November Hi 56*F (13*C) Lo 48*F (9*C)

December Hi 47*F (8*C) Lo 37*F (3*C)


  • The Coastal Beach Cities -- The coastal beach cities are very hospitable to tourists (if you speak Russian). Accommodation is plentiful and prices range widely, depending on location and accommodation type (minimum cost for a one night stay no less than USD20, but can easily reach a few hundred and up). Houses advertising accommodation will usually have a large white sign stuck on the door that has about three words written in Cyrillic. During the tourist season expect the beaches to be quite packed, with mostly Russian tourists. The whole coast line is dominated by the mountains that tower above them, sometimes reaching up to 1500m.
  • The Coastal Mountains -- The mountain area that stretches from the coast to about 70km inland contains some very pristine untouched nature. The mountains are formed by ragged limestone that has been shaped into high peaks with canyons, cliffs and valleys transecting them in all directions. Expect a great adventure if you want to go hiking here, but also expect to rough it. Camping sites are few and far between so you'll probably have to just find one of the many secluded fields to camp in. The area has numerous caves as well as small lakes. There are almost no marked trails.
  • The Sea of Azov and Kerch --
  • The Inland Plains -- A lot of really nice farm land. Looks nice while passing through it by train.


  • Simferopol -- The capital. The train station is very clean and beautiful. For the most part this is a place of transit to the coast or to the mountains. It is famous for having the world's longest trolley bus service 56km.
  • Alupka -- Rocky beaches, home to a number of dacha's and the magnificent Vorontsov palace, where Churchill stayed during the Yalta Conference in 1945.
  • Bakhchisaray -- Located in a canyon between Simferopol and Sevastopol, this town has a wealth of interesting sites to see including the Crimean Tatar Khan's palace, the cave city and the Armenian monastery that is built in a cave.
  • Balaklava - famous for the Crimea war of the 1850s, the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade and home to a former secret Soviet submarine base.
The abandoned Jewish cemetery in Feodosiya
  • Feodosiya -- Feodosiya is located 100km to the east of Simferopol. From the outskirts it looks like an urban industrial disaster but once past the factories it has a very nice old town. Very similar to Odessa in architecture but just on a smaller scale. Home to the Ayvazovsky Picture Gallery.
  • Kherson - While not part of Crimea, Crimea's Ukranian presidential representative moved Kherson, and Kherson now serves as the de jure administrative center for the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
  • Koktebel -- Located between Feodosiya and Sudak, this small town has a great beach area that has a carnival type environment. It sits below a spectacular wilderness area to the west that regrettably you can only visit on a guided tour.
  • Sevastopol -- A major port for the Russian Black sea fleet and the Ukrainian navy. Given the title 'Hero City' for its resistance to the Nazis during WWII. Numerous monuments to the past's military exploits. Nice shops. Currently right now annexed/joined to Russia as a result of the 2014 separation. It's currently a proposed Federal City in Russia.
  • Yalta -- A very beautiful city containing many of the Russian Czar's palaces and other great monuments. Twinned with Margate in England amongst other places. Yalta is a tourist hotspot, which contains a mixture of Soviet hotels and modern high rise apartments. Yalta was once the main holiday destination for many Russians before they were allowed to travel outside the Soviet Bloc.

Other destinations[edit]

  • The Bolshoi (grand) Canyon


The Crimean parliament has ordained that there are three official languages in the region:

Russian is the universal language of communication.

Crimean Tatar (a Turkic language, closely related to Turkish) is also widely spoken by the Crimean Tatars.

Ukrainian. In decidedly and staunchly pro-Moscow Crimea, you might be met with a degree of hostility if you speak Ukrainian.

Few people speak or understand English.

Spoken English in the Crimea is of a low standard. Few people have more than a passing knowledge of English. A lack of exposure to the language and the relatively low number of foreign tourists, coupled with a continued Soviet-style education means that the population is decidedly monolingual.

Be prepared to memorize words in Russian and to become familiar with the Cyrillic alphabet. A few select older people have some familiarity with German, which may be of some use. Those proficient or familiar with Turkish will have a great deal of success in communicating with Tatar speakers.

Some of the street signs in Yalta are in English from the time of the Yalta Conference in 1945.

Get in[edit]

All roads coming to Crimea leads to Simferopol, it is the undisputed transport hub of the region.

Regardless of your position on Crimean independence and the peninsula's annexation by Russia, entering Crimea will require you to go through Russian authorities, so please look at the Russia page for visa information and other customs information.

Unless you are a Ukrainian citizen, entering Crimea from mainland Ukraine will also require you to get a special permission from the national migration service. There is a limited number of reasons to get the permission which includes having close relatives or property there, being a human rights activist or being a member of some international organisations.

If you don't have any of the reasons above, it's typically easier to enter the peninsula from mainland Russia by plane, Crimean Bridge or Kerch Strait ferry. However, note that most countries consider such visits as an illegal crossing of Ukraine border and support for the Russian occupation; all such visitors risk getting a long-term ban from Ukraine. Ukrainian citizens who enter Crimea from Russia will get a heavy prison sentence when returning to Ukraine.

By plane[edit]

Simferopol International Airport was a major hub in Ukraine and had both domestic connections with Ukraine and several international flights. Flights from Ukrainian and European cities, have been suspended after anexation by Russia, only flights to Moscow, Anapa, Volgograd, St Petersburg, Orenburg, Novokuznetsk, Novosibirsk and many other Russian cities continue.

There were also a very limited number of flights to Sevastopol Airport.

By train[edit]

Since December 2014 there are no trains from Ukraine to Crimea. Russian Railroads offer a combined "train+bus" tickets to Crimea from major Russian cities.

Since late December 2019, trains go from St. Petersburg and Moscow to Crimea--avoiding Ukraine all together.

By bus[edit]

All bus services across the border with mainland Ukraine are officially disrupted. There are bus services going to one side of the border, which you must walk across, and then take another bus.

Buses from Russia reach Crimea via Kerch ferry or the bridge. The bus services are operating from Sochi,Gelendzhik,Novorossiysk,Krasnodar,Anapa(the closest city to the Kerch ferry),Rostov-on-Don,Voronezh and even Moscow. Here you can find the E-tickets.

List of Crimea bus stations and bus schedule.

By car[edit]

Crimea is reachable by car from the Kherson region of Ukraine and from the Krasnodar region of Russia across the Crimean bridge which links Kerch in Crimea with Taman in Russia.

By ferry[edit]

Kerch ferry was one of the most important links to the region until construction of the bridge. You could decide to use it if you're travelling without a car, but there shouldn't be a reason to not just drive across the bridge.

Get around[edit]

  • You can get anywhere in Crimea and some major Ukrainian and Russian cities by bus. Online booking can be done using state-operated electronic ticket system.
  • The Crimean Trolleybus connects Simferopol to the cities of Alushta and Yalta on Crimean Black Sea coast. The line is the longest trolleybus line in the world with a total length of 94km. The trolleybus line's route departs from Simferopol Airport and passes through the Crimean Mountains across the Angarskyi Pass, reaching 752m at the road's highest point, then descends down to the resort town of Alushta on the coast. The remaining distance to Yalta is 41 kilometres and winds around the mountains above the sea, providing breathtaking views. Furthermore, it is the cheapest way to get to these cities: Simferopol-Alushta RUR77 (1.5h), Simferopol-Yalta RUR122 (2.5h).
  • You can also go by taxi. Prices vary; be prepared to haggle a fare as you will always find someone to do a deal with. Many private citizens also work as pseudo taxi drivers; sometimes it is difficult to tell. Taxis range from modern comfortable cars to 1950s gas powered Soviet cars!
  • Frequently while travelling in the country if you look like a foreigner (for example with a backpack) and you are standing on what passes as a 'major' road people will stop and ask if you want a ride... for a price. Fortunately that price usually amounts to only a few US dollars to go some very long distances.
  • Crimean railroads operates by several suburb trains from Simferopol to Sevastopol,Dzhankoy,Kerch,Solyanoye Ozero,Feodosia,Evpatoria,Armyansk.There is also one train to Moscow via Kerch ferry.

See[edit][add listing]

The Khan's palace
  • The Khan's Palace -- The Khan's palace is in the small mountain village of Bahkchisaray a halfway between Simferopol and Sevastapol. The Khan's palace was the seat of the Tatar rulers of Crimea dating back to 1443. With the Ottoman conquest of Crimea in 1475 the Khan's became a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire but were left as the rulers. After the Crimean war with the victory of Russia all of the Khan's were made Russian nobility but the capital of Crimea was moved to Simferopol. The palace grounds include impressive gardens, several old mosques including cemeteries, a harem and of course the palace itself. You can take a guided tour of the palace but only in Russian.
  • Chufut Kale Cave City -- An hour and a half walk up a beautiful canyon from the town of Bahkchisaray you will find the Chufut Kale cave town dating back to the 6th century. It is located high up in the cliffs so the walk is a bit strenuous but not overwhelming. It is a city of what appears to have been several thousand people who built/dug their homes into the limestone rock. The city was abandoned in the 19th century. There are some other Cave cities (about 14), completely different as far as size and picturesqueness concerned
  • The Bolshoi (Big) Canyon -- The Bolshoi Canyon is on the opposite side of the mountain range that Yalta sits below. It will take about an hour and a half to get there by automobile from Yalta. It can also be reached from Bahkchisaray by hitch hiking or minibus. Bolshoi means 'Grand or Large' in Russian. After reaching the entrance to the park you will have to pay a small fee (USD2) to start down the trail. From there it is about an hour hike into the canyon along a small mountain stream. You never actually end up getting a perfect view of the canyon as you are also down in the middle of it surrounded by lush vegetation but it is impressive all the same. The trail ends at a small picnic area where a local man is selling awful wine and really good fried food. There is a small waterfall and a pool where you can do some minor diving/jumping. You can continue further up the stream without the trail but it is a bit more rough going.
  • Caves There are three caves equipped for easy access: Krasnaya, Mramornaya, Emine-Bayır-Hosar. And there are some more caves which are not equipped and might be attractive for speleologists.
  • The Swallow's Nest a folly, now an Italian restaurant.
  • Livadia Palace - former summer palace to the Tsars and famous setting for the Yalta Conference.
  • Massandra Palace - another former Tsarist palace, which looks a bit like a French Chataeu, once visted by Stalin who declined to stay there as he did not feel very safe.
  • Gurzuf. One of the best places in Crimea. Small city between Alushta and Partenit. Climate is very similar to French Riviera. Gorgeous views and clean warm sea.  edit
  • Vorontsov's Palace in Alupka, Dvorzovoe Shosse, 10, Alupka, Crimea, (0654) 72-22-81, [1]. /  edit
  • Genoese fortress in Sudak (Fortess in Sudak), [2]. Discovering the fortress should start from the main gate and then go to the east. Inside - the eyes diverge: the picturesque ruins, exotic buildings. Everywhere is clearly felt the breath of time. Attention, of course, immediately engage the towers.  edit

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Hiking in Crimea is wonderful. There are very few other backpackers and almost no clearly marked trails (as in posted signs) so you're going to be roughing it. The trails themselves though appear to be well used. In the mountainous region though you can pretty much pick any two small towns and hike between them and be assured of an adventure. Campsites are few and far between but there is lots of open space for camping, be environmentally sensitive of course about the place you choose to camp. For a brief description of a hike see Bahkchisaraj.
  • Koktebel Jazz Festival, [3]. Takes place each year in August/September, with some of the acts performing on the nude beach. Day ticket around USD12.  edit

Buy[edit][add listing]

Crimea uses the Russian ruble.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Street food can be delicious in Crimea, if you are not prone to gastritis, and you can manage to dodge the lamb hidden in many dishes.

The ice cream sold at the beach includes a simple one called molochnoye (Russian: молочное, "made of milk"). It's white, but it's not vanilla-flavoured. It tastes like sweet milk.

If you see women walking up the beach selling something from buckets, it's probably paklava (Russian: паклава, baklava). This paklava is like nothing you have ever had before. It's thin layers of homemade dough, put together to resemble big flowers, deep-fried and covered with nuts and honey. It's absolutely heavenly.

Find a pastry shop and try the trubochki (Russian: трубочки, "little trumpets"). A trubochka is a cornucopia shape of short pastry filled with meringue and sometimes dipped in nuts. Delicious with chai (Russian: чай, tea).

Drink[edit][add listing]

The beer in Crimea is outstanding and cheap.

Crimea is a wine-producing region. Most of the wine produced here, at the famous Massandra Palace winery and in Koktebel', is dessert wine in the style of Port or Madeira. Unwary foreigners might buy a bottle of what looks like red or white wine in a kiosk and find it undrinkably sweet. That's because it's meant to be sipped, in very small quantities, not drunk like a Merlot. If it's regular wine you're looking for, avoid anything labeled Портвейн (Portwine), Мадейра (Madeira), Мускат (Muscat), Токай (Tokay). For table wines, ask for "sukhOye vinO" (dry wine) or look for labels such as Совиньон (Sauvignon), Каберне (Cabernet), and Ркацетели (Rkatseteli), or look for Georgian wines, which are delicious and plentiful.

Try the regional sparkling wine, produced at Noviy Svet (Russian: Новый Свет, "New Light"), near Sudak. It's labelled "Шампанское" ("Shampanskoye", champagne). It's very good. Try to buy it somewhere reputable, though, because there are knock-offs. Noviy Svet is a very beautiful spot; you can tour the caverns where the wine is aged.

If you're not going anywhere else in Russia and Ukraine, try kvass (Russian: квас). It's a very refreshing non-alcoholic drink made of fermented wheat, the traditional drink of farmworkers in the bread-basket of Ukraine, prized for its restorative properties.

Try the local kefir (Russian: кефир), a cultured-milk beverage. When ice-cold, it's extremely refreshing on a hot day.

If you're feeling adventuresome, you might look for "kumys" (Russian: кумыс or кымыз), which is fermented mare's milk, a traditional drink of the Tatars and nomadic peoples of Central Asia.

Beware, some of the local mineral waters taste very salty. Look for a Western European brand, especially if you're going to be exercising.

Vodka is cheap and plentiful, some of the supermarkets have the best prices and the widest choices.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Stay safe[edit]

Travel Warning WARNING: Due to the relative recency of the Crimean crisis, practice care when speaking on the subject. Try to avoid all rallies and protests.

Vehicles will be the biggest hazard to your safety in Crimea. Drivers tend to stick to speed limits as there are many police cars but the road surfaces are poor which leads to some unsafe overtaking, even on the curvy coast and mountain roads. Pedestrians cross roads at their own peril. Be particularly careful if a car has stopped for you at a marked crosswalk; check around the car before you venture past it farther into the crosswalk, because another very well may swing around it and go right through... right where you would be walking. Most cars ignore pedestrians!

There is a very strict zero tolerance policy to drinking and driving. Police patrols are frequent as well as roadside checks for documents.

Crimea does not have a major problem with crime. However, foreigners are at risk of being robbed if they are not careful about flashing wealth, except in Yalta during the summer which is filled with Russians. Foreigners should not hitchhike or take unmarked cabs unless they are travelling in a group. The safest way for a foreigner to travel alone is to take a bus or a marshrutka (a microbus that follows the regular bus routes). Moreover, beware of drunk men at night, especially if your skin is coloured. Beware also of the police, who may be corrupt and ask you for "presents", i.e. bribes.

The countryside, which is extremely poor, is very safe. You are more likely to get kicked by a wandering horse than robbed. Crimeans on the whole are very polite, except when lining up for a bus or service at a shop when pushing to the front has been perfected into an art form. Standing in line is not an option!

There are plenty of ATMs, however none of them at the moment service western bank cards. As a foreigner, the only way for you to pay for things is with cash, which you will need to bring with you from outside of the Crimea. Do not make the mistake of relying on cards while in Crimea. At night avoid lonely places where the numerous drunks hang out; they are not really a danger except they might fall on top of you.

Get out[edit]

Due to disputed status of Crimea, take special care to leave through the same border as you entered. Specifically if you arrived into Crimea by plane or car from Russia, and attempt to continue into Ukraine, Ukrainian authorities will find you guilty of entering their country illegally. Once you've finished exploring the beatiful Crimea, come back to the same country you entered from and continue exploring Ukraine or Southern Russia

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