Bahkchisaray is in Crimea, Ukraine. Once the capital of the Crimean Tatar Khanate, it has seen a robust cultural rebirth since the Tatars were allowed to return from Uzbekistan in the early 1990's.
The khansaray, several mosques, and the surrounding town have all been lovingly restored in recent years. By no means overrun with tourists, the majority of foreigners are those from Russia, Ukraine, or Turkey.
As is the norm in the Crimea, very little English is spoken or understood. A working knowledge of Russian or Turkish will be useful.
Many trains stop in Bakhchisaray when running between Kiev and Sevastopol.
Catch a minibus from Simferopol from the Zapadnaya Bus Station (~10uah).
Catch an electric train from Simferopol's train station to Bahkchisaray (~7uah) (Price as in summer 2013).
Catch electric trains or minibuses from Sevastopol (~6-12uah)
Trains arrive near the central market where local buses (marshrootka) will take you to the Old City and New City if you wait by the "Старый Город" and "Новый город" signs, respectively. Regional buses arrive at Bakhchisaray's central bus station. Local buses arrive and depart in front of the station where there is similar signage. Both bus and train stations have taxis waiting to take you to your destination as well. Expect to pay ~25uah to get to Hansaray by taxi. Marshrootka rates are currently 1.50uah.
Note: Prices as of spring 2009
Bus and taxis from the bus and train stations or a lot of walking.
From the train station, it's about a 30 minute walk to Hansaray (the Khan's Palace) or a 10 minute ride on a local bus (No. 1 and 2, 2.5 uah).
If you want to get somewhere a bit farther and don't feel like hiking and no bus seems to service the route try approaching a local with a car down at the main square where the bus and trains run from, for a price (usually around 6 - 10 USD) they'll take you for up to a 30 minute car ride.
- The Khan's Palace - Hop on a marshrootka and ask the driver for "Dvar-yets" (Russian) or "Palats" (Ukrainian). In the summer, you can hire a guide in almost any language. Points of interest include the inner palace, the Kahn's cemetery, the Falcon Tower, the Crimean Tatar museum and a small art gallery. Behind the palace is one of the many cemeteries dedicated to those who died in World War 2.
- The Uspensky Cave Monastery - Founded around the 8th or 8th centuries, this Orthodox Monastery is old and beautiful. A holy spring flows here and the water is potable.
- Chufut Kale - A cliff city last inhabited by Kararite Jews, there are 1000 year old Jewish and Muslim cemeteries in the area.
- Mangup Kale - A short bus ride out of town will take you to the area where you can hike to the top of the plateau and walk around Ostrogoth/Byzantine ruins.
- Kachi Kaleon - A Greek cliff city with several cave churches, this is also a short bus ride out of the city.
- Tash Ayeer - This is another hiking area very near Kachi Kaleon.
- Eski Kermen. Another cave city, this one still has a bit of the 1500 year old frescoes visable. It's also in remarkably good condition.
- Hiking! - At any number of the street vendors you should be able to buy yourself a great topographical map, don't expect to find any such map outside of the Crimea, you'll have to buy it there.
- Smoking - If you are in the center of Crimean Tatar civilization you should try water pipe. Except traditional one filled with water, you can also smoke through the dry vine or brandy. Try it in the restaurants and clubs near the Khans palace.
- Biking! Rent a bike 12-14 $/day.Merhaba service
Any number of cheap trinkets are on sale at little booths manned by locals in front of all of the tourist attractions in the town.
Near the palace is a store called Usta (Crimean Tatar for "master") that sells things made by Crimean Tatar artisans. Several masters work in the workshop there. Of particular interest is the silver master who often has television crews interviewing him.
In front of the Khan's palace you can get some wonderful baked goods, including samsa, (Tatar) baklava and chibureky.
- Cafe Meyhane (Кафе Мейхане) (on the main road, about 1 km from the khansaray, 50 meters to the right of the Ismail Gasprinsky monument- down towards the small river running through the town). Excellent value Tatar/Uzbek resutaurant. Shashlyk, salad, tea and lepyoshka for about 40 grinva. Lovely outdoor setting with Central Asian takhtas to sit on. No English is spoken but the pretty/flirty Tatar girls working as waitresses are very helpful in trying to help with the menu. Plov, manty, lagman, sarma, shashlyk, samsa, shurpa, cheburek Tatar bakhlava, chak-chak are all available.
Near the khansaray (the Khan's Palace) are several restaurants:
- Cafe Aliyeh (Кафе Алие) near the Pushkin monument. They feature a full menu of Tatar/Central Asian cuisine including Lagman, Manty, Cheburek, Shashlyk, Dolma, Sarma and Plov, a variety of salads, beer, wine, juice, Turkish coffee, tea and American sodas. (If they are out of a particular beverage, it is perfectly acceptable to run across the street to the store "Fontan" and bring something back.) They feature indoor and outdoor seating and have hookas as well.
- Pushkin (across from the khansaray) considered the finest restaurant in Bakhchisaray. They feature an international menu. The deserts are a particular highlight, especially the apple struddle.
- Caravan (halfway between the Khan's palace and the Uspensky monastery) A superb Tatar restaurant. Expensive for the area (10 USD for one) and no alcohol is served but the food is excellent. As an additional bonus one of the waiters speaks excellent English, so not only can you ask about the food and know what you're getting ahead of time, he'll tell you a bit of history of the region while you are there.
You can also visit other Tatar restaurants located near the train station. They offer excellent Lagman and Chebureky, and it are quite cheap. There are also Sharma stands in this area.
Wine tasting is available at a store just passed the Khan's Palace. Sample the different varieties of Crimean wine, but beware when bus loads of Polish\Ukrainian tourists wander in all at once.
Typical rural Crimean accommodation
There are a number of Tatar women offering accommodation from 2.5 USD per person up to 10 USD per person depending on the quality (with or without running water and toilet in or outside). Some you may find extremely friendly and helpful. For a few extra dollars they'll wash your clothes for you (by hand).
There are two hotels (one in Old City, the other in New) in the city as well as a hostel (in old city near the palace, behind the store Usta) owned by a Polish man.
The cheapest hostel bed is 8 euro, ask for it at the otherwise unhelpful tourist information office.
The B&B Bahitgul offers rooms with breakfast from 17€/room.
- Crimean Astrophysical Observatory, close to Nauchnoe village (Simferopol - Sevastopol highway, road junction to Nauchnoe village. It's 25km from Simferopol and 12km from Bakhchisaray), ☎ +380 6554 71-170, +380 96 12 19 873 (10:00 - 17:00) ([email protected]), . after 19:00. It's possible to visit observatory and watch celestial bodies through telescopes. 50UAH.
- With map in hand you can do a spectacular 2 - 3 day hike along the following route.
Your hike's starting point in Bashtanovka
- Bahkchisaray Train Station: In the morning find a taxi or local person who will drive you to the lake above the village of Bashtanovka. Spend some time refreshing yourself in the lake.
- After an hour or so of swimming in the lake start out with your map along trail route number 82 to the village of Visoko. The first 5 km will be nice and smooth through pleasant fields. When you get to the orchards below the two reservoirs be sure and verge right across the stream and over into the orchards. If you don't veer right it looks like there is a clear trail on the map leading up to one of the lakes but there isn't. From here you are going to start a lot of uphill hiking. Once you cross through the orchards (about 400 meters of walking) you'll need to hang a left (after having done a lot of uphill walking). Another 300 meters and you should reach a large reservoir. Have a break and a swim here, and eat some of that food you brought with you.
- Visoko, the village isn't named high for nothing. This village is extremely difficult to navigate through. it starts at the base of a mountain and kind of wanders its way up the side. You are going to need to ask the locals at every turn what direction you should go. Also, supposedly it is possible to buy food in this village but the store is a private home and very difficult to find. You will probably have asked for directions, or at least a confirmation that you are going in the right direction at least 15 times before you get out of the village. When you ask for directions ask for the village of Solnechnosely. People will direct you to keep going up the road through the village. As you approach the end of the village you'll come to a large field that extends up the mountain. Follow the path through the field and then when you reach the tree line, follow the tree line to the left. You'll then come to a nice path heading into the forest and you've completed your uphill hiking for the day. You are now over the mountain and on your way down to Solnechnosely. Note: The view once you get to the other side of the mountain is wonderful and you are probably pretty tired this area is a great place to camp. After coming across the wonderful view, if you follow the trail another 300 meters you'll lose the view as you head back up the hill but you'll come out into a somewhat secluded field. You can camp off in the tree line and have your complete privacy. You are close to a horse ranch though so don't be surprised if a Crimean cowboy comes through the field with his herd.
- Solnechnosely, this village is almost entirely populated by extremely old people tending their cows. There is a small shop where you can buy some food. The women working in it has a Czech grandmother, so if you're Czech she'll be very happy to see you. From here just continue down the road until you reach Aromat
- Aromat has a hospital of some sort smack in the middle of town. They have fairly decent toilets you can use. From here you can keep hiking or pickup a car to the Balshoi Canyon or catch a minibus back to Bakhchisaray