Port guide: Yalta, Ukraine
The city of Yalta is located in Crimea, in southern Ukraine, on the northern coast of the Black Sea. Said to be founded by Greek sailors looking for a safe shore on which to land, Yalta sits on a deep bay and is surrounded by wooded mountains. With a warm Mediterranean climate and plentiful vineyards, it is small wonder that “The Greater Yalta” has long been a popular tourist destination.
During the 19th century, Yalta became known as a fashionable resort destination for aristocratic Russians. Many prominent plays and short stories have been written while vacationing in Yalta; Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov both spend time in Yalta, as did Tsar Alexander III (who build the Massandra Palace) and Nicholas II (who built the Livadia Palace) both around the turn of the 19th century. During the 20th century, Yalta was the primary holiday resort for the Soviet Union; as decreed by Vladimir Lenin, many health resorts were constructed in and around the city to provide recreation and rest for tired proletarians. Yalta’s reputation as a world class destination was sealed, however, when in 1945 the Yalta Conference was attended by the Allied Leaders of the Soviet Union, United States, and the United Kingdom to discuss the status of multiple European nations after World War II.
A beautiful, historic city with numerous relaxing beaches and stunning mountain views, Yalta remains a favorite holiday destination for many Europeans.
- Exploring Yalta
Yalta is one of the most beautiful cities in the Ukraine, and probably the most famous city in Crimea. Since it was established as an official town in 1838, Yalta has transformed itself from a small fishing village into a popular, elite health resort area. With a fascinating history and memories from the 19th century elites who came to Yalta seeking cures to their ailments, the city attracts tourists from all over Europe—and indeed the world.
Many beaches in Yalta are made of a beautiful dark stone rather than sand, and have been said to rival the French Riviera. Surrounded by mountains on three sides, the scenery of Yalta is quite picturesque and serene. Besides the many historic sites to visit, trendy cafes, bars, and restaurants dot the shoreline, and a variety of casinos, bowling alleys, billiard rooms, miniature golf courses and other activities are offered in the area so there is always plenty to do.
At the heart of Yalta is the Embankment, a beautiful area lined by palm trees with many bars, cafes, and restaurants to relax in. The Sea Promenade along the Black Sea cost is where people can be strolling all seasons of the year, and is a great meeting place to gather and talk. Beaches, hotels, and amusement park like rides can be found along this beautiful walkway.
- Getting around
The port is around a 15 minute walk from the city centre, and taxis are also readily available around the port area. English-speaking taxi drivers charge steeper rates, but the prices are still quite reasonable. Most taxi drivers are likely to haggle, so be prepared to walk away if the price is too high—you will likely find a better deal down the street. Yalta also has a convenient mini bus system. The fares are quite cheap and there are plenty of buses around, but the payment system is not standardized; on some buses you pay when you get on board, and on some you pay when you get off. Just follow what the locals are doing and you should be fine. Travelling by motor vehicle during the summer can be tricky, though, as traffic becomes quite heavy and you may get caught up in a traffic jam. During these times, it may just be easier to walk—but beware of local drivers who do not always give way for pedestrians. Walking along the waterfront can be quite pleasant, as it is over a mile long and sprinkled with cafes. One can take advantage of Yalta’s ferry services to visit the famous Swallows Nest or explore even more beaches.
- Beyond the port
Those looking to escape Yalta can venture out to a variety of small towns dotting the landscape. Alupka is a town approximately 17 kilometres west of Yalta, and can be reached using Yalta’s bus system. Alupka’s palaces, villas, medical and housing blocks, and beautiful parks and lovely seaside views give this resort town a lot of charm. Alupka’s warm Mediterranean climate has been a draw for quite a long time; for 200 years Alupka has been a well-known site for curing severe illnesses such as tuberculosis and lung diseases, and in the middle of the 19th century it was even more popular than Yalta. Only the top aristocracy were allowed to take their holidays in Alupka in the 19th century, but a variety of summer cottages started to appear around 1900. The Vorontsoy Palace, built in the 1820’s, is a brilliant combination of English and Moslem architectural styles, and is in a lovely park-like setting. Winston Churchill, upon visiting the Vorontsoy Palace during the Yalta conference, remarked “..in remote Russia, a feeling of old England.”
- Popular shore excursions
Cruise lines that visit here offer the following shore excursions. Please check with your cruise line to see if they offer them and remember some excursions may be seasonal only!
Livadia Palace is a must-see site in Yalta. Known as the White Palace, the building itself is around 100 years old and includes the royal family’s beautiful former private chapel. With a great history, Livadia was the last vacation resident of the tsars and played host to Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin during the Yalta Convention in 1945. The Livadia Museum is also a popular attraction, and houses a variety of permanent and temporary exhibits of historical interest.
The Swallow’s Nest is another iconic spot, and one you’ll see on many Yalta postcards. This fairytale turreted castle was built in 1912 by a love-struck baron for his ballerina mistress. The Neo-Gothic castle hangs dramatically on a 40m cliff over the Black Sea—hence its name. One can take a ferry to the bottom of the rocks upon which the Swallow’s Nest sits, and requires climbing a number of steps to get to the top. An exhibition hall greets you at the top—along with beautiful views.
The Tsar’s Trail
For a healthy, active activity in Yalta, considering taking a brisk walk down the 6580 metre path through landscaped flora known as the Tsar’s Trail. Built in 1861 for recreational use by Russian Tsar Alexander III, the path was constructed without major gradient changes, resulting in a very pleasant stroll—an amazing feat, considering the trail runs along the edge of the Crimean mountains. The Tsar’s Trail starts at the Livadia Palace and ends near the Swallow’s Nest.
- Local cuisine
Yalta’s local Crimean food is quite delicious and reflects the influences of Ukrainian, Russian, and Tatar cuisines. While in Yalta, consider trying some Chebureki (half-moon shaped lamb or beef pies), Manti (steamed dumplings filled with lamb meat), or some of the local seafood specialties such as sturgeon soup or caviar. Don’t forget to sample a local wine or try a popular regional beer or vodka.
- Where you are docked
The Port of Yalta has two terminals to welcome some 700 ships a year: a passenger port which is composed of 5 berths to receive ships and ferries (including cruise ships) and a cargo/passenger terminal. Although the port is located just a 15 walk from the city centre, many of the city’s sites are not easily accessible by foot. The area around the waterfront, however, is quite pleasant and offers many opportunities for shopping and dining.
- Regional weather
The climate in Yalta is fairly mild and Mediterranean. Spring leading into Summer(May to October) is hot and humid, followed by fair Autumn, Winters due to its geographical location Yalta is sheltered from the majority of cold North winds.