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Text: Maria Ustinova
Photos: Pixabay

Must see landmarks in autumn Crimea

Sun Temple of Crimea

The mountain of Ilyas-Kaya rises near Laspi Bay. The stone flower known as the Sun Temple (it’s also called the Crimean Stonehenge) bloomed on one of its slopes. This is a favorite place among esoterics and tourists come here from all over the world. People say that the most cherished dreams come true, if they are wished here.

The Sun Temple is a natural complex formed by seven stone lumps that are set at an angle. It may seem that these are petals of a giant stone flower. By the way, some people perceive this natural site as a seven-fingered hand of a stone giant.

An altar-stone rises above in the center of the Sun Temple and this is the place, where a person should go up to make a wish. They say that a person must visit the ruins of the ancient Temple of Saint Elias that is located not far from there before attending the Sun Temple. The mountain was named after that holy man. The place-name of “Ilyas-Kaya” is translated as “Mountain of Saint Elias”.

The Sun Temple offers a wonderful view of Laspi Bay, village of Foros and smooth surface of the Black Sea.

It’s one of the best monuments to the medieval Western European fortification within the peninsula. As many other fortresses on the Black Sea shore, which were raised from Alushta to Foros, the Sudak fortress belonged to the Republic of Genoa.

The Genoese Fortress in Sudak was being built almost for a hundred years from 1371 to 1469. Nevertheless, there is a legend that this fortress emerged on the site of the other more ancient fortress known as Sougdaia, which was raised in 212.

Later, the town near the fortress is mentioned as Surozh in the Russian chronicles and eastern geographers and Arab merchants called this place Sudak.

The Genoese Fortress occupies the territory of near 30 hectares. It consisted of two belts of walls and fourteen saw-toothed towers, twelve of which ones preserved to the present day. Ancient architects named these towers both after consuls, who ruled Sudak at that time and depending on the construction of the building. Talking about the fortress that protected the town, it emerged on the ancient coral reef, which froze right above the water surface of the Black Sea.

Today, the fortress’s territory is a nature reserve. Tourists should better go there not on a hot day, as almost all the territory of the museum-reserve is under the open sky.

How to reach:

A sightseeing attraction is located in the outskirts of Sudak – it’s about 2,5 kilometers to it from the center of the city. You can get the fortress both by public transport or personal vehicle. A city shuttle bus will bring you right to the gates of the fortress.

GPS coordinates:

N 44 50.597 E 34 57.430.

Bear Mountain

The toponym of Ayu-Dag is translated as “Bear Mountain”. It’s a laccolith. Ayu-Dag is located between Yalta and Alushta. The mountain received its name for a reason. It really looks like a giant bear, which rested its snout on the waters of the Black Sea. Its back raises almost 600 meters above the coastline. It’s notable that this place is marked as Camel Mountain on the medieval Italian maps.

The top of the mountain offers a stunning view over the environs. One of the most magnificent legends of Crimea is linked exactly with this mountain. It tells that colossal bears settled in the peninsula in the old times and conducted raids on the people of the plain without having mercy on anybody. Once, a ship wrecked near the mountain shores of the peninsula. Bears found a little girl among the debris. The animals felt sorry for her and sheltered the girl. She became a beautiful woman with a lovely voice. The bears listened with delight to her singing for hours. They doted on their educatee.

One day, the bears went hunting. Left alone, the young woman was walking along the seaside. Here, she saw a sailboat and a young man in it. He escaped from the captivity. The sea carried him along its waters for many days and then washed him tired out ashore belonged to the bears. The maiden hid the young man and nursed him back to health. When he recovered, he suggested her to get away together.

After a while, the bears went hunting again. The young man and girl got on the boat and rushed to the sea. But before they could sail from the shore, the giant animals suddenly came back. They ran to drink from the sea and boat was washed ashore. Then the young woman began singing. Having listened to her with delight, the animals lifted their snouts to the air. Only their old alpha bear continued drinking the salt water. Unwilling to let its alumna go away, the bear hardened into stone.

How to reach:

You will have to get to the turn between the villages of Gurzuf and Partenit by public or personal transport. The road to Ayu-Dag goes from that turn. Or you can go to the natural boundary of Osman from Gurzuf by public taxi van, then go past the International Children Center “Artek” along the hillside and turn to the well-trodden trail leading to the mountain peak without going several meters to a checkpoint.

GPS coordinates:

N 44.557974, E 34. 336332.

Panticapaeum on Mount Mithridat

The main landmark of Kerch is Mount Mithridat. It was called like that in honor of a ruler of the Kingdom of Pontus Mithridates VI Eupator. The rumors of countless treasures, which were stored by the ruler within the palace dungeons on the top of the mountain, still thrill minds of scientists and treasure hunters.

Though legendary monarch’s ruling relates to 120-63 years B.C., the city of Panticapaeum had emerged here long before. Ancient Greeks situated one of their first polises here in VIIth B.C. Only over time, the city joined the Bosporan Kingdom and became its capital.

Panticapaeum” is translated as a “fishing route” from the Proto-Iranian language. The important trade routes that linked Europe, Mediterranean region and China ran through the city.

In the first centuries A.D., Panticapaeum suffered from the Huns’ invasion and then the whole Bosporan Kingdom ceased to exist. But time passed and the city of Kerch was raised on the site of the ancient polis.

Today, the Obelisk of Glory to the Immortal Heroes, who liberated the city from the fascist occupation during the Great Patriotic Warm, rises on the top of Mount Mithridates. Tourists can go up to the monument after overcoming 400 steps.

The Mithridates Staircase decorated with statues of mythical beasts appeared here in the XIXth century. Moreover, the ruins of Panticapaeum are located on one of the hills of the mount. The walls of antique houses, colonnade of an ancient temple and necropolis preserved to this day.

The mineral called “Mitridatite” was discovered on the mountain for the first time. It’s a hydrous ferric phosphate and calcium.

Laspi

It’s one of the picturesque bays of the Southern Shore of Crimea. The bay stretches from the Cape of Sarych to the Cape of Aya. Here, the local water is considered to be the purest one on the whole Black Sea coast.

People lived in this area since ancient times. At the beginning of the last century discovered an early man site and flint tools of our distant ancestors. An entire city existed here during the medieval period. The ruins of houses and temples remind of that.

A mellifluous toponym “Laspi” is translated as “mud” from Greek. Such name was given to that wonderful harbor by Greeks for a reason – there were a lot of sources, which alluviated a mineralized clay along the whole coast. But an earthquake occurred in 1790 – all fresh water leaked into an emerged underground crack. The bay became a depopulated area for a long period of time due to the lack of water.

The harbor can boast of having rather mild climate, as it’s protected from strong winds by a mountain belt. The Mediterranean climate prevails here, as well as many endemic forms and plants from the Red List grow: Greek strawberry tree, Paeonia daurica, Greek juniper…

It is similar to a story from “One Thousand and One Nights” so much that it’s difficult to understand whether you are in waking life or sleep”, — Catherine the Great wrote in her diary after seeing Laspi in 1787 during her visit to Crimea.

How to reach:

Laspi Bay is located between Yalta and Sevastopol near the village of Foros. If you go to the place of destination by public transport on the Yalta-Sevastopol Highway, then you should get off at the “Laspi” bus stop. Starting from there, you will have to climb down several kilometers to the coastline. If you go by personal vehicle, you can shorten a segment of a foot trip via getting off the highway near the “Laspi” bus stop. Nevertheless, tourists should be ready that they will have to get the sea from a parking zone on foot.

GPS coordinates:

N 44 25.098 E 33 42.260.