On the edge of the city of Sevastopol, on a well-protected bay on the Black Sea, is the small harbor town of Balaklava. This quaint sleepy town has an interesting history and is well worth a visit if you are in the Crimea. It is known in history for the "Charge of the Light Brigade", a near-suicidal attack by British cavalry against Russian cannon, which took place 4 km outside the town in 1854. The battle in the city also brought name to the balaclava, a type of headwear that masks most of the wearer's face.
The town is overlooked by the remains of a Genoese fortress; the Genoese used the port as a staging place for their lucrative trade in slaves and goods. Later the Mongols took it, and the Ottoman Empire took control of it in 1475. In the 1850s the harbor was filled with British troops and ships during the Crimean War.
Later the Soviets built a submarine base into one of the hillsides, and turned the town into one of the most secret of locations during the Cold War era. In 1991 the base was closed and the last submarine left in 1996. And now it can be visited with a Russian-language guided tour.
Balaklava is just waking up to its tourist potential and new hotels and restaurants are opening up. Balaklava is a mixture of luxury yachts moored next to expensive hotels and empty derelict factories and buildings dotted on the edge of the waterfront.
There is a bus service from Sevastopol: take a number 9 marshrutka from the '5 km' bus interchange, which you can reach by trolleybus 12 from central Sevastopol.
You can walk to most of the sites in the town - but from one side of the harbor to the other side is quite a trek. Maybe in summer you could catch a lift on a boat.
- 1 (Nuclear submarine base), 1 Mramornaya st (from the square of May the 1st move to the western part of the Balaklava Bay for about 4 km). 10:00 - 17:00, summer 10:00 - 19:00. An underground, formerly classified submarine base that was operational until 1993. The base was said to be virtually indestructible and designed to survive a direct atomic impact. During that period, Balaklava was one of the most secret residential areas in the Soviet Union. The visit consists of a guided tour (in Russian) of the underground galeries and impressive underground channel of the naval base. It lasts about one hour. There are two itineraries but the alternative itinerary is only available if a minimum number of visitors is reached (about 18). There are a lot of explanatory signs, but in Russian and Ukrainian only (except for a few weapons with explanatory notes also in English). 200 руб (September 2013).
- 2 The ruins of the Genoese fortress Cembalo (positioned high on a clifftop above the entrance to the Balaklava Inlet). Remains of Genoese fortress. Offers great views of the Black Sea. It is now a stage for a Medieval festival.
- 3 Sheremetiev museum, 1 Mramornaya st, ☏ , email@example.com. W-Su 10:00 - 17:00. It's dedicated to the Crimean War of 1853-1856. It allows visitors to experience the atmosphere of the 19th century, watch fragments of the battle scenes, photos, prints of that time. It exhibits as well uniforms and firearms of Russia, France, Turkey, Great Britain and Sardinia.
- There are over 50 monuments in the town dedicated to the exploits of soldiers during the Crimean War, Great Patriotic War (Second World War) and the Russian Civil War.
- There is a World War Two German fortress further up in the hills by the sea: just follow the paths that lead up from the Genoese fortress, taking ones that lead upwards, and aim for the Orthodox cross that you can see on the top of one of the hills. There are various trenches, there's a cast-iron sentry's tower which overhangs the cliff, and lots of huge concrete fortifications which might be exciting to explore if you have a friend and several flashlights. No signage at all.
- If you take a path that contours round the cliff beyond the Genoese fortress, you can get down to a small sandy beach.
- Walk up to towers of Cembalo and beyond, it is a steep climb so be warned. - the countryside is beautiful, really quiet, there are lots of vineyards
- Take a walk around the town but remember there are few signs to show you where any of the tourist attractions are!
- Try to find all 50 of the war monuments!
- Take a trip outside the town (about 4 km) to the site of the Charge of the Light Brigade (44°32′16″N 33°37′27″E). Not really much to see but a few memorials, as the "Valley of Death" is now a vineyard.
- Cafe Argo does quite nice Georgian food pretty cheaply; the menu is in Russian only (and an English translation would probably just give the equally-incomprehensible Georgian names of the dishes), but the food was good, and locals will give you good advice if you appear baffled and ask them what to eat.
- There are various places along the waterfront which will serve you coffee and cake during the day, and beer and small food at night
- There is a quite expensive fish restaurant next to the 'Golden Symbol' yacht club. The food however, is excellent and the atmosphere is very welcoming, plus lovely views of the harbor.
- The 'piratical pub', in a yacht club on the side of the bay with the submarine base, has cheap beer and a range of reasonable pub food.
- Dakkar Hotel, Kalycha St, 13, ☏ .
- Listrigon Motel is very central (it's a circle of red-roofed little joined-up apartments which you can see from anywhere on the waterfront). They have a variety of tours, with a good English-speaking guide.
Take a bus to Sevastopol, a busy bustling city with some nice shops and lots of war memorials.