Cornucopia’s travel guide

Simferopol


All roads meet in Simferopol, Crimea's administrative centre. It is a slight mystery as to why Potemkin chose the Greek Sympheropolis (the City of Common Good or City of Usefulness) as a name for his new capital, rather than translate the existing Tatar name Aqmescit/Akmesçit (White Mosque). Simferopol is a quiet capital, both of the steppe and very central European in atmosphere, with almost none of the trappings of a former Soviet city. At its centre are the remains of an earlier Scythian settlement. The Kebir-Jami Mosque, in old Akmeşçit, is Crimea’s main Friday mosque, though not the 'white mosque' of the town's name.
What you will see

Simferopol is an excellent base if you only have a few days to explore Crimea and want to see as much as possible, but don’t want to keep changing hotels. The peninsula is so small that most of the obvious destinations make easy day-trips. Only Kerch, at the far eastern tip of Crimea, would be a bit exhausting, though even that is do-able, with a dip in the Sea of Azov on the way back. Although Simferopol is by no means a bustling place, it is convenient, and has a gentle laid-back atmosphere which makes a wonderful contrast if you are flying in from Istanbul. Essential shops, such as the pharmacist and off-license-cum-café next to the Ukraina Hotel, stay open all night. In the evening, after exploring the country, it is pleasant to stroll from the newly reconstructed cathedral oast the black glass-encased parliament of the Crimean republic, via a labyrinthine underground flower market, to the riverside park and old Akmesçit, once the quarter where the Crimean khan’s right-hand man had his palace. At its peak in the 17th century, the palace was surrounded by 2,000 tiled adobe houses. In Potemkin’s ‘new town’, there are still many fine old Tsarist town houses, and the ethnographical museum is an absolute must for any visitor to Crimea.

Getting there

Simferopol is little more than an hour’s flight from Istanbul (and the airport an easy 20-minute drive from the city centre). There are overnight trains from Kiev and Odessa (the “SV” or deluxe car offers a higher level of comfort and service).

Getting around

Once in Simferopol, the easiest way to get around the peninsula is to hire a car and driver, which costs from UAH1200 (around £100) for an eight-hour day-trip, and from UAH1550 (£125) for 24 hours if you plan to spend nights elsewhere. Cornucopia travelled with the excellent Taxi Express (+38 050 808 6972), who laid on a chic bright bronze honda for main-road trips (Yevpatoria, the south coast, etc) and a velvety tough old Lada when more taxing off-road or countrly lane expeditions (Chufut Kale, Arabat etc) were anticipated.

Hotels