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The Ai-Petri Yayla

Operation: year round
Location: Okhotnichye, Okhotnichye
The most visited and beautiful Ai-Petri Yayla is usually reached via a cable-car road starting from the coastal town of Miskhor. No doubt, 20 minutes ride above the Crimean Mountains at the birds’ flight height would be a breathtaking experience. Though the hiking aficionados might prefer the scenic Taraktashskaya Trail for a steep ascent from the Uchan-Su Waterfall, and those who love the car travel would take the Bakhchisaray-Yalta Road to arrive there.
Whatever method you choose, have your camera batteries charged since now you will see one of the most picturesque places of the Crimea, and photos you take would be the best ones, provided the weather is favorable.
You might want to skip the general public attractions such as a market with souvenirs, home-made wine, baking, horse and camel riding, and numerous cafes and tents offering Crimean-Tatar chebureki, shashlyk and shurpa. Though meeting local merchants and bargaining at the market might be an interesting experience, the food and the wine quality varies.
Leaving the crowded market place behind, you will see the plateau stretching in a broad line and abruptly ending to show the beauty of vertical walls, chains of mountains, coastal green villages, glittering far away sea, the head of the Ai-Petri Mountain, karstic caves, meadows and rocks.
Almost flat surface of the yayla opens fantastic views of the surroundings.
The Ai-Petri Mountain peak tops the Main Ridge with its deeply carved crown at the height of 1234 meters. These are the remnants of a coral reef, with quite distinguishable coral tubes at a closer look. There are 4 big “dents” in the Ai-Petri crown, each rising for 7-19 meters, and plenty of smaller “dents” completing the rounded shape of the peak.
Clung to the picturesque cliffs, the relic beech and hornbeam tree forest, with splashes of the Crimean pine trees and millennial yews, is the largest array of trees on the Crimean Yaylas. Stately 15-meter high trees rarely can be encountered on the mostly treeless yaylas. In general, the Ai-Petri plateau is the greenest in the Crimea, with a beautiful kaleidoscope of herbs, grasses, dwarf early bloomers, small clusters of bushes and trees. 600 plant species vegetate on the Ai-Petri Yayla, with 50 endemics among them. To name a few of the Crimean endemics inhabiting Ai-Petri, we would list some for the nature lovers: Pulsatilla taurica, Anthemis jailensis, Centaurea vankovii, Campanula taurica Juz., Cerastium biebersteinii, Minuartia taurica, Silene jailensis, Astragalus tauricus, Onobrychis jailae, Teucrium jailae, Gagea aipetriensis, Androsace taurica, Saxifraga irrigua, Euphrasia taurica, Veronica taurica Willd. subsp. bordzilowskii (Juz.) A.Jelen., Stipa lithophila, Acer stevenii, Sorbus tauricola.
Clusters of the white, yellow, purple, pink and blue cast the bright colors between the rocks and cliffs, high steppe grasses wave in the wind and pure mountain air is filled with special Crimean scents of summer. Perched on the very edge of the yayla, the 3 hundred years old “Airplane” Pine Tree is the most popular plant on the Ai-Petri Yayla. Winds, storms and snow has bent the trunk and benches of the tree so that it resembles an airplane ready to take off the cliff and fly either to Koreiz or Alupka located somewhere far below the steep yayla walls.
In the wintertime you will not see the multicolored beauty there. Ai-Petri would cast another charm on you – bright white thick snow blanket would envelope everything on the yayla. Fairy tale white trees, snow capped mountains and 1.5-meter deep snow layer attracts many skiers there. Indeed, the Ai-Petri Plateau is the only place in the Crimea equipped for winter sports.
The yayla houses hundreds of karstic caves, shafts and pot-holes. Few of them are arranged for tourist visits. The most popular cave is the Three-Eyed Cave, located in less than a kilometer from the top station of the cable-car road. Three entrances lead to the ice cold cave with a subterranean lake at the bottom. Even on hot summer days, temperature in the cave dangles around 0C.
Many things about Ai-Petri are unique. The cable-car road has the longest in Europe span without a prop. The flora and fauna of yayla is unique, habitation area of some plant and insect species is limited to the Ai-Petri Yayla solely. And the beautiful Turkic word “yayla” is used only for the Crimean plateaus. Yes, this place is very popular and is the most visited on the peninsula, along with the Swallow’s Nest and the Livadia Palace.

My husband Greg and I, must tell you how wonderful our trip to Ukraine was. Because of your wonderful services and personal touches, everything went extremely well.

We had an amazing journey and love your country. Greg's mother was born in Berdyansk, lived in Kharkov and her father was from Poltava. We visited each of those cities as well as Kiev and Mariupol and enjoyed every minute.

The accommodations you recommended were exceptionally nice. We especially loved our apartment in Kiev and Hotel Kievsky in Kharkov. The staff of the hotel could not have been more accommodating and the room itself was clean, comfortable, cozy and convenient. The apartment was just beautiful and had a great location.

We had a couple of glitches in Mariupol at the Spartak with the electricity going out for many hours, the phone never working and of course no hot water which was not unexpected. The one thing we wish they had was an elevator since we had heavy luggage and were on the fifth floor. None of those things, however, were enough to take away our enjoyment of the room or our stay in Mariupol.

We were stunned by how nice the airport in Mariupol was. It was not only lovely but it was efficient and the flight was nicer than most domestic flights in the US as far as service and food were concerned.

All in all, we couldn't have had a more wonderful adventure and YOU were such an integral part of all of that. From the moment we were met at Borispol and given our vouchers and tickets until the time we left, we knew we were in good hands--yours. I even text messaged Irina about a possible concern when we were about to leave (concerning customs) and she responded immediately and accurately.

What can we say but THANK YOU SO MUCH! We plan to return in a few years and have recommended the trip and especially your service to all of our friends in Orlando, Florida, USA. I hope they get the opportunity to travel to Ukraine and to experience your hospitality.

All the Best,

Candy and Greg, USA

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