By the late 19th century, Yalta had become something more than a fashionable resort. Many TB patients hoped that the miraculous climate could cure even this "disease of the intellectual elite." Studies showed that the effect of treatment with sun, air and water was greatly enhanced by moderate exercise, and so Yalta doctors began to recommend that patients be more active, especially in the mountains and forests. In 1902, activists of the Crimean Mountain Club built a new health trail outside Yalta and named it after Sergei Botkin.
A doctor of the imperial family, Botkin was the first to establish a scientific basis for Crimea's restorative climate. Thanks to the efforts of this ordinary physician, dignitaries started coming to the southern coast to improve their health, and over time the village of Yalta became a fashionable resort.
The Botkinskaya Trail starts at the most enchanted spot in Yalta, where Skazka (Fairytale) Zoo meets the Polyana Skazok (Fairytale Meadow) Museum and a hotel of the same name surrounded by Yalta's amphitheatre of hills. From here you can see the highest point of the route, Stavri-Kaya Rock ("stavros" means "cross" in Greek and "kaya" means "rock" in Turkish). It resembles a natural fortress tower built by giants and looks completely impregnable. But it only looks that way, so don't be intimidated. Just start walking and you'll make it there no problem.
The Botkinskaya Trail is so expertly built that you won't even feel how steep the slopes are. Clearly, the trail builders adopted the principle used in building plateau trails during the Middle Ages, and the trail goes up in an easy and gentle spiral. It is important not to follow in the footsteps of modern tourists, who, for reasons unknown, are often in a hurry and have trampled out many steep paths to take shortcuts. Keep up a steady pace and breathe deeply and rhythmically.
Majestic pines greet you right at the trailhead. The forest is the crown jewel of the Yalta Mountain Forest Reserve, and it has valuable therapeutic effects. Heated by the sun, pine sap releases volatile substances that kill bacteria. In any season, the mountain forest is full of sun and air, the fragrance of plants and the fresh smell of the sea.
The pines are mesmerizing and not just because of their size. Alongside these beauties that reach up to 30 metres in height, an attentive eye will spot natural bonsai — tiny pines growing in the crevices.
The forest trail will take you to Yauzlar Waterfall. The Turkish "yavuz" has several meanings, among them "severe," "strong," "formidable," and "beautiful," all of which are quite fitting for this series of relatively small (up to 10 m) cascades. However, the waterfall only reveals its full power and beauty when snow melts or after a heavy rain. Otherwise, it's nothing more than several thin streams flowing down the rock.
At this point, you will have reached an altitude which starts offering spectacular views of Yalta. Walk up a little higher, and your efforts will be rewarded as you reach the top of the Stavri-Kaya Rock. There's a cross planted on the edge of it, but make sure you don't come too close: the cliffs are not fenced, and the rock itself is fragile limestone. Don't let curiosity or an appetite for risk get the best of you.
At 700 metres, Stavri-Kaya offers a panoramic view of the southern coast of Crimea: sprawling green forests, endless blue sea and the houses of Yalta down below, which look like toy houses from here.
Three trails converge at the top of the Stavri-Kaya Rock: Botkinskaya, Shtangeyevskaya and Stavrikayskaya. You have a choice of trails, but make sure you will be able to make it back in good time. It's always wise to leave yourself ample energy and time for the walk back.
If you walk slowly and make occasional stops, it will take you anywhere from 2 to 2.5 hours to get to the top. If you have time, stick around for a while once you get there. Enjoy the healing air and marvel at the pristine nature. Have fun and enjoy!