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.