Heading back in time to the Cembalo Fortress atop Balaklava’s hills

It is not hard to see why the port town of Balaklava has seen residents dating back thousands of years. The harbor is well protected from the Black Sea, providing great strategic advantage to whomever held it. It has seen a storied history as a military installation. The infamous Charge of the Light Brigade happened in the area. The Soviet navy used it as a base for their nuclear submarine fleet (now an awesome museum). And the Ottomans conquered it at one point as well. It was in the 1300s, however, that the Genoese conquered the area and fortified it, establishing it as a base along the trade routes to the Silk Road. Known as the Cembalo (some spell it Chembalo) Fortress, the remnants of those structures along the coast serve as a reminder of the region’s history.


There isn’t much left of Cembalo; really it is just a couple towers in various states of repair along a ridge line on the edge of town. But what it lacks in structure it more than makes up for in views. They knew dramatic vistas back in the day. The hike up to the walls isn’t too strenuous (there is a direct route and a more roundabout route which is quite a bit less steep) and the views from up top – of both the sea and the harbor – are simply stunning.


For visitors looking to extend the hike there are a number of trails which lead off from atop the cliff. You can see them (and a tiny orange speck of a tent a ways out) in this picture:



The top-most of the towers is wrapped in scaffolding (apparently for several years now). And while there are no signs of repairs in progress the scaffolding does offer the opportunity to climb up and around the structure. That was quite fun.

Visiting this area and the former Soviet submarine base can be done easily in a single day, leaving time for lunch in town and getting back and forth from Sevastopol on the bus. It is a very worthwhile day trip when in the area.

Read more from this Trip Report under the Ukraine2012 tag here.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. I’m probabbly the only one who cares, but the map showing countries where the wandering aramean has been has not been updated, Ukraine is still in white.

    1. Thanks for noticing that, Frenchie. Ukraine is now marked as visited. Austria is, too. First visit there was actually 20 months ago but apparently I forgot to update the map then, too. 😮

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