Abkhazia - land of the soul

Violent conflicts left scars to the separatist republic of Abkhazia, former riviera for Soviet tourists.

15 May 2014

A truly off the beaten track destination

A handful of countries partially recognize the Republic of Abkhazia. Fighting for independence from Georgia, this beautiful area features not only beaches and palm trees but also some open scars from several conflicts in recent years. In Soviet times, Abkhazia was considered the “Red Riviera”. A relatively mild climate drew in tourists from all the former republics behind the iron curtain. The towns of Sukhumi, Novy Afon, and Gagra still feature a lot of health spas in various states of decay.

International sanctions and naval blockades are having a devastating effect on the region’s economy. For example, local transport is mostly done by bus. However, there is a weekly direct train from Moscow via Sochi. Therefore, the railway buildings remain closed (read: abandoned), since boarding the trains means walking from the street around the station building to the rail tracks.

The contrast of natural beauty and crumbling infrastructure is intriguing. This is an off-the-beaten-track destination for non-Russians. If you want to travel there, you should prepare accordingly: An Abkhaz visa (available through email) is required. Going to Georgia with an Abkhaz visa is not permitted. Last but not least: A very basic knowledge of Russian is essential to visit. Obviously, all the red tape is subject to change. Moreover, please check travel warnings before setting off to Abkhazia.

Pictures

Flag of Abkhazia
Flag of Abkhazia
The former parliament building of Abkhazia was destroyed during the 1992-1993 war
The former parliament building of Abkhazia was destroyed during the 1992-1993 war
Inside the former parliament building of Abkhazia
Inside the former parliament building of Abkhazia
Local pier in Sukhumi, seldom used due to the naval blockade
Local pier in Sukhumi, seldom used due to the naval blockade
At the Novy Afon railway station
At the Novy Afon railway station
Inside the neglected Novy Afon railway station
Inside the neglected Novy Afon railway station
Inside the Sukhumi railway station
Inside the Sukhumi railway station
Tunnel entrance at the Psirtskha railway station
Tunnel entrance at the Psirtskha railway station
Streets in downtown Sukhumi
Streets in downtown Sukhumi
The monastry of Novy Afon
The monastry of Novy Afon
Inside Simon the Zealot's cave
Inside Simon the Zealot's cave