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