Abkhazia ( Abkhaz: Аҧсны, Russian: Абха́зия, Georgian: აფხაზეთი) is an self-declared republic that has seceded from Georgia. Abkhazia borders the Russian regions Krasnodar Krai and Karachay-Cherkessia to the north, Svaneti to the east, and Samegrelo to the south. Located in northwestern Georgia on the coastline of the Black Sea. Currently, Abkhazia is under separatist control due to Georgian-Abkhaz conflict which erupted in 1992-93 and remains unresolved.
Abkhazia is named for the Abkhaz, an ancient northwest Caucasian people unrelated to the Georgians or the Russians. Not long after Georgian independence, ethnic conflict erupted in this region which resulted in the cleansing of Abkhazia of its ethnic Georgians and the establishment of a weak Abkhaz government with de facto independence from the Georgian central government, with tacit backing from Russia. Abkhazia is a beautiful subtropical region along the Black Sea full of beaches, history, excellent fruit, enormous mountains, lakes, caves, and lush flora.
Abkhaz, a northwestern Caucasian language, is the principal language of the region. Russian is near universally understood and the most convenient language for the traveler. Although many understand a good amount of Georgian, they may be hostile towards travelers attempting to use this language given the brutal and still unresolved ethnic conflict between the Abkhaz and the Georgians.
The borders of Abkhazia were closed for much of the 1990s and early 2000s for persons not citizens of Russia. Since the 2008 self-proclaimed independence, it is likely that the borders have once again closed. There are two border crossings: one with Russia at the Psou River and a crossing with Georgia at the Inguri River. However, the border with Georgia is practically closed and, nevertheless, is located in a dangerous region.
Note: the following information describes the entry process PRIOR to the 2008 assertion of independence. EU citizens were allowed to enter by applying for an Entry Permit which was exchanged for a visa at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sukhomi. Abkhazian customs officers are known for being extremely slow, irresponsible and corrupt. Expect that you will be asked for bribes (for whatsoever reason) to get into Abkhazia. In any case, a visa or entry permit would not be issued at the border. There have also been conflicting reports that Russian borders agents denied non-CIS citizens to cross the Russian border, claiming it was closed for non-CIS citizens.
Interesting destination for travellers to visit Novi Afon. It is famous for the orthodox Cathedral (Новый Афон, New Athos) and the Cave where there are 7-8 enormously large halls with thousands of wonderful of stalagmites and stalagtites. A special train takes you to the depth. The city has a marvellous seaside and restaurants with tasty local food. It is located between Sukhumi and Gagra and only 40 minutes drive from these cities. Ritza Lake lies among high mountains in the middle of the National Park. While driving to the Ritza it is worth to stop for taking photos and enjoy the landscape. The lake is about 1 hour drive from the main road (M-27). On the other side of the lake Stalin`s Dacha (cottage) can be found. The shortest way could be by boat, but also available by road (5 km). The cottage is open for tourists in high season.
Non-Russian citizens should avoid all non-essential travel to Abkhazia because the Abkhaz government is at present unable to guarantee safety to travelers against the widespread threat of banditry. Moreover, there have been reports by travelers of having their passports stolen in armed robberies; this is a serious threat as there is absolutely no foreign representation in Abkhazia and it is impossible to get a replacement with which to leave the region. Relations between the de facto Abkhaz government and the central Georgian government remain very tense and there is an ever-present potential for renewed military conflict. Travelers should consider reviewing War zone safety.
There has been sporadic fighting between Abkhaz and Georgian forces across the Georgian/Abkhaz border around the Kodori Gorge. For their own safety, travelers should generally avoid this area.
Because the region has, until just recently, been de facto not under control by any legitimate government it is "greyed out" in all or most statistical databases available, including UN. Georgian sources however say that high level of infectious diseases and violent crime pose serious threat to both local population and foreigners in the area, however this has not been verified by independent sources.
This page was last edited at 13:55, on 28 February 2009 by Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel. Based on work by Jani Patokallio, Peter Fitzgerald and Luis Dingley, Wikitravel user(s) AHeneen and Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel.