My Explorer spirit was drawn to this place, but I don’t know what about Abkhazia captivated me. For some reason I just knew I had to try to visit it. Truth be told, I had to Google it just to find out what Abkhazia was in the first place.
Abkhazia is a place on the Black Sea that proclaims itself an independent nation, but which most of the world considers to be a part of Georgia. Georgia doesn’t really control it (the Russians mostly do), so to get to Abkhazia I first had to obtain a visa from the Abkhazian “Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” and then make my way through a heavily guarded border zone.
I spent the next few days exploring a land that is virtually untouched by tourists, except a handful of Russians I met who came to sun themselves on Abkhazia’s black pebble beaches. Abkhazia is a land of both sorrow and beauty. Everywhere I went I saw abandoned buildings, remnants of a sad and terrible war that forced many ethnically Georgian people from their homes in Abkhazia.
But beside all this sadness I also took in amazing natural beauty, including a visit to Lake Ritsa, a gorgeous mountain retreat where Stalin himself used to have a summer home. Nearby is a stone that my new Russian friends told me is apparently considered “lucky” to kiss … so of course I had to give it a shot.
I also had the most amazing interactions with the locals. To a person, they were shocked to see me there and wondered why I was there. To tell the truth, I think I just wanted to see this forgotten land for myself.
Though almost no one travels to Abkhazia, I think it was a very enjoyable and interesting experience. Since there is little practical information on how to do it, I wrote up this guide on what to do in Abkhazia, available at my website travellemming.com. It definitely was one of my more memorable special travel experiences.