Abkhazia

Nature-wise, Abkhazia might be the most beautiful place on the planet. The climate is subtropical by the sea and surrounded by snowy mountains.

When God was handing out countries the Abkhazians turned up late. ‘We’re sorry,’ they said, ‘but we had guests, and we had to give them food and drink.’ To punish the tardy Abkhazians, God gave them a harsh, dark, and cold piece of earth. Later, an angel went to check up on them. He was warmly welcomed, and treated to a feast. Word got back to God, who called a meeting with the Abkhazians. ‘I will give you the most beautiful piece of land I know,’ he said. ‘Just remember, like a beautiful woman, it will be coveted. You must protect this land.’

Abkhazia is a self-proclaimed country wedged between Georgia and Russia. It’s officially recognised by just 5 other countries. Though just a few kilometres from Sochi, Abkhazia feels more Causasian than Russian.

The region was once home to about 500,000 people, but wars with Georgia and Russia in the 1990s have driven away at least half the population. (Think Bosnia without the UN.) Bullet holes riddle buildings in Sukhum, Abkhazia’s capital city. In abandoned towns, trees grow out of houses. For post-Soviet history nuts, this place is paradise.

For adventurous travellers

Adventure travellers will have a ball in Abkhazia. The people live up to their legendary hospitality. They’re fun, and like to sing while drinking. The mountains, lakes and rivers leading to the sea are breathtaking. Sukhum is home to legendary sanitoria, the original all-inclusive holiday package.

Just getting there is an adventure, as Abkhazia’s only civilian airport closed more than 20 years ago. Love this from WikiTravel: ‘Abkhazian airspace is jointly controlled by the Russian Air Force, and the fledgling Abkhaz Air Force, so unauthorised aircraft entering it, especially from Georgia, may be shot down.’

Leaving the region can be tricky, too. Russia acknowledges Abkhazia, but it’s best not to flash the Abkhaz visa around at the Georgian border. Unless you relish a fine or outright denial of entry into the country.

Just in case

Keep in mind that regular travel medical insurance won’t cover expenses in a country that doesn’t exist for most of the world. Extreme or adventure sports fans, consider this: you’re in the middle of nowhere in a country that’s technically nothing, doing dangerous stuff. Add an emergency medical evacuation plan to your policy. And then, enjoy Abkhazia!

Abkhazia Ministry of Foreign Affairs: visa application and FAQs