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An Ethnographic Adventure in Abkhazia

Abkhazia, 15–22 of July

Guide — Dmitry Lemeshev and Diana Zukhba

Group: 4–7 people

People enjoy life on the embankment in Sukhum, the capital of Abkhazia. Photo Otto Lakoba.

This tour is an excellent opportunity to get a taste of the ethnographer’s life. We will visit the remotest corners of Abkhazia, learning about the diverse aspects of Abkhazian culture, and about the many different nations that populate the country—Russians, Armenians, and Mingrelians to name just a few.
On this tour we will visit some of Abkhazia’s most popular landmarks, and breathe the air of Sukhum, the old port city which history began with colonization by the ancient Greeks. We’ll traveling by off-road vehicles through a high mountain crossing and over seven fords to get to a remote Russian village, and fly back in an AN-2 aircraft. We’ll also spend some time relaxing on the coast, which was considered to be heaven on Earth during Soviet times, a hot spot for luxury resorts built for Communist elites.

Itinerary

Day 0. (Sat): Flight to Russia

If you are coming from Europe, the UK or USA, the best option for you are flights operated by Turkish Airlines via Istanbul. The flight from Istanbul will arrive to Sochi at 2:40 a.m.

Day 1. (Sun): Arrival in Sochi

Marine Station of Sochi.

Upon your arrival at the international airport of Sochi, you will be met by your guide.
Our tour will start in the afternoon. We will explore central Sochi with a local guide until late evening. The night will be spent in the Russian Seasons four star hotel.

Day 2. (Mon): Sochi — Gagra — Auadkhara

Ritsa lake in mountains of Abkhazia. Photo: www.flickr.com/photos/macrotkani/

This day we will cross the border of Abkhazia and visit Old Gagra — a resort on the Black Sea coast, established by the Russian Empire in the beginning of the 20th century. We will explore abandoned villas and walk in an old park filled with exotic plants. We will have lunch at a restaurant which was built in 1902.
After lunch we’ll exchange our micro-bus for all-road cars and go to the mountains of Ritsa Relict National Park to visit Ritsa lake and Stalin’s summer house. Next, we’ll proceed to the Auadkhara mountain resort, built near mineral springs. We’ll have dinner, then spend the night in huts equipped with showers and toilets.

Day 3. (Tue) Auadkhara — Pskhu

Конная прогулка к озеру Мзы. Фото: Андрей Бойков

Horce-ride in mountains of Abkhazia. Photo: Andrey Boykov

We’ll keep moving via all-road-cars to Pskhu Village. The most remote village of Abkhazia, Pkshu is inhabited by Russians who came to the region before the Russian revolution. First we’ll climb to the Anchkho pass. If the group is feeling physically able, we’ll do a light hike and maybe even go on horseback to the area of seven lakes, not too far from the pass. Then we’ll go down to see a subtropical forest along the stormy Bavyu River―we’ll have to cross it’s fords 7 times!

A farm in the vicinity of Pskhu village.

After coming to Pskhu we’ll go to the Rikza hamlet to have dinner with a local family. We will have to walk or go by horseback. In the evening, we’ll come back to Pskhu and spend the night in a 2 star hotel.

Day 4. (Wed) Pskhu — Sukhum

A common house in Pskhu village. Photo of vmulder.livejournal.com

We will have free time to explore the village and get to know some of the locals.
Before noon we will take an AN2 aircraft to the airport of Sukhum―the capital of Abkhazia. We will have lunch at a nice place on the way to the town. After checking in to the hotel we will have some time to rest and access to wi-fi after days spent in rural mountains where there isn’t even cell phone reception.

Even Sukhum has the place to take pictures for Instagram!

Before dinner we’ll take a walk through the historical part of Sukhum. Dinner will be had at a fish restaurant located on the dock. The night will be spent at Leon, a four star hotel.

Day 5. (Thu) Sukhum

Sukhum. Tour to Abkhazia

Embarkment of Sukhum. Photo: Daniel Zollinger (Flickr.com)

We’ll dedicate the whole day to seeing Sukhum. First we’ll visit its botanical garden, which is small, but has a really interesting collection. Then we’ll visit the national museum and a few important places in the center of the town. We will have lunch at one of the best restaurants that offer traditional cuisine.

Brekhalovka. That is the place on Makhajir’s enbankment old people play chess and backgammon, where fishermen have coffee together with a minister… Photo Maciek Leszczelowski

After lunch we’ll have coffee with local history and culture experts, and visit souvenir shops. Next, we’ll go to a nursery of aboriginal grape varieties, which belongs to the biggest winery in the country. We’ll enjoy a nice wine tasting then have dinner with local musicians.
We’ll spend the night at Leon once again.

Day 6. (Fri) Eastern Abkhazia

Optional: a before-breakfast visit to the central market of Sukhum.

Tkuarchal. Tour to Abkhazia

Big industrial city of Tkuarchal now is almost abandoned.

We’ll have a late breakfast at Ochamchira, where we will meet a priest of the Abkhazian pagan religion. Next, we’ll visit a church that was built in the tenth century near Bedia Village, then come to Tkuarchal―a ghost-town that was the industrial center of Abkhazia during the Soviet era. Here we’ll meet residents of the town and visit the local museum. After that we’ll go to Arasadzykh Village to have a late lunch with a local family.

The wall of apatskha — traditional Abkhazian building, which they use as a kitchen and smokehouse. Photo: Dmitry Egorov

After a long, traditional feast, we’ll start making our way back to Sukhum. We’ll visit another tenth century church in Mokva Village, and relax in the thermal springs of Kyndyg Village.
We’ll be back in Sukhum by the evening. The night will be spent at Leon Hotel.

Day 7. (Sat) New Athos

New Athos. Tour to Abkhazia.

The main church of the monastery was renewed.

Today we’ll visit the most touristic place in Abkhazia―New Athos. It’s a small town about 30 minutes outside of Sukhum. Here, we’ll visit ruins of the first capital of the Abkhazian kingdom, then see the huge New Athos Karst cave, the New Athos monastery, and other such places.

Gagripsh restaurant, built in 1902 by the prince of Oldenburg.

In the evening, we’ll go to Old Gagra and have a farewell dinner in the country’s best restaurant with traditional Abkhazian dancing.
We’ll cross the border after dinner and head to the airport or a hotel nearby.

Day 8 — optional. (Sun) Departure

We recommend that you fly via Turkish Airlines―4:00 (Sunday) to Istanbul. If you choose this option, you will have a few hours to rest before departing. In this case, we can book a hotel for you, which will be clean, quiet and not too expensive.

Map of the tour

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Conditions

Price Includes:

  • full services of a Caucasus Explorer Tour Leader,
  • all transportation (comfortable all-road-cars, Toyota Voxy mini-van or Mersedes Sprinter mini-bus, AN2 aircraft);
  • meals (B, L, D), alcohol and water,
  • accommodation throughout (twin or double),
  • all entrance fees, sightseeing, excursions and activities as per the itinerary,
  • Abkhazian Visa.

Price Excludes

  • souvenirs,
  • other personal expenses.

Booking and Payment

  • Single person supplement – $270
  • For booking or any questions please contact Dmitry Lemeshev [email protected]