It’s no secret that at Regent Holidays we like to do things a little differently.
When it comes to exploring the world, it’s the off-the-beaten-track destinations that catch our eye. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be a country. Some of our most intriguing destinations are the breakaway-states; regions that have declared independence but aren’t yet formally recognised as a country. Our Pioneering Abkhazia Group Tour introduces curious travellers to Abkhazia.
This 14 day tour is a complete package from the UK, and spends 8 nights in Abkhazia. We will access Abkhazia via Georgia, and include time in Georgia at the beginning/end of the trip. Departing the UK we will fly to Tbilisi on the indirect service with Turkish Airlines (via Istanbul). After two night in Tbilisi we will travel to Zugdidi before heading to the frontier and entering Abkhazia on day 4 of the tour. Once in Abkhazia we will tour the country in detail, spending nights in the capital, Sokhumi, the second city of Gagra as well as in the lesser city of Novy Athon. This itinerary will strive to include as much variety as possible—giving the visitor an understanding of Abkhazia’s past, present and future, together with an insight into the culture and cuisine of the country. We will also strive to get off the beaten track to take in the incredible scenery of Abkhazia, with visits to remote settlements and mountain areas. After exploring the country we will return to Georgia for final nights in both Kutaisi and Tbilisi before flying back to the UK, once more with Turkish Airlines.
This varied itinerary has been crafted to give the visitor an understanding of Abkhazia’s past, present and future, whilst also exploring the remote scenery, culture and cuisine of the country.
Our Discover Abkhazia video has been created with footage taken on our first group tour.
Today depart the UK on your Turkish Airlines flight to Tbilisi TBS, via Istanbul. Please contact us for details regarding current schedules & regional departures. Upon arrival in Tbilisi (late today or most likely in the early hours of Saturday), you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel, the Shota @ Rustaveli Boutique Hotel, located some 100 metres from Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi's main avenue.
Depending on flights, you will likely arrive into Tbilisi in the early hours of today. Regardless of arrival time, your hotel accommodation for the night of the 13th is included, as is breakfast this morning, should you wish. After your long journey enjoy all morning at leisure. At 1230 meet your guide in the reception of the hotel to commence an introductory tour of Tbilisi. Departing our hotel on foot walk along Rustaveli Avenue, staring at the exterior of the Parliament of Georgia. From here we will slowly walk northwest, passing the Kashueti Church and the Opera & Ballet Theatre before we stop for a welcome lunch near Rustaveli Metro Station. We will also during this initial walk (if required) stop by a currency exchange office for the chance to purchase Georgian Lari. After lunch we will head underground at Rustaveli and ride the rails with your guide two stops to Avlabari Station. Back above ground, walk through Rike Park to the Aerial Tramway and ascend by cable car to the Narikala Fortress for a good view over Tbilisi's Old Town. Descending on foot from Narikala enter Tbilisi's Old Town, passing the Sulfur Bathhouse and slowly heading northwest as we meander past the key Old Town sites to Liberty Square. From here we continue, passing the exterior of the Georgian National Museum before arriving back at our hotel, here ending our introductory excursion to the pleasant Georgian capital.
This guided excursion will be without private transport, but your metro tickets and one-way tramway ticket will be included in the tour cost, as of course will lunch. In the event of poor weather or tired feet your guide can arrange, on the spot and at your expense, to reduce the walking where possible, with a short taxi or bus journey. (B/L)
TBILISI TO ZUGDIDI
This morning we depart early and transfer to Tbilisi Railway Station in good time for the train to Zugdidi, scheduled to depart at 0810. The train will spend some 6 hours trundling through Georgia, passing through numerous towns and cities including Mtshketa, Gori (which we will see on day 13) and Samtredia. Lunch is excluded today and the train does not have a restaurant car, so we recommend bringing some snacks and drinks for the journey as we just watch the world go by and savour this 'slow travel'. Upon arrival in Zugdidi (scheduled for 1345) we will transfer to the Leto Boutique Hotel and here check in for an overnight stay. After a little time to freshen up we will drive to Chateau Chkadouache, a small palace which was owned by the House of Dadiani in the 18th century. The House of Dadiani was a Georgian family of nobles, duke and princes who ruled Western Georgia until Russian annexation in the 19th century. Here meet with the descendants of Dadiani and gain an insight into their rich family history over a cup of coffee – from their Chateau we will also (weather permitting) be afforded views into Abkhazia, less than 6km away. Returning to Zugdidi itself we will enjoy a brief walking tour of the city followed by dinner in the guesthouse/home of Beso, a locally renowned singer, cook and all-round raconteur. Return to our hotel for the rest of the evening at leisure. (B/D)
GEORGIA TO ABKHAZIA (ZUGDIDI - SOKHUMI)
This morning we will depart Zugdidi at around 0900 and head towards the Abkhazian ‘border’. After a journey of around 15 minutes we will come to a halt on the east back of the Enguri River. After registering at the Georgian checkpoint (with the help of our Georgian guide) we will part with our Georgian guide and set off on foot over the Enguri Bridge (as mentioned, a decrepit minibus may be available for a small fee for those who wish, but this cannot be guaranteed.)
After going through all Georgian exit and Abkhazian entry formalities (which can take a few hours) we will meet with our escort guide who will be with us for our entire time in Abkhazia. To kickstart our Abkhazian adventure we will enjoy a welcome lunch in the basic border café, a popular haunt for the border guards – a surreal spot for our first meal in the country. This afternoon we slowly head west to Sokhumi, our first stop being to visit Gal, a small city which is predominantly Georgian in its ethnic composition. In Gal we will visit the market to purchase some local sweets, snacks and wines (at your own expense, but very economical) before we head along a rural ‘road’ to the medieval Bedia Cathedral. Consecrated in 999 this small cathedral is now essentially a ruin, but situated in a picturesque spot. Enjoy time to soak in the scenery and sample our purchases from Gal Market before we press on for our next stop – the city of Ochamchire. Here enjoy a brief walk and tour of Ochamchire, which is now a drastically underpopulated settlement due to the high number of Georgians who lived here in the Soviet era—long since departed. Conditions permitting, we may, from a distance, be able to see the small Russian Naval base; essentially the only thing of note that has been built in Ochamchira in the past 30 years. Back on the road, drive further west to Sokhumi, where we will check into the Leon Hotel for a four night stay. This evening enjoy a traditional Abkhazian dinner in the Ertsakhu Restaurant, a short walk from the hotel. (B/L/D)
Today we will spend the full day in and around Sokhumi. Departing the hotel after breakfast we will enjoy all morning exploring the city on foot, taking in as many of the major sights and landmarks that we can possibly squeeze in. The route will be confirmed locally, but is expected to be Leon Hotel—Scotland Street— Gulia Street—Sokhumi Botanical Garden (entrance only) - Baratshvili Railway Station (disused) - Former Building Of The Council Of Ministers —Freedom Park— Sukhumi Central Post Office—Promenade. This will be over 5km of walking, but taken at a leisurely pace as we explore, and we will make a refreshment stop or two (at your own expense) along the way. We plan to have lunch at the Apra Restaurant on the main city pier. This afternoon (subject to reconfirmation locally) we hope to meet with a local speaker to gain an insight into Abkhazia’s chequered history. The guest speaker will be confirmed locally, but in the past we have met with the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and a celebrated war hero. Enjoy the rest of the day and evening completely free at your leisure to explore the small city of Sokhumi—all the central areas and very walkable from the hotel. (B/L)
DAY TRIP TO THE TKVARCHELI REGION
Today we will spend the full day exploring the Tkvarcheli Region of Abkhazia, centred around the town of the same name. Tkvarcheli town was one of the worst affected settlements of the war, with the population today around 1/4 of what it was in the 1980s. On arrival in Tkvarcheli we will switch to basic jeeps to head to a spectacular (and only recently discovered) waterfall, before spending time exploring the tiny and almost completely abandoned settlement of Akarmara. Returning to the main town enjoy a basic but delicious and very traditional lunch before we enjoy sightseeing in the town—which often includes meeting a few characters along the way and popping into the local Palace of Culture. After spending the bulk of the day exploring this Chernobyl-esque environment return to Sokhumi, stopping en-route in Kindgi, for those who wish to soak in and lather up at the Kindgi hot springs / mud baths here. Refreshments, at your own expense, are available here also. On arriving back into Sokhumi enjoy the evening at leisure. (B/L)
DAY TRIP TO PSKHU
This morning we will depart the hotel at around 0730 and drive to Sokhumi Babushara Airport, about a 30 minute drive east of the capital. From here we will travel by a privately chartered aircraft to the small settlement of Pskhu. Today’s trip is as much about the journey as it is the destination—our aircraft will depend on the final size of the group, but will likely be a Soviet era AN-2 biplane. The short flight to Pskhu only takes around 30 minutes and on arrival we will enjoy a walk through the central street of this village of around 150 persons. When flights arrive in Pskhu it is normally an event of note in this sleepy corner of Abkhazia—locals will likely come out to say hello and we will mingle and chat with them as we walk up to the main church. From the village we will travel to the home of Nikolai, a local resident. Nikolai lives around 5km from Pskhu, and we can split into smaller groups to travel to Nikolai’s home on horseback, foot or vehicle, dependent on the preference of group members. We will enjoy lunch prepared by Nikolai’s family before enjoying some leisure time to relax or walk/hike in the beautiful area. In the mid-afternoon we will return back to Pskhu (again, by horseback, foot or vehicle). On arriving back into Pskhu we will return to our aircraft and fly back to Sokhumi. Return to the hotel and enjoy the evening free at your leisure. (B/L)
PLEASE NOTE: If horse riding on this day riding helmets cannot be provided. The road to Nikolai’s home is on a very rough dirt track that is not always passable. As a minimum therefore there will be some walking involved in order to reach Nikolai’s home.
SOKHUMI TO GAGRA
Checking out of our hotel after breakfast walk to the nearby trolleybus station and enjoy a short trolleybus ride to the Sokhumi Bazaar. Entering the bazaar enjoy time to explore this typical soviet style market. We will split into a couple of groups as we tour the bazaar, purchasing various items as we go in order to prepare a picnic lunch. Picking up our private vehicle outside the bazaar we head to west Sokhumi—stopping here to visit the capital’s main Railway Station. Driving on visit the Halo Trust in the western suburbs of the city. The Halo Trust is a British organisation specialising in the removal of the debris of war, such as mine clearing. They have been very active in Abkhazia over the years, and we will receive a brief insight and explanation into their activities in Abkhazia over the years. Please note that donations cannot be given locally to the Halo Trust, but can be made online should you wish via www.halotrust.org/support-us/donate/ . From here we will visit a nearby vineyard; this vineyard is situated in a former minefield, now a cleared and thriving cottage industry thanks to the work of the HALO Trust. During our wine-tasting we can tuck into our supplies from the market, enjoying a traditional Abkhazian style picnic. This afternoon we drive to Gagra, near the Russian border, making a stop or two along the way to stretch our legs. Our first stop in Gagra will be to visit one of Stalin’s impressive dachas, this one well situated with an impressive view down to the Black Sea—if the sky is clear we should just about be able to see Russia’s Fisht Olympic Stadium in the distance, just a few kilometres away. After touring Stalin’s somewhat chilling dacha drive to the Abaata Hotel and check in for a two night stay. After checking in enjoy a brief walking tour of Old Gagra before we enjoy dinner in a famous local restaurant, Gagripsh. (B/L/D)
DAY TRIP TO RITSA & PITSUNDA
Today head out from our base in Gagra to explore Ritsa and Pitsunda. This morning a couple of hours driving north into the mountains leads to the beautiful Ritsa Relict National Park— we will break the journey at some sites en-route to stretch our legs. On arrival in Ritsa we will visit another of Stalin’s Dachas before we enjoy lunch on the lakeshore beside the dacha. Weather permitting take a boat trip on Lake Ritsa in Stalin’s personal speedboat before we spend a little more time sightseeing in the area. From Ritsa we descend to the coast and visit Pitsunda, a Soviet era beach resort that caters to a large number of Russian tourists. Pitsunda, one time favourite resort of Nikita Khrushchev, is an interesting place to explore—it is all very walkable and the centre of the resort seems largely unchanged from its Soviet heyday. There will be time to swim or explore Pitsunda before we enjoy dinner. After dinner return to Gagra and the Abaata Hotel to spend the rest of the evening at leisure. (B/L/D)
GAGRA TO NOVY AFON
Checking out of the hotel at around 0730 we will drive to the train station and depart Gagra on a 38km train journey east to the small town of Guduata. Train times are subject to changes but current schedules have the train departing/arriving at 0815/0925. Upon arrival in Guduata we will drive north to the village of Achandara. Here enjoy brunch and wine tasting in the home of local resident Pavel, who lives a relatively traditional life and harvests grapes in a traditional Abkhaz method that is now almost obsolete. In the early afternoon drive to Novy Afon (New Athens) and check into our hotel, the Afon Black Sea Resort Hotel, for a two night stay. After some action packed days (and an early start), enjoy a few hours at leisure to relax in the hotel, explore the beach (beside the hotel) or the town at leisure. In the late afternoon those who wish can take an optional walk to the Anacopia Fortress, an ancient citadel high above the town. This evening enjoy dinner and wine tasting in the Guada Restaurant, a stone’s throw from our hotel. (Brunch/D)
NOVY AFON & LYKHNY
This morning visit Novy Afon’s famous New Athens Cave, a karst cave and one of the largest cave systems in the world. The cave has its own 1.3 km subway line to ferry travellers from the cave entrance to the first cave chamber. We will also visit the Novy Afon Monastery—hoping to enjoy a brief audience with a senior representative from the Abkhazian Orthodox Church, as we have done in the past. Our tour will continue with a visit to what is arguably the most beautiful train station in all of Abkhazia, if not the Caucasus, before we drive to Lykhny Village for lunch. We will spend the afternoon touring Lykhny Village, a historical settlement and one of the focal centres of paganism in the country—here meeting with a pagan leader to get an introduction into their beliefs and rituals. Return to Novy Afon for the rest of the afternoon and all evening at leisure. (B/L)
NOVY AFON TO KUTAISI (GEORGIA)
Departing Novy Afon we make the short drive to Sokhumi, where we will have a free hour or so for any final sightseeing or last minute shopping. Heading further east, we drive 95km (60 miles) back to the Abkhazian/Georgian frontier, stopping near the border for a farewell Mingrelian Lunch. On arriving at the border at around 1400 we will have a quick toilet/refreshment stop (at your own expense), before we part with our local guide and go through Abkhazian exit formalities before walking back to Georgia. All logistics will be as we experienced (albeit in reverse) on the 16th May. On arriving back into Georgia we will meet with our Georgian guide and spend the afternoon driving to Kutaisi. On arrival in Kutaisi check into the Best Western Hotel for an overnight stay. Enjoy the evening at leisure. (B/L)
KUTAISI TO TBILISI
Checking out of the hotel at approximately 0900 we spend the day slowly making our way back to Tbilisi. As a diversion from the main road, at Zestafoni we will branch northeast and drive to Chiatura, a mining town that boomed during the Soviet era. This town is well off the conventional Georgian tourist trail, but an enjoyable contrast to the main road. Situated in a steep river valley, an extensive network of ageing cable cars transport workers around the Chiatura valley – if operating and if inclined, enjoy some time to ride a couple of these cars (at your own expense) before enjoying a brief walk in the town. From Chiatura drive through Sachkere before heading southeast to the Maradiuli Wine Cellar, where we will enjoy lunch and wine-tasting. This vineyard was founded in 2016 and utilizes traditional Georgian methods dating back centuries to make its wines, which are fermented in Qvevri (earthenware vessels). From here drive southeast via Korbouli and Ali (passing within 2km of the South Ossetian "border") before re-joining the main Kutaisi-Tbilisi highway and arriving in Gori. Here our last sight of the day, and tour, will be to visit the Joseph Stalin Museum, which includes his birthplace within the museum's grounds. From the museum transfer to Tbilisi and our hotel—the Shota @ Rustaveli Boutique Hotel. After a little time to freshen up head out for a farewell dinner in a nearby restaurant. (B/L/D)
This morning (Time TBC) check out of your hotel and transfer to the airport for your departure flight back to the UK with Turkish Airlines, via Istanbul. (Various departure options possible). Depending on the time of your departure breakfast may or may not be available. (B)
Turkish Airlines flights UK - Tbilisi— UK (via Istabul)
Meals as specified (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Regent Holidays escort for the duration of the tour
All transfers, transport and sightseeing, with local guides (local guides will change at border)
Domestic charter flight in Abkhazia
Main entrance fees to sites
Abkhazian Letter of Invitation (arranged in advance) & Abkhazian Visa (obtained locally)
Meals / services other than specified
This itinerary will be subject to changes at short notice due to local conditions. Additionally, you must be able to carry your own luggage as there is a 1.5km walk across the Enguri Bridge between Georgia and Abkhazia where no transport is available, and many hotels / buildings do not have lifts or porters.
13 May 2022
26 May 2022
Tour Route Map
Abkhazia, Novy Afon
Click on images to enlarge
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