The idiosyncratic southwestern corner of Georgia, Adjara (აჭარა; also spelt Achara, Ajara or Ajaria) has taken on the mantle of Georgia’s holiday coast since the loss of Abkhazia. Batumi, Adjara’s rapidly developing capital, is the destination of choice for most Georgians – and many Armenians and others from further afield – in search of summer fun, with a real party atmosphere in August.
Though Adjara’s beaches are mostly stony, the semitropical climate is beautiful and the scenery gorgeous, with lush hills rising behind the coast, and peaks topping 3000m in the Lesser Caucasus inland.
Many travellers enter Georgia at the busy Sarpi border post with Turkey, just south of Batumi.
Under Ottoman control from the 16th century to 1878, most of Adjara’s inhabitants were converted to Islam, but today Muslims comprise only about 30% of the population. Adjara has retained its Soviet-era status as an autonomous republic within Georgia: until 2004 its pro-Russian president, Aslan Abashidze, ran an authoritarian, corrupt regime backed by his own militia. A standoff between Abashidze and President Saakashvili raised fears of another Georgian civil war. However, Abashidze lost his crucial support from Russia and days later left for ignominious exile in Moscow, to the delight of Adjarans.