The greatest tragedy to befall Georgia since its independence is the secession of Abkhazia (Apsny or Apswa in Abkhazian, Apkhazeti in Georgian), and the bloodshed and misery this has brought about.
Once the jewel of the ‘Soviet Riviera’ along the Black Sea coast, today this de facto independent republic is still getting over the devastation of the 1992–93 war, with less than half its prewar population of 535,000. Russian tourism, investment and aid have boomed since the 2008 South Ossetia War. By 2011 Abkhazia was internally much more stable, with few reports of gangsterism or violent incidents. It had also become relatively easy for foreign travellers to visit, although the British Foreign Office (www.fco.gov.uk) and US State Department (travel.state.gov) still advised against it.
Abkhazia’s towns still have a strangely underpopulated feel, but the coast and countryside are beautiful, and just being inside this curious territory with a throwback Soviet atmosphere is an intriguing experience.
Check recent news and travellers’ reports, such as on the Thorn Tree forum on lonely planet.com. It is always possible that tensions or violence may flare up again in the southern Gali region or elsewhere in Abkhazia. Abkhazia’s official tourism site, http://abkhazia.travel, is worth a look but is not always up to date.