Tried and tested places and activities

At Discover Abkhazia, we know that planning a trip to Abkhazia can be challenging, for example, there are limited online reviews in English for accommodation, activities and places. We have put together a list of some of these such places which have been personally tried and tested by Sophie, the British creator of Discover Abkhazia, to present to you some reviews from a foreigner's perspective.

Accommodation

 

There is an army of friendly staff working at Hotel Bagrata, and because their audience is mostly Russian, as a foreigner you will certainly receive special attention from them. The only downside to this is that few staff speak English, however they make the utmost effort to communicate with you and are completely understanding that your Russian may be poor or non-existent. They will gladly talk to you even if it is through Google translate! Staff who do speak English do so very eloquently, and you won't have trouble understanding them. 

One of the unique selling points of Hotel Bagrata is that it is an enclosed compound. At the entrance is a large pine gate, manned by a security guard 24/7, and there's also comprehensive CCTV throughout the compound. I like this because other hotels in Abkhazia are often used as meeting points for locals, so Hotel Bagrata provides you with a bit more comfort and privacy after those long days of navigating around the country. Within the hotel outer walls is a private park, which has a path running through it. There's not too much to see, but if you enjoy nature's small and simple creations, like exotic plants, birds, fruits and trees, it is certainly nice. There's also a swimming pool surrounded by sun loungers, which you are encouraged to use as often as you like. I believe the other hotels in Sukhum do not have a pool, so it is certainly a bonus. The pool is rarely busy since most guests go to the beach, which makes it the perfect spot for an afternoon relaxation. The water is warm and cleaned daily. 

The rooms do not disappoint. I have stayed in 2 types of room at Hotel Bagrata, a family room and a single room. Both rooms had a balcony overlooking the quiet street outside the hotel, a TV, powerful shower, comfortable beds and fresh linen and towels. The rooms are bright and modern, a great contrast to the often dark and old-fashioned tone of many hotel rooms in the country. Air conditioning is also in every room. 

To summarise, Hotel Gora Bagrata is exceptional in its services, cleanliness and security, with the hotel compound being a great place to unwind and relax, as well as chat with the socialable staff. This hotel is probably one of the most expensive hotels in Sukhum, however it is no more expensive than the average hotel in any city and in my opinion it is worth every penny - you are fed fresh food, you are watered with great wine, and you are free to relax around the wonderful pool and park.

Have a look at Hotel Bagrata's site: http://gorabagrata.ru/

And browse through their fantastic gallery on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hotelgorabagrata/

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One of my favourite places to stay during my trips to Abkhazia is hotel Gora Bagrata. It is located in Sukhum, about 5 minutes away by taxi to the best beach, on which there are beach bars and a small amphitheater which hosts music concerts and the occasional movie. Hotel Gora Bagrata organises a free shuttle bus each morning to the beach, and back to the hotel in the evening. There is a large, modern and clean canteen overlooking the bar area at the hotel, in which buffets are located for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When booking, you have the option to choose between a room with meals included or a room without. The food is freshly cooked, and tends to have a more continental style as opposed to being ethnic Abkhazian food. Teas and coffees are available in the canteen throughout the day. The bar area is outdoors, with a palm leaf roof and comfortable furniture. There are large pine trees surrounding the bar area, on which red squirrels can be seen running around throughout the day! The bar serves authentic Abkhazian wine and beer, as well as homemade alcohol and standard soft drinks. 

We loved the pool at Gora Bagrata!

Activities

- Camping 

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Apsny Adventure is a company which offers camping and sporty excursions such as water rafting, hiking, caving and bungee-jumping. Apsny Adventure's base-camp is located in the mountains roughly 1 hour and a half's drive from Sukhum, along the Kodor river. Travelling to this base-camp is itself incredibly special, as you will be driven along the scenic military road which was used by Abkhazian forces during the 2008 Russo-Georgia war. 

The base camp is well-isolated, with the only passers-by being shepherds with their herds of goats, cattle and even water buffalo. But this does not mean it is lonely or boring! Apsny Adventure's base camp has a large, open-walled wooden cabin, in which the kitchen, bar and wooden dining table are located. Here, you will find the group of young Apsny Adventure staff, who are predominantly Russian and enjoy nature, playing the guitar, telling stories and making you try lots of different foods and drinks. You will probably find yourself sitting here until late hours, talking, drinking, singing and having fun with the team. The team's passion for nature and the outdoors is one factor which really makes the base camp a wonderful place. The base camp has one of the best shower and bathroom facilities I have ever experienced camping both home and abroad. Constant hot water is available from the tap, and the shower and toilet blocks keep with the natural theme, both constructed from wood. Flushing toilets, towel rails, a sink, mirror and privacy curtains are all small features which add a lot of value to this camping experience.

The excursions are provided by the team at the base camp, and I was able to go on a hike to a nearby waterfall, approximately a 3 mile-round trek through mountain forests. The team catered to my group's mixed hiking abilities, making sure we didn't rush or run out of water. When we arrived at the waterfall, they allowed us time to take as many photos as we wanted, and just admire the beauty of the place. It really is a beautiful waterfall in a steep, enclosed valley, with the surrounding rocks formed with numerous colours, stripes and shapes. Of all the waterfalls I have visited in Abkhazia (and that's a lot!) this waterfall easily tops the list. Have a look - Шакуранский каньон. In the evening, we also went on a short walk to the river Kodor, where our guides cooled off in the river with a swim. The river has a fast current, but the team made sure my guests were safe during their swim - they chose the safest and slowest part of the river, and one of our guides stood down-stream to catch anyone who didn't make it to their feet before the current picked up again. The time spent with the team during these mini-excursions was great - it was clear that they weren't taking you to these places because they had to, but because they wanted to.

I didn't find many downsides to my time spent with Apsny Adventure, but I do want this review to be balanced, so there are a few things which may be worth noting. You will need to arrange transport with Apsny Adventure to pick you up and drop you off  in Sukhum - this is easily done and they are more than happy to drive you in one of their jeeps, but it is something to consider if you prefer the freedom of public transport or walking. In my opinion, the relative isolation of Apsny Adventure's base camp makes the experience better than other camping experiences in Abkhazia, as it is 'off the beaten track' away from the touristic camping places, and the limited transport is a mere consequence of this. Secondly, you should be prepared to see some critters - Abkhazia is home to a variety of snakes, scorpions, beetles, and all sorts of wonderful creepy crawlies. Apsny Adventure are conscious about not leaving a damaging footprint in nature, so you can expect to find animals in their natural habitat at the base camp. I didn't see many at all, and the tents, sleeping bags and kitchen were free of all bugs. There were however one or two snakes passing through the grass, so extra care is required when leaving boots outside, and you might want to take some sprays and creams to combat insect bites during excursions.

For the price, however, Apsny Adventure is certainly worth visiting. You won't find the same cleanliness, friendliness, safety and experiences with any other camping organisation in Abkhazia, and you are most likely paying less at Apsny Adventure, too. For what they offer, I would gladly pay triple the price they charge and still wonder "is that all it costs?". Have a look at their website, their extremely competitive prices and image gallery for more information: http://apsnyadventure.com/kamping