The city of Sukhumi has seen its glory years when it was regarded as one of the best subtropical beaches in the former Soviet Union. Citizens in the former communist superpower came to enjoy Sukhumi’s beach, botanical gardens, palm trees, citrus plantations, and the beautiful view of the Greater Caucasus Mountains.
Today, it still is an important city as the capital of Abkhazia. The only problem is that Abkhazia is in political turmoil. Located in northwestern Georgia, Abkhazia declares itself as an independent nation, free from Georgian control and is, therefore, in a prolonged dispute against the government of Georgia. Only Russia and a few other countries honor Abkhazia’s nationhood. The rest of the world stands by Georgia’s declaration that the separatist region is autonomous but still under Georgian governance.
The tiny region of Abkhazia was severely battered from the 1992-1993 war against Georgia. Most of the region’s infrastructures were destroyed, sending the region to shambles. Georgia also imposed an embargo and blockade against the self-ruling region. However, Abkhazia somehow managed to rise from the rubbles.
Today, the economy is far from desirable. There is much to do in this country as its economy is plagued and hampered by the continuing effects of the war, widespread corruption and organized criminal activities. There is poverty in the region as the only opportunities for work are in the areas of agriculture and tourism. Although the region has lively tourism, its main and only market are the Russians; and although, there is an abundance of produce (tobacco, tea and wine), its economy largely depends on the support and aid from Russia. Quite frankly, if not for Russia, Abkhazia could have failed and waved the flag of surrender a long time ago.
According to Abkhazia’s tourism industry, the region did quite well and had somehow attracted almost a million foreign visitors in one year. Most of the visiting tourists, however, are from Russia and probably a few from the other countries that acknowledge Abkhazian sovereignty.
Yet, despite the dispute and other troubles, Abkhazia can hold its own when it comes to tourism if given the chance to entertain and welcome the rest of the world. The main attraction is of course the capital city, although the effects of war are still widely seen all over Sukhumi. Most of the city’s major sights have been destroyed and never rebuilt. The beach stands out as the most important tourist destination today.
Next to the beach, people also flock to the Makhadzhirov waterfront. Locals just love taking leisurely walks on this winding street that spreads from the Mayak residential area to the Red Bridge. The walkway is busy throughout the year with people walking and talking back and forth. Tourists love the stroll, the street coffee, the sea, and the flowering trees that flank the waterfront.
Other city attractions are the Glory Park, Botanical Garden, The Great Abkhazian Wall, The Abkhazian Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Pathology and Therapy (or known simply as Monkey Colony), State Samson Chanba Drama Theater, and the Lighthouse.
Finally, Georgia will not approve any visits to the separatist region. The borders to Abkhazia are heavily guarded by Russian soldiers. If one wishes to see the capital city of Sukhumi, they must fly in through Moscow and take a two-day train ride to Abkhazia.