Sukhumi (Abkhaz: Аҟəа Aqwa, Georgian: სოხუმი, Russian: Сухуми) is the capital and principal city of Abkhazia. It has for the better part of the last century been famous throughout the Former Soviet Union as a prominent subtropical beach resort, complete with palm trees, botanical gardens, and citrus plantations, backed by the high alpine peaks of the Greater Caucasus Mountains.
If you enter Abkhazia with a travel permit issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Abkhazia, you'll need to visit Sukhumi, as this is the place where you will have to exchange your permit for a proper visa. The MFA building is located at ulitsa Lakoba 21, on the second floor of the government building. They only let you in in long-sleeve trousers.
The place for visa retrieval changed to Ulitsa Sacharova 33 (consulary services). You can also go to any bank in the neighborhood first and pay the visa fee ($10 for 10 days) as you will need the receipt in order to obtain the visa. The bank employees will know what to do when you show your passport.
The abandoned railway station building in Sukhumi
The direct sleeper train from Moscow have finally returned, there are departures at least twice a week with more connections added during the holiday seasons. Departure time from Moskva Paveletsky station is 5:20PM, arriving in Suhkumi 1:07PM two nights later. A local train also connects with the Russian summer resort of Sochi across the border, journey time is five hours with fares starting at RUR 200. No train services from Georgia.
By bus and marshrutka
More or less regular services connect Sukhumi with the Russian border and several towns in Russia, especially in summer. If you are coming from or going to Georgia, you should pick a service from/to the South Abkhazian town of Gali, where marshrutkas and taxis go to the Abkhazian military checkpoint at Inguri bridge, leading towards Zugdidi, Georgia. Long-distance coaches and marshrutkas run from the square in front of the Railway station, and some of them from the central market (Rynok).
Most can easily be done on foot; book stores sell quite decent maps. Frequent Marshrutkas and lesser frequent trolleybuses ply the roads. To get to the bus/train station ("voksal") take any marshrutka/trolleybus going to the central market and change there.
Although most of the major sights of the city were destroyed by the war, Sukhumi's principal attraction remained intact: an almost tropical climate with beaches, mountains, lakes, palm trees and of course the warm welcoming of locals, always mixed with a curiosity towards westerners. Since 2008, when Russian trade embargo was lifted, Russian tourists returned to Abkhazia once again and during summer invade the seaside; the influx of new money permitted the reconstruction of the main sites, and progress, albeit slow, is visible everywhere.
- Promenade: Sukhumi's seaside promenade stretches some 4 km long westwards from the government buildings. Summertime it is always full of life: locals as well as Russian tourists stroll along, chat, eat ice cream, drink beer and enjoy the sun. Several restaurants are located to the West from hotel Ritsa, this is the area where bathing in the sea is permitted, and if you need accommodation, here you'll find many babushkas sitting on plastic chairs with "komnata" ('room') sign, they are more than happy to assist you.
- Botanical gardens: three corners away northwards from hotel Ritsa, this nice park is incredibly popular with tourists who are keen to take pictures with the odd-shaped trees. Be prepared for queues. Entry fee RUR 140 (summer 2012).
- Monkey park: just behind the Botanical gardens, across the railway line; it's impossible to get lost if you follow the line of old ladies and gentlemen who sell cucumbers, peaches and other delicacies intended for the animals. Once a research centre and alleged training place for the monkeys sent to the space by the USSR, now it's a pretty sad zoo around a huge monkey sculpture. Be prepared for queues. Entry fee RUR 140 (summer 2012).
The former government building of the Autonomous Abkhaz Soviet Republic
- Old soviet buildings and remnants of war: for those who seek for this, Sukhumi is a paradise. Among all the abandoned, destroyed and sadly dilapidated buildings that you still find literally everywhere, the most famous one is indisputably the gigantic old government building of the Abkhaz Autonomous Republic (two corners westwards from the Botanical gardens), sacked and burnt out two decades ago. The railway station at the western edge of the town is also worth a look; the huge building seems to have had enough space for all the travellers of an entire metropolis like Moscow. (These days travellers are served by a much smaller, reconstructed building to the west of it.)
You can easily see the urban sights in one afternoon; spend the rest of your time on the beach or doing day trips to northern Abkhazia. The region is relatively small, so Sukhumi is a great base to explore it all.
Since tourism returned to Sukhumi, it's not difficult to find some local flavour you can bring home for your beloved ones. Most souvenir stalls are located at the Sokhumi seaside and around the botanical gardens; their offer don't significantly differ from what you find elsewhere at tourist sites in Abkhazia: Abkhazia flags, t-shirts, fridge magnets, photo books, home made honey. Abkhazian brandy, vodka and chacha (a local spirit) are also available everywhere and make a good gift.
There is a fair share of restaurants in Sukhumi, which cater mostly Russian or Caucasian style dining. Many of them are at the coast next to Hotel Ritsa; they are designed to cater Russian tourists, and while they are not exactly cheap on local standards (a diner with two courses and wine can cost up to EUR 15-20), most of them are decent and reliable. Walk along the seaside and choose what you like most (and where you find a free table, which can be tricky during the summer). Some new openings are visible around the town, especially around the tourist-invaded botanical garden.
- The restaurant/bar at the pier is the poshest and even has sushi. It's also a good place for a drink. No English menus.
- Beliy Parus, Naberezhnaya Machadzhinov 48 ("). A nice downtown garden restaurant, not very different from its neighbours, but serves good fish and meat dishes, decent service. Midrange.
- Café Lika, Lakoba 57 ("), ☎ 7 (940) 775 9941. If you want to taste really hearty local food far from the tourist crowds, this is the place to go. Auntie Lika only cooks two or three dishes a day, but all are culinary masterpieces. She loves to show the hidden gems of Caucasian cuisine to foreigners in her simple café, and we would dare to say that she's among the best cooks in Abkhazia. You'll never forget her Caucasian borscht and hartsho soups. Even the ketchup she gives with your breakfast sausages is home-made tomato jam prepared with plums and local green spices. She closes when the last guest goes home. Cheap.
- There is also a truely authentic cafe on the parallel street to pr. Mira, next to a bookstore. Authentic (Mokka type) coffee, great for breakfast.
Plenty of places along the coast. Walk along the coastline and take your pick. The places on the pier are great for a sundowner.
The big international hostelling sites do not offer booking for Sukhumi hotels, so booking is only possible if you contact the hotel directly. During summer this can be essential, as hotels can be fully booked weeks in advance. Prices vary, a central room in a nicely refurbished hotel can easily cost EUR 100 (while you can grab a bed at a no-frills home stay for as low as EUR 4 per bed per night).
- Beliy Parus, Naberezhnaya Machadzhirov 48 ("at), ☎ +7 (840) 229 4311, +7 (840) 229 4306 (fax: +7 (840) 229-4311). EUR 100/apartment (accommodates 4). A small apart hotel at the seashore opened in 2012. Nice air-conditioned double rooms and family apartments.
- Hotel Aytar is situated on the seafront near Sukhumi Dendropark. Until mid-2009 the hotel as a base allocation of the UN mission. The territory of the hotel is more than 5 acres of subtropical park with artificial lakes, which are well blended into the landscape between shady pine alleys. It is cool even in summer heat and all the features for a pleasant relaxing stay.
- Hotel Atrium Victoria is situated near the center of Sukhumi, 100 m from the famous Sukhumi quay. The nearby major attractions and best restaurants in town. The hotel is designed in elegant, respectable style, its rooms and the interior features high comfort and cozy atmosphere. On the fourth floor of the hotel is a large outdoor terrace, which overlooks the sea and surroundings. In the cozy patio - an oasis for relaxing and socializing guests.
- Hotel Inter-Sukhumi is located in a park resort area of Sukhumi on the coast. Conveniently located in the central city waterfront, the hotel has a developed infrastructure and excellent rooms and apartments.
- Pension Kyalasur is located in the resort town Sukhumi (near the famous beaches of Sinop), next to the arboretum, on the shores of the Black Sea, in its own park area with tropical plants, pines and oleanders. Nearby flows the purest mountain stream - Kyalasur from which to start the Great Wall of Abkhaz, the remains of which can still be seen today.
- Hotel Ritz is one of the most romantic and beautiful in Abkhazia. It is located on the central promenade of Sukhumi, a few meters from the Black Sea. Luxury three-storey building of the hotel operates all year round. Most rooms with sea views.
- Hotel Sinop is located on the territory of the former government residence in a unique arboretum, practically on the shore of the Black Sea. Cozy and comfortable hotel offers maintenance and service of high quality. Hotel - four-story. On each floor there are lounges with sofas and TV. Comfortable rooms equipped with modern furniture and appliances. The cafe is organized meals.
- Mini-hotel Sukhumi is located in the historic heart of the capital Sukhumi on the famous promenade, a place immersed in the palms and eucalyptus. Modern 3-storey hotel building stands on the right bank of the river near the Basley Red Bridge. With an open terrace offers stunning views of the sea. Near the hotel is the famous restaurant "Ertsahu" and a ten minute walk - the Botanical Garden. The hotel features a cozy atmosphere and unusual interior design.
- Pension Eucalyptus Grove is located in the village Kyndyg 20 km from the city of Sukhumi, and is in its closed protected territory on the coast in a relic eucalyptus grove. On the territory can visit the cafe, restaurant with national cuisine, disco and lots of sports fields.
- Hotel Yasemin a modern city hotel, built in 2004. It is conveniently located in the center of Sukhumi on the street Lakoba - a 15 minute walk to central market and 300 meters from the beach and promenade. The road to the beach passes through the park.
Prices and quality vary, but in summer it's not always easy to find a decent home stay in Sukhumi. Head for one of the several old ladies who work as housing agents behind their plastic tables at the Promenade, some 500 m westwards from Hotel Ritsa; they'll find you something. The longer your stay, the higher your chances are to find a good deal; looking for accommodation for one night can be a kind of nightmare. Expect to pay at least RUR 700 for a double room.