Advice on Georgia-Abkhazia Itinerary

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Advice on Georgia-Abkhazia Itinerary

Postby Altynay » Sun May 26, 2019 5:14 am

As mentioned in a different thread, I am planning a trip to Georgia and Abkhazia from Russia in late November. I am hoping for a bit of advice on the itinerary from those who have already visited! :) At the moment, I can only budget 13 days for the trip due to time constraints although there is a slight possibility to extend by an extra few days depending on several factors.

Here are my current plans:

Day 1 — overnight train from Saint Petersburg
Day 2 — overnight train from Saint Petersburg
Day 3 — Vladikavkaz
Day 4 — Tbilisi
Day 5 — Tbilisi
Day 6 — Gori
Day 7 — Kutaisi
Day 8 — Sukhumi
Day 9 — Sukhumi
Day 10 — Gagra
Day 11 — Gagra
Day 12 — Gagra
Day 13 — Sochi, flight to Saint Petersburg

Is this too ambitious? I certainly do not want to be on a bus all day without enough time to actually visit the different places, but from my initial research, the furthest drive (apart from the train journey, of course) would only be the 3.5 hours from Kutaisi to Sukhumi. And am I budgeting my time in the best manner? Before I make any final decisions, I am also considering staying within Russia and visiting the North Caucasus. I would be aiming to spend a good part of that time in Dagestan, primarily Makhachkala and Derbent. Is there anyone here who has been to both these regions and can offer a comparison? For some background information, I am an experienced traveller (so not interested in highly touristy sites) with some knowledge of Russian. I'm also doing postgraduate work in Eurasian Studies with particular focus on the Caucasus and Central Asia, hence I am determined to visit the Caucasus whether it's the North or South part! :lol:

Any advice is much appreciated!
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Re: Advice on Georgia-Abkhazia Itinerary

Postby Milad » Sun May 26, 2019 4:07 pm

A half day for Gori should be enough, as there's absolutely nothing to see except for the Stalin Museum. You can quite well spend an additional day in Tbilisi though. From Tbilisi to Gori there is a train in the morning which comes absolutely recommended. Note that there are no direct marshrutkas from Gori to Kutaisi apparently, you can go to the highway and flag one coming from Tbilisi down though (there is a spot where many people do this and a taxi from the bus station can get you there for 10 GEL), take a taxi all the way (~100 GEL) or change in Chiatura.
One full day for simply Sukhumi is more than enough, but two days is fine if you include travel time Zugdidi -> Sukhumi on the first day (leave early!) and visit to Novy Afon on the second day.
Three days for Gagra in November will be a waste of time (except if you have special reasons to visit something/someone due to your studies there of course), as there is not much to see in the town and the beach won't be too inviting in this season. Even one full day will be too much IMO. Either spend some time in Sochi or more time in Georgia. You could go to Batumi for example (between Kutaisi and Sukhumi). If you make clever use of the night train Tbilisi-Yerevan to maximise your time "on the ground", you might even make it there for a day or two.

Have fun!
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Re: Advice on Georgia-Abkhazia Itinerary

Postby Altynay » Tue May 28, 2019 3:51 am

Thank you for the advice! Taking the overnight train to Yerevan sounds like a great idea, and I think I can it fit it in (one night less in Gagra and one night less in Tbilisi due to train only leaving on odd days). After thinking about it further, the one night in Vladikavkaz would be a waste of time. If the information I've read is correct, the train arrives early in the morning so I would be better off going straight into Georgia and spending a night in Stepantsminda.

In Gori, I also plan to visit Uplistsikhe although I've heard it's a bit underwhelming, especially compared to Vardzia. However, I've found a nice family-run winery/guesthouse to stay at there so if all else is disappointing, at least that should be enjoyable.

In regards to Abkhazia, you're probably right that three days in Gagra would be too much. However, seeing Abkhazia is a big part of the trip for me, and there are a number of things I would like to fit in (Novy Afon, Akarmara, Lake Ritsa, etc.). I don't see myself going back to Abkhazia a second time (whereas it's very likely I'll be in Georgia and/or Armenia again in the next few years) so I'd rather take my time and get a feeling for the place.

Anyway, here's the new itinerary I'm thinking of ...

Day 1 — overnight train from Saint Petersburg
Day 2 — overnight train from Saint Petersburg
Day 3 — Stepantsminda
Day 4 — Tbilisi
Day 5 — day in Tbilisi, overnight train to Yerevan
Day 6 — day in Yerevan, overnight train to Tbilisi
Day 7 — Gori
Day 8 — Kutaisi
Day 9 — Sukhumi
Day 10 — Sukhumi
Day 11 — Gagra
Day 12 — Gagra
Day 13 — Sochi, flight to St. Petersburg
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