Climate and Weather
Abkhazia boasts a breathtaking natural heritage, characterized by the seamless blend of the dramatic Caucasus Mountains and the serene Black Sea coast. This narrow 50-kilometer strip, stretching from the coastline to the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range, features a myriad of climate zones, transitioning from lush rainforests to eternal snow-capped peaks and glaciers.
With an average annual temperature of +15°C, Abkhazia lays claim to the mildest winters throughout the Caucasus region. Snow is a rare sight, and even in January, temperatures seldom dip below +7°C. Summertime sees averages ranging from +27 to +28°C. Notably, Gagra resort enjoys the warmest month's peak average temperature at a pleasant +24.5°C.
Rainfall across the year averages around 1400 mm, while the atmospheric humidity in the capital, Sukhum, stands at about 72%. This sunny capital receives an impressive 2238 sunshine hours annually, with the sunniest stretch in the summer (812 hours) and a more subdued sunlight duration in the winter (317 hours).
Abkhazia's Majestic Mountains and Mysterious Caves
Abkhazia's landscape is predominantly sculpted by soaring mountain ranges. To the northwest, close to the source of the Auadhara River, the Greater Caucasus mountain range rises 2,500 meters above sea level. Towards the eastern border, the mountains reach staggering altitudes of 3,500 to 4,000 meters. Topping the list is Mount Dombai-Ulgen, Abkhazia's zenith at 4,048 meters. Following in descending order of prominence are the peaks of Gvandra (3,984 m), Ertsog (3,909 m), Psysh (3,790 m), Ptysh (3,465 m), Agepsta (3,256 m), and Khimsa (3,032 m).
Abkhazia hosts 14 mountain passes within the Greater Caucasus range, each lying between altitudes of 2,300 to 3,000 meters. Many of these passes present challenging access and remain impassable for most of the year. Historically, routes like the Klukhori Pass, found on the Sukhum Military Road, and the Marukh Pass served as essential connectors to nations beyond the Greater Caucasus.
Two vast limestone massifs distinguish Abkhazian terrain: the Gagra range, crowned by Arabika at 2,656 meters, and the Bzyb range, topped by Napra at 2,684 meters. These limestone behemoths conceal some of the planet's profoundest chasms. Notably, the Krubera (also known as Voronya or Crow's) Cave plunges to a known depth of 2,080 meters. Joining this subterranean wonder are the Sarma Cave (1,543 m), V. Pantyukhin's Cave in the Gagra range (1,480 m), Snezhnaya Cave in the Bzyb range (1,370 m), and the voluminous New Athos (Novoafonskaya) Cave, boasting a cavernous space of 1.5 million cubic meters.
The Rivers and Coastal Wonders of Abkhazia
Abkhazia is adorned with mountaintops blanketed in perennial snows, covering an expansive 77 sq. km. As summer advances, these eternal snows partially melt, channeling pristine waters into Abkhazia's myriad riverbeds. The region boasts about 120 rivers, 186 idyllic mountain lakes, and 170 refreshing mineral springs. Intriguingly, despite its compact size, all of Abkhazia's rivers flow exclusively within its borders from their sources to their outlets, with the sole exception of two border rivers.
Among its renowned springs, the Auadhara mineral water stands out, originating from the lush Auadhara river valley. The hot springs of Primorskoye village in the Gudauta District and Kyndug village in the Ochamchira District are also sought-after destinations.
The Abkhazian stretch of the Black Sea coast is celebrated for its expansive pebble and sandy beaches complemented by crystalline seawaters. Spanning 210 km, this coastline offers waters teeming with life. Rich in about 60 mineral salts, the Black Sea's salinity is notably half of the Mediterranean's. It supports a vibrant marine ecosystem, housing around 250 seaweed species, 180 fish species, over 200 crustaceans, and various species of jellyfish, shrimp, crabs, and three types of dolphins — a mere snapshot of its diverse aquatic flora and fauna.
Flora of Abkhazia
Abkhazia boasts a rich tapestry of plant life with around 3,500 identified species. This includes 180 tree and shrub varieties, over 500 medicinal plants, and more than 600 relict species — vestiges from ancient epochs. Remarkably, about 400 plant species are unique to the Caucasus region, with over 100 found exclusively in Abkhazia. Some of these endemics are confined to incredibly small areas, such as the Campanula Paradoxa bellflowers in the Bzyb River Gorge and the Aquilegia Gegica columbines gracing the walls of the Gega Waterfall.
Forests envelop 466 thousand hectares, or 52% of Abkhazia's land, providing sanctuary for over 30 precious species, including the ancient yew and the Greek strawberry tree.
Fauna of Abkhazia
Abkhazia teems with life, housing 440 vertebrate species and a rich avian diversity of 277 species.
The region's lakes, streams, and stretch of the Black Sea are teeming with marine life. Notable species include the great sturgeon, common sturgeon, Black Sea salmon, Pontic shad, European plaice, Atlantic horse mackerel, and spiny dogfish, among others. Notably, Abkhazia's pristine streams serve as the spawning grounds for a significant population of Black Sea salmon. Historically, salmon and brown trout have been the primary catch for local fishermen.
Abkhazia is also situated along a vital avian migratory path on the Eurasian continent. Of the 294 bird species recorded, several are rare and endangered, such as the golden eagle, bearded vulture, cinereous vulture, peregrine falcon, great white pelican, and the majestic swan, to name a few.
Wildlife of Abkhazia
Abkhazia's rich landscape is home to a diverse range of predators. Majestic brown bears, elusive wolves, and crafty jackals roam its terrains alongside foxes, lynxes, martens, badgers, otters, and specialized species like the Caucasus subspecies of the European mink and the diminutive least weasel.
Beyond these predators, the region's lands are traversed by various ungulates: the stately red deer, nimble roe deer, and agile chamois. Additionally, wild boars are a frequent sight, marking their presence across Abkhazia.
The dark and mystic caves of Abkhazia are the refuge for around 24 bat species. The realm of invertebrates here holds its own marvels. Unique to the New Athos cave are the cave-dwelling Troglocaris shrimp and the Jeannelius ground beetle, each an enigma in its own right.
To safeguard its rich biodiversity, vast conservation zones have been delineated across Abkhazia. Notable among these are the Ritsa-Auadhara National Park and the Pskhu-Gumista and Pitsunda-Myussersky nature reserves. Collectively, these protected areas cover over 10% of Abkhazia's expanse, ranking it among the top nations globally in terms of land dedicated to conservation.