Written by Zoe Stephens
South Ossetia is one of the world’s newest unrecognised countries. It only gained partial independence from Georgia in 2008. This was accepted by Russia and has subsequently also been accepted by Venezuela, Nicaragua and Nauru. Heavily aided by the Russians, it has its own language, identity, and parliament.
There’s not a whole load to do here. There’s no big shopping appeal, no stunning beaches, no must-see monuments or sights… But somehow that adds to the charm of this place. By the end of this, you’ll be asking the question how you can visit. (Luckily, we’ve added that at the end too 😉 )
Why should I visit?
This is a capital city with a difference. It has a population of 30,000 people, just over half of the population of the country. It’s certainly not massive and bustling with people, but it has a surprising amount to offer!
Take a walk around the central square area, where you’ll find the old theatre and another pretty little square leading to the new national museum. Here you’ll also find the parliament building, dressed in the colours of the South Ossetian flag.
The museum is relatively new, opened in 2015. There is lots to see here, dating back more than 2000 years. Apart from the things on show, the building itself is pretty impressive, with the entrance especially being of particular interest.
Other things to do include visiting churches or the Jewish part of town.
#4 The People
South Ossetians can speak Ossetian, Russian and Georgian. However, most people will refuse to talk in Georgian and may dislike it if you do. If you can’t speak Ossetian, Russian is what you should stick to. English is basically non-existent in this land.
However! Manage to break that language barrier and you can get to speak to some of the most interesting people around. As well as South Ossetians, many Georgians who disapprove of radical nationalism still reside in villages in the country. They live in peace together and have good relations. So, travelling through South Ossetia means you have a unique opportunity to get to know two cultures at once!
Join a tour with YPT and you have the chance to spend a night in a war veteran’s home. Learn a lot from the locals who fought so recently to gain independence from Georgi, and hear their stories. Click here for more info.
South Ossetia is a very recent country, still largely unrecognised. Their history is very recent. With the conflict between Georgians lasting over 19 years, much of their Soviet past and war destruction can be seen throughout the land.
#2 Practically no tourism
This wild, isolated land is hard enough to visit. Most people haven’t even heard of it, let alone have a desire to go. This also means there is a general lack of tourist infrastructure, making it all the more untouched and authentic.
The legacy of Soviet mentality and the habit of living in war-time live on in this place stuck in the past.
#1 Incredible, untouched landscapes
There’s nothing there. You can travel for hours without passing the next village. Instead, what you have in front of you is a vast landscape of gorgeous rolling hills, mountains, rivers, lakes, and volcanoes. This is truly one of the best places on earth to get some peace and quiet, step back in time, and get back in touch with nature!
The landscape is also home to the Keli volcanic plateau. Fringed by ancient extinct volcanoes, this plateau is a unique landscape for the Caucasus. There are various small lakes are scattered across, but the 1.7km long Lake Keli stands as its major landmark.
How can I visit?
Entry through Georgia is entirely impossible, with entry only through Russia permitted. Getting a visa for South Ossetia is one of the hardest visas to get, appearing in our post about the world’s 5 most difficult visas to get.
However! Help is at hand.
Going on a tour with Young Pioneer Tours means visa worries can be put to the back of your mind. They organise everything for you, worry free!
Join on YPTs second ever tour to one of the world’s newest unrecognised countries!
- Hang out in the capital city visiting the Russian theatre, government buildings, Armenian church, Ossetian theatre, tank war monument and the local market where illegal Georgian produce is on sale.
- Stay in a local homestay in a small Ossetian village complete with home cooked food and local wine and vodka.
- Check out the South Ossetian border villages of Dmenis and Goret where the brunt of the fighting during the 90s and again in 2008 happened.
- Tour around with former soldiers to hear more about the conflict.