In its heyday, Tskaltubo was one of the Soviet Union’s flagship spa resorts, famous for its therapeutic mineral springs and radon water therapy. The development of the sanatorium town started in the mid-1920s and by the 1980s was flourishing under the Soviet-mandated “right to rest.”
The Tskaltubo health complex consisted of 19 impressive sanatoriums and 9 bathhouses encircling and a large park. At its height, four trains from Moscow arrived in town every day carrying visitors on state-sponsored health retreats. The resort was frequented by many prominent historical figures, and there was even was a bathhouse built especially for Joseph Stalin.
Then in 1990, the Soviet Union collapsed, and soon afterward the sanatorium town was abandoned. The once-grand concrete structures were left empty to crumble and decay. However they did not remain empty for long. When war broke out in the nearby Abkhazia region in 1992, an estimated 200,000 ethnic Georgians fled from the conflict, and some 8,000 refugees were given temporary shelter in Tskaltubo’s vacant sanatoriums. Twenty-five years later, hundreds of families are still living in these grand neoclassical relics of the past.
Update as of November 2019: Sanatorium Iveria was recently sold. It’s currently undergoing renovations and is surrounded by fencing.
Know Before You Go
Today, Tskaltubo is still a functioning spa resort town. Several renovated hotels now offer traditional sanatorium services, but the evidence of the town's much grander past is lurking behind overgrown foliage all around.