Hopa, once part of Georgia is now the last town on the Black Sea coast road from Istanbul. Now, it is part of Turkey, but the place names and local "feel" is still Georgian. It is the place where one of the few passable roads to the interior separates from the coast road. It is tea-growing and manufacturing country. Turkish tea is stronger than most Europeans are used to and often requires sweetening to become palatable.
Sarp is right on the border and has a magnificent hotel overlooking the sea.
This strip of coast was first settled by the Lazs. Subsequent rulers include Scythians, the Greeks of Pontus, the Roman Empire and Byzantium, followed by Sassanid Persians and Arabs in the 8th century. Turkish people moved into the area from 1068 onwards and later Sultan Selim I brought it into the Ottoman Empire during his campaign against the Crimea. There has long been a mixed population of Christians and Muslims. The area was captured by Russia following the Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878) and many people of Hopa moved westwards away from the Russian-controlled zone, and some have subsequently returned.
Hopa is best known for Sarp, the village where the Black Sea coast road crosses the border into the Georgian autonomous region of Adjara. The Georgian port of Batumi is just beyond the border, which was opened in 1989 and is bringing a new life to Hopa, previously a rural district at the end of the country. There is also a small port. With these facilities at the foot of the road leading down over the mountains from Artvin, Hopa is now becoming a centre of trade and the population of the district has grown sharply in the last decade. There are exchange bureaux and many hotels for people using the border crossing, especially truck drivers, and Hopa has a thriving sex industry, employing over 1,000 women, mainly from CIS countries.
The land climbs sharply from the coast up into the Sultan Selim Mountains, the hillsides are well watered and green with alder, chestnuts, hornbeams and other deciduous trees. The highest point is Mt Yavuz Sultan Selim at 1513m. The climate is mild and wet, although only July and August are warm enough to be called summer. There is annual snowfall in winter.
Before the border was opened the local economy was dependent on agriculture, especially tea planting. Higher up the district is still poor, animals are grazed on the mountainside.
Hopa has a mixed population of Turks who form the majority, with minorities including Laz, Georgians, Hamshenis, Posha, and Kurds.
There is currently a high rate of cancer in Hopa, attributed to fall-out from the disaster at Chernobyl, across the Black Sea from here. Between 2001-2004, cancer cases sharply increased in the Black Sea region, especially in Hopa, with 47.9% of all deaths during this time being due to cancer.