The Kodor is one of the two largest rivers of Abkhazia along with the Bzyb. It is formed by the joining of the rivers Sak'en and Gwandra. Kodor is first among Abkhazia's rivers with respect to average annual discharge at 144 cubic metres per second (5,100 cu ft/s) and drainage basin area at 2,051 square kilometres. It is second after the Bzyb with respect to length at 105 kilometres (65 mi) when combined with the Sak'en.
The valley's upper part, populated by Svans, was the only corner of the post-1993 Abkhazia, directly controlled by the central Georgian government, which since 2006 officially styles the area as Upper Abkhazia On August 12, 2008, Russo–Abkhazian forces gained control of the Upper Kodori Valley, previously controlled by Georgia.
The Upper Kodori Valley lies in the upper reaches of the Kodori River in northeastern portion of Abkhazia, about 65 km (40 miles) inside an official administrative boundary of the region with the rest of Georgia. It is about 30 km (20 miles) down the coast from Abkhazia's capital Sukhum. At an elevation of 1,300 to 3,984 meters, the area covers a range of landscapes from coniferous mountain forest to intermittent snow cover.
The climate is alpine and winters are snowy. Annual precipitation 1,600 to over 2,000 mm (120 mm in January, 160 mm in April, 180 mm in July and 160 mm in October). Over 30 days with heavy rains per year. Around 180 days with snow cover. Mean temperature: January: -3 C, April: 3 C, July: 14 C and October: 5 C. Mean maximum temperature in July: 28 C.
The valley is populated by several upland villages, which are Lata, Omarishara, Shkhara and Zemo Azhara. Administratively, it was de facto and de jure a part of Upper Abkhazia (prior to August 2008), but the Republic of Abkhazia claims it as part of the Gulripsh district. The Abkhazian historic regions of Dal and Tsebelda occupied most of the Kodori Valley before the incorporation of Abkhazia into Russian Empire from 1810 to 1864. Its highland communities were independent of the central authority of Shervashidze- Chachba princes. As a result of the 1866 uprising almost all the Abkhaz of these lands became muhajirs and the now depopulated territory of the former District of Tsebelda was placed under a special "settlement curator." Armenians, Georgians (Megrelians) and Russians populated the lower part of the valley, while Svans settled in its upper part (beyond the village of Lata).