Although South Ossetia is not as interesting as Abkhazia, it has some spectacular mountains and is peaceful, friendly and surprisingly easy to get around. Particularly interesting are the mountain villages with their Byzantine churches, ruined towers and semi-pagan looking grave markers.
To get in, you need to email the South Ossetian administration. Contact details are on their website at www.republicofsouthossetia.org
Apply for permission from the South Ossetia Foreign Ministry about three-four weeks before your trip. Their website is www.mfa-rso.su and their email is [email protected] Accroding to a number of reports they don't actually give permission until about 5 days ahead of visit. Which resembles the procedure in Abkhazia, perhaps they simply don't want to issue permission more than a few days ahead.
They don't have an application form, instead they request to email them a scanned image of a formal signed letter requesting permission to visit and giving the dates and identification information.
You can take the bus in from Vladikavkaz bus station #1. There are five or so buses a day (from 9am to 4pm) and there are also occasional marshrutkas. At Tskhinval there are also shared taxis outside the bus station offering rides out. The bus is 200-250 Roubles (less than $10)and takes three and a half hours. The road to the border runs from Alagir, which is about 36km west of Vladikavkaz. It's a beautiful road through the gorgeous mountains of North Ossetia. The road is in great condition.
The border post is about 10km short of the tunnel. The Roka tunnel is quite a feat of Soviet engineering, at 2100m, going 3.7km through the high Caucasus, linking two continents.
Exiting Russia you can get questioned by the Russian frontier officers. The process is fairly friendly and they mostly concerned to make sure that traveler knows what he is and had somewhere to stay. Re-entering Russia is also easy and quick. They don't stamp your passport in either direction, but you do need a double entry Russian visa.
On the South Ossetian side formalities are very informal, you are just given a migration card, asked how many days want to stay and advised to register in Tskhinval.
At Tskhinval you can stay at the Hotel Alan, which is on the South side of the bus station square. It looks dilapidated and abandoned, but if you go up to the second floor, that is operational. It is a little basic, but fine for a few nights. Another hotel is - Hotel Ireston, on Teaternaya Ploschad, Ulitsa Stalina.
There isn't that much to see in Tskhinval itself. The town is still recovering from the 2008 war, with only a limited amount of reconstruction going on. The highlights are probably the cathedral and the parliament building.
The South Ossetian Tourism department has a Russian language website giving various pieces of travel information at minmol.org/ru