Lake Ritsa is the pearl of Abkhazia

Lake Ritsa

Ritsa is a nickname. This famous Abkhazian lake is associated with purity and beauty. Situated high in the mountains it is one of the most famous natural masterpieces of the Caucasus Mountains.

The water in the lake has a rich emerald color.

The water in the lake has a rich emerald color.

The Pearl of the Caucasus

As it should be a unique natural formation, Lake Ritsa is protected by the state. It’s situated at the altitude of 950 m in the Ritza relic national park. Its waters fill the picturesque mountain valley almost to the brim. The shores of the lake are covered with dense forest thickets. The mountains surrounding the valley are a natural decoration. As their height exceeds 3000 m, the peaks are covered with snow even in summer.

Six rivers flow into Ritza, including the Lashpsy, and one river, the Yupshara, flows out. Both of them belong to the basin of the Bzyb River, which flows into the Black Sea. It is curious that after half kilometer from the lake Yupshara “dives” under the ground and appears on the surface only after 2 km. Its length is slightly less than 13 km. It is rapids and that’s why it is in demand among swimmers.

Signature tea

Photo: Signature tea

Lake Ritsa has an elongated shape. With a length of 2.5 km, its width varies from 270 to 870 m. If you pump out its water, the resulting basin will resemble a bathtub with a flat bottom and steep walls. The depth of the lake is slightly more than 130 m, and the angle of the underwater slopes can reach 60°. Water in Ritza is cold even in summer – its temperature does not exceed +22 ° C at the hottest period. During the harsh winters the lake freezes, but the ice thickness never exceeds 5 cm. But a lot of snow falls. Sometimes the snow cover exceeds 10 meters!

A feature of Ritza is the ability to change the color of the water. In May it is green-yellow, while in winter it is blue-blue. Depending on the season, water transparency also changes greatly. In winter it reaches ten meters, but at other times of the year it does not exceed one meter. The reason for this phenomenon is the presence or absence of phytoplankton in the water of the feeding rivers. There is very little algae and there are trout in the Ritza.

Mysterious mistake

The first documentary mention of the Ritza appeared in 1865. On one of the old maps found a description of the river, which began in the lake Ritza. In fact, the lake was known from more ancient times. Hunters and shepherds stayed on its shores. Archaeologists have found the places where they stayed. It is known that in the 18th century a bandit gang settled in this area. Some hermit monks also lived there. To survive, they were growing corn.

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Lake Ritsa became a scientific fact in 1895, when from the top of the mountain Atsetuka it saw the botanist Nikolai Mikhailovich Albov. After that, the Russian Mountain and Russian Geographical Society organized several expeditions there. The research work continued until 1912. For some reason, the topographers made gross errors. The contours of Lake Ritsa were mapped incorrectly, and some of the neighboring bodies of water were even lost.

Fishermen's note

Fishermen’s note

Because of this, Ritsa has long “traveled” on the geographical maps of the Caucasus. Sometimes the lake appeared in the most unexpected places. Also, its shape was portrayed incorrectly. The mystery was that after the end of the Caucasian War in 1864, for objective reasons, the territory of Abkhazia was studied in detail by surveyors and accurately recorded on military maps. It is unclear why only Lake Ritsa escaped their attention.

The mistakes were corrected only in 1914, when the Crimean-Caucasian Mountain Club organized a special expedition. Its leader was geographer Evgenia Morozova-Popova. As a result of the work carried out by Lake Ritsa, finally, precisely rose to its place. Scientists have defined its depth. Geologists have found out how this natural body of water was formed.

The next stage of expedition works was started in 1929. The research was organized by People’s Commissariat of Health of Abkhazia. A year later, scientist S. Anisimov described Ritza in the guide “Abkhazian Alps”. So the lake became a tourist attraction. Inaccessibility hindered the development of tourism. It was a real “bear’s corner”. There was only a meteorological station where products were brought there by horses. The situation changed dramatically after the construction of the Ritza highway. This happened in 1936.

Birth of Ritza

The lake appeared about 300 years ago as a result of a natural disaster. Then, a strong earthquake collapsed part of the mountain Pshegishkha, and the debris blocked the river flowing through the valley. So a lake appeared. This event could not but be reflected in local folklore. As a result, a legend about a beautiful girl named Ritsa appeared.

In ancient times, brothers Agepst, Azetuk and Pshegishkha lived on the bank of the river. Their only sister’s name was Ritsa. The men spent all day hunting in the mountains. The girl herded sheep and cooked food. One day the brothers went very far away. While waiting for them, Ritsa sang songs on the river bank. The bandits Gega and Yupshara heard her and decided to steal the girl. Yupshara grabbed her, jumped on his horse and galloped through the valley.

The surroundings of the lake abound in waterfalls.

The vicinity of the lake abounds with waterfalls.

The loud cries of the girl were heard by her brothers who were returning from a hunt. They immediately threw themselves into pursuit. Pshegishkha was the first to gallop. He threw his sword at the outlaw, but did not hit. The sword fell and blocked the river. The water quickly filled the valley, forming a lake. At that time, Ritsa broke free from the robber’s clinging hands, but she could not hold on and fell into the lake. The girl immediately disappeared under water. She could not be saved.

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Enraged Pshegishkha lifted Yupshara high above the ground and threw the brigand into the lake. But the lake drove the villain away. The powerful current carried him to the sea. Gega tried to save his accomplice, rushed after him, but he could not withstand the rough current of water. Both of them drowned. And the three brothers became petrified with grief, turning into mountains. They still surround Lake Ritsa.

Natural masterpieces

There is no doubt that such a picturesque lake attracts tourists like a magnet. And not just tourists. On its shore was built for Stalin dacha. Later there was Brezhnev’s dacha. Now they have become tourist sites. For those wishing, excursions are organized, during which one can see the historical interiors, furniture and rare things. On the shore there is a parking lot, a pebble beach, and places for tents. The local café serves trout caught here in the lake.

The Ritza Nature Reserve, on the territory of which the lake is located, is worth mentioning as one of the attractions in the vicinity of Ritza. There are many small lakes, streams and waterfalls. The largest, Gegsky waterfall, falls from a height of 50 meters. It was here that scenes for the movies “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson”, “Sportloto-82” and “Riki-Tiki-Tawi” were filmed. There is also an unusual karst cave Cherkessky Waterfall. It is formed by the outlet of the river from the cave.

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On the way to Lake Ritsa you can see the picturesque Yupshar Canyon. In fact, this is a huge crack, the width of which in some places does not exceed 20 meters. You can see a small area surrounded by sheer cliffs, which is 400 m high, and the so-called “Stone Sack”, which is an amazing sight. The small waterfall Men’s Tears also attracts attention. At the Chabgarsky ledge, at a height of 300 m, there is an observation deck. And in 16 km from Ritza there is a famous source of mineral and medicinal water called Auadhara.

How to get there

To get to the legendary lake is quite simple. From the Black Sea coast to it the highway winds through the valleys of the rivers Bzyb, Yupshara and Gega. At all the resorts of Abkhazia visitors are offered one-day excursions. Private entrepreneurs who form small groups offer their services. Lake Ritsa is popular all year round.

Lake Ritsa – the pearl of nature of Abkhazia

Lake Ritsa

The picturesque Lake Ritsa lurks in one of the most visited and beautiful regions of Abkhazia – the Gadauta district. All his efforts to hide from human eyes ended in complete failure – it is difficult to hide such a magnificence from inquisitive visitors, so for many years there is a trail leading to the real pearl of Abkhaz nature in the West Caucasus. What is this wondrous body of water east of Gagra, what legends shroud it and how to get to the lake – this is what this article is about.

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Remember that under Georgian law Abkhazia and South Ossetia are considered occupied territories. Accordingly, by visiting these territories from the Russian side, you violate the law.

What is Lake Ritsa like?

Lake Ritsa is a natural gem of Abkhazia.

Ritsa is of glacial and tectonic origin and stretches at an altitude of 950 meters above sea level in the gorges of the rivers Yupshara and Lashipse. This water reservoir is one of those places where one wants to return again and again, because its amazing landscapes simply dazzle the imagination. The length of the lake is 2.5 km, its width varies from 270 to 870 meters, and the depth in some places reaches 131 meters. The snow-capped peaks of the mountains overhang its surface and protect the lake from the icy northern winds.

Lake Ritsa is a natural gem of Abkhazia.

The color of the water in the lake

The water in Ritza is so transparent that one can see trout, whitefish, chub and microscopic algae, which behave themselves even in winter, when the upper part of the lake is covered with a thick crown of ice. Due to the large water surface in this area is constantly high humidity, which from time to time allows tourists to admire the unusual phenomenon – thunderclouds that float over the lake, almost touching the water edge.

A single road leads to the attraction, and during the trip along it, travelers can see many other wonderful places in Abkhazia:

  • Blue Lake;
  • Khasan-Abaa watchtower; ;
  • The ruins of the ancient fortress of Bzyb, built in the X century;
  • Men’s and Maiden’s tears waterfalls.

Lake Ritsa is a natural gem of Abkhazia.

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Lake Ritsa is a natural gem of Abkhazia.

How to get to Ritza?

To get to the lake is easiest in the excursions that are offered to tourists in many towns of Abkhazia. But if you refer yourself to the special admirers of wildlife and prefer to admire its beauty alone, you can quite get to Ritza on your own. If your way is from Tbilisi, then first you need to get to Gagra or Sukhum, and then travel by car as follows:

  • From Gagra – on highway E-60 to the village Blaburkhva (distance – about 15 km), where there is a turn to Ritza. Then through the gorges for about 85 km.
  • From Sukhum – to the bridge over the river Bzyb, and then turn to the road leading to the reservoir. The distance from Sukhum is about 110 km.
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History and legends of Lake Ritsa

Lake Ritsa is a natural gem of Abkhazia.

The existence of Ritza has been known since ancient times. In the past centuries, local hunters and shepherds came to its shores to relax by the edge of the water and enjoy the magnificent views of the coast. However, on a geographical map the lake appeared only in 1865, and first described it geographer Nikolai Albov, who in 1895 visited the Caucasus and saw the sparkling in the sun spot of water from the neighboring mountain Atsetuk.

In the first half of the XX century there were many scientific expeditions to the Ritsa. First it was visited by a team of Crimean-Caucasian Club, in 1929 it was visited by representatives of Abkhaz People’s Commissariat for Health, and a year later researcher Sergei Anisimov included this natural wonder to the guide “Abkhazian Alps”. Since then, the reservoir has become a tourist attraction, the popularity of which has not subsided to this day.

Lake Ritsa is a natural gem of Abkhazia.

Lake Ritsa is a natural gem of Abkhazia.

Lake Ritsa is a natural gem of Abkhazia.

Lake Ritsa is a natural gem of Abkhazia.

According to scientific studies, Lake Ritsa appeared more than 250 thousand years ago as a result of tectonic subsidence of the valley Lashipse. But local residents have their own opinion about its origin. From generation to generation among them a few interesting legends that explain how this natural beauty came to be.

The legend of the hospitable old woman

Once upon a time, a hospitable tribe of Abkhazians lived on the Lashingshe River. An evil demon who found out about them decided to settle in their mountain village and engender enmity between them. And then a kind prophet came down from heaven, who decided to thwart the demon and prevent his attempts. However, none of the villagers invited him into their home, except one old woman, who was so poor that she could cook only bare stones for dinner.

When the prophet saw this, he turned the stones into galushkas and warned the old woman of the terrible calamity that was to occur the next night. Thanks to his warnings, the woman led her grandchildren away from the settlement, and in the morning she decided to return to see what had happened to her fellow villagers. At the site of the settlement she found a lake and exclaimed in dismay, “Ritsha!” which means “Unhappy!”

The legend of the girl Ritsa and her brothers

The story goes that in former times there was a river valley along which fertile pastures stretched instead of a lake in these parts. Every day a beautiful girl, Ritsa, came to them and brought with her a large flock of sheep. While she looked after the pasture, her brothers Pshegishkhi, Atsetuk and Agepsta hunted wild animals, and in the evenings the whole family would gather around the fire and cook dinner.

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Lake Ritsa is a natural gem of Abkhazia.

One day the brothers went hunting and did not return for a long time, and Lake Ritsa eagerly waited for them and sang songs with a charming voice. One day the bandits Yupshara and Gegha heard the marvellous singing. They were struck by the beauty of the girl and wanted to kidnap her. The brothers rushed to the rescue, and one of them hurled a hammer at the kidnappers, which plunged into the river and blocked the riverbed. In a matter of moments the water flooded the valley and turned it into a large lake.

During the battle, the girl fell into the pond and drowned. And the brothers became petrified with unbearable grief and turned into high mountain peaks. And so they stand around the lake, guarding the peace of their beloved sister.

What to see on Lake Ritsa?

Lake Ritsa is a natural gem of Abkhazia.

View of the lake from the direction of Stalin’s dacha

The lake is surrounded on all sides by the Ritsevsky relic park, full of steep cliffs, noisy streams, mountain rivers and waterfalls. Due to its magnificent views, Lake Ritsa is very popular among the tourists who come there to enjoy the marvelous nature and take pictures.

However, the lake is not only interesting for contemplation, but also for culture, because on its shores there are several iconic sights:

  • Stalin’s Dacha. One-storey building of green color is characterized by the same asceticism as its former famous owner – Joseph Vissarionovich. The structure was built in 1947. Its walls contain a guest room, three bedrooms and as many bathrooms, the interiors of which have remained unchanged to this day.
  • Khrushchev’s Dacha . After Stalin’s death, Nikita Khrushchev did not want to live in the same chambers and built his own house, which was located next to the main structure. The next Secretary General – Leonid Brezhnev – combined both buildings, so now they constitute a general architectural ensemble.

Lake Ritsa is a natural gem of Abkhazia.

Going to Georgia? Write to – we will make the best route for you. Come, and we’ll try to make your vacation unforgettable! Get free consultation by phone: +7 (495) 268-07-72 or +995 555 566 540

For additional entertainment the visitors of Lake Ritsa are offered to ride on catamarans, go fishing or try Abkhazian cuisine in the nearby cafes and restaurants. The final chord of the trip to the lake is a visit to the observation deck on the shore, where you can see the whole water surface like in the palm of your hand.

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