Lake Ritsa – the charming attraction of Abkhazia

Lake Ritsa

Lake Ritsa is a mountain lake of glacio-tectonic origin in the Western Caucasus, in the Gudauta region of Abkhazia. Lake Ritsa is the most popular tourist destination, one of the natural wonders of Abkhazia. It is located at an altitude of about 950 meters above sea level and is surrounded on all sides by mountains overgrown with dense forests.

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Video: Lake Ritsa

Discovery of the lake

Local hunters and shepherds knew of the lake’s existence long ago, but it was first mapped by an unknown author in 1865. In 1895 from the peak of the Atsetuk Ridge it was seen and described by the famous Russian botanist, geographer and traveler Nikolai Albov. The first scientific study of Lake Ritsa were carried out by members of the scientific expedition of the “Crimean-Caucasian Mountain Club”, led by Eugene Morozova-Popova. In 1929 an expedition of People’s Commissariat of Health of Abkhazia reached the lake, and in 1930 it first appeared in the guidebook “Abkhazian Alps”, compiled by S. Anisimov. Since then Lake Ritsa became a tourist attraction.

For travelers

Lake Ritsa is one of the places which visitors want to come back here again and again. Extraordinary beauty of the lake itself and the surrounding nature is so striking that for a long time you’ll remember these fabulous landscapes.

Lake Ritsa from the south-west

Through the picturesque gorge of the river Bzyb at a height of 1000 m above the sea level the most famous road in Abkhazia – the road to Ritsa rises. On your way you will meet other sights – the ruins of Bzyb fortress of IX-X centuries, watchtower Hasan-Abaa built approximately 700 years ago, an unusual natural “sapphire” – Blue Lake, waterfalls “Maiden tears” and “Men’s tears” about which many legends exist, and other wonderful natural wonders and ancient monuments. But the most beautiful, the most unusual, the most beautiful is undoubtedly the beauty of Ritsa.

More than 1,000 years ago part of the Przechishkha Mountain fell into the valley of the Lashingse River as a result of earth crust displacement. Being no longer able to drain, the river water began to accumulate in the resulting deep hollow, and over time has turned into this amazingly beautiful lake, almost 2000 meters long. The length of the lake is 1,704 m, the width reaches 447 m. The depth is 150 meters, but despite this the water of Ritsa is relatively warm, and in the summer it reaches a temperature of +17. +20 degrees Celsius.

The water in Ritza is so clear that it is well visible up to a depth of 8-10 meters. But the color of water varies depending on the season. The reason is that the water of Ritsa, unlike the water of Blue Lake, is “alive”. Here are found fish – brook trout, there are good microscopic algae – phyto-plankton. In addition, two rivers – Lashipse and Yupshara – flow into the lake. The water transparency of these rivers differs, which leads to a difference in the color of the water of the lake itself. In spring and summer, the surface of the lake is greenish-yellow, while in autumn and winter it is a cold rich blue color.

The large water area of the lake creates high humidity both directly on the territory of Ritsa and in the surrounding area. One can say that Lake Ritsa forms its own microclimate. The winds blowing from the Yupshar gorge to the Lashingse gorge rule here. On a particularly rainy day, over the water surface of the lake can be seen a strange phenomenon – the clouds of thunder, sailing at high speed directly over the water mirror, almost not touching the surface.

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Lake Ritsa is guarded from three sides by unassailable guards: high woody mountains with snow capped tops, which look like snow white caps sheltering the “heads” of these proud beauties from strong winds. These three mountain ranges – Pshegishkha 2222 m above sea level, Arihua (Rihwa) – 2700 m above sea level, and Atsetuk (top – Agapsta) – 3261 m above sea level. These high mountains have long been the heroes of national legends about the lake’s origin.

Local hunters have long known about the existence of a large lake high in the mountains, but it was discovered and mapped only in 1865. And before that the local residents wrote poetic legends about the mysterious lake, hidden from prying eyes by three reliable guards – high mountains.

The legend of the beautiful Ritza and her three brothers Przehigsha, Agepsta and Atsetuka

Once upon a time there was a valley with a river flowing through it. A beautiful girl named Ritsa, the only sister of the three brothers Agepsta, Atsetuk and Pshegishkha, grazed her flock in the fabulous pastures along its banks. The brothers hunted during the day and gathered around the hearth in the evenings. Ritsa was cooking dinner, and the brothers were admiring her and singing. One day the brothers went hunting in remote mountains. A day and a day passed, but they still did not come back. Ritsa, missing them, kept looking at the road and singing in her charming voice. Two forest robbers Gega and Yupshara heard her voice. Seeing the beauty, they decided to kidnap her. Yupshara seized her and galloped across the valley on his horse. The brothers heard the cries for help. They rushed after them. Pshegishkha threw a mighty sword at the brigands, but missed. The sword fell and blocked the river. The water swiftly began to flood the valley and in a moment turned it into a lake. When help came, Ritsu was emboldened, and she fought with her last strength to escape the robbers’ clinging hands, but, unable to hold her feet, she fell into the raging lake. No matter how hard the brothers tried, they could not save her sister. Ritsa was left under water. Then Pshegishkha grabbed Yupshara and threw him into the lake. But Ritsa’s waters did not accept the fiend; a violent stream carried him into the sea. Gega ran after him, but could not save his friend. Then he too joined him. And the brothers became petrified with terrible grief and turned into high mountains. To this day, they stand above the lake, guarding the peace of Ritza.

The Legend of the Hospitable Old Woman

Long time ago in a valley of the river Lashipse lived an Abkhazian tribe. People of this tribe lived simply, engaged in agriculture, went hunting and raised cattle. But most of all they were famous throughout Abkhazia for their unprecedented hospitality. The devil heard about it and decided to settle in this small mountain village to sow enmity and cause turmoil in the hearts of mountaineers. Then a prophet came down from heaven in the guise of an ordinary traveler. He went through the entire village, but no one ever invited him into their homes. And only one poor old woman welcomed him. But the old woman had nothing to offer the traveler – there were only stones in the house. She cooked the stones to comfort her hungry grandchildren. When the prophet saw this, he asked her to take the stones out of the cauldron and turn them into dumplings.

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Leaving the hospitable home, the prophet commanded the old woman: “Do not go to sleep tonight. As soon as you hear in the night the noise of the river, the roar of thunder, and the terrible rumbling, take the children out to that narrow, lighted path. Follow it and don’t turn anywhere. Then the path will lead you to a place where you can escape and settle.” The old woman did as the prophet said. And in the morning she went to see what had become of her village. The old woman came to the river gorge and saw that the village no longer existed. And in its place now sparkles a beautiful blue lake. The old woman cried out in horror, “Ritskha!” – which means “wretched, miserable” in Abkhazian.

The old woman took her grandchildren and went down with them to the seashore, where they settled down. And in memory of the unfortunate people of the drowned village she taught her grandchildren hospitality and cordiality, mutual respect and hard work.

As you know, everything beautiful always strikes with a lot of legends and mysteries. Ritsa with its indescribable landscapes is no exception. The famous Russian botanist Nikolai Albov was the first to see and describe this alpine miracle. He climbed to the top of the Atsetuk mountain, where an extraordinary view of the entire lake and the surrounding area opens up. The picture described by Albov interested scientists and geographers so much that it was decided to send an expedition to study the lake and the surrounding mountains. In 1929-1930 first the expedition of “Crimean-Caucasian mountain club” headed by famous traveler and scientist Evgeniya Morozova-Popova, and then the expedition of people’s Commissariat of Health of Abkhazia went up to the lake one after another. According to the results of their research the lake was included in the guide by S. Anisimov under the name “Abkhazian Alps”. Since then the Ritsa became one of the most often visited natural sites in Abkhazia.

Under the impression of seeing the splendor of the lake itself and the surrounding mountains, rivers and waterfalls, hundreds of songs and poems were created, dozens of paintings were written. One of the most vivid examples of the recognition of the beauty and uniqueness of Ritza is the fact that having at his disposal thousands of places in different parts of the USSR, Stalin chose just Ritza as a place to build his summer house.

And till this day stands on the shore of the lake a modest, cozy dacha… Everything here has remained unchanged, as if the Soviet leaders left these places only for a short time.

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Journey to Lake Ritza will be an unforgettable adventure. Here you can not only enjoy the picturesque scenery and the coolness of the wet mountain rivers and the lake itself, but also go on a catamaran ride, or have a bite to eat in the pacha with a beautiful view of the water and the mountains. History lovers will find a lot of interesting things for themselves, visiting the dacha of “The Leader of All Nations”.

How to get there

It is most convenient to get to Lake Ritsa from Novy Afon. Public transportation does not go here. From the city travelers are brought to the sight by tourist buses. The trip will cost about 1000 rubles per person and will include the ecological fee (350 rubles), the visit to Gegsky waterfall, Blue Lake, as well as wine and honey tastings. If you don’t want to lose time and follow the program, you can take a cab or drive yourself to Lake Ritsa. You should follow the E60 highway, when you turn left near Blaburkhva village, before you reach the bridge over Bzyb river. Then the road will go through the gorges, winding serpentine. Take the same route from Sukhum and Gagra.

From Adler and Sochi to Lake Ritsa you have to change trains, there are no direct buses. First, you must get to the border with Abkhazia by bus, minibus, train or cab, then go to Gagra, New Athos or Pitsunda, and from there – to Lake Ritsa.

Local residents and guest house owners often offer their own transportation services.

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 its attempts to hide from human eyes ended in failure – it is difficult to hide such a magnificence from inquisitive visitors, so for many years there is a trail in the West Caucasus, leading to this pearl of Abkhazian nature. What is this wondrous body of water east of Gagra, what legends cover it and how to get to the lake – this is what this article is about.

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 - the pearl 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 - the pearl 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 well 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.

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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 - the pearl of Abkhazia

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Lake Ritsa - the pearl 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.

History and legends of Lake Ritsa

Lake Ritsa - the pearl of Abkhazia

The existence of the Ritza has been known since ancient times. In the past centuries, local hunters and shepherds came to its shores to relax by the water’s edge and admire 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 water spot 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 - the pearl of Abkhazia

Lake Ritsa - the pearl of Abkhazia

Lake Ritsa - the pearl of Abkhazia

Lake Ritsa - the pearl 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, several interesting legends that explain how this natural beauty came to be are passed between them.

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!”

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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 pastures, her brothers Pshegishkhi, Atsetuk and Agepsta hunted wild animals, and in the evenings the whole family gathered around the fireplace and cooked dinner.

Lake Ritsa - the pearl 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 in 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. The brothers, on the other hand, were petrified of 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 - the pearl of Abkhazia

View of the lake from 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 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-story 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 - the pearl of Abkhazia

Going to Georgia? Write to – we will choose the best route for you. Come, and we will try to make your holidays 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 finale of the trip to the lake is a visit to the observation point on the shore, where you can get a beautiful view of the whole water surface.

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