Abkhazia To The World
If you feel that traveling in winter times might be expensive and you still are willing to travel in the mountains we recommend you travel to Abkhazia. This marvelous country will definitely conquer your heart with its amazing natural masterpieces.
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They say that the color of Lake Ritsa is never the same. It changes constantly. Sometimes it can be emerald. Sometimes you can find it topaz, and sometimes pale blue. This mountainous corner of the neighboring country is worth visiting not only in the high season.
Not being crowded will be a tangible plus. Everyone who has been to Abkhazia in the summer is used to seeing giant clumsy buses and queues of tourists at every turn wherever they are possible. From the entrance to the cave railway to any ticket office or toilet, there will be a huge queue.
The distance from Gagra to Ritsa is only 55 kilometers. The road here is quite good, apart from a few small sections where there are pits.
You can admire the beauty of the Bzyb River for free. But the entrance to the territory of the Ritsa Relic National Park is paid which greatly angers tourists. The fee for visiting the lake was raised by the Abkhaz Cabinet of Ministers on May 1, 2022, though it is worth seeing. You probably see the same amazing landscapes in the north of Norway or Switzerland.
It is worth stocking up on cash, there is a serious energy crisis in Abkhazia, and half of the country actually lives without electricity. It will not be possible to pay for entry with a bank card or transfer. So you will need to have enough cash with yourself. And on the Ritsa itself, even in the toilet, you will be given Wi-Fi. In order to pay for its visit by transfer, you can also pay in a cafe.
The collected money goes to the maintenance of roads and infrastructure. By the way, the investment of money is noticeable. The entire track is in perfect order, and people who clean up the garbage work on the roadsides.
The further you drive away from the sea, the more the air temperature drops. You need to take this into account and dress warmer. When it is +18 degrees in Gagra, then in the Yupsharsky canyon, where the sun’s rays almost never fall, it is only +9. Even in summer, it is cool here. This place is located at an altitude of 400 meters above sea level. When you look up at the sheer cliffs, it seems that they are falling.
Moss and ivy hang from the cornices, and live boxwood grows everywhere, which has completely died in neighboring Sochi. There is also a small market here. You can drink something hot, have a bite to eat, and go further. On the way to Ritsa, you can see the ruins of the Bzyb fortress, and the waterfalls “Maiden’s and Men’s Tears”.
The height at which the lake is located is 950 meters above sea level. It is framed by the mountains of Pshegishkhva, Atsetuk, and Agepsta, all above two thousand meters. The lake was formed about 250 years ago when part of the Pshegishkhva mountain collapsed into the Lashipse River and blocked it.
Abkhazians love beautiful legends. They pass on from generation to generation the legend that a beautiful girl Ritsa once lived in these places and had three brothers. Once they went hunting, and she sat down by the river and sang a beautiful song. The villains Gega and Yupshara heard her. When they saw her unearthly beauty, they decided to kidnap Ritsu. The brothers heard the girl’s scream, but could not catch up.
Then one of the brothers threw down his sword and blocked the river. So a lake appeared in the way of the villains, which they could not cross. The brothers threw them into the river. But Gega and Yupshara were carried away by the current into the sea. Ritsa, however, could not survive the dishonor, Ritsa threw herself into the water and drowned. The brothers turned to stone from grief and turned into rocks that still stand around the lake.
A ritual obligatory for all tourists is lunch in a cafe overlooking the lake. There are several catering facilities here. The prices are higher than on the coast, and the quality of dishes may not be ideal. In Abkhazia, you must definitely try the local dishes. The cafe on the Ritsa offers the Abkhaz Lunch set.
Two people will be quite fed up with such a dinner, but it is far from the hospitable Abkhazian feast. You can be patient and eat normally in apatskhe (Abkhaz cuisine cafe) in Gagra, where the choice is nicer, and the portions are much larger. But after all, people go to Ritsu not for food, but for the beautiful views.