Waterfalls, lakes and mineral springs


Lake Kardyvach is the “heart” of the Caucasus Natural Biosphere Reserve and is located at an elevation of 1850 meters above sea level, 35 kilometers from the village of Krasnaya Polyana.

It is here that the Mzymta river finds its source, absorbing the strength of many rivers and streams along the way before flowing into the Black Sea. The lake is 500 meters long, 300 meters wide and 23 meters deep. Majestic fir and alpine birch are found nestled among granite rocks on its picturesque shores. Higher up, there are alpine flowers and even higher – eternal snow, whose reflection is cast upon the lake. Above all of them are the grey-headed peaks of Loyub Vostochny, Tsyndyshkho and Kutakheku. The area amazes with its pristine nature and wild, untouched beauty.

The lake freezes over in winter, but even in summer visitors will feel the contrast between the seasons. Some 4 kilometers higher up along a gorge, within a vast cirque strewn with glacier-polished boulders and exposed ridges of bedrock, there is Verkhny or “Upper” Lake Kardyvach (sometimes known as Maly or “Little” Kardyvach). The lake is 2472 meters above sea level and is 2 hectares in size, with chunks of ice floating along its surface. This is an area of rocks, snowfields and mountain streams, such as the Govorlivy, Ovrazhny, and Priglyadny, and is home of the Izumrudny or “Emerald” waterfall.

The best time to visit Lake Kardyvach and its surroundings is in summer and early fall when the snow in the alpine zone finally melts and the mountain lakes are freed from ice. In late September a golden autumn begins in the mountains and Lake Kardyvach, framed by colourful trees, is transformed into a real work of art.

The hike to Lake Kardyvach and its surroundings can take between 3 to 5 days, but it is better to plan on 4 or 5. During this time, visitors can sample all the most interesting sights in the Kardyvach mountain knot – lakes Verkhny Kardyvach, Sineokoye, and Utayenniye, and the Kutekheku and Loyub mountain peaks.  

The trail to Lake Kardyvach is not technically difficult and is accessible for almost any hiker.

how to get


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