Matsesta

The famous Matsesta resort with sulfuric water springs brought Sochi the glory of the nationwide health resort. And to this day Matsesta attracts tens of thousands of travelers – not only because of their bath houses, which restore health, but also because of the natural beauty of the place; the waterfalls and tea plantations.

Sergei Bobylev / TASS

Sochi’s resort fame began with the sulphur spings found at Matsesta. Each year, the whitish water with characteristically acrid smell helps thousands of tourists and Sochi residents improve their health. The open air bath houses were first built on the bank of Matsesta river in the early 20th century. In the 1930s, when the Soviet government began active construction of sanatoriums and health resorts in Sochi, a complex of bath houses was erected here. In 1940, the Palace of Balneotherapy was opened. To this day, the visitors come over to see the two semi-circle buildings with rows of columns, united by the central building. Inside are the roomy halls, bathrooms and relaxation rooms, and the bath houses are surrounded by the park and many flower beds. You can undergo the course of treatment with “fire water,” which is the Adyghe translation of the word Matsesta, both here, and in five other balneotherapy clinics and almost 70 sanatoriums and resorts of the Greater Sochi.

This cozy nook of nature with beautiful waterfalls, a small lake, a mountain river ravine, and a shady forest is called the Zmeikovskiye Waterfalls, and you can find it at Izmailovka village. The waterfalls themselves can be found at Dikarka river. Their unusual name is either connected to the name of the river Zmeika with its serpentine riverbed (Zmeika means “little snake” in Russian), or to the name of the eponymous mountain, which is skirted by Zmeika before it joins River Matsesta. Using the wide road, which leads from the highway, you can walk or drive to the lake, located under the largest of the waterfalls. There’s a small cafe, where you can rest and taste the local cuisine. From the lake, take the narrow path up the mountain slope to get to the other waterfalls and the picturesque natural “chalices,” where you can take a swim.

Aleksandr Demianchuk/TASS
Close to Matsesta are the early twentieth-century tea gardens, where visitors can take a walk and enrol for tasting sessions.
Aleksandr Demianchuk/TASS
Twenty kilometres from Matsesta on the road leading from the sea to Semyonovka Village is Volnitsa Ethnographic Complex - an attraction which illustrates the way of life of nineteenth-century Russian frontiersmen. At Khutor Remeslennikov (Farm of Craftsmen), visitors can enjoy lessons in pottery, smith-craft, or making straw toys. Barnyard fowl and cattle live in the open-air cages of the animal farm, along with buffalo, chamois, boars, otters, eagles and pheasants. Visitors can collect their own small jar of chestnut honey from the beehive, ride a horse, paddle a boat, or hire a fishing rod and catch a carp or trout from the pond, which they can then fry on the grill themselves or give to the kitchen, where it will be smoked, fried or turned into fish soup.

From Volnitsa, picturesque paths covered with box-trees and cherry-laurel lead to a cascade of 18 waterfalls, known as Gnomiki (Dwarves), Egipetskie Piramidy (Egypt Pyramids), Konsky Khvost (Horsetail) and Usy Dyadi Styopy (Uncle Stuyopa’s Moustaches).
Artur Lebedev/ТАSS

In central Sochi, one of the more popular tours on offer is the one that takes you to Agura Falls and Eagle Rocks, and it’s available all year. Easy transport accessibility must be one of the reasons. Leading through the gorge, the manmade trail brings you to a cascade of three waterfalls, where the top one is 21 metres high, middle one, 23 metres, and bottom one, 30 metres high. There is also a small lake here, named Devil’s Basin, and a cave. When you get to the bottom fall, you can swim in its good size lake and visit the tiny café on the bank. One has to climb near-perfectly vertical rocks to get to the other two falls, but thanks to the steps carved in the rock, even a kid can do the climb. As well as hikes, there are some extreme adventures available to the more daring tourists in the Agura Gorge. For example, they do what they call “canyoning,” where the descent happens right inside the waterfalls. The river dries up during the hottest weeks of the summer, but the naked gorge does not look any less enchanting for that.

From the Agura River, a trail leads to the other local landmark, Eagle Rocks, overhanging the gorge. The view that opens up on the mountains, the sea, the dark woods and the river from the top of Eagle Rocks takes your breath away. The elation is further enhanced by the statue of Prometheus erected on the rocks. Legend has it that the rock to which the Olympian Gods chained Prometheus in punishment for stealing fire from the Gods and giving it to humans, was right here.

The Matsesta valley, more specifically, the left bank of Matsesta, has a wonderful area call the Glade of Dwarfs. It’s a place where all the rarest plants grow. The name is not purely metaphorical, though. Along a path going through the glade are wooden figures of the Sleeping Beauty – specifically, the seven dwarfs.

Matsesta Sculpture is the symbol of the town. It manifests itself as a young woman who, according to the legend, entered a cavern to gather some “fire water” to heal her father. The sculpture is on the road right before the city begins. It’s installed in a rock and it appears as if the girl is hugging the massive stone outcropping.

The rotunda was built in Matsesta in 1938. Until 1980 it was park of a seaport. After the 80s it had no real function, except aesthetic. Neglected, it was finally restored in 2014. Currently it looks just like it did more than half a century ago. The third floor houses a café with a panoramic view.