In the village of Otkhara, Gudauta district there are several ancient sights: a church near the village of Zvandripsh, the ruins of temple in Otkhara and the only medieval cave monastery in Abkhazia.
The path to the foot of the rock begins at a trout farm, located on the bank of the Black River. Through the boxwood forest the path leads to the springhead of Mchishta. Due to the high humidity trees, stones and earth have overgrown with moss. Stormy cold waters of the Black River originate in the largest karst springs of the Caucasus. This sump and the underground caves of the Gagra Range attract the attention of speleologists from all over the world.
The outer wall of the rocky monastery is built of rough hewn stones. At a height of about 50 meters one can see holes of different sizes. These are the windows of numerous cells, which are impossible to reach without special climbing equipment.
The entrance to the monastery is located high above the ground, you can get there climbing up the wooden or rope ladder. The width of the accommodation in the cave is not more than 2-3 meters, the height is more than 15 meters.
It is not known the exact time of the rocky monastery’s construction, nor the exact purpose of this building. Supposed that the monastery was built in the IX-XIth centuries. On the other side of the gorge, near the trout farm, a powerful citadel was built, which in the period of the Abkhazian kingdom (VIII century) guarded the road to the North Caucasus. Thus, the ancient rocky monastery was a religious and military construction. Later the castle was settled by robbers and for a long time the locals did not dare to climb the rock. Only in the end of the XIXth century the Abkhazian prince Majara Shervashidze (Chachba), a ruler of the village Otkhara, with a few dozen of people built a bridge and he managed to get into the lower living rooms.
Scientific exploration of the Mchishta rocky monastery only began in 1958. Archaeologists with the help of alpinists got inside, explored all rooms around and found a few household items, belonging to the medieval epoch.
Nowadays the Otkhara rocky monastery is one of the most popular tourist sites. Even if you can not get inside the monks’ cells, the journey to the magical boxwood forest and the trout farm will impress you.