Geography of Azerbaijan offers a wide range of landscapes from semi-dessert to Alpine tundra biomes, lowlands below the sea level up to peaks of 4466, coastal to inland ecosystems. In the very short distance and time, one can travel across natural boundaries with changing habitat. Central Azerbaijan has an arid and dry climate with lowland areas meanwhile elevations get higher towards frontiers, replacing arid zones with wet and forest zones and eventually turning into simply rocks. No matter how living conditions are difficult, people have founded villages and been living in remotes areas for centuries. Of course, roads and modern technologies have them changed, but they still carry the culture and traditions of the past. Here we list seven the remotest villages of Azerbaijan that would make you feel like travel in time back to centuries ago.
Southern regions of Azerbaijan are perhaps the most underrated destinations among the travellers. Sim village in Astara located at the border with Iran is one of them. It has been settled by Talishis, an ethnic minority with close links to Persian and language and ethnicity. The best months to visit this village are October and November. In a typical rainy day, the village is buried in fog, the roads are muddy, and colourful autumn leaves are falling on the sideways. Massive rocky hills and mountains are covered with turf and limited vision under grey fog, black earth and rotten trees exhibit as a village of dwarfs. The enjoyment of getting yourself house in deep into nature in Sim is a real treat. In addition to nature, the story has it that when Ismayil (future founder of the Safavid Empire) was still a toddler, he was hidden in Sim in an escape from his enemies. There are hiking possibilities to nearby waterfalls hidden deep into the forests full of wild fruits.
Locates in Astara. Taxis from Kijaba. Taxi fee 10azn per person.
Up to the North West, we visit Saribash in Qakh, a must to go an off-beating track in Azerbaijan. One of the highest mountain villages, Saribash stands gloriously up in the mountains 1,800 metres above sea level. The closest nearby Ilisu village (10 km distance) had been centre of Ilisu Sultanate under the suzerainty of the Safavid Empire for nearly 300 years during XVI-XVIII centuries. Local self-governance and freedom nurtured a society rich in terms of cultures, cuisine and history. People of Saribash are particularly known for their dialect of Turkish—Oghuz tribes, nature and gorgeous view of Kurmuk river valley and surhulu, local food of the region.
Locates in Qakh. Taxi from Central Bus stop to Ilisu. Taxi fee 5azn.
Completely isolated from the rest of the world, Khinalug is arguably is the highest mountain village in Europe at 2350m altitude. The experience of travelling to Khinalug from is joyful as one observes changing coastal landscape to mountains, encountering coexistence of communities of Muslim Shiites and Sunnis, and mountain Jews. Of course, you will have chances of tasty local cuisine specific to the northern regions. With little over 2000 population, the people of Khinalug is believed to be of a distinct ethnic group with their language. While doing home-stay in the villages, you can go hiking and trekking to nearby villages of Haput, Galaykhudat or Griz, or climb peaks of Gizilgaya Massive or the Mount Khinalug.
Located on Mountains at 2000m altitude and surrounded high cliffs is perfect camouflage to this hidden village called Griz. Like Khinalug people, Grizis are a distinct ethnic group with distinct language with a population of about 350. Doing home-stay with families in small, warm rooms decorated with colourful carpets and sitting next to old super-friendly charmful and cheerful grandmothers are heavenly drops on the earth. Slow-cooked home-style foods seasoned with herbs from mountains are delights of experiences you cannot get anywhere else. A must-see nature attraction of Griz is the hidden waterfall locates 3 km / one and half hour hiking distance. It is a swimming pool of dreams in summer times, but frozen in winter times turns into the fairy-house of Santa Clause. No matter when you visit the waterfall, you cannot get enough of it.
Lahij is one of the most ancient settlements in Azerbaijan. In recent years it rose to fame of tourist destination among local due to its ancient lifestyle and history of copper craftsmanship. Located on the bank of the Girdman River on the foothills of Greater Caucasus Mountains, it blends enjoyment of nature and near-perfectly preserved qualities of a medieval city, with coble-paved roads, river-stone-built houses and centuries-old sewer system and workshops of blacksmiths, a profession passed on several generations until today. The village has about 1000 population who are Persian-Tati-speaking. The ageing population adds little of nostalgia and drama to experiences in the village. The village sets excellence in terms of tourism infrastructure and services. One of the highlights of visiting Lahij would be hiking to nearby the mount of Niyaldag (2053m) for a breathtaking view of the surrounding landscape.
Locates in Ismayilli. Taxi fee 20azn per person.
Travelling to the west of Azerbaijan to the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, there is Gedabey, one of the most underrated regions of Azerbaijan. Gedabey sets a benchmark quality for the production of honey and potato, but also its long history of gold and copper mining. Qalakend village locates 13 km to the west of Gedabey. There are green round-hills, massive potato fields and the Shamkir River set beautiful natural scenery. The nearby steep-mountain cliff crowns a medieval Koroglu castle in Qalakend. From Koroglu castle, one can follow the traces of German heritage along the route of the 19th century Siemens-built railways to Gedabey town. The hiking on the railway route also accompanies viaducts and arch-bridges from the 19th century.
Locates in Gedabey. Taxis from Bazaar. Shared taxi fee 2azn per person.
Toghanali is another famous tourist destination for people of the western regions of Azerbaijan such as Ganja. Nearby the Ilkhidara River, Natural forests of the mountains with rich wild berries and nuts, and 8 lakes of Goygol National Park are wonders of the village. Breathtaking lakes of Goygol are accessible from the village. Tourism infrastructure is relatively developed with accommodation, transportation and food and beverage services inside the National Park. The best months to visit are summer months and almost all the services cease to operate in autumn and winter. Using Toganali as a base camp, you can arrange your climb to the famous Mount Kapaz. As a result of the earthquake in 1139, the broken rocks of Kapaz has caused the creation of the 19 lakes along the Agsu River.
Locates in Göygöl. Bus from Bus Station. Taxi fee 2azn per person.