In the spring we visited Georgia three times. As a continuation of the discovery of the Caucasus, now we invite to our readers to an Azerbaijani tour between 18 and 25 August.
Unlike in Georgia, in Azerbaijan the attractions are unevenly distributed. The most beautiful places lay in the northern part of the country, on the two sides of the Caucasus. The country’s central part is a large, mostly arid lowland. The other most beautiful region, Karabakh cannot be approached from Azerbaijan. The southernmost tip of the country, Lenkaran and its environs is also nice, but it is not worth a long trip from Baku and back. Thus we will do two journeys, starting from Baku and returning there. In the first one we travel through the historical places along the southern foot of the Caucasus, and then we go up along the northern slopes to the mountain Jews in Quba, and to Xinaliq, the highest-lying ancient settlement of the Caucasus – places where one can hardly get individually. Here you can read our collected posts about the region, and about the Caucasus in general.
Àyi ty yormà? (Do you still remember me?) Mountain Jewish song, from the collection of the Jewish Music Center (Jerusalem, Hebrew University), in Juhuri language
1. Baku – Lahic – Qabala – Nic – Oğuz
Our flight lands in Baku on 18 August in the evening. The next morning we start our tour to the South Caucasus. Crossing the plain, and arriving at the foot of the mountains, in Şamakhi the countryside suddenly turns green. Here begins the chain of historical settlements of the easternmost extension of the Caucasus. We visit Lahij, the Tat artisans’ village, the ruins of the medieval capital of the Qabala Khanate, and Niç, the last settlement of the ancient inhabitants of Azerbaijan, the Christian Udins or Albans. Our accommodation will be in Oğuz – until the expulsion of the Armenians, Vartashen –, which is, after Quba, the second most important center of the Azerbaijani Mountain Jews.
2. Oğuz – Şeki – Kiş – Qobustan – Baku
From Oğuz we continue our way to Şeki, which was one of the most important khanates until the Russian conquest, and where they well preserved the khan’s painted palace and the old town with the caravanserais. We go up to the mountain village of Kiş, whose church is considered as the most important medieval Albanian Christian shrine. From there we return to the coast on a long road, which, fortunately, is a highway, so we will relatively quickly cover it. In the afternoon we arrive to the mountain of Qobustan, where we can visit a section of the prehistoric rock paintings, and to the mud volcanoes, where the vulcanic activity, which created the Caucasus, can still be seen in operation. In the evening, dinner in Baku and a walk on the beach.
3. Baku – Quba
Heading to the north, we stop for the first time there, where the ridge of the Caucasus reaches the coastline. This is Beşbarmaq, the Five Fingers, the holy mountain and pilgrimage site of the Muslims of Azerbaijan (we will soon write about it with many pictures on the blog). We even penetrate a little bit into the Caucasus, to see the local “traditional” oil fields and the castle of Çiraq Qala. Then, after returning to the main road, we continue our journey to Quba. We will do so to arrive to the Mountain Jewish quarter before the arrival of Sabbath.
4. Quba and Tengealti
In the morning, optional participation in the morning prayer in the synagogue. Then we tour the Jewish quarter. In the afternoon, an excursion to the canyon of Tenge Alti, one of the main attractions of the region.
5. Quba – Xinaliq – Quba
On a breathtakingly beautiful road, through valleys and passes, we go up to the town of Xinaliq, lying at 2300 meters, which until recently was considered as one of the most isolated places in the world, with its five thousand years old continuous culture, and its own language and customs. After a short guided tour we discover individually the village and the surrounding area. In the late afternoon we return to Quba.
6. Quba – Suraxani Fire Temple – Baku
Starting back from Quba, we arrive in late morning to the Abşaron peninsula, where in Surakhani we visit the three thousand years old Zoroastrian fire temple. By early afternoon we arrive back to Baku, where we visit the old town, and spend our farewell dinner. The next day in the late morning we go to the airport.
Travel: to Baku and back by plane, within the country with a rented minivan. Participation fee (half of a double room): 680 euro, which includes accommodation (+ breakfast), bus and guide, single room supplement 245 euro. The relatively high fee is due to the fact that, following the oil boom, prices in Azerbaijan went up to European standards, while they almost have no tourism, so from the hotels there exists only the upper, four-star category, with corresponding prices. Add to this the costs of the visa (approx. 70 euro), which I will arrange for all of us, and the flight ticket, which should be about 350 euros from most countries of Europe through Istanbul. Application deadline: 12 July, Sunday at the usual address firstname.lastname@example.org.