NORTHWEST ROUTE: BAKU-MARAZA-SHAMAKHI-ISMAILLI-GABALA-OGHUZ-SHEKI-GAH-ZAGATALA-BALAKEN
Gobustan district is one of political provinces of our country's historical area called Shirvan. In the 8th-16th centuries one of principal states of Azerbaijan - the state of Shirvanshahs with the capital in Shamakhi was located on the territory of Shirvan. It was the longest-lived state in the history of medieval East.
Presently, Gobustan region is located to the south of Shamakhi, 101 km from Baku. The Azerbaijani word "Gobu" literally means "a hollow" which tomonimically reflects the outline of the ground: hollows, gullies and rocky canyons. With blossoming poppies, chamomiles and irises the place looks especially beautiful in spring. Climate in the region is predominantly semidesert.
Cave labyrinths (kures) located in a canyon not far off the town in the village of Sunlu, attract a great number of tourists. Here one can observe an original natural phenomenon which the locals named Aghlayan Gala, "The Tearful Rock". The legend says these are the tears of a mother mourning her fallen sons. The caves represent a large system of natural galleries and grottos, artificially expanded for habitation in The Middle Ages, at the times when Azerbaijan was an arena of civil wars and raids of foreign conquerors.
Maraza town is the administrative center of Gobustan district. It is situated on Maraza plateau, near the main roadway of the district. According to one of legends, the town's name, "Maraz", appeared when the wife of an influential man recovered from an ailment after moving to the town. There is no way of knowing if the legend is true or not. However, in the vicinity of Maraza there is a mineral spring. Water in the spring is bitter-salt but it does cure certain gastrointestinal diseases.
Famous mounds of Sheikh Duzu, remainders of old settlements dated to the 1st-8th centuries BC, situated on ancient trade roads near the present village of Dag Kolani; the mausoleum of Diri Baba (15th century) on the town's outskirts; remainders of Shah Abbas caravanserai in the very center of the town remind of the fact that the place was already inhabited in ancient times.
Since the earliest times the place has been a center of carpet production. The patterns of local carpets are known all over the world under the names of "Maraza", "Chukhanly" and "Dzhemdzhemli". Even today, "Nabur" carpets are woven in the village of the same name.
Maraza town is small, with no hotels, so for lodging one can rent a room or a private house. The hosts may take care of cooking meals of your choice.
Present Shamakhi district is the center of the ancient Shirvan, the former state of Shirvanshahs, a historical area of Azerbaijan. It is situated on southeast foothills of the Greater Caucasus. Climate is predominantly temperate with dry summers. Landscape is diverse - steppes alternate foothill meadows and forests and the higher above sea level the colder is autumn and the later melts the snow. Overall, however, the climate is mild, soil is fertile and flora and fauna are rich. There are roes, wild boars, wild cats, foxes, wolves, bears and many species of birds. Deciduous forests of hornbeams, beeches and oaks, verdure of the meadows covered in scarlet poppies in spring are a sheer eye candy. There are over 50 species of herbal plants growing in the area.
Shamakhi district is a top center of Azerbaijani winegrowing. Shamaki wines are popular not only at local markets. They have also been getting awards at international exhibitions for quite a long time. The region is attractive both to tourists and to amateur foot travelers. Those who prefer walking tours make trips from here to Guba and Ismailli. Ecotourists and simply amateur travelers are eager to see Dzhalangin forest with crabs, pear trees and cherry plum along with springs of sulfurated water in its vicinity. In mountain villages locals weave famous carpets like "Shirvan", "Shamakhi", "Israfil" and "Ardzhiman".
There are many interesting places in Shamakhi district. On the right bank of Pirsaat River there is Chukhuyurt village inhabited by molokans, migrants from Russia. The village is famous for the production of delicious sunflower oil, specially pickled vegetables, mountain honey, vegetables and fruits. In a place called Girkh Bulag ("forty springs") there are countless springs of mineral water. Located near the village of Melkhem is a famous cave, renowned for its healing properties.
In the12th century, the poet Afzaladdin Khagani, renowned in the Orient, was born in this village. In general, this area became famous for its poets, philosophers and architects including Seid Azim Shirvani, Nasimi, Sabir, Hadzhi Zeynalabdin Shirvani, Magomed Shirvani, Azim Azimzade, Abbas Sikhkhat, Gamedi Shirvani, Feleki Shirvani (the frequent use of the word "Shirvani" comes from an ancient oriental tradition according to which newly renowned persons named themselves after the place they were born in or taught by famous masters).
Located 1400 meters above sea level, near Pirgulu village is Shamakhi astrophysical observatory (SAO) n.a. Nasireddin Tusi. The first of the largest telescopes in the USSR was mounted here. In his time, the second president of Azerbaijan NAS, the scientist Yusuf Mammadaliev, a founder of Azerbaijani oil chemistry, put great efforts for the building of the observatory. The grateful scientists erected a monument in his honor. Baku schoolboys and schoolgirls always look forward a tour to the big telescope of SAO. They are especially eager to come here from snowless Baku in winter - to play with snow which melts quite late in Pirgulu. And in summer the residents set up horse rides for all comers.
Historical monuments of the region include Dzhuma Mosque (8th-19th centuries), the mausoleums of Pirmardakan (13th-14th centuries), and Shakhandan (17th century), a complex of seven mausoleums named Eddi Gumbez (18th century), remainders of the legendary fortress Kalai-Bugurt near a mountain village of the same name - the fortress looks somehow attached to a steep rock. Gulustan fortress (8th-15th centuries) where Shirvanshah Shakhrur set up a steadfast defense against Persian armies - his palace and the unique water supply system: a secret aqueduct providing water for defensive walls, stone reservoir for its storage and water tower remained within the fortress. Located on the territory of the district is the reserve of Pirgulu. It was established in 1968 and consists of three sectors covering a total area of 1521 hectares, 1362 of which are occupied by forests, 8000-2000 m above sea level. The reserve's flora includes 45 rare and endemical plant species, many of which have been included in the Red List.
Shamakhi town is the administrative center of the district. Its population exceeds 83000. It is located 120 km from Baku.
In ancient times Shamakhi (ancient names of the city include "Sharvan", "Ashshmah", "Shirvan" and "Shakh-Mah") was the capital of Shirvan - the state of Shirvanshahs, which was established in the 18th century along with other smaller states after weakening of the dynasty of Abbasids. The town has a glorious but tragic history - it has been devastated many times. And not only by invaders but also as a result of earthquakes since this is an area of high seismicity. When in 1191 Kizil Arslan of Atabeks Eldenisids dynasty seized and grounded the city Shirvanshah Ahsitan the 1st temporarily relocated the capital to Baku. However, in 1501 both Shamakhi and Baku were captured by Shah Ismail Sefevi. 37 years later Shirvan's existence as an independent state ceased and Tahmasib Sefevi founded the state of Sefevids. Afterwards Shamakhi was frequently destroyed in wars with Turkish Ottomans. Not only people were killed, architectural monuments and books were also destroyed.
However, Shamakhi residents always found strength to restore the town and their lives. Alexander Dumas who traveled across Azerbaijan wrote that the town's residents could never know would they be alive tomorrow or not. Presently, there are plenty of antique remainders around Shamakhi.
An old Soviet style hotel located at the center of the town is at the service of the town's guests. There is also an attractive and comfortable resort called "Magic World".
In the village of Pirgulu there are comfortable cottages of the "Fortuna" resort. They feature all necessary consumer services and there is a satellite television. The complex is very close to the astronomical observatory. In the local restaurant there is a broad assortment of dishes, a bar and a dance floor. Horse rides are also available.
Address: Pirgulu village,
District of Shamakhi; Baku office - 52, Bakhikhanov str.
Tel.: (994 12) 498-67-18, 441-35-50 Fax: (994 12) 498-68-31
Restaurants: "Shirvan-Gel" (on the bank of an artificial pond near the side of the road to Ismailli and Akhsu; "Zumrud" and "Gaja" that feature an excellent view over Gulustan fortress
Three of eight climate belts of Azerbaijan are represented on the territory of Ismailli district - temperate warm with dry winters, temperate warm with uniform precipitation (on lowlands) and cold with wet winters in mountains. The prevalent landscape of the region is mountainous. Local nature is very beautiful with mountains covered in forests, rocks and rivers (Girdiman, Ag-Okh, Geichai) and waterfalls (Galadzhig - 50 m, Chaigovushan - 30 m, Istisu - 25 m, Burovdal - 50 m and Mudrusa - 25 m). There are three natural lakes at the level of 3500 m near the mountain of Babadag and three artificial ones - near the villages of Kurdmashi and Ashigbairamli are not only beautiful but also provide an excellent place for fishing.
On the territory of the district there is a reserve "Ismailli" established in 1981. Its territory covers 5778 hectares. Two of its areas - Topchi and Galindzhi are located 1 km from each other. Galindzhi, established to protect chestnut oak, is located at the level of 650 m. Forests of the reserve occupy 5021 hectares and 227 hectares are occupied by alpestrine meadows. There are over 40 species of trees and bushes, 170 species of vertebrate animals - deer, mountain goats, Dagestan goat, wild boars, bears, wolves, foxes, hares etc. This region made his way to the history of Russian literature - a dastan about ashug Garib, heard by Lermontov from an ashug (a folk singer) in the local village of Tirszha formed the core of his poem "Ashug Garib".
Aside from the title nation (Azerbaijanis) the area is also inhabited by other nations and ethnical groups that have been living here since ancient times. They are Lezghins, Jews, Russians (molokans living in the village of Ivanovka), Lahidzhi (Farsi-speaking) and Khapiti (descendants of ancient Albans).
The residents of the district retained ancient traditions of crafts and applied arts. Carpet weaving (Galadzhig and Tezekend villages), production of copper embossed crockery and weapons, tannery and forging crafts, wooden and metal engraving (Lagic village, the major street of which hosts a lot of shops and workshops). National women's silk shawls kelagai with print patterns are produced in the village of Basgal.
Historical-cultural reserves have been established in Lagic and Basgal and many monuments have been taken under protection of the state, including the mosque of Bedoy Zevero (1791), Agali Mosque, Zevero spring and a mosque and bath dated to the 18th century.
Other monuments include Maiden's Tower (17th century) in Khanega village, Fitdag tower (18th century) in Sulut village and many other archeological objects. Interestingly, residents link one of legends about Alexander the Great to the tower. The great conqueror allegedly stopped here and his heralds would signal from golden horns from the top of a mountain. ("Fit" is the Azerbaijani for "a signal", "whistle").
On the top of another mountain, on the left bank of Girdiman River, near the village of Talystan there are remainders of the fortress where, according to a legend, lived Dzhavanshir - one of the rulers of Caucasian Albania (7th century). In Sulut village there are also remainders of Girkhotag fortress, Kharam tower and Khiraki defensive wall as well as Juma Mosque.
The town of Ismailli is the administrative center of the district. The population averages 74100. The town is located 185 km from Baku. Lodging is available at "Talystan" motel and in a resort named "Giz Galasy". Meals are available in restaurants "Gulustan" and "Bado" as well as in numerous cafes and shashlik houses along the major road.
Gabala district is located on the territory of Shaki-Zagatala zone, in the northwest part of Azerbaijan on the border of Dagestan and Georgia. This region has an ancient history; it was inhabited already in times the Late Stone Age. Once it was a center of Caucasian Albania and then it became a part of Shirvanshah and Sheki Khanates, in successive order. The rivers Demirparanchai, Vandamchai, Gumchai and Tikanlychai traverse the territory of the district.
The area is rich in walnut and chestnut trees.
- Located on the mountain slopes at the level of 1000 m is a famous chestnut grove.
- Chestnut woods blossoming in spring are a truly magic sight. The trees are old, with the average age of over 500 years; some of them are included in the list of natural monuments protected by the state. Here one can hunt gazelles, roes, bears, wolves, hares and other representatives of the local fauna. Here originates one of the climber routes to the tallest mountain of the republic - The Mountain of Bazarduzu (4466 above sea level).
Many monuments of history and culture have remained on the territory of the district. Their list includes a mosque of the 19th century in the village of Bum, an Albanian temple of the 4th century in Amili village, the Tower of Ustaszhan (9th century) in the village of Bayramkoha, the mosque of Gadzhi-Garib and the Albanian church Chotari in Nidzh, the mausoleums of Sheikhs Badreddin and Mansur (15th century) in Khazra village, a mausoleum of the 17th century in the village of Shefili and also "pirs" (burial places of people recognized as saint and pious persons during their lives): Shih-Baba (16th century) in Hamzelli village and Komrad on the top of Komrad Mountain.
On the mountain of Yaloylu archeologists found an ancient settlement site near the village of Nidzh. Archeological culture found here is typical for the north parts of Azerbaijan and was named "The Culture of Yaloylu Tepe". Among other findings there were weapons made of iron, wares of bronze and gold, millstones etc. The most developed crafts were woodworking (in Vandam village), pottery (in Gamarvan village), carpet weaving (in the villages of Laza and Bum). In the village of Bum there is a folk ensemble Zop-Zopa which successfully performed at various festivals abroad.
The village of Nidzh in Gabala district is a place of compact residence of Udines. This ethnic group is considered descendants of ancient Albans who managed to preserve their traditions, language, material and spiritual culture to present day.
Gabala town is the administrative center of the district. It is located on the slopes of Shahdag Mountain. This is the ancient Kabala; a town mentioned in Greek and Roman (Pliny) written sources of the 1st century. The town is approximately 2000 years old and over 600 years it was the capital of Caucasian Albania. Ancient ruins of Kabala are located close to present Gabala (15 km) between Garachai and Jourluchai rivers. The mausoleum of Imam-Baba (13th century) and Juma Mosque remained in the town. There is also a large Museum of Regional History collecting numerous archeological objects found on the territory of the district.
There is a resort called "Ay Ishigi" on the outskirts of Gabala. "Mountain tourist base" tourist facility organizes recreation in the forest, walking tours, hunts and fishing.
"Sahil" resort (covering an area of 1.5 hectares) is located on the bank of Nohur Lake, 5 km of Gabala-Baku highway. Tours to waterfalls, across the forests and to the historical monuments are available.
Address: District of Gabala
Tel: (994 50) 354-81-57, 203-13-90
Meals are available at the restaurant "Khanlar" and numerous kebab houses. In the village of Vandam there is a restaurant named "Shelale" ("A waterfall"); the name reflects the situation of the restaurant on the foothills right above the waterfall. However, it operates only in summer. In the village of Khamazli one can taste the original halvah, the recipe of which is strictly protected by local residents.
Oghuz district is located on south slopes of the Greater Caucasus in the Sheki-Zagatala zone. On the north this region is bordered by Russia. It is so beautiful that they call it Azerbaijani Switzerland. Slightly less than a half of its territory is occupied by forests. There are many waterfalls, sulfurated springs and thermal waters emerging on the surface. Fauna is represented by hares, bears, wild boars, mountain goats, pheasants, partridges, goose, the list of fish include cat-fish and trout. On the territory of the district grow many fruits, nuts and berries: apples, pears, cornels, hawthorn, cherry trees, cherry-plum, currants and raspberries.
The region retains traditional folk crafts - carpet weaving (the village of Filfilli) as well as wood and metal engraving (Bash-Dashagil village). The place was inhabited already in the Late Stone Age. At the beginning of our era its territory became a part of Caucasian Albania, and in the 13th century it was incorporated into Sheki Khanate. Archeologists found ancient settlements sites near the villages of Kerimli and Garabaldir. Among the findings there were spearheads, bronze weapons, female sculptures made stone and staves.
On the territory of the district there are many ancient monuments of history and architecture: Dashuz Bridge (19th century) across Sari-Su River near the village of Khachmaz, a mosque of the 18th century in the village of Sindzhan, a mausoleum of the 15th century in Kerimli village, three-storyed tower of the 14th century in the village of Muhas, Gabur defensive tower (7th-14th centuries) in the village of Khachmaz at the top of Galadag mountain, Gavurgala tower (7th century) located on the same mountain near Gabur tower but provided with drinking water, Surhaikhan tower (18th century) made of fluvial stone and located on the bank of Galachai river, near the village of Filfilli.
Oghuz town is the administrative center of the district. On its territory is located Jewish quarter with an ancient synagogue (1849), Albanian temple which presently hosts a local Museum of Regional Studies and one of the oldest schools operating on the territory of Azerbaijan. The school was built in 19th century (similar schools are located in the villages of Padar and Khachmaz).
There are many places for hunting and fishing starting just 15-20 outside the town. In the town and villages one can hire a guide among local residents. Tourists are advised to stop at houses of the local residents. Meals are served at the restaurants "Soyug Bulag", "Gajnana", "Shahdag", "Gobur" and "Kerimli".
Sheki region is located on picturesque slopes of the Caucasus Mountains. Numerous monuments of early medieval architecture remained in the vicinity of Sheki. They include fortresses, watch towers, churches and ruins of monasteries dated to the period of Caucasian Albania. Among the most interesting objects are the monuments in the villages of Bideiz, Bash Kungut, Orta Deizit and, of course, the church in the village of Kish (2nd-4th centuries) built by St. Elias; it is considered the earliest Christian construction on the territory of CIS. Presently, the church is being restored and reorganized into a museum.
The town of Sheki is the major town of Sheki-Zagatala region, one of the most ancient and beautiful towns of Azerbaijan dated back to the 1st millennium BC. The town is mentioned in Arabic, Turkish, Georgian, Russian and European written sources.
Scientists maintain that the town received its name from the tribe named "saks" that inhabited the area. Sheki is located on the route of the Great Silk Road. In Ptolemy's works Sheki is mentioned under the name of Niga. Modern scientists identify it as an ancient town of Nuha. Even today older residents call the town Nuha, by the name of the village of Nuha located near Sheki village. The latter was ruined in 1772 and its residents relocated to the survived Nuha. During the spread of Christianity Sheki became one of religious centers of Albania. During Arabic-Khazar wars (7th-19th centuries) the town became an arena of military actions and conflicts. With the weakening of the Caliphate a princedom constituting a part of the Shirvanshah state was established here.
During the reign of Elkhanids (the end of 14th century) Sheki was living times of prosperity and the town became a center of an independent estate under the administration of a local regent named Sidi Ali (or Seid Ali). During the invasion of Tamerlane Sidi Ali resisted the invaders and afterwards marched with his armies to aid Nahichevan, which at that time set up a steadfast of Alindjagala fortress (1397-1398). In the 16th century Sheki ruler Dervish Mohammed was killed in battle and the town became a part of the Sefevids state.
The famous Sheki markets were a center of trade of seeds, engraved ware, and jewelry. Sheki silk was of different types - soft and opaque, thin and translucent, matted or embroidered in gold. Craftsmen of the town made a great contribution to the development of trade along the Great Silk Road. Sheki was a center of silk production of the whole Caucasus. In 1860 about 62239 poods of silk were produced in Nuha (Sheki) province. The first silkmill was constructed here in 1861 and it was one of the biggest in the world. At the international exhibition in 1862 in London Sheki silk was awarded with the gold medal.
Sheki is proud of Mirza Fatali Akhundov - a famous philosopher, writer and enlightener. Houses-museums of M.F. Akhundov and Sabit Rahman remain here, in the town. The Palace of Sheki Khans is a rare example of combination of folk architecture (wood engraving) with the traditions of Oriental palace architecture (varnished and wall paintings).
With their magnitude, the Ashaghi and Yukhary caravanserai (18th century) evidence the advancement of trade in the Middle Ages. Near Sheki, on the west bank of the Kish River remained ruins of the ancient fortress "Gelersen-Gorersen" (come and you will see); the name suggests that the defenders of the fortress were confident in its unassailability and in their determination not to let the enemies pass. In his novel "Khadzhi Murat" Leo Tolstoy made this fortress a place of action. The place has been visited by Dumas and Kempfer; N. Raevsky wrote in one of his letters "our camp is situated in the forest of pomegranates, tamarisks and plain trees…Nuha is marvelous". In 1805 Sheki Khanate became a part of Russia and ceased its existence as a khanate. In 1819 Sheki was ruled by a Tsarist commandant and by the Tsar's decree the province of Nuha was established in the region. Other attractive cultural objects of the town include the Dramatic Theater n.a. Sabit Rahman, Museum of Decorative and Applied arts and the Art Gallery.
Even today Sheki residents have not lost their original traditions and ancient lore. Silk shawls "kelagai" which are exported to the Middle Asia countries to be used there by local craftsmen for silk paintings as well as wooden chests with special, Sheki paintings are also produced here. Local jewelers make adornments, the shape of which has undergone little changes since ancient times. The art of Tekelduz (chain stitch) embroider, which was made predominantly by men in ancient times, is one of the most advanced in Sheki. The town is also known for the production of caps and musical instruments and also Shebeke (open-work wooden grates with inserts of colored glass, usually used in windows and door frames).
The original culture of Sheki includes also special cuisine, with no analogs in Azerbaijan. Unusual Sheki candies are delicate networks of sliced pastry of rice flour.
Lodging is available at "Sheki-Caravanserai" hotel. This is a modern hotel complex which can accommodate up to 75 visitors at a time. There are 38 rooms among which 8 are two-storey luxury rooms, entertainment center, disco, conference hall, winter and summer restaurants. Excursions and tours are available.
Address: 185, Akhundov av., Sheki
Tel: (994177) 4-31-72, 4-48-14,
Lodging is also available at "Sheki" hotel and in cottages of the new Olympic complex equipped with a training hall, tennis courts, indoor stadium for team sports and swimming pool, operational during the whole year.
Meals are available at restaurants "Yeddi Gozel", "Saadat", "Garabag", "Soyug Bulag" and "Markhal".
One can stay not in the town itself but nearby in the village of Kish in the resort "Markhal". Territory - 4 hectares; there are 11 rooms and the hotel can receive up to 30 visitors at a time. There are a large restaurant and a cafe. Tours and summer trips are also available.
Address: Kish village, District of Sheki.
Tel: (994177) 6-12-65, (99450) 319-40-40, 329-91-90.
The district of Gakh is located in the northwest part of the republic and is bordered by Georgia. In the south part of Gakh the climate is dry; in the center it is temperate hot, alternated by subtropical wet; in mountains it is cold, with uniform precipitations. As evident, four climate zones are represented here, on a relatively small territory. Temperature drops are significant: from -400 C at mountain tops to +400 C near Adjinour Lake.
Located on the territory of the district is the State reserve "Ilisu" (covering an area of 9.2 hectares). The main protected objects of the reserve are middle-mountainous forests (90% of the territory). There are about 300 plant species, including 90 tree and bush species, a significant number of endemic and endangered species. The mountainous forests are inhabited by bears, wild cats and jackals. In the region of Ganyg-Airichai Valley there are good places for hunt and fishing.
There are remainders of historical monuments in the region. Mounds, found by archeologists, suggest that the region was inhabited already in the Bronze Age. An example of the original culture is the bridge Ulu Kerpu, dated to the18th century. Sumgut fortress, with a mosque in its center, is located in the village of Ilisu, the former capital of a sultanate of the same name. In memories of people Sumgut remained as one of the last strongholds of the last local sultan Daniyal Bek, a brother in arms of Sheikh Shamil. The place was inhabited in very ancient times. Here archeologists found unique pitcher burials dated to the 1st century BC. Here, in Ilisu, remained a square Watch Tower, 10 meters -tall, dated to the 14th century. About the village there are many sulfurated thermal springs.
Near the village of Termechi, in forests of century-old oaks there is a grave of Khadzhi Murat, a naib (commander) of Sheikh Shamil. On his grave there is a mounted stone plate with an inscription in Arabic reading "A great martyr, Avar Hadzhi Murat Hunzah is buried here".
Remained near the village of Kum are monuments dated to the period of Caucasian Albania (fortress Sirtgala of 18th century, Kum Basilica, ruins dated to the 5th century, The Round Temple (7th century). In the village of Lekit there also remained a Temple Complex (12th century).
In the villages of Saribash and Dzhalai local craftswomen weave carpets with original patterns and sew woolen socks called jorabs. In the village of Gahbash the residents produce home-made wines.
Gakh town is the administrative center of the district. It is a small town located 500 m above sea level. It is situated on the bank of the mountain river Kurhumchai, near mountain bottoms of the Greater Caucasus. The town's name is translated as "a fortress".
Lodging is available the pension "Ilisu", however, it is located not in the town itself but 10 km away, on the bank of the mountain river Kurhumchai. The pension consists of comfortable cottages and a hotel building with high standards of service and comfort.
Tours to historical monuments are available.
Address: Ilisu Village, District of Gakh.
Tel.: (994144) 5-42-33, (99450) 328-56-15.
In the town of Gakh lodging is available at a hotel - it is a two storey building, quite comfortable. Meals are available at the restaurants "Merkez" and "Bash Gala".
Zagatala district is located on ridges of the Greater Caucasus, in the northwest part of the republic. The northeast border of the district forms the border between Azerbaijan and Russia. Landscape is mountainous and plain; climate is cold in mountains and warm on plains. There are many forests in the area; however they are mostly located in mountains and foothills. Flora is rich in various valuable species of trees - chestnut, walnut, filbert, oak, hornbeams, garagaches etc. Fauna - deer, mountain goats, wild boars, bears, wolves, hares, and many birds - pheasants, partridges, eagles, hawks, thrushes and nightingales.
In 1929 here, on the south slopes of the Great Caucasus Range was established a State Reserve "Zagatala", with the present area of 23843 hectares. It is located 650-3686 m above sea level and includes a part of not only Zagatala but also Belokani districts. Here, on the territory of the reserve there are places for tourists to rest and lodge. On the outskirts of the village of Gas there is a lot of snow in winter.
Aside of Azerbaijanis, representatives of other nations and ethnical groups: Russians, Avars, Lezghins, Tsakhurs, Tatars, Ingiloeses (a total of 20 nations) also live in the district.
Historical monuments of the regions are located in the villages remained from ancient times. Remained in the villages of Gezbarah and Galal is a mosque dated to the 18th century, in Kebeloga village - two towers (14th century), in the village of Mazih - a tower of the 12th century, in the village of Yukhary Chardakhlar - Peri-Gala fortress-grotto (5th century), in Djar village - Jingez tower (14th century), in the same village there is a museum of regional history, in Pashan village - an Albanian tower (13th century), and another Albanian tower (12th century) in the village of Ahahdere. In various villages of the district, e.g. in Aliabad and Mosul remained mosques of the 19th century.
Tourists often visit the village of Jar which is located 6 km northwest to Zagatala. It not only a beautiful nature spot; the local residents managed to preserve their original, region-specific architectural traditions and ways of life.
Zagatala town is the administrative center of the district. It is situated on the bank of Tala-Chai River, 535 m above sea level. Its population is approximately 109300 inhabitants. It is located 372 km from Baku.
This town can be considered a true resort judging by its climate and the beauty of local nature. There is a park of culture covering an area of 14 hectares, and also an interesting natural phenomenon: an 800-years old lain tree.
There is also an ancient fortress (1830). It is not only interesting as itself but also because it was the place where seamen of the rebellious battleship "Potemkin" were imprisoned. In the local park there is a monument erected in honor of one of the participants of the battleship rebellion - S. Demashko. There is also an interesting monument of Sevil Gaziyeva, an Azerbaijani, the first woman to operate a cotton-harvesting machine.
In Zagatala there is a museum of regional history with a broad collection of medieval manuscripts. In summer lodging is available in cottages of the "Lezzet" resort located in a forest near the village of Dzhar and also at the "Tala" hotel located in the village of Ashagi Tala and at the "Turgut" motel.
Meals are available at the restaurants "Lezzet", "Murad", "Gerush", "Turan" and "Tala".
Balaken district is located in the northwest part of Azerbaijan, on the south and west it is bordered by Georgia and on the north and east - by Russia.
Landscape is diverse, mountains are alternated by plains. On lowlands climate is temperate warm, with dry winters, at foothills it is temperate warm with uniform precipitation, in mountains - cold with wet winter (annual humidity averages over 40%).
There are many mountainous rivers and a beautiful lake near the Katekh Mountain, on the north the area is occupied by forests. More than a half of the territory of the Zagatala reserve belongs to the district of Balaken. The reserve was established in 1929, it extents along the south slope of the Great Caucasus Range 650-3496 m above sea level. By the character of vegetation the territory of the reserve can be divided into mountain-forest (67.4%), and mountain-meadow zones. Flora includes more than a thousand of species, with rare ones (hornbeams, aldertree, oaks, walnuts, chestnuts, acacia and over 30 species of herbal plants) Fauna is rich, of special interest is the habitat of black Caucasian grouse in the area.
On the territory of the region remained many historical and architectural monuments. Archeologists revealed a number of places identified as ancient settlement sites dated to the Early Iron Age. E.G. 2 km off Mahamallar village by the rock Gubek there is a cave named Noho with the traces of a site dated to the Early Iron Age. At the same place, near the village of Mahamallar, there is a pitcher burial (2nd-1st centuries BC), a pir and ruins of residential buildings (5th-7th centuries), a mosque (18th century), a tower (19th century) and stronghold walls.
There are also an underground reservoir and mosque dated to the 17th in the village of Gullar, mausoleum of the 14th century in Tul, temple of the 14th century in Hanifa, mosque of the 14th century in Halatala, Albanian temples in the villages of Hanifa and Mazimchai, Peri Tower (12th century) in Gullar village on the bank of Gumbez river. There are also remainders of an early medieval settlement site at the Meklakan Mountain.
Balaken town is the administrative center of the district. Population - 85300 inhabitants. It is located 394 km from Baku. There is also an interesting mosque with extraordinarily tall minaret dated to the 17th-19th centuries.
Collected in the regional museum there are articles of traditional crafts, different archeological findings suggesting that the place was already inhabited in the Late Stone Age and other items evidencing the rich history of the region. The most popular crafts include copperware, Shebeke (open-work wooden frames for windows), wooden engraving and pottery. And, of course, the original type of embroidering, rarely met in Azerbaijan, - Tekelduz ("chain stitch"): rich, fantastic patterns with silk threads against a dark background.
In Balaken there is a large town park covering an area of 7.5 hectares, to take a break after a walk in the town.
Lodging is available at the local motel and also at the hotel but it is preferable to stay in summer (due to a lack of heating systems).
Meals are available in restaurants "Katekh" and "Shabalydlyg" as well as in numerous outdoor kebab houses.
|Agdjabedi||+17 +19 °C|
|Ali-Bayramli||+17 +19 °C|
|Baku||+17 +19 °C|
|Balaken||+17 +19 °C|
|Ganja||+18 +20 °C|
|Gazakh||+20 +22 °C|
|Ismaylli||+15 +17 °C|
|Khachmaz||+19 +21 °C|
|Lenkoran||+16 +18 °C|
|Nakhchivan||+18 +20 °C|
|Sumgait||+18 +20 °C|
|Yevlakh||+18 +20 °C|