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Ethnographic tour to Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan

Group: 2-10 persons

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Tats, Lezgians, Talysh, Ketş, Kryts—these are not the only small nations that populate the mountains of Azerbaijan. Their languages and dialects may be vastly different even from those used in neighboring villages. Each of the nations has preserved its distinctive culture and unique traditions. On this trip you will have the chance to spend the night on hand-woven carpets in the guest room of a stone house, eat dolma wrapped in quince leaves, take ancient trails that weave through villages, and hear ancient legends firsthand. To do all of this, we invite you up into the Azeri mountains. Each day, we will investigate new valleys, try new dishes, and meet local people. Few travellers ever get the chance to see this side of Azerbaijan.

The trip will last for a total of a week. For half of the tour we’ll be based in a cozy boutique hotel, located in the very heart of Baku amid the remnants of the old town. Each day will be spent outside of the city, visiting various attractions, but we will also take two road trips to the mountains, where we’ll spend the nights in the village houses of our friends, and stroll around enjoying the scenery.

Tour Schedule

Day 1. Arrival to Baku

We’ll meet at the airport then head to the hotel for a bit of rest. Next we’ll have a welcome lunch where you can meet your travel companions. To get to know the city we will take a leisurely walk around Old Town Baku, accompanied Fuad Akhundov, the author of several books and TV shows about Baku’s history. Few people know the Caspian capital and its history as well as Fuad. We’ll end the day with a traditional dinner at a vibrant local restaurant.

Day 2. Traveling to the Greater Caucasus Range

This is an eventful day. Following an early breakfast, we’ll drive to northern Azerbaijan to the foothills of the Greater Caucasus mountain range. We’ll be accompanied by an ethnographer guide, who will introduce us to the local residents and share a wealth of knowledge about the cultures of the small nations that live in this area. The first village on our way is Khinalug, which sits 2,200 meters above sea level. Its residents consider themselves the descendants of Noah, who were able to survive the flood in the gorges of the Caucasus. After lunch, we’ll walk along a centuries-old trail to Kalakhudat village, populated by the highlander Turki. Dinner will be a kofta soup made from a freshly slaughtered lamb. We’ll spend the night at a guesthouse with a wonderful view of the Caucasian foothills.

Day 3. Kryts Village and the Journey to Laza

In the morning we’ll continue our hike from Kalakhudat to the village of Kryts. The residents of this small village belong to a separate highland nation. We’ll rest and have lunch, then visit one of the houses to see how delicious flatbreads are made. Next we’ll hop into SUVs and drive to the northern slopes of the mountain Shahdagh, to the lands of the Lezgians. We’ll spend the night in the village of Laza, home to three dozen families. In the evening, energy levels permitting, we’ll stroll to a picturesque waterfall, then end the day with a Lezgian dinner and conversations with the locals.

Day 4. Hike to the village of Kuzun and return to Baku

After a hearty breakfast, we’ll be back on the road. To get to the next village, Kuzun, we’ll take to the trail once again, enjoying various views of the Shahdagh peak. At Kuzun we’ll enjoy a lunch of traditional Lezgian dishes, and then drive back to the capital. On the way to Baku we’ll stop for a tea ceremony with a samovar and oriental sweets. In the evening, after dinner, we’ll stroll along the seafront embankment.

Day 5. Jeep tour to Gobustan

Today we’ll visit Gobustan National Park, but we won’t take the highway as regular tourists do. Instead we’ll take back roads that are known only to park rangers. We’ll encounter all kinds of mud volcanoes—from small ones that emit slush, to giant ones with 300-meter craters. Afterwards, we’ll drive to the national park’s seashore, where one can find petroglyphs and cave drawings. After lunch we’ll drive back to Baku, where the architectural guide will give us a tour of the capital’s most striking building projects, quite a few of which were built in the last ten years.

Day 6. Trip to Lahij

Early in the morning we’ll leave for the western part of the country. Our first stop will be at Shamakhi, the former capital of the Shirvanshah khanate. We’ll visit the mausoleums of the Shirvan rulers and the Juma Mosque, and have a cup of tea at a carpet workshop. Afterwards, we’ll drive to the southern ravines of the Greater Caucasus Range, where the medieval village of Lahij is populated by hereditary craftsmen, chiselers and bladesmiths. We will walk around the village’s cobblestone streets, passing by century-old mosques. After lunch, we’ll have a master class in chiselling and meet the locals, who speak a dialect of the Tat language. Late in the evening we’ll return to Baku.

Day 7. Homeward Bound

In the morning, we’ll have time to walk around the city, buy some souvenirs and bargain at the market for local sweets. If there’s enough time, we can make a short tasting trip to a local wine farm. Finally we’ll head to the airport and fly home after an amazing adventure.

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