By Laman Ismayilova
With its warm climate and untamed, mountainous countryside, Azerbaijan is home to some of the most charming villages in the world.
To get a true taste of the essence of Azerbaijan, many travelers visit the countryside.
There are dozens of picturesque villages and small towns in the country. Each region has its own beauty.
Gusar, the country’s picturesque north region attracts a number of tourists for its natural wonders, culture and traditions of people living here.
Called “Northern Gates” due to its geographical location it is the last large settlement in the north of Azerbaijan and borders the Republic of Dagestan of the Russian Federation.
The highest point of Azerbaijan-Bazarduzu mount, highest cottage in the country - "Suvar" as well as country's largest carpet are here. The mountain river Qusarchay, in honor of which the city acquired its name, flows in Qusar. There is also an artificial lake, Fialka.
The amazing village of Laza located in the Gusar region, huddles in a picturesque valley between the mountains.
The village is populated by ethnic Lezgins -- a distinctive hospitable people, the ancestors of Leahy, whose history is linked to the Caucasian Albania - one of the oldest states in the territory of Azerbaijan. The village with the similar name is located in gorge of the river Damiraparanchaj in Gabala.
The most ancient landmark of the village is the historical mosque, located in the center of the settlement. The mosque is more than 300 years old.
Surrounded by mountains, Laza is well known for its majestic waterfalls. Competitions on climbing are held at the frozen waterfalls in winter here.
Another Lezgin village in Gusar-Sudur is the extreme settlement of the Gusar region, located on the slopes of Shahdag mountain. The road to the village lies through the slopes of the mountains above the precipice.
The traditional way of life has been preserved in Sudur. Here, tourists can buy handicrafts, familiarize themselves with the customs and traditions of the local population, with the life and folklore of the Lezgins, and see the performances of the pehlevans (heroes), held in March during the spring festival "Yaran Suvar".
The population is mainly engaged in agriculture, produces butter, cheese, honey, grows cabbage and potatoes. There is no hotel in the village, however, those who wish can always stay at the homes of local residents.
From the ancient ruins, fascinating architectural structures to diverse landscape there is an endless collection of tourist attractions in county's Guba region. Characterized by a unique natural landscape, Guba is a favorite tourist spot for its natural splendor.
The village Bum is located at an altitude of 1200 meters above sea level. It is home to over 5,000 people. The village is famous for preserving the verbal and musical folk art. The local folklore ensemble is called "Zop-Zopu", in honor of the eponymous shepherd's game. During the game, two guys depict camels and entertain their friends. One of them crouches, and the rest, read the poems, jumping through a friend, shout "Anzli." The game is accompanied by the melodies national musical instruments zurna and naghara.
There are also a number of historical monuments, such as the Kilesedag temple. It is one of the first centers of the Christian religion.
Another picturesque village of Gabala - Vandam, is located 11 km from the center. Local residents joke that the famous actor Jean-Claude Van Damme, in fact, their countryman.
There are many orchards in the village. A special place among them is occupied by a variety of apple "Gizil Ahmad", which grows only in Ismayilli and Gabala regions.
Residents of the village are engaged in making jam and preparing canned food, which are widely represented on the counters of roadside markets throughout the Gabala region. The village also has a carpet weaving and wood carving workshop where you can buy souvenirs.
There is a popular recreation zone in Azerbaijan, Duyma, where you can rent a comfortable room, filling your leisure time with fishing and horseback riding in the surrounding area.
Masalli, a unique region located in 240 km of Baku has much to offer tourists and locals.
There are many picturesque villages in the region, where you can get acquainted with the local history and traditions. You can also relax from the city bustle in the largest villages of Masalli, including Boradigyah, Erkivan, Sharafa, Banbashi, Gizilagaj, Taza Alvadi and others.
The village of Gizilagaj, located 15 km from the center of Masalli, has an ancient history.
There is a mound of the Neolithic and Eneolithic epochs known as Hazi Tepesi. In the Middle Ages, Gizilagaj was a port that maintains trade relations with other ports of the Caspian Sea. Its population went on a voyage and was engaged in fishing. The sea caravan routes, going to Gilan and Mazandaran, also ran through Gizilagaj. For many centuries, Gizilagaj played a significant role in the trade relations between Europe and the Middle East.
Another large village of Masalli - Boradigyah, which has the status of a settlement, is also called the old Masalli, since it is believed that the base of the region was laid in this village, and only then the region's center was moved to the present place.
One cannot help but mention the high-mountainous village of Shikhlar, from which a charming panorama opens up to the Vilashchay Reservoir and Masalli Regional center.
Most families in this village are engaged in beekeeping.
One of the largest high-mountain villages of Masalli is the village of Bendalan. The most delicious barberry of the Talysh Mountains grows here. Dried ground barberry is widely used in the Azerbaijani cuisine as a seasoning for meat and fish dishes.
Erkivan village in Masalli is remarkable for being the record holder in Azerbaijan for the population density per square kilometer. In addition, this village is famous for its numerous springs, the total number of which exceeds 37.
Shamkir is a region with a great history. Back in 1819, immigrants from Wurttemberg, escaping revolt from the Napoleonic wars, came to Azerbaijan and established two colonies, which they called Yelenendorf and Annendorf (now Goygol and Shamkir cities).
The favorable climate, pristine nature, rich cultural and historical heritage open a whole range of opportunities to its visitors.
The village of Chinarli is located 15 km south of the city of Shamkir. It is known that it was founded by German colonists who came from Swabia, in 1888 and earlier it was called Georgsfeld.
As a legacy of Swabians, a magnificent old park was created at an area of 5 hectares.
A special charm is given to the park by dense vegetation. It's enhanced by the species composition of the flora: along with huge cypresses and pines, fan-shaped palm, a rare Indian walnut and bamboo grow here.
For centuries, Shamakhi was one of Azerbaijan's most prominent cities, an important cultural and trading centre and the royal seat of the Shirvanshahs (the 9th to 18th centuries). Furthermore, it is known as the root of Azerbaijani literature.
Today, the city is well known for wine-making and carpet weaving.
The ancient mountain village of Demirchi has existed since the time of the Caucasian Albania.
Previously, the prevailing occupation of the local population was blacksmithing, which is why the village got its name. For a thousand years, this village was strategically important, since there were forged weapons, horse horseshoes, carts, etc.
There is a sewerage system, laid out of stone, which still operates. Until recently, Demirchi was engaged in carpet weaving. There are still craftsmen here who are able to forge a sword and a horse to shoe. One of them is a hereditary blacksmith Agaguseyn Huseynov, a tat by nationality.
Together with his sons Agaguseyn works in his own small workshop, where they produce horseshoes, knives, cutters and traditional hand grinders. They also engrave inscriptions on metal dishes and other items.
Demirchi always warmly welcomes its guests. Here you will be given tea and familiarized with blacksmith's craft.
There are hundreds of other beautiful villages that you must explore on your next trip to Azerbaijan.
Laman Ismayilova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Lam_Ismayilova
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