By Nigar Orujova
It is hot in Baku. Is not it? Now it is the time is to resume our journey around cool Azerbaijani regions. Ilisu village in Gakh is our next destination.
You may ask, what is interesting about the village? To get your answer, it is enough to imagine a shagged mountainous settlement with crystal clear air and chilly springs, historical places, amazing landscape and mouthwatering cuisine. You are right. This is just another outstanding village of Azerbaijan.
You can reach Ilisu from Gakh, one of the ancient regions with a rich history, located some 400 km northwest from the capital Baku. The mountainous village located at 1,400-1,600 meters above sea is bordering Russia near Dagestan.
Regardless of seasons, Ilisu is the best place to get rid of the stress of the big cities. Embraced by mountainous forests on all sides, the place is famous for its heavy rains and bright rainbows in spring and summer.
Actually, Ilisu is a state nature reserve that covers an area of 54,000 hectares and is home to hundreds of plants, animals and birds, some of which are included on the Red Book.
Favorable natural conditions make the place a perfect destination for mountain climbing and hiking, fishing and hunting. You can also make a tour of the neighborhoods on horseback.
Just one kilometer away from the village, you can find the picturesque Ulu waterfalls, a must-see place for anyone visiting Ilisu. Professional climbers can risk and mount Jinligala's top on the edge of an abyss, which has access only from one side.
There are hundreds of mineral water springs and deep and fast mountainous rivers there. Even the name Ilisu means the abundance of hot water springs. The sulfur-containing thermal mineral water is of therapeutic importance and many people came here especially to undergo treatment.
I hope you are healthy enough to study ancient places around the village. There are 11 registered historical monuments in Ilisu and on mountaintops, 10-meter high Sentry fortress of 14th century, the Shamil fortress and Chingala, but they are difficult to get access on during summer.
There are three Russian forts in Ilisu, one on top of the mountain and two in the village.
The emblem of the village, Sumug fortress, is a four-storey defense tower commanding a great view of the surrounding areas. The place may seem familiar to you if you have seen the Soviet and Azerbaijani action film "Don't be afraid, I am with you" because some scenes of the film were shot here.
The 17th century Great Bridge over the Kurmuk River was built when Ilisu was a capital of a sultanate. Egg-yolk was used as solidifier of the bridge and for this reason the bridge is believed to be still in usable condition.
In the center of the village, you can find a two-storey Ilisu fortress built in 19th century. Local people call it Burjgala and it is still in a decent condition and can be toured.
Another page in the history of the proud village is Ilisu's Great Mosque that was built in 1700. One of the most valuable local monuments is 4 meters high and has no minarets.
As you can see, this small village with its one single street has seen different times. It is now enjoying a calm countryside life. You can also visit nearby villages and historic places while staying here as they are all compactly located.
If you could not book a local hotels, guests house and pension before your visit, do not get upset, as locals would kindly suggest their houses to tourists, which will acquaint you with the village even more.
You could not avoid tasting local cuisine after drinking cold spring water here.
Bear in mind that there are lots of cuisines which are filling. There are 35 pasta dishes in Ilisu, greens, dairy products and honey on the tables here. You can spoil your fitness here, as the mountain air will make you hungry all the time. Nevertheless, try Surhullu and Girs, the most popular pasta dish mainly eaten in cold weather.
I hope you can visit such a nice place soon. If you have questions about the places, please feel free to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.