In Azerbaijan, there are nine national parks scattered throughout the country and characterized by high natural diversity. They are inhabited by hundreds of species of rare representatives of the fauna and flora listed in the Red Book. Unlike nature reserves, which, as a rule, do not allow tourists, National Parks are open to the public. In addition to nature conservation, they serve the purpose of environmental education of the population and the development of ecotourism.
Shahdagh National Park
The Shahdagh National Park, formed in 2006 on the expanses of the Greater Caucasus mountain range, includes the territories of the Ismayilli and Pirguli reserves, as well as partly high-alpine forested and meadow territories of the Ismayilli, Guba, Gusar, Gabala, Oghuz and Shamakhi regions. The total area of the park is 130,508.1 hectares. Thus, the Shahdagh National Park can claim to be the largest nature conservation area of Azerbaijan.
The location of the park is quite remarkable, since it is located in the border zone of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia. Many experienced tourists are inclined to believe that the nature of the Shahdagh National Park is one of the most beautiful in Azerbaijan. It is this national park that included the most powerful mountain peaks of Azerbaijan: Mount Kurvedagh, rising to 3,863 meters above sea level, Mount Bazaryurd, reaching a height of 4,126 meters, and Mount Bazarduzu, whose height is 4,466 meters. Mount Bazarduzu, which is located at the very border of Azerbaijan and Dagestan, is often called the most southerly point of Russia, however, this is an erroneous statement. The southernmost point of Russia (Dagestan) is located about 4 kilometers south of this peak. But on the territory of Azerbaijan, Mount Bazarduzu is recognized as the highest. Not long ago there were as many as 8 large glaciers on the mountain, the largest of which reached about a kilometer in length.
It is noteworthy that the name of the mountain Bazarduzu in Azerbaijani means “market square”. And this name is fully justified by the history of the region. The thing is that in the old days just east of the mountain peak, large fairs were held annually in the territory of the Shahnabad valley. Thus, Mount Bazarduzu was an excellent reference point for many traders and visitors to fairs.
Among all the massifs, the most unique is the Shahdagh mountain range, the top of which reaches 4,243 meters above sea level. This mountain has, as it were, several “floors”, represented by gentle terraces along with rocky outcrops or simply with ridges. The abundance of “steps” and granite formations make Mount Shahdag look like a modernist architectural structure. On one of the mountain terraces, tourists like to stay on vacation. People are attracted by a waterfall of almost 50 m in height. In addition to water and green carpets, stones are scattered everywhere, and the surrounding landscape is often buried in clouds of mist.
The riches of the Shahdagh National Park include 271 species of vertebrate animals, of which 108 species are included in the Red Book of Azerbaijan. Among the rare mammals in the park, there is an East Caucasian (Dagestan) tour, red deer, chamois, brown bear, common lynx, otter, bats (lesser horseshoe and long-eared bat), marten, badger, forest cat, reed cat and others. Among the birds, we can mention the Caucasian black grouse, black storks and white storks, grave eagles, red heron, goshawk, golden eagle and others.
The majestic and seemingly inaccessible Mount Shahdagh can be conquered. To do this, you need to get to the Suvar mountain tourist complex by cars, and then start climbing. To get to the top will take 3 days. You can climb there by two paths. These are the northern and southern routes developed by climbers. Despite the difficult ascent, all the way you will enjoy clean air, stunning landscapes interspersed with high-mountain lakes, picturesque canyons and pristine silence. In addition, you will see ancient bridges, caravan routes and other historical monuments that have reached our days.
The southern road leading to this peak of Azerbaijan is easier and does not require any special climbing equipment. In 1892, this route was developed by the Russian topographer and researcher of the Caucasus, Andrey Pastukhov, the first compiler of the map of this mountain range.
Mostly mountain slopes are covered with grassy vegetation with a large variety of flowering plants. In the park you can find whole fields of poppies, blooming in May.
The Yatagdere River, located between Bazaryurd and Bazarduzi, adds to the picturesqueness of the region. In general, a lot of water flows through the park, many of them are tributaries of the Shahnabat River. Nokhgel Lake is a special beauty.
Samur Yalama National Park
The Samur-Yalama national park, established in the Khachmaz region in 2013, is the youngest among the country’s parks and is of great importance for the preservation of the flora and fauna of Azerbaijan. The key tasks of its formation are the protection of the biological diversity of the region, protection and expansion of green areas. The park serves to preserve rare, endangered plant species in the wooded areas of the Caspian Sea coast, natural habitats of such fish as salmon and carp, important migration routes for migratory birds.
The national park is spread on a plot of state forest fund with an area of 11,772.45 hectares. The territory of the park includes the most valuable subtropical ecosystem in the delta of the Samur River, known as the Samur Forest. Among the plants growing here, we can mention oaks, Caucasian hornbeam, robinia, alder, poplar and others. This is the only place in Azerbaijan where forests go straight to the sea. Here is one of the most famous resort areas of the country – Nabran.
In addition to forest land, the park has other landscapes: seaside beaches, gardens, pastures, meadows and fields, steppes and semi-deserts. Valuable fish species spawn in streams, including Caspian trout.
Absheron National Park
The smallest of the parks in Azerbaijan is Absheron National Park, established in 2005 in the administrative district of Azizbayov district, on the basis of Absheron State Nature Reserve. Its area is 783 hectares. The national park is located in the southeastern part of the Absheron Peninsula, in the Shah Dili district.
The main purpose of the National Park is to ensure the protection of natural resources, the conservation of rare endangered species of flora and fauna (caspian seal, gazelle, crested duck, herring gull, mallard, etc.), environmental monitoring, and the development of ecotourism.
The territory of the park is mostly covered with sea sand. The national park is dominated by semi-desert and moderately warm climate of dry steppes. Coastal sandy plants, reed meadows, annual salt marshes are common here. Ephemera appear in early spring.
The National Park is inhabited by a gazelle, a wolf, a jackal, a wildcat, a raccoon, a fox, a badger, a hare, a mute swan, a great white heron, a coot, a marsh harrier, a green toad, a lake frog, a Caspian tortoise, a Transcaucasian agama, a golden skink, eyrenis (snake) and other animals.
In the Caspian Sea in the territory of the Absheron National Park there are many Caspian seals. This species is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the smallest seal of the world ocean.
Shirvan National Park
Shirvan National Park, established in 2003, is located on the territory of the Salyan and Neftchala regions of Azerbaijan and covers an area of 54,373.5 hectares. This is part of a specially protected area with a total area of 65,589 hectares on the southeastern plain of the Kura-Araz lowland, which also includes the Shirvan State Nature Reserve with an area of 6,232 hectares and the State Nature Reserve Bandovan with an area of 4,930 hectares.
The national park was created to preserve the most important components of the semi-desert landscape, protect gazelles listed in the Red Book of Azerbaijan, and other types of fauna characteristic of this territory. Its functions also include environmental monitoring, public environmental education, as well as the creation of conditions for the development of tourism and recreation.
A variety of terrain, vegetation and soil cover in the national park allows you to select a number of natural landscapes. About 4 thousand hectares of the territory of the Shirvan National Park occupies a water basin inhabited by bustards, swans, turaj and other migratory birds. Most of the park is occupied by saline semi-desert small hills and saline semi-desert plains. In certain areas, the clear outlines of the ancient coastal ridges and lagoons are striking. The chain of hills, which arose as a result of exposure to wind, serves as an excellent refuge for gazelles.
Gazelle (Jeyran) is considered one of the rarest mammal species in the world. Gazelles are widespread mostly in Azerbaijan, Front-, Middle and Central Asia. The territory of Azerbaijan is considered the main habitat of gazelles. However, over the past 50-60 years, the expansion of anthropogenic activities has destroyed the ecological balance of their habitats and created the threat of extinction for them.
This process has been developing since the beginning of the 20th century, as a result of the transformation of the main zones of existence of gazelles (the Mil-Garabagh, Mugan, Shirvan plains) into cultivated areas, as well as intensive poaching and lack of protective measures.
The Caspian seal, small jerboa, hare, wolf, jackal, fox, badger, forest cat, wild boar and other rare fauna also inhabit the national park.
To be continued…