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Khinalig – picturesque and ancient village of Azerbaijan – one of the country’s top tourism destinations


Nestled at the highest level of the Great Caucasus Mountains of Azerbaijan, an hour drive along a new road from the Azerbaijani city of Guba, the village of Khinalig is well known for its unique language, architecture and traditions.

With its unique language and traditions, the picturesque village of Khinalig has preserved its centuries-old cultural and historical traditions.

The village, with a population of about 2,000, who speak the Khinalig language, is the oldest and most remote in Azerbaijan and among the highest human settlements in Europe.

This language is classified as “severely endangered” by UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger.

Dubbed as the “Island among the Mountains”, Khinalig is surrounded by mountains Gizil Gaya, Shahdagh, Tufandagh and Khinalig.

Since the slopes here in Khinalig are very steep, the houses are line tightly. So, the roof of one house is the courtyard for another one located above. The ceilings are fitted with a smoke flap, through which the locals can also visit each other. The floors and walls are covered with cozy and warm carpets such as blankets, pillows, mutakka.

Each family has its own patterns for carpets and clothing. The villagers are mainly involved with sheep breeding and weaving. Shawls woven with wool in the village are famous throughout the entire region.

Residents of Khinalig are very religious. In the pre-Islamic period, the people of Kinalig were fire-worshipers. Currently there are about ten mosques in the village, some of which are over 1000 years old.

Mosques in Khinalig look much like the houses, except that they are larger and they don’t have minarets. The Juma (Friday) mosque is the largest mosque and was renovated in 1968.

The people of Khinalig, like in other regions of Azerbaijan, pay great attention to welcoming guests. So, they are known for extending warm hospitality to those who dare to make the difficult trip.

If you want to discover one of Azerbaijan’s top ethno-tourism spots and enjoy an exciting local culture while experiencing the full majesty of the Caucasus Mountains then it is definitely worth visiting Khinalig – “Island among the Mountains”.

In 2020, the Khinalig village State Cultural-Architectural and Ethnographic Reserve was included in UNESCO’s Tentative List. The document was submitted to the organization by Azerbaijan’s National Commission for UNESCO.

In 2020, Khinalig was also included in the preliminary list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites called “medieval mountain village”.

In 2021, Azerbaijan nominated Khinalig village for the “Best Tourist Village” competition announced by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the contest that aims to discover the best examples of tourism development in rural areas, as well as to identify villages that have retained their cultural and historical heritage and also meet the modern tourism requirements.

The village of Khinalig was among the 20 villages that entered the Upgrade Programme, one of the three pillars of the “Best Tourism Villages by UNWTO” initiative as the best examples of villages embracing tourism to provide opportunity and drive sustainable development was celebrated at the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) General Assembly held on December 2, 2021, in Madrid.

About Fidan Abdullayeva