Distance from Baku: 185 km
Population: 81,7 thsd person
How to get to: Auto transportation: buses Baku - Ismayilli
The Ismayilli region, located to the north of the country, was part of Caucasian Albania since IV c. B.C. Here, on the top of the highest mountain there are ruins of a medieval fortress. Its creation is associated with the name Dzhavanshir, the ruler of Caucasian Albania (VII century). Another famous historical monument in the area is the Maiden Tower (VII-XII century), fortification, located on the top of the impregnable hill. Ismayilli is rich in folk art traditions. People of Ismayilli belong to many different nations and ethnic groups. For example, the descendants of the Molokans who resettled here from Russia live in the famous in Azerbaijan village Ivanovka. The village Lahij, located at an altitude of 1,200 m above sea level, is the home for Tats, who, however, call themselves Lahij people. Known since the VII century, this small city, which is located in the mountains, up to this day is famous for its copper weapons and utensils. Basgal village is also widely known. In the Middle Ages it was one of crafts and silk spinning centers. Ismayilli is also one of the wine-making centers in Azerbaijan.
Ismayilli is a part of the historic Shirvan. This area is located in the north of the country, at the southern foot of the Great Caucasus mountains. The territory of the district as well as the whole territory of the North Azerbaijan was a part of Caucasian Albania in the VI century BC. On the left bank of the river Girdimanchay on top of the highest mountain are still the ruins of a medieval fortress, the construction of which is associated with the name of Javanshir – the ruler of Caucasian Albania (VII century). Haram tower, castle Gyrhotag, Juma mosque and wall Hireki of defensive purpose in Sulut are also of great interest. However, the most famous and important historical monument of this area is the Maiden Tower (VII-XII centuries) – a defensive structure located on the top of the steep mountain near the village Khanagah.
Ismayilli district has rich traditions of folk art. Besides the Azeries here also live other nations and ethnic groups. For example in the well known in Azerbaijan Ivanovka village live Molokan descendants resettled here from Russia. The locals are very hardworking and have retained their old culture and traditions.
And in the village of Lahij located on the bank of Girdimanchay at 1200 meters above sea level live Tats which however call themselves Lahijes. Known since the VII century this small town in the mountains is still famous by its weapon and utensils made of copper.
The village Basgal also became widely known since the Middle Ages when it was one of the centers of crafts and silkworm breeding. Until now the traditional headscarf “kyalagai” is exclusively produced in this village only.
The region is very interesting for tourists. Tourist area Maiden Tower – Shirinsu is a favorite place for picnic lovers, eco-tourism and trekking. Here runs a tributary of Goychay river – river Ah-oh.
Ismayilli is also a center of wine production in Azerbaijan and there are all opportunities for such tourism as wine tours.
Thanks to the fact that Ismayilli has very rich wildlife the hunting tourism is also prospering here.
The Alpine settlement Lahij located in Ismayilli region of Azerbaijan is an original monument of antique urban and architectural art. This medieval town with cobbled streets and squares is one of the most famous craft and trading centers in the Caucasus and beyond. It is believed that the legendary Manomakh’s cap, worn by Russian tsars for many centuries, was made here. Lahij became especially famous for manufacturing knives and copper utensils, decorated with engraved designs. Even today a dozen workshops operate here, demonstrating hereditary blacksmiths who make various household items in front of the astonished tourists. The very first residential block in Lahij was founded in III-IV centuries. It is astonishing that the water supply and sewage system, operating in the city, is about one and half thousand years old! The two km long tri-level sewer is paved under the main street, to a depth of 1 m. The upper two levels of the pipes are for the drinking water and water for industrial purposes. The lower part of the sewer is a rectangular trough lined with river stone. It is designed for wastes that come through the holes provided in the yard of every home. None of the residents know where the drainage begins and where it ends, and the principle of how it works, yet the collector has been functioning for many centuries. Now Lahij is a historical and architectural memorial protected by the state and the appearance of the settlement is preserved in its original form.
Distance from Baku: 135 km
Population: 95,3 thsd person
How to get to: Auto transportation: buses Baku – Shemakha
Shemakha is an ancient city of Azerbaijan founded in the V century BC. In XI-XVI centuries it was a capital of the kingdom of Shirvan and a residence of Shirvanshahs. Shemakha was one of the most beautiful cities in the East. From the middle of XVIII century it was the centre of Shemakhan Khanate (if you remember Pushkin’s the Queen of Shemakha).
Natural conditions of Shemakha lands attracted people since ancient times. The unique nature, mild climate and mineral springs provide this district with special beauty. The climate here is temperate. Oak, beech and hornbeam forests in the highlands, green fields and bushes, caressing eyes green meadows give these places unforgettable beauty. More than 50 species of medical herbs grow here. The rich nature in forests provides with favorable conditions for birds and animals living there, for example deer, boars, bears, wild cats.
This area attracts a lot of tourists and vacationers all the year round.
The most favorite place of pilgrimage for tourists is the settlement Pirkuli which is located at the distance of 22 km from the centre of the district at an altitude of 1400 m. There are all conditions for skiing in winter and summer riding. There are a lot of springs in the popular picturesque place called “Girkh-Bulag” (“Forty Springs”). In order to protect the beautiful nature of this region the reserve “Pirkuli” was created here with the territory of 1521 hectares occupied.
The biggest astrophysical observatory in Azerbaijan and in Caucasus is also in the village Pirkuli. Obseratory named by Nasreddin Tusi is equipped with modern facilities and with one of the largest in the CIS telescope with a mirror of 2 m by diameter.
Shemakha district is interesting not only for its rich nature but for an ancient history as well. Despite the numerous earthquakes in Shemakha there are many historical monuments still preserved: the Juma mosque with two minarets (743rd year), the mausoleum Shahihandan (XV century), the tomb of Shirvan Khans – mausoleum Yeddi Gumbez (Seven Domes) (XVIII-XIX centuries), the mausoleum “Diri-Baba” built in 1402, the ruins of the Gulistan citadel (XI-XIII centuries). The list of sights of the Shemakha can be continued.
Today Shemakha is also a recognized center of wine-making and weaving. This district is famous for fine wines produced both at the wineries and by some private farms. Table and dessert wines from Shemakha were awarded numerous medals and diplomas at international exhibitions. Tourists could meet with masters weaving famous carpets “Shirvan”, “Gobustan”, “Shemakha”, Israfil”, “Ardzhiman” in the village Jangi located in the plain part of Shemakha. Families of shepherds also knit colored wool socks decorated with national ornaments.
In a word Shemakha deserves close attention.