Azerbaijan International

Summer 2001 (9.2)
Pages 38-39

Ilisu, A Mountain Getaway

by Haver Kambaizadeh

The village of Ilisu, located at the northwest tip of Azerbaijan in the Gakh region, is a great place to visit at any time of year, especially in the summer, when it offers an escape from Baku's heat.

Left and two photos below: Rustic scenes in the area near Ilisu.

It's definitely off the beaten path - a five-hour drive from Baku. It's one of the last villages before you reach the mountain range of the Great Caucasus. There's only one other small village farther up in the mountains that the road leads to. It's called Saribash. On the other side of the mountains is Dagestan.

Ilisu's gorgeous setting of mountains, trees, rivers and waterfalls changes with the seasons. In winter the area is blanketed with snow. In spring, the hills and mountains are covered with a carpet of white snowdrops, purple "deer-flowers", violets and lots of other colorful flowers: white cherry and yellow cornel blossoms in March, pink almond in April and white apple in May. In the fall, the mountains are vibrant in yellows, reds and purples.

The village
Ilisu is home to about 2,000 Azerbaijanis. Most of the villagers are involved with raising cattle and growing wheat and nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds).

The name of this village probably comes from "Ilig Su", which means "warm water", referring to the hot springs in the area. There are open-air baths in rock pools - you can't get much more natural than that. The pools are located right under the mountain, so the water runs from the rocks directly into the baths. The minerals in the water are said to be good for rheumatism and arthritis.

The area around Ilisu has many historic monuments, including ancient Albanian Christian churches from the 4th-5th centuries. We've seen remnants of a church in the Lekit village of Gakh (on the road to Zagatala) and another one in the town of Oghuz.

Ilisu was once a center of the Ilisu Sultanate, established during the second half of the 16th century. In 1844 the last ruler of Ilisu, Sultan Daniyal, joined Shamil in his ill-fated fight against Russia. Shamil was the leader of the liberation movement in Dagestan and Chechnya and fought against the Russian invasion. A grave of one of Shamil's friends, Haji Murat, is located in Gakh.

You can still see the forts that were built to protect the region against Russian occupation in the early 19th century, as well as some Russian military bastions that were built as their military forces progressed into Azerbaijan.

If you want to explore in the mountains, you'll need a four-wheel-drive (or a horse). It's easy to find somebody in Ilisu to give you a ride on a UAZ-469 (old Soviet four-wheel-drive).

Above: The village of Ilisu, located at the northwest tip of Azerbaijan in the Gakh region.


Left and bottom: The area around Ilisu is very historic, with ruins of ancient Albanian Christian churches, 19th-century forts and Russian military bastions.

A good place to stay in the area is the "Ilisu" guesthouse, built in 1999. It has several separate houses in the apple garden overlooking the river, each with its own living room, bedroom and bath, with water coming directly from the spring. Meals are served in the cafeteria three times a day, with fresh milk, gaymag (fresh cream), honey and eggs for breakfast, a three-course lunch and dinner plus a snack in the afternoon. Tea is served under the trees all day long. The price is 60,000-70,000 manats per person per day (including food).

It's also possible to rent a room in one of the houses in the village, which would be considerably cheaper. Many villagers rent out rooms, especially during the summer. You'll find the villagers very friendly. They're known for stopping to greet visitors and chat for a while.

Azerbaijan International (9.2) Summer 2001.
© Azerbaijan International 2001. All rights reserved.

Back to Index AI 9.2 (Summer 2001)
AI Home
| Magazine Choice | Topics | Store | Contact us