The Lost Worlds of Xinaliq and Laza in Azerbaijan

Xinaliq is the highest and most remote village in Azerbaijan and Laza is an untouched rustic beauty. These villages need to be at the top of your Azerbaijan itinerary. Here’s your ultimate guide to visiting both…

Laza Azerbaijan guide
Walk for hours and hours in Laza and you won’t see a soul

The Xinaliq and Laza, Azerbaijan Guide

Thick clouds blanket the valleys, hiding them from prying eyes. Forgotten trails weave their way high into towering cliffs as rapid rivers crash beneath. Magical waterfalls pour down from mountain tops as lush green trees and vines tangle their way up. Xinaliq and Laza are locked in a bygone time; rural, detached and untouched. Walking through these villages feels like exploring a forgotten world – if you’re heading to Azerbaijan then you must visit these villages. Here’s how.

How to get to Xinaliq and Laza

Let’s assume you’re in Baku and planning your trip from there. If you don’t have your own transport and want to use buses and taxis then it’s not going to be a walk in the park. You need to get to the central bus station and find the bus heading to Quba.

Once in Quba’s bus station you will need to ask around for people heading to Xinaliq or take a taxi. The bus ride to Quba is about 2 hours and should cost £2. The drive from Quba to Xinaliq is 1 hour and can be a bit more expensive, especially if you’re not in a shared taxi.

Taking public transport to Laza will be exactly the same, except once in Quba ask around for anyone heading to Laza – it’ll be an hour as well. You can’t trek from Xinaliq to Laza. You’ll need special permits and it’s very, very unlikely and a huge pain.

Xinaliq Azerbaijan guide
The drive north is pretty spectacular and much better viewed from your own car

The best option is to take your own vehicle or rent one. We rented a car from from these guys, Karavan Rent a Car Baku in Baku. For more info on Baku car rental see our Top 10 Things to do in Baku guide here. If you have your own vehicle you can drive from Baku to Quba, onto Xinaliq and stay a night. Then drive back to Quba and north to Laza and stay there a night. Before heading back to Baku the next day.

Laza Azerbaijan guide
Driving there is much easier than walking there…

Don’t be put off by self-driving and renting! Renting a car in Azerbaijan is very easy, the drivers are good (especially compared to neighbouring countries), there’s a huge police presence so everyone drives sensibly, petrol is easy to find and cheap, rental prices are reasonable (£20 a day including insurance) and the roads are in excellent condition.

Here’s three good reasons to drive yourself:

1. The roads to Xinaliq and Laza are incredibly beautiful and you’ll want to stop every five minutes to take pictures.

Xinaliq Azerbaijan guide
It’s a beautiful and easy drive

2. You can take a 5-minute detour and drive through the Candy Cane Mountains!

Candy Canyon Azerbaijan guide
Swirly ribbons of red candy line the mountains … doesn’t taste very nice though

3. Once you arrive in Quba it’s well worth visiting the powerful Genocide memorial.

Xinaliq Azerbaijan guide
The genocide museum is free, has English information boards and is well worth a visit. You’ll need to take your passport for some reason

If you do drive, then bear in mind that the road to Xinaliq is straight forward and there’s a gravel track right at the end but otherwise it’s very easy.

Xinaliq Azerbaijan guide
It can be a little dicey overtaking a tractor on such a slim road though…

But the last 4km to Laza are very gravely and bumpy. And it’s just past a ski resort, so you won’t want to visit in winter.

Laza Azerbaijan guide
It can get very misty up there, so take it slow and don’t drive yourself in winter. You don’t need a 4-wheel drive either, we did it in a Kia Rio

XINALIQ GUIDE

Xinaliq Azerbaijan guide
The view of the mountain top village is incredible

Xinaliq is ‘by some definitions the highest and most remote village in Europe’. Whether you class Azerbaijan as Europe or not is up to you, either way, it’s incredibly remote and very high. But here’s the good news – it’s very easy to get to! Read on to find out what to do and where to stay.

Where to stay

You’ve got two options. A hotel or a homestay. The hotel is actually more of a hostel and very basic. You’ll get a private room (it’s a bit chilly), breakfast and dinner and the bathroom is shared (but inside). The hotel asks for 30 Manat a night per person, so it is pricey… but so are the homestays. As you enter the town you will see the below building on the left, it doubles up as the hotel.

Xinaliq Azerbaijan guide
The front is the local market and the back is the local ‘hotel’

If you’re heading all the way to Xinaliq you may as well experience what life is really like for these people, and there’s no better way of doing that than a homestay. And Rauf is your man. He speaks no English but has been taking in tourists for years (as proven by his very proud collection of photos tourists have posted to him over the years).

Xinaliq Azerbaijan guide
Meet Rauf - half Azerbaijani guide, half mountain goat

His homestay is very basic, the toilet is outside but the food his wife cooks is excellent. He also charges 30 Manat per person including breakfast and dinner. But he can take you on hikes to waterfalls, arrange horseback tours and so on.

If you’d like to stay with Rauf, then you can either ask someone to call him on this number or show someone this address. 

050 358 2539

Rauf Lalajev,
Ginnara, Bilar, Gilara,
Xinaliq, Quba Rayon,
Azerbaijan

If you do decide to stay with Rauf and take any photos, he would absolutely love it if you sent him a photo in the post and you can use the same address listed above to do so. 

ps. If you could show him this article and tell him we say hello that would be amazing. Thanks. 

What to do

Take your pick from horse riding, trekking, exploring the ancient village and the local museum. Take a stroll through the village and you’ll get a real feel for how these hardy folks live.

Xinaliq Azerbaijan guide
The local bath house is rather luxurious
Xinaliq Azerbaijan guide
It’s like going back 100 years in Xinaliq

Maps.Me shows the local waterfall, it’s an easy walk and hard to get lost as you can always see Xinaliq. Rauf will take you for 20 per person (try and haggle him down) but it can definitely be done on your own.

Xinaliq Azerbaijan guide
Rauf loves taking tourists to his favourite spots, including this waterfall with an incredible view and a nearby cave

There’s also the Xinaliq museum, which is basically one large room filled with old papers, photos, pots, guns, books and information. Worth a quick visit.

Xinaliq Azerbaijan guide
Although small, it’s worth checking out the local museum

LAZA GUIDE

Laza is far smaller than Xinaliq and feels even more remote. It’s surrounded by misty mountains, towering cliffs and filled with waterfalls. It’s an incredibly special place to visit and if you like exploring you’ll absolutely love it.

Laza Azerbaijan guide
It feels like walking through Jurassic Park

Where to stay

As soon as you arrive in Laza you will see a market at the entrance to the town with Laza written on the front, the market and houses behind are owned by Khalid and his son Ramid (who speaks decent English). If the market is closed just beep your horn or open the gate and walk in.

Laza Azerbaijan guide

All the houses behind the market are owned by Khalid and he can offer you your own private bungalow with inside bathroom for 40 Manat a night. He’ll also prepare breakfast for you for 3 Manat per person and bring it to you in the morning.

Laza Azerbaijan guide
This is one of the self-contained houses. They’re surprisingly fantastic inside with double beds, heaters, shower and bathrooms and a kitchenet

What to do

There are a number of incredible trails to follow in Laza, perhaps the best one is down to the dried-up river bed and then walk along it until you find the waterfalls. Just head down into the village and hook a right up a path into the hills and follow your nose. Khalid can point you in the right direction.

Laza Azerbaijan guide
Trekking through Laza is really special, the views are incredible… you’re going to love it!

There’s also the main waterfalls you’ll spot as you drive in, they’re also worth a visit and make for some fantastic pictures.

Laza Azerbaijan guide
Laza is waterfall heaven, they seem to be pouring out of every cliff face

You’ll be quite close to Dagestan and aren’t allowed to walk into it, there will be military checkpoints along the way so it’s not worth a try.

Laza Azerbaijan guide
Laza in all its mystic, rustic beauty

Tips

There’s no Wi-Fi, ATMs, banks or doctors in these villages. Go prepared with your own medications if you need them. Food and water is readily available at the markets but it’s always handy to have your own favourite snacks. Make sure you take enough money to get you there, pay for your food, accommodation and activities and get you back.

Laza Azerbaijan guide

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18 thoughts on “The Lost Worlds of Xinaliq and Laza in Azerbaijan”

  1. Hi, I was wondering if there are a footpath between Laza and Khinalig? And recon it will be possible to organize a guide? I am planning to do a back country trip for a couple of weeks in northern Azerbaijan and Georgia. Mainly Bike packing!!
    Barry van Zyl from South Africa

    Reply
    • Hi Barry, thanks for your message. There is a path between Xinaliq and Laza, but when we were there we were not allowed to go between the two as it’s too close to neighbouring Dagestan. You would most certainly need to organise a permit, which I believe can be done in Xinaliq, but have heard that is unlikely and you’d probably still be turned away by soldiers anyway.
      As we were told we couldn’t go between the two we didn’t research any further, but that isn’t to say it can’t be done. I’ve heard no reports of people going between the two so if you do find out any more information, please do leave another comment!

      Hope you enjoy your trip there and all the best.
      Andy

      Reply
  2. Beautiful images though and great info!! cant wait for this trip and to explore these mountains and remote villages.

    Reply
    • Many thanks! And yes it’s a really beautiful and rustic part of the world. You’ll love it! Cheers 😀

      Reply
    • Hey Cma! Thanks for your comment 🙂
      Ah that’s amazing that you’ve visited and stayed with Rauf as well!!! Very cool to hear and glad you had a good experience.
      Cheers!
      Andy

      Reply
    • Hi Emilio, thanks very much for your comment and we’re glad you found this article helpful!
      Apologies, I just realised I didn’t add a number or address, I’ve dug those out for you and added it to the main article.
      But to save you sifting through, here they are again.
      050 358 2539
      Rauf Lalajev,
      Ginnara, Bilar, Gilara,
      Xinaliq, Quba Rayon,
      Azerbaijan

      Normally, people just turn up and hope you’re the only tourists there (which is very likely), it’s hard to ‘book’ a place.
      Also, once you have arrived, please do let us know if his number has changed so we can amend it here.
      And if you have time, please do show him this article, we’d love for him to know it’s out there for him 🙂
      Thanks and I hope you have an amazing time over there.
      All the best,
      Andy

      Reply
  3. Hi, thanks for many useful information!

    Could you share a more specifc location of this stunning view which you described as “It feels like walking through Jurassic Park”? And where the last pic was taken?

    Greetings from Poland!

    Reply
    • Hi Thomas,
      I don’t have exact coordinates of the pictures, but don’t worry – they’re easy locations to find! Both pictures you’re referring to are in Laza.
      From memory, at the Laza guesthouse (look at the picture in this guide of a hut with ‘Laza’ written on it. The locations are behind there. I believe they are in the north and perhaps a 30 minute to an hour walk from the guest house.
      If you download Maps.Me (a free mobile app which will help you immensely on your travels) and then zoom in on Laza you will find the guest house and the waterfalls are to the east of it. These pics are more north.
      The best thing you can do though, is save the photos to your phone and when you get there, ask Manat where they are and they’ll point you in the right direction. It’s an easy walk and you should find them quite easily.
      Best of luck,
      Andy

      Reply
  4. Hey,
    Do you think it would be possible to drive on our own to laza in the winter month of january? We also have a 4 year old with us.

    Reply
    • Hi Andrea, good question, but unfortunately it’s one I don’t know the answer to as I’ve not travelled that way in January, so I wouldn’t want to advise incorrectly.
      Your best bet may be to contact the hire car company and ask if they know what the road conditions are like in winter in that region. Or, download iOverlander and look for recent reports of if anyone has gone that way in those months.
      Best of luck with your trip,
      Andy

      Reply
  5. Hi,

    Thank you for your Xinaliq and Laza blog, this is really helpful for me. I am looking for accommodation in Laza and I wonder if you have the contact number where to stayed?

    Thank a lot in advance

    Reply
    • Hi Whena, thanks for your comment. In this article we talk about where the accommodation is located and how to find it, but unfortunately there is no contact number to book anything in advance. I’m afraid it is a case of turning up and hoping for the best.
      Best of luck with your trip and I hope you have a great time!
      Cheers,

      Reply

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