If you are in Azerbaijan anytime soon, be sure to visit Qakh. Its famed hot springs, some of the oldest temples in the Caucasus, and mouth-watering cuisine are just some of the many reasons to pay it a visit. Located 337 kilometers northwest of the capital of Baku, Qakh is a relaxing drive for those that love road trips and also accessible by train. Trains depart at night and take about nine hours to reach what are some of Azerbaijan’s most breathtaking destinations.
See: Ilisu & Hot Springs
Every region of Azerbaijan has unique attractions, and Qakh is no exception. The region is famous for Ilisu, an ancient village located at the crossroads of the rivers Kurmukchay and Agchay and 12 kilometers from the town of Qakh. While here, don’t miss the valley of the Khamamchay River. This place is considered sacred by the locals, with its many geysers and healing hot springs that attract visitors from all over the country as well as from neighboring Russia and Georgia.
Water from the springs are said to cure cancerous tumors. The only bridge that makes it possible to reach the hot springs is called Ulu Korpu, and is located just south of Ilisu. It was built in the early 18th century without a single nail, using egg yolks as an adhesive.
See: Ancient Monuments
While in Qakh you will find plenty of evidence of Azerbaijan’s long history, as a crossroads between East and West and where Turkic tribes permanently settled. A wide range of archeological monuments and burial mounds discovered in the area prove that people have been living here since the Bronze Age, or the second millennium BC. There are dozens of ancient temples, which have been built in the period of Caucasian Albania, an ancient state unrelated to the modern-day Eastern European country of the same name, which existed in the territory of Azerbaijan between the 4th century BC and 8th century AD.
Kurmukh is one of the oldest of Caucasian Albanian temples, having first been constructed between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD. Later it was rebuilt and restored several times; the last rebuilding was carried out there in the 19th century, in the period of the Russian Empire. From this time, the temple is also known as the Kurmukh Church.
Azerbaijani dishes are known for their abundant use of seasonal vegetables and greens, including eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, beets, radishes and cabbage. Meats such as lamb, beef and chicken are also part of the Azerbaijani kitchen, along with aromatic spices and herbs. Mint, coriander, dill, leek, tarragon, marjoram and thyme are widely used as well as parsley, chive, watercress and green onion.
Qakh has its own cuisine, however, that has evolved over the centuries. Due to the harsh weather, hot and high-calorie flour-based dishes are common. The most famous of them is surhullu, which is a local type of pasta. This dish is made by rolling and cutting the dough into thin, small parts, which are then kneaded until they look like flattened pasta. After being boiled in water for about five minutes, the sheets of pasta are served hot with a mutton sauce mixed with herbs and garlic. Qakh’s residents say that if you did not eat surhullu, then you did not see Qakh!
Buy: Domestic Wine
If you come to Azerbaijan and make a stop in Qakh, try not to leave without tasting some wine. Various vineyards and wineries allow visitors to sample domestically produced wine, which is also sold in bottles, made by Ingiloys – an ethnic group living in some villages of the region together with Azerbaijanis.
Almost every Ingiloy family has a vineyard that grows grapes used for producing wine. Local grape varieties ripen by late August and early September; after processing the juice is poured into clay jugs of different sizes. The smallest pitcher can hold 25 liters while the largest one up to 100. The jugs are sealed tightly to prevent air from seeping in, and are fermented for at least one year. Ingiloys open the jugs on special days, such as holidays or when they receive guests.