Xinaliq is a magical place. Anyone who has ever explored this spot has had a truly memorable experience for sure. Some references site Xinaliq as “Europe’s Highest Village”, a fact that could well be true, though geographically the inclusion of Azerbaijan as ‘Europe’ is slightly misleading. It’s more Middle East than Europe. Yet it’s more Central Asia than Middle East. Backpacking in Azerbaijan exposes you to places like this and has you staring out in awe. It’s one of my most under-rated travel highlights to date and I urge you all to get out to Xinaliq once you’ve got your Azerbaijan Visa.
Where is Xinaliq?
Xinaliq is in the mountains of north eastern Azerbaijan. It’s just south of the border with Russia and is situated in an area of high altitude.
What is Xinaliq?
Xinaliq is an old school Azerbaijani village. There is no shopping mall, no commercial adverts. This is a proper medieval style village. It’s the Central Asia that I dreamed about before I went backpacking in this region.
800 people live in Xinaliq, it’s a quiet village. Not a lot goes on here. It’s a place of agriculture and basic living. Apparently the numbers soar in the summer months when the weather gets hot – people who are originally from here also return to their village having made their money in Baku, the country’s rich capital.
How to get to Xinaliq
Unless you have your own transport, getting to Xinaliq will never be the easiest backpacking adventure you ever do, but we managed it OK in the end. Another fellow traveller from our hostel in Baku, Jacob was in Xinaliq just before us and gave us some tips on the route, by odd coincidence we also stayed in the same place as him in Xinaliq! Here is the route we took, from Baku.
1. Leaving Baku: After spending a few days (4 to be exact) in Baku, the nation’s capital city, we got a Marshrutky from Baku to the town of Quba. From the Main Bus Station in Baku, this costs 4Manat.
2. Baku to Quba The journey to Quba lasts around 3 hours, including a stop over.
3. Quba Quba is the best place to get to, in order to organise your transport up to Xinaliq. We got the Marshrutky out to Quba from Baku. Quba is a very peculiar village – one I haven’t seen replicated anywhere else on my travels.
On arrival in Quba we get hassled by a few drivers, but ignore them all. We eventually find the driver of a truck who is heading to Xinaliq and willing to take us for 16 Manat (8 Manat each).
There are just no other travellers at all in this region, so we have no idea if this price is good or not. We bargained down to get it for this. We had a couple of hours to kill in Quba – and walked around the market – it’s quite a funny place!
4. Quba to Xinaliq Honestly, dream it all up. This is easily one of the most spectacular journeys of my life so far for views! Onboard the rocky truck ride was the driver, Panny and I. Just three of us and our backpacks through the autumnal forest, rising up into the hills and valleys and offering tremendous views of lakes, rivers, mountains and fresh air.
The journey to Xinaliq lasted about 3 hours up bumpy, rocky roads in valleys. We stopped to savour the views and take some photos along the way.
Where to Stay in Xinaliq
OK for sure there is no hostel world or hotel booking website for this sort of place. It’s one of the most remote spots I’ve ever been to I reckon! We just played it by ear and our driver kind of knew that we would need somewhere to stay once we got to Xinaliq.
The driver will drop you off at a local family in the town who invite you for a homestay. We ended up staying with a guy called Rustam and his family! If you’re keen to get in touch, Rustam is on Facebook!
They were awesome hosts, cooking for us and offering us tea and meals 3 times a day. We originally only were going to spend one night here, but loved it – it was so remote, special and dreamy we decided to stay for 2 nights!
The price will vary of course depending on if they are busy, how many of you are there and if you want all the meals etc. There are no shops or restaurants in Xinaliq so taking the meals is a good option, unless you have brought enough food to last you a few days.
We paid 40 Manats for 2 nights for 2 people, but it was a quiet time – we were the only 2 tourists in the village and I told Rustam I love to travel and write about it, so this could well have influenced the price. It’s rude to try and pay less I think, and 50 Manats for 2 nights for 2 people would be fair enough.
So the main thing to do in Xinaliq is just get out there and explore Xinaliq and its many nooks and crannies! It’s a dreamy mountain village with some of the best views around. Here are some cool photos from dreamy magical Xinaliq!! Meet the locals, walk around, take some fruit and tea with you and enjoy it.
While touring the village I also played football with the kids. Football is truly a global game. All you need is a ball and you can play anywhere. I loved it.
Farming, agriculture and rearing and slaughtering animals is part of the lifestyle here, we got to see some lamb slaughtering. As a person who once worked in a butchery, this was nothing grotesque for me. For some it might be.
Main Sights in Xinaliq
Aside from meeting the locals, watching the farming life, admiring the views and playing football, there is a kind of “village centre” of Xinaliq. Here are the actual “sights” of the village of Xinaliq that I recommend seeing:
1. Xinaliq Post Office – One of the most remote post offices in the world!
2. Xinaliq Peak – Head up to the Azerbaijan flag which marks the peak of the village – the views are tremendous. You’re top of the town!
3. Xinaliq Mosque – Azerbaijan is a muslim state and so here you have a few Mosques, the nicest one was lower in the village near our homestay.
4. Xinaliq School – We were able to get a FULL guided tour of the school (a post for another day perhaps) of this cool Azerbaijani school!
5. Xinaliq Museum – What? There’s a museum here! Yes, it’s up in the hills and in one of the medieval style buildings.
Like the arrival, leaving Xinaliq is not entirely an easy thing. No bus stations of course so just ask your homestay hosts to arrange it for you. Our departure from Xinaliq was completely crazy!!!
We ended up sharing a tiny, old, bumpy Lada with 9 people for 3 hours through the rocky mountains. During the journey, one kid was sick and every second I thought the car was gonna konk out! It was totally crazy. After 3 hours we were back in Quba!
Here are my videos from the entire experience all the way from Baku to Quba, then from Quba to Xinaliq and exploring Xinaliq. I made a lot of videos. I was just in awe of this region. Really, really amazing place to travel to – I completely recommend Xinaliq!! Backpacking in Azerbaijan is a magnificent adventure:
Baku to Quba:
Quba to Xinaliq:
Homestay in Xinaliq:
Lamb Killing in Xinaliq:
Backpacking in Azerbaijan – the best of Xinaliq:
Tour of the School in Xinaliq, Azerbaijan:
Playing Football with Kids in Xinaliq, Azerbaijan:
18 thoughts on “Backpacking in Azerbaijan: Exploring the Mountains of Xinaliq, ‘Europe’s Highest Village’”
It looks as if the people are laid back and down to earth. Countries like this are still unspoiled by the civilized tourists, I guess.
Scariufi recently posted…Flashbacks from the American County Fairs
Absolutely right there Scariufi! A place to explore and love the nature without hoardes of tourists – none to be exact except the 2 of us. Safe travels. Jonny
Wow!!!!!! Those views are simply breathtaking Jonny, love the shot of you at the highest point in the village with the mountains as a backdrop – very epic. Made me chuckle how the football you & the kids were playing with was a Manchester United one haha, you’ve got some decent skills 😉
Absolutely amazing place Paul – just incredible!! The views don’t do it justice. Very observant on the Man United football – I didn’t even notice that myself!! My team lost badly though but always enjoy these random travel moments. Safe travels. Jonny
Hi Jonny, I a fello Irishman and am traveling to Azerbaijan in auust by myself and ant to visit Xinaliq, can you tell me the family who you stayed with there, so maybe I can contact them before hand. your blog and infor as really informative…..thank you
Hi Darren, thanks for the comment and great to hear you are going to Azerbaijan! I loved it. Xinaliq is old school and not online so they don’t really have a website or any organised accommodation in advance. We were the only tourists in the village that time and it’s rare for them to see travellers. However, Rustam who hosted us is actually now a friend of mine on Facebook, here is his link: https://www.facebook.com/rustam.xinaliqli?fref=ts . If that doesn’t work, just get a truck out to Xinaliq and the driver will drop you off at somewhere that can host you. We don’t tend to book our accommodation in advance as things always change. Safe travels, Jonny
Hey dude !!I plant to visit this beautiful place in march . Can you tell me how I can get in touch with Rustam .
Hi Ashia, thanks for the comment. I have Rustam as a friend on Facebook and you can contact him through the Facebook link in the above post. Where I am now, Facebook is banned so I cannot find his e-mail address for you, but try the Facebook links. Safe travels. Jonny
Very nice blog and pictures. You inspired me of going this place and now I am in Xinaliq, and I am staying with Rustam and his family. Very nice family and great hiking in Xinaliq too
Hi Surasak, thanks for the comment! So glad you also stayed with Rustam and his family. A beautiful place! Safe travels. Jonny
Actually, I write this comment after 5 years but still wanted to say that I am so happy that you and your friend had a good time in Azerbaijan. I am doing a feedback research on Khinaliq and your opinions will appear in the positive comments section. Thanks for sharing your adventure. Hope you will visit my country again! Bye!
Hi Asli, Thanks for the comment and I am extremely sorry for the huge delay in replying to you. I have been going through problems with depression and wasn’t checking the comments or messages that much. Yes, Xinaliq was fun and we had 10 good days in Azerbaijan. Stay safe. Jonny