Azerbaijan: A New Destination for Mountain Biking?
With a variety of little-known but beautiful mountain passes of varying altitudes, could Azerbaijan provide a new hotspot for mountain biking enthusiasts?
All images by Nailya Bentley
My husband has a very serious (and expensive, I suspect) hobby these days. He loves to mountain bike. In Qatar, where we live, there aren’t many mountains. In fact, there are none. He still manages to go out on his bike every weekend, but the only choice is a desert. Or another location with another desert. So, he and his friends started travelling abroad to explore other locations. So far, they have visited Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Georgia—and finally, they decided to go to Azerbaijan.
They discovered that they could take the bikes with them as oversized luggage on Qatar Airways. They bring minimum clothes in their backpacks—and off they go.
I met my husband in Azerbaijan over twenty years ago. However, after marrying me and whisking me away, he has barely been back. So, I was quite curious how this trip would go as twenty years is a very long time, and Baku has changed dramatically since then. Moreover, regions outside of Baku, the capital city, have developed in the most amazing fashion.
During their trip, a local guide called Abdulla created a sleek and professional PDF describing their daily itinerary. After the first day in Baku and after dinner in my favourite restaurant, Marivanna, the guys woke up early and headed towards Khinalug village. According to the guide’s brochure, the altitude in that area is around 2600 meters. They took an ancient caravan route for biking the next day towards Shahyaylag. They then continued through Alik village and towards the village of Habit, along the Alik River.
The next day they continued to the historic village of Griz, located in the heart of the mountains. Their destination was the village of Laza, where, with the help of 4x4 vehicles, they reached Mikhantoken Ridge with an altitude of 2700-3000 meters. Eventually, they finished the tour descending to the village of Kuzun, from where they safely made it back to Baku to enjoy more good food and nice weather, sitting outside Sirovaryna restaurant and people-watching for hours.
As I will let you judge for yourselves, the photos are stunning. In fact, the mountains were so gorgeous that even the guy from Switzerland was impressed. And he, of course, knows what beautiful mountains look like.