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7 April 2023

Xinaliq - the Highest Village in the Caucasus?

Xinaliq, one of Caucasus's highest settlements, is a magical place with its own language and timeless traditions.

Xinaliq - the Highest Village in the Caucasus?

Image: The Road Provides/Shutterstock 

Glorious highlands rise up towards Mt Shahdag in the Azerbaijani High Caucasus. Here lie a handful of timeless villages that were so isolated for so many years that they retain their own distinctive languages. Some, like Buduq, Haput, and Qriz, remain difficult to access by vehicle without a tough jeep and towing capabilities. However, the best-known classic is Xinaliq (aka Khinalug, Khinalik, etc.), one of Caucasus’s highest permanent settlements at an altitude of 2350m. 

Image: Kirill Skorobogatk/Shutterstock 

The grey rock-stone houses that form Xinaliq’s central core are stacked higgledy-piggledy up a steep knoll. Traditionally, the flat roof of one house formed the front yard of the one behind – though pitched metal roofs have become more common since the village was linked to the city of Quba by an asphalted lane over a decade ago. That has also allowed it to become an increasingly popular tourist destination. Fortunately, the influx of day trippers doesn’t appear to have destroyed the magical atmosphere of the place, a flavour that’s best savoured by staying overnight with a local family in one of the simple homestays.