#994 Xinaliq, Azerbaijan

Tucked 2350m high in the Azerbaijan Caucasus Mountains,  beyond the valley of the Qudiyal River, above Cloud Catcher Canyon and Tolkien Chasm (names coined by legendary Azerbaijan guidebook writer Mark Elliot), lies the ancient village of Xinaliq (pronounced Khinalik).

With its eight cemeteries, collections of dung to burn in winter (as you can see, there are no trees!), its unique language group shared with the village next door, hand-washed laundry on the lines around town, people collecting water from the few communal water sources, it is a village preserved in time. Whether it is meeting a young boy playing with a wooden train, a shepherd sauntering with his sheep, a lone horseman on a narrow trail, or buying the necessary wooly hats and funky socks for sale, this 4WD destination is spectacular and memorable. Have a chay and a conversation with a local, enjoy the amazing scenery, reflect on the spectacular journey to get there (a drive winding over mountains and along green or snowy valleys)!

Cloud Catcher Canyon, with Tolkien Chasm to the left, and a pre-Islamic talisman left by the Zoroastrian-based animist tradition with a debatable meaning. 
Information sources: Mark Elliot's 4th Edition guidebook 'Azerbaijan' 2010

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