A Backpacking Guide to Khinaliq and Laza
If you have only a few days in Azerbaijan and you've asked me to pick one place you should not miss, I would definitely recommend you to spend the rest of your time exploring the Caucasus Mountains in Azerbaijan, namely Khinaliq and Laza.
The Lesser Caucasus Mountain Range is the second of the 2 main mountain ranges of Caucasus mountains. It runs in parallel with the Greater Caucasus mountain range from East Turkey all the way to Azerbaijan where, with the help of this guide, we will be exploring together.
Within this guide, you will find all the information you need to travel to Khinaliq and Laza, 2 of the prettiest and most accessible mountain villages in Azerbaijan.
These 2 villages are known for their out-of-this-world landscape from the green rolling hills of Khinaliq to the countless waterfalls in Laza. Without further ado, here's a complete backpacking guide on how to travel to Khinaliq and Laza.Table of Contents
- Azerbaijan Caucasus Mountains Things to Do Itinerary Map
- Azerbaijan Travel Video
- When to Visit Khinaliq, Laza, and the Caucasus mountains
- Where to Stay in Quba, Azerbaijan
- How to Get to Quba, Azerbaijan
- How to Get Around the Caucasus Mountains, Azerbaijan
- Should I Stay Overnight in Khinaliq or Laza?
- How Many Days to Spend in Quba, Azerbaijan
- How Much Money Do I Need for the Caucasus Mountains, Azerbaijan
- Is it Safe in the Caucasus Mountains, Azerbaijan?
- Internet in the Caucasus Mountains, Azerbaijan
- Travel Insurance
- Places to Visit in the Caucasus Mountains, Azerbaijan
- Further Reading for Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan Caucasus Mountains Things to Do Itinerary Map
Azerbaijan Travel Video
When to Visit Khinaliq, Laza, and the Caucasus mountains
The best time to visit Khinaliq, Laza, and the Caucasus mountains are during the summer months of July - August where the road to Khinaliq should no longer be covered in snow, allowing you to travel easily with a normal car.
Unlike in the lowlands of Azerbaijan where the temperature could reach 40°C in the summer months, in the highlands of Khinaliq and Laza, the temperature will hover around 20°C during the day, which is perfect to spend your days outside exploring.
I would avoid visiting this part of the country in winter entirely as the road will likely be covered in thick snow, making it almost impossible to reach these places even with a 4WD.
Where to Stay in Quba, Azerbaijan
Mid-Range - Hostel Elvin - 24 USD/Night (Budget Twin Room)
I could not have asked for a better host in Quba. Hostel Elvin is awesome! We were 3 and they gave us an extra bed in the room free of charge. They have a clean toilet, spacious living room, and best of all, they will cook organic dinner for you for 10 AZN. They can also organize your taxi to Khinaliq and Laza at a cheaper rate than if you heckle with a taxi driver yourself. Hostel Elvin is a little home away from home.
Note: The location on Booking.com is wrong. The right location is shown correctly on Google Maps (here) so be sure to follow that direction instead.
How to Get to Quba, Azerbaijan
How to Get to Baku
Quba is the nearest city to the Lesser Caucasus making it a great base to launch yourself to Khinaliq and Laza but in order to get there, you will first have to get yourself to Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan.
Baku has a very well established connection with Istanbul and Ankara so you can easily fly into the city via Turkish Airlines or Pegasus Airlines.
From the US, there is no direct flight to Baku but you can fly via Turkish Airlines to Istanbul or Ankara and transfer to Baku from there.
From within Europe, you should be able to fly direct from the UK via Azerbaijan Airlines, from Paris via AirFrance, or from Frankfurt via Lufthansa.
From Asia, there is no direct flight from the far east to Baku but the region is pretty well-connected via Turkish Airlines so you can fly to Baku via Istanbul or Ankara. Other Middle Eastern airlines like Qatar, Emirates, and Etihad Airlines are also a great option as well.
How to Get from Baku to Quba
From Baku, you will have to get a bus to Quba from Baku International Bus Terminal located in the northern part of the city.
The bus from Baku to Quba runs every 30 minutes from 7:30 AM to 5:55 PM for 4 AZN per person. The journey will take about 2 hours. For this bus, you do not need to book in advance as there are several buses going every day.
Alternatively, you can rent out a taxi for 40 AZN per car and the driver will take you directly to Quba or vice versa.
For an official bus schedule and booking, you can check out Baku International Bus Terminal Complex official website here.
How to Get Around the Caucasus Mountains, Azerbaijan
It used to be that we are required to rent a 4WD jeep to travel anywhere in the Lesser Caucasus Mountains in Azerbaijan but after the government saw the importance of tourism in this part of the country, they manage to build enough paved roads so that we can explore without needing a 4WD.
That said, public transportation is still lackluster in this part of the country so we will have to rely on taxis to take us from Quba to Khinaliq and Laza.
How To Get to Khinaliq, Azerbaijan
The recommended way to get from Quba to Khinaliq is by hiring a taxi driver to take you there and back. The regular taxi driver at the bus station will charge you 100 AZN for a roundtrip which is way too expensive.
You can get it cheaper by hiring a taxi driver through your accommodation. Hostel Elvin can organize the taxi for you for 70 AZN roundtrip. If you are looking for a one-way trip in case you want to stay overnight in Khinaliq (there are some homestays there), it will be 35 AZN one way, but you will have to find a way out yourself which is almost impossible.
It takes around 45 minutes to get from Quba to Khinaliq and you will go through some of the most stunning landscapes you will ever see in Azerbaijan. You can spend a few hours in Khinaliq before heading back to Quba. For more detail on what to do in Khinaliq, check out our Khinaliq section below.
There is however this one elusive marshrutka (mini-bus) that goes from Quba to Khinaliq early in the morning one time every day, but I was unable to find one, so I wouldn't recommend you rely on public transportation to get to Khinaliq.
Plus, you will be stuck there for a day without an easy way out as Khinaliq is very remote and you will rarely find any cars passing through so hitchhiking is out of the question.
All in all, I highly recommend you hire a taxi through Hostel Elvin to get there, spend about an hour or 2 exploring Khinaliq, and get back.
How To Get to Laza, Azerbaijan
To get to Laza, you will have to go back to Quba again to take another road to Laza. There is no direct connection between Khinaliq and Laza nor is there any public transportation and so the best way to travel to Laza is via taxis.
Here is a tip, for a regular trip from Quba to Laza, individually, the taxi will charge you 70 AZN, the same as going to Khinaliq but if you combine 2 trips together into a one-day trip, you will have to pay 70 AZN for Khinaliq as usual but you will only pay 60 AZN for your Laza trip hence saving you 10 AZN.
So the best way to travel to Laza is to hire a taxi and combine your Khinaliq trip and Laza trip together into a one-day trip. The entire trip (Khinaliq + Laza) will cost you 130 AZN, which is a bit pricey and so I would recommend you find some more people at the hostel to do the trip with.
Should I Stay Overnight in Khinaliq or Laza?
I have pondered with this question myself before my trip but after seeing both Khinaliq and Laza, I would not recommend staying overnight in any of these places.
The landscape around Khinaliq is nice but the village itself is quite raw and sleepy. I don't think there are enough things to do to justify staying overnight in Khinaliq.
The hiking looks nice around Khinaliq but there is no official trail or notable viewpoints you can hike to. Plus, Khinaliq is near to the Russian border and so I don't think the security would be happy to see a random tourist wandering around this area.
Laza, on the other hand, is much nicer in terms of accommodation options and the possibility of finding beautiful hiking trails that may lead to a stunning reward but as mentioned earlier, there is no reliable public transportation connecting Laza to Quba and so I would not recommend staying overnight if you do not have your own vehicle.
How Many Days to Spend in Quba, Azerbaijan
With the recommended transportation option I provided earlier, you can see both Khinaliq and Laza all in one day and so I think it is enough to stay 2 nights in Quba.
Day 0: The day you arrive in Quba, you can go ahead and walk around the city which should not take long as there is not much to do in Quba. After you are done, you can plan your Khinaliq and Laza trip with your accommodation and then have dinner there before ending the day.
Day 1: Explore Khinaliq in the morning and Laza in the afternoon. Spend the rest of the day relaxing in Quba before leaving the next day.
Day 2: Head back to Baku.
How Much Money Do I Need for the Caucasus Mountains, Azerbaijan
From the rough itinerary above, we can calculate the minimum amount you will spend on this trip to Khinaliq and Laza. Here is a rough estimate of how much money you will likely spend on this trip:
Accommodation: 24 USD x 2 nights = 48 USD (81.60 AZN), less if you can share a room with someone.
Food: A good organic meal at your accommodation will cost around 10 AZN per meal. Breakfast can be cheaper if you buy from the supermarket the day before. Approximately, you will be spending around 25 AZN per day for food, so you will be spending around 50 AZN for food for the entire trip.
Transportation: This is the most expensive of all. For a roundtrip to Khinaliq and Laza with a taxi, it will cost you 130 AZN, less if you can share the taxi with someone
Activities: Most of the money is being spent on transportation so 0 AZN for activities.
Total Budget:261.60 AZA (153.88 USD)
Is it Safe in the Caucasus Mountains, Azerbaijan?
In general, it is very safe in Quba and the Caucasus mountains but do beware of the food you eat in Quba. A friend of mine got food poisoning the day after we ate at some random cafes in Quba and so watch what you eat here.
Your safest bet is to either buy from the supermarket and cook your own food or eat at your own accommodation. They often cook organic food for guests on request. Dinner at Hostel Elvin is amazing so be sure to try it there.
Internet in the Caucasus Mountains, Azerbaijan
WIFI is available in Quba but very unreliable and that is just about it. You won't find any WIFI in Khinaliq or Laza, not even if you have a local sim card so forget about staying connected while you are exploring Khinaliq and Laza.
If you are visiting Quba, Khinaliq, and Laza as part of a bigger trip to Azerbaijan, I would recommend you get a local sim card, ideally from Azercell. They have a 3G connection in Quba and that should help you stay connected while you are there.
Azercell is a great option if you are looking for a local sim card to buy. You can buy one right at the airport when you arrive. The price ranged from 29 AZN (1 GB) all the way to 65 AZN (unlimited data) depending on the amount of data you need.
I would recommend you get around 5 GB of data (40 AZN) especially if you are planning to travel further in Azerbaijan after Baku.
For more information about Azerbaijan local sim card: Azerbaijan Prepaid Data Sim Card.
If you are looking for travel insurance to go along with your trip to Azerbaijan, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure.
Places to Visit in the Caucasus Mountains, Azerbaijan
Our journey begins in one of the oldest cities in Azerbaijan, Quba. To be honest, there is not a whole lot of things to do in Quba except a few attractions here and there but we are not in Quba for the city alone, we are here to plan our next move into the Caucasus mountains.
After a 2-hours bus journey from Baku to Quba, you can spend the rest of the day walking around the city and planning your transportation to Khinaliq and Laza with your accommodation.
Notable places to visit in Quba are Juma Mosque, a 19th Century red-brick mosque, and Quba Genocide Memorial Complex, a museum dedicated to the memory of victims of March Days, a period of troubled time where 12,000 Azerbaijanis and other Muslims were massacred in Baku.
For the trip to Khinaliq and Laza the next day, be sure to organize a taxi driver with your accommodation before the day ends so the driver can pick you up early. In order to see Khinaliq and Laza on the same day, it is essential to start your day as early as you can. 9 AM is a good time to tell your driver to pick you up.
The taxi to Khinaliq and Laza (same trip) should cost no more than 130 AZN. If you organize your taxi with Hostel Elvin, the price will be fixed at 70 AZN to Khinaliq and 60 AZN to Laza, so it should be pretty straightforward.
If you are finding your own taxi driver, be sure to heckle hard. I tried finding one myself just to compare prices but they all seem to want 100 AZN only to go to Khinaliq. God knows how much more they want if you tell them to go to Laza as well.
I would also recommend you buy some snacks for your trip as you won't be able to buy anything in Khinaliq and Laza as there are no shops for you to do so. For lunch, you can ask your driver to stop somewhere in Quba as you will have to pass through the city again to get from Khinaliq to Laza.
At 9 AM sharp the next day, your driver should be waiting for you in front of your accommodation and they will take you to Khinaliq. The best thing about hiring a taxi driver is that you can tell them to stop for photos any time, and you are going to do it a lot along the road from Quba to Khinaliq.
Looking around in Quba, the landscape might not look very impressive but the moment you get out of town and the road started to go through the canyons, you will know that you are now in the Lesser Caucasus mountains.
As the road twists and turns, you will arrive at an opening where the road will take you along a river bed through the valley and up to Khinaliq, an ancient Caucasian village 2,350m above sea level.
You should arrive in Khinaliq in about 45 minutes where you can spend a few hours walking and chilling at the top of the village where you can get a panoramic view of the village and the landscape surrounding it.
Legend has it that this settlement has been inhabited for the past 5,000 years. It is considered to be one of the oldest villages in the region. Due to its isolation, they were able to preserve their language, tradition, and their indigenous roots.
One of my favorite places to sit and relax while looking at the breathtaking scenery of Khinaliq is at the Juma Mosque located on the highest point of the village. Be sure to hike all the way up there for a rewarding view.
There are around 2,000 people living in Khinaliq and most of them are very welcoming and are quite curious to see you visiting their village so do not hesitate to talk to them when they run up to you. The kids in the village are especially great at communicating in English.
After spending an hour or 2 relaxing at the top of Khinaliq, slowly make your way down to where your taxi is parked and off you go to Laza. In the meantime, if you are hungry, ask your driver to stop somewhere in Quba and grab lunch before heading to Laza.
Laza is another mountain village located 1,300m above sea level at the foot of Mount Shahdagh. Due to the high cliff face and the number of waterfalls one can find in this area, Laza is one of the most popular destinations for local tourists to visit.
After about an hour of road zigzagging through mountains, you will arrive on a pass overlooking a valley where you will see the grandeur of Laza and all its numerous waterfalls.
The taxi will drive you down into the valley and park at the foot of a huge cliffside where you will see 3 large waterfalls near each other. You can spend an hour hiking around the waterfall and check it out up close if you don't mind being sprayed by it.
The landscape around Laza is pretty incredible especially if the sun is out, so be sure to spend some time to hike up some of the hills near the waterfall so you can appreciate the true beauty of the landscape around Laza.
After a few hours of walking around the waterfall, you can sit, relax, and enjoy the view at one of the many outdoor cafes near the parking lot. A cup of coffee or tea cost only 1 AZN per cup.
After 2 - 3 hours at Laza, it is time to head back to Quba. In about an hour, you will be back at your cozy accommodation in Quba, feeling accomplished for all the things you have seen in the Caucasus mountains in one day.
You can end your day on a high note with an organic dinner at Hostel Elvin for 10 AZN before retiring for the night and make your way back to Baku the next day.
And there you have it, a complete backpacking guide on how to travel to Khinaliq, Laza, and the Caucasus Mountains. Are you intrigued by what Khinaliq and Laza habe to offer? If so, do not hesitate to ask me anything about this trip in the comment sections below.
Further Reading for Azerbaijan
Looking for more information for your trip to Azerbaijan? Here is a collection of articles about Azerbaijan that you might find them useful:
- Looking for a complete travel guide to Azerbaijan? Check out: 2 Weeks Itinerary for Azerbaijan.
- The hyper modern capital city of Baku is unlike any other city in the Caucasus. It’s full of surprises and you will need a good guide to see them all. Here are 10 Awesome Things To Do In Baku, Azerbaijan.
- Standing on the ancient Silk Road, Sheki is a historical town rich in history and culture. To visit Sheki, check out: Top 7 Things To Do In Sheki, Azerbaijan.
- Ganja, the second largest city in Azerbaijan with a name that is hard to forget, has a ton of hidden gems for you to explore from Lake Goygol and Maralgol to the beautiful Imamzadeh Complex. Here’s everything you need to travel to Ganja: 8 Best Things To Do In Ganja, Azerbaijan.
- Nakhchivan, an autonomous exclave republic of Azerbaijan that is not attached to Azerbaijan itself due to conflict with Armenia is a republic you will have to see for yourself. To travel there, check out The Ultimate Backpacking Guide To Nakhchivan.
- Looking for something more visual to convince you about visiting Azerbaijan? How about a travel video? Azerbaijan, The Land Of Fire Travel Video
- Wondering where to go after Azerbaijan? How about you drop by the charming hipster city of Tbilisi, Georgia and after, visit Yerevan, Armenia?
- For all articles about Azerbaijan, visit Azerbaijan Travel Guide page.
- Looking to travel to the Caucasus Region? Check out all my articles about the region here: The Caucasus Travel Guide page.
- You can see all my Asia related articles here: Asia Travel Guide page.
- For more of my travel guides like this, visit my Destinations page.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by Pete Rojwongsuriya, the founder of BucketListly Blog where we will follow his solo journey around the world as he experiences different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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