a kilted adventure in the Land of Fire

Ross OC Jennings

I’m a travelling piper, hoping to perform in every country of the world. For the past six years I’ve been travelling with my bagpipes, which have proven to be a wonderful catalyst for the most heartwarming interactions.

A Kilted Adventure in the Land of Fire

Azerbaijan is one of those countries that’ll truly knock your socks off. It’s a place where tea is drunk with jam, carpets are woven into the cultural fabric and where you can literally have a bath in crude oil. Throw in some stunning mountains and you’ve got a great place for an adventure.

My first visit to Azerbaijan was in August 2018 and, to date, it remains one of the loveliest travel experiences I’ve had. My week-long adventure kicked off in the capital, Baku, before I headed north with my bagpipes to the village of Khinalig.

Khinalig is undoubtedly one of Azerbaijan’s most spectacular villages. Nestled in the Guba rayon mountains, at an altitude of 2300m, it might not be the most convenient of places to get to, but it’s worth every minute of your journey. The village’s setting alone is worth the trip, but you don’t just come to Khinalig for its scenery. Khinalig has a centuries-long history, and due to its remoteness, it even has its own language and culture. The heritage is fascinating, and the best way to experience it is by staying with a local family. I was hosted by a family headed up by a lovely man called Zaur, and their hospitality was second to none. Every morning in Khinalig, I’d wake up early and go for a walk. The surrounding mountains would glow with various shades of green as the sun rose, but after about an hour the clouds would roll in and the view would be lost. Finally after another few hours the sun would burn through and the backdrop would be revealed once again (which provided quite the setting for a few bagpipe tunes!).

Back in the capital of Baku, I was treated to endless examples of Azerbaijani hospitality. I cannot tell you the number of times I was offered tea (with jam!), which led me to one of my favourite Azerbaijani sayings… “Çay nedir, Say nedir," which essentially means “no tea is ever enough!” Being from the UK, I couldn’t agree more. Baku has a lot more to offer than just its tea though, from the shiny Flame Towers and the walls of the old town to the Fire Temple and Heydar Aliyev Centre. It’s a capital of contrasts, with plenty to offer the inquisitive tourist. Whether you are a foodie, history buff, or just enjoy the downright weird and wonderful (Naftalan!), Baku will suit you for a weekend trip, or even a week-long extravaganza. 

If Azerbaijan isn’t yet on your list of must-see places, it definitely should be, after all how could you not want to visit ‘The Land of Fire?!’

Travel Dates: 10-20.08.2018

Travelled Regions: Baku, Guba, Khinalig

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