The northwestern region of Azerbaijan spreads along the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains and includes the Balakan, Gakh, Oghuz, Zagatala, and Sheki administrative areas. The picturesque nature of this northwestern region has made it a popular holiday area, attracting tourists from all over. An international tourist route to Georgia passes through this territory along the road that leads from Baku to Tbilisi, via Shemakha, Sheki, Zakatala and Belokan.
This is a beautiful corner of Azerbaijan with a rich and ancient history. Many centuries ago this city (Kabbalah) was the capital of Caucasian Albania, an ancient state that existed on the territory of modern Azerbaijan for 600 years. Today, you can still see the ruins of this ancient city, the main gate to Caucasian Albania, as well as several other historical and cultural monuments spanning different eras in this region. Several five-star hotels belonging to the Azerbaijani hotel chain Qafqaz, as well as small family hotels and several tourist camps operate in Gabala, as does the largest amusement park in Azerbaijan – Gabaland, which covers an area of 16 hectares. It’s great fun for both kids and adults. The town also hosts an annual international music festival of classical music, jazz and mugham, which is attended by performers, bands and artists from around the world.
Gakh is a region near the border with Georgia with a charming town and plenty of mountain rivers and waterfalls. This region is especially rich in nature: the Ilisu National Park is home to bears, mountain goats, wolves, wild cats, boars, jackals and many other wildlife. In this part of Azerbaijan too, you can see a number of ancient Caucasian Albanian temples – these were the first churches in the Caucasus and some of the first in the world.
Zagatala is a beautiful, green city with wide streets and one-storey houses set alongside several modern hotels. Over half the territory is covered by mountains and forests while this district also boasts several historical and cultural monuments, notably the old Russian fortress. There is also a particularly interesting natural monument in the city – a tree that is 800 years old.
One of Azerbaijan's most ancient cities, Sheki rightly enjoys its reputation as the country's architectural gem. Of particular interest to tourists from all over the world is the Palace of Sheki Khans which, built in 1762, is a rare example of Azerbaijani architecture from the khanate period. To the north of the city are the ruins of the once impregnable fortress 'Gelersan – Gerarsan' ('Come and See') dating back to the 15th-18th centuries. Sheki is also famous for its melt-in-the-mouth local baklava called halva, piti (a stew with vegetables cooked in a clay pot), and the unique sense of humor of its people.