hiking in theCandy Cane Mountains
One of Azerbaijan’s most beautiful stretches of road leads for about 40 kilometres from the Guba-Baku highway west towards the mountain village of Altiaghaj. Roughly mid-way between the two one passes through a dramatic valley flanked by rolling shale mountains whose astonishing red, orange, pink and chalk-coloured swirls led British travel writer Mark Elliott (author of the very popular 'Azerbaijan' guidebook) to dub them the Candy Cane Mountains, a name that’s stuck with travellers ever since. The astonishing colours are said to be due to groundwater that’s altered the oxidation state of iron compounds within the rock. If taking an organised hike here, which can be booked through tour companies in Baku and is preferably undertaken in autumn or spring, glance down beneath your feet: you may discover tiny fossils and perhaps even a squid-like belemnite from the cretaceous period.