“Cultural Landscape of Khinalig and ‘Köç Yolu’ Transhumance Route” inscribed to UNESCO's World Heritage List

30 September 2023
“Cultural Landscape of Khinalig and ‘Köç Yolu’ Transhumance Route” inscribed to UNESCO's World Heritage List

Considered one of the highest villages in Azerbaijan and comprised of unique legacy – cultural landscape of Khinalig and ‘Köç Yolu’ transhumance route – has been inscribed to UNESCO’s World Heritage list. The decision was reached on September 18th, 2023, during the extended 45th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Protected by the government at the national level as “Khinalig and Köç Yolu” State Historical -Cultural and Ethnographical Reserve, the village opens to a breathtaking views of Caucasian Mountains and merges visitors to the authentic cultural experience. Khinalig is a “living heritage” with many distinguish traits that make this location an important part of not only Azerbaijani, but heritage of the whole world. With thousands of years of history, the people of this magnificent village still preserve their own traditions and language and maintain a semi-nomadic lifestyle.

Despite harsh climate and bare terrain which create difficult conditions, the population of Khinalig manage to thrive making the best of their living and natural recourses. Khinalig people are a distinct ethnic group believed to be descendants of the Caucasian Albanians. Known as the custodian of the tradition, they have been passing on the customs to future generations. The village's unique culture and way of life have also contributed to their success. Historically, local community has been practicing lifestyle –   a seasonal movement of livestock between highland (yaylaq) and lowland (qishlaq). The transhumance route connecting the yaylaq and qishlaq is called ‘Köç Yolu’ (seasonal migration route) – savouring a tradition still practiced by Khinalig population in order to make the best use of climatic and fresh green grass offerings of each season. The primary purpose of this movement is to create conditions for the animals to always be in areas with abundant grass and mild climate, serving both animals and the local population to live in areas with a favorable climate and abundant vegetation. In Khinalig, the process of movement happens twice a year in spring and summer: they move their livestock between yaylaqs — highland summer pastures close to their ancestral village and qishlaqs — lowland winter pastures in central Azerbaijan. The route is 200 km long and starts at the village of Khinalig, ending in the plainlands of Absheron and Hajiqabul districts. The shepherds and their flocks from Khinalig join around 7,000 people and 400,000 sheep from other nearby settlements on the seasonal movement route.

Historians believe that Khinalig was built before the common era, surrounded by the Shahdag range with predominantly mountain landscapes. The village is located on a steep mountain peak at nearly 2,200 meters from sea level and has subalpine and alpine meadows with small-sized forest fragments and rocky areas. The forest fragments close to the yaylaqs at an altitude of 2300 metersare a rare phenomenon for the subalpine zone and considered sacred by the Khinalig people, making the felling of trees taboo.

Here, tourists can savour the mesmerizing views on a hike, indulge in local delicacies and culture, and experience the warm hospitality of the locals.

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