Azerbaijan: gateway for new, unexplored, amazing winter experiences

Combining the charms of both Europe and Asia, Azerbaijan is a country of surprising contrasts, hospitable people and epic landscapes. From historic and traditional experiences to modern-day escapades, this fast-growing destination offers countless experiences all leading to untold tales and adventures. And no matter which experience you opt for, expect spectacular architecture, rare natural wonders and exquisite food and wine.

Home to 9 out of 11 distinct climatic zones, the landscape offers diverse scenery with everything from city to beaches, forests, and lush and snowy mountains. In fact, the mountains of Azerbaijan are transformed into a white paradise every winter, offering a magical experience for both those seeking adventure and those looking for a dose of rest and relaxation. Set amidst the Caucasian mountains, the change of scenery with the most satisfying pistes for ski enthusiasts is just three hours away from the city centre.

In winter, Azerbaijan’s mountains are irresistible for skiing enthusiasts. Breathtakingly beautiful, they are home to state-of-the-art ski resorts with well-prepared slopes and first-class amenities. The dramatic landscapes make ski trips here unforgettable, while non-skiers can opt for numerous other activities such as riding a snowmobile, ziplining or snow tubing.

Perched atop the pristine mountains of the Gusar region, Shahdag Mountain Resort has a range of high-class hotels, open-air steam pools, spas, restaurants, and an endless array of thrilling sports and leisure activities. The snow at Shahdag transforms it into one of the most stunning ski resorts in the Caucasus. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced skier, brave the slopes and enjoy over 17 kilometres of pistes. The nearby charming village of Laza is famous for its storied waterfalls which freeze into icefalls during the winter and become a popular site for ice climbing. Soon-to-be-opened rollercoaster in Shahdag will definitely become a go-to place for the enthusiasts of extreme activities.

Further along the Caucasus Mountain chain, the scenery at Tufandag Mountain Resort in Gabala is equally enchanting. The complex, which can accommodate up to 3,000 people at a time, is well equipped with restaurants, cafes, bars and recreation areas, as well as a ski school for children and adults.  The 15 kilometres of perfectly groomed slopes are great for snowboarding and skiing. Like Shahdag, it also has several affordably luxurious hotels. The Chalet Steak and Wine House, which can only be reached by cable car, is the highest restaurant in Azerbaijan, to enjoy a perfectly cooked steak alongside a glass of local wine.

The village of Agbulag in the Shahbuz region, an hour’s drive from Nakhchivan city, is home to the first all-round tourism infrastructure complex in Nakhchivan. This area has long been popular for agricultural tourism and relaxation in nature, attracting tourists with its pure air and clear weather. But the ski centre ensures there are now great travel opportunities throughout the year. At the centre you can not only go skiing, snowboarding or sledging, but also enjoy the Lesser Caucasus Mountains scenery and try delicious local dishes. It has everything necessary to cater to tourists, including a hotel with 38 rooms.

With mountains accounting for over 60 per cent of Azerbaijan’s total area, visitors can enjoy memorable moments hiking through the stunning landscape. One such village is Khinalig which is beautiful and peacefully isolated, so much so that its residents speak a little-known, unwritten language. The scenic route to Khinalig from the city of Guba opens to impressive views at every turn. But the photo opportunities do not stop there! Recently included in the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative list, the village is made up of 360 cobblestone houses built on top of one another 200-300 years ago: one house's roof is another family's courtyard! The settlement's 2,000 residents are warm, welcoming and eager to share with you their local dishes and homebrewed tea. To see all the village's best bits, reserve up to five hours of your day. Griz village is another popular destination in Guba region, located 2200 meters above the sea level. It is famous for its fascinating waterfall located up in the hills of Ag Dagh mountains. The waterfall freezes in winter and creates a breathtaking scenery, making it a perfect spot for nature admirers. In the region of Gakh, Ilisu village is also picturesque from every viewpoint and has paths to spectacular waterfalls and historical monuments. - Advertorial.