It is located just north of Quba in the middle of the Greater Caucasus mountains that divide Russia and the South Caucasus. Khinaliq is also the highest, most remote and isolated village in Azerbaijan and among the highest in the Caucasus. The weather changes dramatically during summer and winter, ranging from -20 C to 18 C. Khinaliq has a population of about 2,000 people. This small group of people speaks the Khinaliq language, which is an isolate within the Northeast Caucasian language family, although many speak Azerbaijani as well..


Khinaliq is among the most ancient and continuously inhabited places in the world, with history of over 5,000 years. Because of the high altitude and remoteness of Khinaliq it managed to survive and withstand many invasions. There are also some other historical places such as a 12th-century mosque, a 15th-century mosque, and several ancient cemeteries between the mountains. There are also many ancient holy caves of early humans.

Culture and customs

The inhabitants of Khinaliq have preserved their traditional way of life. Weddings and other ceremonies are held in strict conformity with the rites inherited from one generation to another. This area abounds with the richest traditions linked to rain and land cultivation coupled with a special attitude to domestic animals, weddings and funerals, as well as to celestial bodies. The rites and traditions that have become an integral part of life are linked closely to natural phenomenon. The villagers are mainly involved with sheep breeding. A different weaving technique is well known here. Shawls woven with wool in Khinaliq are famous throughout the entire region of Guba. Neighboring villagers used to buy this raw material to make outer clothes. In the past, chukha, a shawl made of wool, was a national costume worn by the richer people in the villages. Wool socks which look like a mini carpet of many colors are widely worn because it is impossible to imagine Khinaliq residents in winter. One of the main activities also carried out by the local people is the collection and preparation of curing herbs. They are collected and dried for subsequent use in food making and sold to tourists.

Ethnic background

The people of Khinaliq are related to the Shahdagh ethnic group. They are mostly brown-haired, with brown or blue eyes, not very tall, and rather corpulent. They were certainly among the 26 tribes living in Caucasian Albania that Greek philosopher Strabo mentioned in Geography. Eight ancient graveyards surround the village, covering an area several times greater than that of the village. Most graves conceal three or four burial layers. The tombstones' inscriptions are written in various alphabets. In order to defend themselves in the 10th century against various nomadic tribes, special defense facilities, including a fortress, were built in Khinaliq: the main watchtower also included the Zoroastrian Temple. Local elders relate that the priest who lived in this Temple was called "Piajomard" and that he used to watch an eternal flame burning there.