Shahdag Resort – winter madness in Azerbaijan

If you’re looking for refreshing alternatives to crowded European ski resorts, look no further. In the shadow of Shahdag mountain, one of the highest peaks in Azerbaijan, enthusiasts of winter sports will find everything they need.

gusar shahdag ski resort skyscrapercity

Source: skyscrapercity

Why ski in Azerbaijan?

Shahdag Mountain Resort offers anything an amateur of winter fun could wish for – the latest equipment, experienced instructors, variety of wide and exciting pistes, picturesque landscapes, lots of snow (artificial if needed), good food and comfortable accommodation. As the country is still fairly new to the winter sports madness, the resort is always full of visitors but only a few of them actually ski or snowboard, which means you will be able to make the most of your time on the slope. In addition, the ski resort is situated only about  200km ride from Baku, most of it by highway, thus it makes a perfect day trip for those short of time.

pik palace hotel

Pik Palace hotel. Source: Pik Palace Hotel’s website

The resort

Currently, there are 5 km of pistes available for skiing, 1 km of easy pistes for beginners and 4 km for intermediate skiers. They are situated between 1300m and 1800m above sea level and are serviced by 4 ski lifts. More will be created in the nearest future, including piste for advanced skiers, which will be located as high as 2500m above sea level. Visitors can stay in one of the hotels located next to the piste, Zirve (80-120 AZN/night) by the main entrance or the luxury Pik Hotel on top of the hill (from 223 AZN/night). Those on the budget will find cheaper accommodation farther away from the resort.

margriet

Author: Margriet van der Woerd

Getting there

The ski station is located about 3 hours drive from Baku. To get there you have to follow the Quba highway. Once in Quba, continue towards Qusar where you will find clear indications for the ski station.

Some advice

If you go to Shahdag on a weekend, make sure to get there early as the place fills up with visitors very quickly and you may find it time-consuming to collect the equipment. The staff is friendly and competent but remember that it’s a new resort (2nd season operating) and it may take longer than usual to get them up to speed, especially on the busiest Sundays.

If the main ski rental point near the parking runs out of equipment, go to the one situated next to the Pik Hotel. You may as well go there straight away as overall it’s usually much less busy than the one next to the main entrance.

Example prices

Parking about 7AZN/day

Day ski pass for an adult 22AZN

Rental of ski, shoes & poles 30AZN

Useful links:

FB page of Shahdag Resort

Shahdag Mountain Resort official website

Alti Agach National Park

Alti Agach National Park is a perfect destination for a day trip away from Baku. Located about 120 km from the capital it offers excellent trekking and hiking opportunities as well as unique aesthetic experience as the last bit of the road leading to the park takes travelers through the picturesque Candy Cane Mountains. The mountains are famous for their unusual colours – a mix of pink and white stripes, an effect of iron oxidation of the rock. The area where the mountains are located is semidesert both in terms of the climate and the scarce human presence – Khizi Rayon is the least populated region of Azerbaijan.

palmtreeproduction candy cane

Candy Cane Mountains by palmtreeproduction.com

Alti Agach National Park

In contrast to the Khizi mountains, the park is covered with lush forest and cut with wide rivers, which are almost completely dry in summer and autumn but fill up with water during springtime. The main road takes you to the little village of Alti Agach (literal meaning in Azerbaijani language: six trees), which gave the name to the park. Along the road there is also a small shelter for wild animals including a Caucasian bear. There is not much to see in the village apart from the pretty little houses with colorful shutters that still haven’t been replaced by modern buildings. If you continue driving after the village you will get to a large tourist resort with tennis courts, spa, a restaurant, hotel, a little zoo and more.

altiagach

Alti Agach National Park

Hiking

The advantage of Alti Agach over many other parks in Azerbaijan is that there are virtually no route limitations for tourists so you can go anywhere you like. The best idea is to set off from one of the restaurants by the river. Cross the river on foot or by car (there’s usually little water!) and explore the hills and pastures on the other side. Just in case, take some nibbles with you  – this will buy you the kindness of the local shepherd dogs.

Eating

In the park there are some simple but good restaurants offering traditional Azerbaijani food (kebab, salads, raw vegetables etc.) and tea with varene. Unfortunately, people in the area don’t speak much Russian – not to mention English –  so you will need to either prepare a few food-related words in Azeri or rely on their choice of dishes. In the latter case you’ll most likely end up with a delicious plate of assorted kebab. The restaurant at the tourist resort also serves tasty Azerbaijani food and pahlava.

Getting there

Alti Agach is easily reachable by Quba road. At some point (Gilazi village) you will see an indication for Alti Agach (shortly before the Besh Barmag mountain). Take this road and continue driving for about 30 kilometers until the entrance to the Altyaghach National Park.