Alinja Castle

Top choice in Azerbaijan

For those prepared to climb over 1500 steps up a mountain crag, one of Naxçivan's great highlights is the magnificent view from the sparse medieval ruins of Alinja Castle, sometimes nicknamed 'Azerbaijan's Machu Picchu'.

The historic walls have been partly built up to outline how the site might have been laid out in its 12th-century heyday. The site was fortified in the 1140s when Naxçivan was at its most powerful, under a leader known as Eldegyz (Eldəniz). It was so secure that it managed to hold out for 14 years against a siege that started in 1386.

Other than a mosque-like museum at the base, there are no complete buildings and no shade, so bring a parasol and plenty of drinking water. In winter snow, climbing is not advised, but in summer heat the feat is exhausting – an ideal time is early morning or a couple of hours before sunset in early April or October.

The stairs up start from the Qazançı road, around 33km northeast of Naxçivan City. A couple of daily minibuses to Xanəgah pass within 1km of the spot. A return taxi fare could be anywhere from AZN30 to AZN50 depending on waiting time; consider combining the experience with a visit to Ordubad.

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