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I prepare for a trip through the Southern Caucasus starting in Baku and travel through Azerbaijan to Georgia. I use the Mark Elliot "Azerbaijan with excursions to Georgia" (2004) and Lonely Planet's guide to Azerbaijan etc (2008) in planning my trip through Azarbaijan. I have some questions and need for advice regarding the planning of my trip.
I speak a quite decent Russian (and very basic indeed Turkish) and have experience from traveling alone through Central Asia (though not in the Southern Caucasus). I have very limited mountain trekking experience. I plan to spend about 1 week of the trip in Azerbaijan.
From what I read I understand that the villages of Xinaliq and Qusarcay Laza is probably some of the best choices of what to see in Azerbaijan. If I have understood right the biggest challenge of reaching Xinaliq is the potential challenge of negotiation a reasonable price for a shared taxi from Quba to Xinaliq:). According to my guide a shared Jeep from Quba should cost about AZN 8, but in my experience theese type of prices can change rappidly. What is a normal price for a seat in a shared jeep from Quba to Xinaliq?
My guides suggests that it is relatively easy to arrnage a homestay in Xinaliq by asking around provided that you speak Russian (or Azeri of course...) even if you show up without a guide. Can anyone confirm if this is the case?
When it comes to Qusarcay Laza, I have read that as there is a project for building a ski resort there, it is very likely that there will be busses to Laza in the near future. Does anyone know if there are buses going there for the moment? Is hiking from Xinaliq to Qusarcay Laza sensible for someone with my limitied mountain-hiking experience? Is guide and horse adviceable?
How realistic is it to hike from Xinaliq southward over the Salavat pass, through Qabala (south) Laza, to Vandam or Quabala, given that you hire a giude and a horse? I realize that you will need to camp in tent on the way, because of the lenght of the trip and that there is no villages on the way, but is it objectionaly physically difficult for a person with limited mountain hiking experience? My guide claims that you can get some challenges with the authorities if you choose the Quabala route, Does anyone know idf this is (still) the case? In addition to the scenery the reason for considering this option is to avoid going all the way back to Baku and only then go west through the North West towards Georgia.
Based on my guides it looks like Lahic and Saki is the places most worthwhile in the North-west for exploring rual and town life respectively. If someone have special recommondations on what to see.