The Greater Caucasus Mountain region lies along the ancient Silk Road, in the Caucasus range, where Europe and Asia meet. This region is a mix of mountains and plains. The highlands are cool and humid while the plains are warm and dry. Vastly covered by forests, the mountain are rich in mineral waters, which are used for treatment at resorts. Its pristine nature and remote mountain villages makes it the perfect destination for outdoor adventures.
Throughout history, this region has been a natural crossroad for peoples, languages and cultures. Across rural areas, you may encounter with Azerbaijani, Avar, Lezgin, Russian, Dargin, Tat, Kurdish, and Udi populations. In urban context – such as in the ancient Shamakhi and Sheki towns – you will enjoy how these cultures have mixed together.
The richness of its cultural diversity, together with the specificity of its climate and landscapes, have led to unique food traditions and gastronomic heritages, often unknown to the wider public.
This is the case of grapes and wines, a millenary tradition in the region. Of particular interest, Madrasa (or Matrasa) is a specific local variety named after the village of Mədrəsə. Its blue-black grapes are sweet and very juicy, predominantly used in coupage with other varietals. From Madrasa are produced richly coloured red wines, but also citrusy rosés, with a good level of tannins. The aroma is rich in fruits flavours, such as raspberry and wild berries, with a long finish.
This region is also the home of centuries-old hazelnut production. The autochthonous Ata-Baba hazelnut, an ancient cultivar (meaning “passed on from father to son” in local dialect), is traditionally used as a curative food: together with honey, it served as a treatment for anemia and exhaustion, therefore given to nursing mothers.
The dense forests that largely cover the region has also widely used by local population for foraging food. This is the case of the Caucasian wild rosehip – whose fruits are harvested and then processed into syrup, compote and jam, and then used as table desserts to accompany Azerbaijani tea and as a remedy for weakness and heart problems.
Through the COVCHEG project and together with the Azerbaijan Tourism Board, Slow Food has selected and trained the most authentic and high-quality farmers, restaurants, guesthouses, and hotel owners across the region. With their legendary hospitality, they are ready to guide you through the hidden gastronomic treasures of the Great Caucasus Mountain.
How can I organize my trip?
1 Go it alone!
Look at the map and contact directly the structures that interest you. Build your tailor-made trip with them! Or let yourself be inspired by the itineraries that Slow Food has imagined for you.
2 Choose a tour operator
If you are traveling in a group of at least 8 people and prefer to have a tour operator organize your trip, you may contact:
Learn more here: Azerbaijan.travel