Sheki to Zagatala, Azerbaijan
A guide to 97 km (5-7 days) of hiking on the Transcaucasian Trail
This guide will help you plan a self-supported hike along a 97 km section of the Transcaucasian Trail through the lush, forested mountains of the Sheki and Zagatala regions of Azerbaijan. Here you’ll find overview maps, practical information, trail notes, as well as downloadable GPS data with which to navigate the route.
Newly launched for 2022, this dramatic 97 km stage of the Transcaucasian Trail takes you through some of the most spectacular parts of Northwest Azerbaijan.
This 97 kilometer section takes you from one of the oldest cities in Azerbaijan, Sheki (also the capital of the district Sheki), and the historic church in the charming village of nearby Kish; through the mountains of Gakh district and its smaller settlements; into the town of Ilisu, where you embark on a multi-day journey along the top of a mountain of magnificent panoramic views of mountain layers and forested villages; all the way into the Zagatala district.
These trail notes are written in the east-to-west direction. This route may be hiked in either direction; however, the 44 kilometer section between Ilisu and Mamrukh is 33% ascent / 66% descent in the east-west direction, which may make it an easier journey to complete. If you decide to do the more difficult west-east option of this hike, keep in mind that there are also less spots suitable for camping in the ascent from Mamrukh.
The majority of the hike between Kish and Ilisu has been marked with signposts by the Azerbaijan Tourism Board. The section between Ilisu and Mamrukh is unmarked, and may be challenging for hikers who only have previous experience on clearly marked trails.
Elevations range from 850m (2790ft) in the town of Bash Layisgi and 505m (1660ft) in Mamrukh, to 2730m (8,970ft) on the trail between Ilisu and Mamrukh. Expect to spend 5-7 days completing the route in good conditions, assuming a reasonable level of fitness and stopping at the suggested locations.
This route goes through forested mountains, which generally do not experience dry seasons. Winters are snowy, significantly so in higher elevations, and summers can be intensely hot. The majority of this route is hikeable in all seasons; however, unmarked routes in deep snow will require extra precise attention from hikers.
The northwest region of Azerbaijan hosts various ethno-linguistic Caucasian groups. There is a significant Lezgi population in Sheki district; Ingiloy and Tsakhur peoples in Gakh; and Avar and Tsakhur peoples in Zagatala.
The TCTA strives to provide accurate, current information as to trail conditions and the trail route. However, actual trail conditions may be different, and such information may not be accurate or complete. Trail users are urged to consider all the information available from other sources and to heed local advice when available. Trail users are ultimately responsible for all decisions as to the trail routes, trail conditions, weather, and safety.
In addition to the hazards posed by steep terrain and mountain weather, hikers should be prepared for difficult route-finding and challenging trail conditions, the possibility of washed-out bridges and dangerous river crossings in high water, aggressive dogs guarding sheep and cattle, giant hogweed, and frequent summer thunderstorms with extremely intensive periods of lightning. Access to emergency medical care and search and rescue is not always available.