Ever since we began work on the Transcaucasian Trail in 2015, we’ve all been working towards our vision of a world-class, long-distance trail stretching across the entire South Caucasus region.
Our shared goal: to highlight the beauty and diversity of the South Caucasus, to create more cross-border connections around a shared love of the natural world, and to support rural communities around the region via low-impact, sustainable tourism.
We’re now happy to announce a major step towards that cross-border vision, with the launch of the first TCT project in Azerbaijan. This marks a major milestone towards completing the trail network.
Read on to learn more about the project, our newest team member leading the effort, our plans for the trail’s future, and a sneak peak of the landscapes that the TCT will traverse in Azerbaijan.
The vision: two intersecting routes
The TCT will ultimately consist of two intersecting trail corridors, each around 1,500km.
One, which is near completion, stretches North-South through Georgia and Armenia.
The second, which is at an earlier stage of route planning, will stretch East-West through Georgia and Azerbaijan.
This year we began preliminary work on the Azerbaijan section of the second route. In Azerbaijan, the trail will stretch 600-700 kilometers across the country, starting at the Georgian border and following the Greater Caucasus to the Caspian Sea.
The trailblazer: Meet Nazrin
The successful launch of this initiative– and the forthcoming trail sections– are thanks to our newest team member, Nazrin Garibova.
Born in Azerbaijan but raised in the U.S., Nazrin not only has a lot of experience working across cultures– she’s also passionate about the outdoors and had prior experience in trail building. When she reached out to our team about exploring possibilities for the TCT in Azerbaijan, we knew we’d found the right person to get us started.
Since then, Nazrin has been hard at work developing partnerships across the country, walking hundreds of kilometers, and mapping out the best trails to add to the TCT network and to share with you.
Needless to say, we’re thrilled to have her on board. And we can’t wait to share what she’s found.
The project: Walking half a country
After spending the winter and spring planning and researching, Nazrin hit the ground running in June. Working together with a local guide, Şaiq, she hiked over 500 kilometers in 10 different regions over the summer.
Nazrin covered diverse terrain, ranging from the full forests of Zaqatala, to the deep canyons of Quba, to the high passes around Khinaliq. She found Azerbaijan’s mountains to be full of surprises and stories.
The scenery is spectacular, but Nazrin says it’s the unexpected moments that stuck with her– like drinking tea with shepherds over waterfalls, or stumbling upon old fortresses during sunset descents– and that she’s particularly excited to help other hikers experience.
So now, we’re pulling together findings from the summer and creating trail notes to help get you on the trail next year. Tea drinkers and waterfall chasers take note.
Our thanks go out to the Azerbaijan Tourism Board for supporting our early-stage efforts on the route, as part of their goal of developing ecotourism around the country.
We’re also grateful to the many guides, shepherds, and village residents who lent time and expertise to our route creation process.
First, we’re getting ready to launch the first section of the TCT in Azerbaijan, spanning over 100km through the northwest of the country.
The first section is composed of trails that already exist– a mix of hiking trails, shepherd paths, and jeep tracks– that Nazrin has stitched together to make a beautiful, culturally immersive hiking route. Keep an eye out for forthcoming resources on how to plan your trip and hike this section.
Next summer, we’re planning to return to the mountains to extend the route and map out priorities for future trail development. Developing a 600-700 kilometer route is never a quick process, but we’re already well on our way.
In the meantime, stay tuned to hear more from Nazrin over the coming months. She’ll be sharing some of her stories of the people and places she encountered during her scouting expeditions here on our blog and social media channels, as well as over on the Experience Azerbaijan blog.
We hope you’ll join us in celebrating this milestone towards the TCT vision, and we’ll look forward to welcoming you to the trail.