It was probably the sight I looked forward to most to see in Nakhchivan: the Alinja-Gala fortress. Its location, squeezed in between humpback mountains and therefore dubbed the Machu Picchu of Nakhchivan. After visiting Ordubad and the mountains behind it, I am driving the same road back towards Nakhchivan. I take a turn at Camaldin, and drive a narrow road towards the northeast. On my right, I see Ilandag mountain, the most famous mountain of Nakhchivan. This is where according to legend, Noah's ark got stranded: the cleavage left by the keel of the ship is still visible. The mountain rises almost straight from the plains below. I stop several times to take in the views. I also have to stop several times for herds of sheep crossing the road.
When I reach a small parking lot at the foot of a mountain, I leave my car behind and start walking up. Through the fold in the mountain, I can see the path going up the steep slope - with a crenellated wall at the very top. My destination. I am walking up new stairs to a restored fortress. In ancient times, the Armenians had a fortress here, called Yernjak. Its strategic position and its natural protection ensured many long battles fought here. It was besieged by the Arabs and the Mongols, and only conquered by Tamerlane when those defending the fortress fell apart in discord. In an old travel guide, only ruins are referred to on this location, but much work has been done to restore the fortification. The well-protected narrow valley is cold, and I climb the stairs on snow.
It is only when I reach the top of the stairs, that I find myself back in the sunlight. I climb the stairs to the very end, turn around, and finally see the view that earned Alinja Gala the label Machu Picchu of Nakhchivan. A little lower, I look down into a valley deep below. This fortress was really difficult to conquer and easy to defend. I climb to the other side of the mountain, work myself up on patches of snow, and get rewarded with always spectacular views of a restored fortress amidst fields of snow and on top of steep mountains. I walk the southern side of the walls, and then climb up as far as I can reasonably and safely go on that humped mountain at whose foot the fortification lies. From here, I see Ilandag mountain floating above the plains in the background. After walking down the stairs, I am happy to find the small museum open, and study the objects that were found here during the restoration works. From here, it is almost impossible to see the fortress above, and I realise once more what a well-protected location this is.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Alinja Gala fortress (Azerbaijan). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Alinja Gala fortress. Read more about this site.