Azerbaijan's hazelnut capital has a lovely location at the confluence of wide mountain rivers descending steeply from the high Caucasus mountains. Zaqatala is a pleasant enough village of 27,000 people and it is located so close to the Georgian border you can smell the khachpuri.
Generally Zaqatala lacks any sights of note, which makes it an excellent example of a typical Azerbaijani town. It's a pleasantly presented place, with an attractive new mosque, a small Historical Museum (30 Heydar Aliyev Pr; 9am-1pm & 2-6pm) and a pretty little old town square featuring some 700-year-old chinar trees. Hidden close by is the maudlin ruin of a once-fine Russian Church.
Directly above, Zaqatala's Russian fortress (military use, no entry) was built in 1830 and guarded against attacks from the Dagestan-based guerrilla army of Imam Shamil. Arguably this is the coolest thing to see in town. It was used after the 1905 failed Revolution in Russia as a prison for the mutinous crew of the battleship Potemkin, whose famous mutiny at Odessa in 1905 foreshadowed the Russian revolution. However, it is currently occupied by the Azerbaijani army (very strange), even taking pictures of it could land you in serious trouble.
The Dada Gorgud is the best place in town to get your finger on the pulse of the city. It's an old central square where locals come to rest in the shade of 750 year old Cinar trees, drink tea and apparently stare at the tourists (a rare sight in these parts). It is much more lively at night, as it seems EVERYONE in town comes out to parade up and down the small square
Just off the square lie the ruins of a once mighty Georgian/Russian/an "unnamed country" church. It lies, completely abandoned. Getting into the church is a challenge. It's locked away in a private courtyard. So, from the Old Square, look for the big blue doors next to the pink building. Either stand outside looking lost or politely knock on the door (it's usually latched). Someone will eventually let you in. Once inside politely ask to see the church, even if it means a serious of grunts and hand gestures. The inside isn't spectacular, but it's cool to check out the old Georgian/other country script.
There's a park up on the hill in the North of town with a few Soviet era amusement park rides and tea houses.
Getting into town is easy, there are direct bus links to every city in the area for a couple Manat. There is also an overnight train to Baku, even though the train station is a taxi ride out of town.
Lost in blossoms and greenery, this is a chocolate-box village of picturesque houses tucked behind mossy dry-stone walls in abundant orchards of chestnut and walnut. The hills above make for delightful hiking, where the thick deciduous forests give way to open, grassy ridges at around 1800m. Amid 3000m - plus peaks beyond, the remote Zaqatala Nature Reserve is home to brown bear, wild boar and the endangered Caucasian tur (a huge mountain goat).