Trans Eurasia travel

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Goygol lake

The road south from Xanlar winds up through the pretty woodland picnic spots of Hacikand and onto a ridge with magnificent views of the dramatic Lesser Caucasus range, crowned by the distinctive cleft peak of Mt Kapaz. For now the valley beyond is out of bounds. However it contains one of Azerbaijan's most celebrated beauty spots, the gorgeous, forest-ringed Goy Gol (blue lake), which is slated to reopen to tourism as a new national park within the next few years.

The distinctive rocky beak of Mt Kyapaz opened in the 1139 earthquake and disgorged such a mass of rock that it dammed the mountain streams in several places. The result was a string of seven idyllic mountain lakes known as the 'tears of Kyapaz'.

Most famous are Goy Gol (Blue Lake) formerly a popular sanatorium and camping retreat and the more secluded Maral Gol (Deer Lake). Lesser known Zali Gol (Leech Lake) and Sara Gol (Yellow Lake) never sounded as appealing. The area is especially magnificent in autumn when green forests are burnished yellow, auburn and red like a pointillist painting rising from Goy Gol's still blue waters to Kyapaz's dramatic crown. The best views are part way to Maral Gol.

Sadly it's far from assured that you'll be allowed to see these delights. There are military checkpoints before and beyond Chaykand where troops may refuse passage to anyone except registered residents. They cite the dangers of Armenian snipers though VIPs with military clearance and/or an official escort from the Xanlar or Ganja mayors offices might be allowed through - perhaps they're bulletproof.

Even if you can't get as far as the lakes, the drive as far as the first checkpost above Chaykand still offers delightful views of weird Mt Kyapaz and its attractive forest scenery. If you can reach the lakes, this is one of the most rewarding trips in Azerbaijan.