The small, stone-built village of Ilisu is set in the beautiful Qaracay Valley, nicknamed Qax’s ‘mini-Switzerland’. It is located amid dense woods at the foot of the Caucasus mountains, under Mt. Ahvay, not far from the border with Dagestan (Russian Federation). The road itself is very scenic both for the landscape and for a 16th century bridge 2km out of the village itself.
The village is a fascinating place to wander and makes a great base for hikes towards the nearby mountains and waterfalls of the Ilisu Nature Reserve. Don’t go too far, however, as the reserve is a closed zone and the peaks behind form the sensitive Russian border.
The old stone houses have stood the test of time and are nice to wander among. However, set off the “main” street, one can found Ilisu surprisingly noisy. Clearly, there is a new construction going on here. It is a favorite getaway for locals trying to escape the heat in Qax (Gakh).
There are several restaurants advertising real Ilisu food, although one couldn’t tell the difference. The end of town does open up into a sprawling valley, supporting a trickling river. It is common for locals to bathe here. Further up valley a 4X4 tour could bring you to Sari Bash (a smaller village) or ‘Hamam istisu’ a natural “hot spring”. Minibuses from Qax (20 minutes) leave at 7.30am, 10.30am, noon, 2pm and 5pm.