Located at an elevation of 2,300 meters in the Caucasus Mountains, the village of Khinalyg is known for its garadams, or traditionally built houses. Built of river stones, these single-room structures have flat roofs and an aperture to let in light and allow smoke to escape. The garadams blend into the mountains in which the village is nestled, and the houses are built so close to each other that there are no streets or yards separating them. Rather, the roofs of the houses on lower levels act as the yards for the houses above. According to village elders, there were originally four different tribes within the village, each living within its own quarter and speaking variations of the Khinalyg language. Although archaeological findings suggest that the village has been occupied for two millennia, the remains we see today date to the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries.
Recent construction of a road between Khinalyg and Guga, the local district headquarters, is changing the nature of this once-isolated village, with easier access expected to attract tourists and commercial activity to Khinalyg. Although tourism and development would be welcome—and would provide new sources of revenue for the village—there is concern about preserving Khinalyg's unique character. It is hoped that inclusion on the Watch List will help Khinalyg allow for expansion and better communication with the outside world, but not at the expense of its essential character. Last update: 2008