Azerbaijan: Inside the salt mountain health centre trying to ‘cure’ tourists’ respiratory troubles

The healing salt caves in Nakhichevan give hope to respiratory patients.
The healing salt caves in Nakhichevan give hope to respiratory patients. Copyright Reuters
By Euronews Travel with Reuters
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See inside the salt mountain where people travel from all over the world to stay and breathe deep.


The inner chambers of a salt mountain might not sound like the most obvious choice for a holiday.

But there’s something about this physiotherapy centre in the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic which keeps visitors coming back.

Officially part of Azerbaijan on the edge of eastern Europe, though physically separated by Armenia, Nakhichevan is rich in natural resources.

For those suffering from respiratory problems, their hopes lie 350 metres deep in the healing salt caves of Duzdag, where the Duzdagı Physiotherapy Center can only be reached through tunnels.

A former Soviet salt mine, the site now exists purely as a sanatorium to treat a range of breathing illnesses, from asthma to bronchitis.

“Nakhchivan is a very important place for health tourism,” explains the department manager Quliyev Niami.

“People from 20 countries of the world such as Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Russia, Japan, Germany and the US come to our hospital for treatment.”

What’s on offer at the Duzdagı Physiotherapy Center?

The Duzdagı Physiotherapy Center is a sanatorium to treat a range of breathing illnesses.
The Duzdagı Physiotherapy Center is a sanatorium to treat a range of breathing illnesses.Reuters

The health centre develops a personalised treatment plan for each guest.

Accompanying visitors are welcome too, and everyone is accommodated in dormitories inside the mountain.

“We are trying to cure respiratory diseases,” explains head nurse Mirzeyeva Nurane. “Those who want to receive treatment at the hospital first undergo the necessary tests and examinations.

“Then, depending on the condition of the disease, the treatment period is determined between 7-15 days."

She adds that those who have experienced the benefits of the physiotherapy centre often want to return with their relatives.

What are the health benefits of salt caves?

There are no harmful gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen inside the cave, Niami stresses.

The interior temperature of the cave, which has natural ventilation, varies between 18-20Cregardless of the season.

So year round it provides a peaceful place for people to inhale deeply. Advocates of halotherapy (as time amid dry salt is known) say it improves respiratory health, boosts the immune system, improves skin conditions and helps to relieve stress.

Salt has been extracted from Duzdagı Physiotherapy Center since the 12th century, but is now imported in. It has been operating as a physiotherapy centre since 1979.

Watch the video above to see inside the salt caves of Duzdag.

Video editor • Hannah Brown

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