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Land of Fire: Azerbaijan

Dal Kikin
October 10, 2018

Photo: iStock/ET1972

Azerbaijan is a country of mountains and mud volcanoes, multiculturalism and mugham. Located at the crossroads of east and west, this country combines dramatic landscapes and unique culture.

More recently, Georgia was the most popular destination of the South Caucasus among international tourists, but affordable prices and incredible hospitality made Azerbaijan an interesting destination.

Photo: iStock/daymir

What to do in Azerbaijan:

Stroll through the old town 

Until the oil boom, which turned Baku into the industrial center of the Russian Empire, the city’s limits were limited to so-called Old town (Icheri Sheher), surrounded by a fortress wall. Today this place is still the cultural center of Baku.

Photo: iStock/saiko3p

We advise you to walk through the cobbled streets, visiting art workshops, museums and cafes and see such historical architectural sights as the Maiden's Tower, the Palace of Shirvan Shahs, ancient mosques and baths. Do not miss the opportunity to dine in one of the many authentic restaurants located here.

Photo: iStock/master2

Visit museums in Baku

Azerbaijan is saturated with history and culture, and some of the museums and museum centers located in Baku are worthy of attention. Among them is the Heydar Aliyev Center, designed by renowned British architect of Arab origin Zaha Hadid. We advise you to walk through the cobbled streets, go to art workshops, museums and cafes, see such historical architectural sights as the Maiden's Tower, the Palace of Shirvan Shahs, ancient mosques and baths. Do not miss the opportunity to dine in one of the many authentic restaurants located here.

Photo: iStock/Armastas

Spend the day in Gobustan

At a distance of about 40 km from the center of Baku is the Gobustan National Park, where there are more than 6 thousand rock paintings that are included in the UNESCO list and give a unique insight into the origin of life in the region of the Caspian-Caucasus region. 

Photo: iStock/Konstantin_Novakovic

Nearby are mud volcanoes. According to various sources, in Azerbaijan from 30% to 50% of the total number of mud volcanoes in the world are concentrated.

Photo: iStock/master2

Get to know Absheron beaches

Considering that the summer in Baku is hot, many Baku residents are moving to summer cottages from the end of May, closer to the sea, writes Marsden. The beach culture in Baku is a unique phenomenon: the usual picture is a series of old Soviet cars parked near the shore, and whole families rest by a picnic by the sea, bringing samovars and watermelons with them.

Photo: iStock/Zeferli

Try honey and wine from Ismailly

The village of Ivanovka is a unique settlement of Russian Christians who were expelled from the central regions of Russia in tsarist times. Ivanovka still remains the center of Russian culture in Azerbaijan.

Photo: iStock/Alexmumu

Here you can see rows of neat houses built like a Russian hut and find the best honey in the Caucasus and the last collective farm preserved in Azerbaijan, which produces the popular Ivanovka wine brand.

Photo: iStock/matucha

Discover the heritage of the Silk Road in Sheki

Sheki, located at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains in the north-west of Azerbaijan, used to be located on the Silk Road - the caravan route from Asia to Europe. Sheki and today remains the center of production of silk products and crafts.

Photo: iStock/Elena Odareeva

Here, tourists should pay attention to such elements of the local culture as traditional hats, hats, halvah, the famous Sheki textiles embroidery, shebeke-style windows with multicolored glass, made of small wooden parts without glue and nails.

Photo: iStock/Ian_Redding

Stroll between the remote villages of Guba

Azerbaijan can surprise any tourist with its picturesque views, and the mountain Guba region in this regard is one of the most impressive places. 

Photo: iStock/Zeferli

It is also interesting because representatives of many ethnic minorities living here, who have preserved their language and culture while living in remote mountain villages. Two villages - Khinalig and Gyryz - are becoming increasingly popular eco-tourism destinations.

Photo: iStock/photoaliona

Take a weekend trip to Nakhchivan

Legend has it that the fang-like peak of the Nakhchivan mountain Ilan-Dag (Snake Mountain) was created as a result of a collision with Noah's Ark. You can only get to Nakhchivan by plane, and you should be prepared to be politely asked questions at the airport upon arrival. This place will impress guests with its ancient mountains, delicious lemons and spectacular views across the Araz River towards the northern part of Iran.

Photo: iStock/Konstantin_Novakovic

Visit the wonderful lake of Goygol

Lake Goygol, located in the Goygol National Park, is the most impressive place in the western part of Azerbaijan. Do not miss the opportunity to look at the lake Maral-gel. The places here are untouched and because the forests are full of wild animals - wolves, jackals, bears. Along with this, along your route you can find many traditional tea cafes and rural houses.

Photo: iStock/Tycson1

Meet the snowy slopes of Azerbaijan

There are two small ski resorts in Azerbaijan - Shahdag and Tufandag, which were opened several years ago and offer new routes in the Caucasus mountains to lovers of skiing. The ski season in the country is quite short - from mid-December to late February. However, both resorts also offer summer vacation options.

Photo: iStock/BSANI

Immerse yourself in the hospitality and culture of tea drinking

Azerbaijanis are so hospitable people, especially in rural areas, that you will not notice how you are invited into the house, fed with homemade dolma, khingal or pilaf, followed by endless glasses of tea.

Photo: iStock/photoaliona

Tea is a national drink in Azerbaijan, and is an integral part of the culture, regardless of where you are - in the high mountains, on the Caspian coast, or in a small cafe by the road. Tea is served in small glasses of armuda, as a rule, together with fruit jam or national pastries.

Photo: iStock/Seva_blsv