Bounded by the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains, Azerbaijan is neither Europe or Asia and truly a country of contrasts where old meets new. This lesser explored country has a 500km stretch of coastline along the Caspian Sea and is best known for it’s abundance of oil and natural gas reserves. Often called the ‘land of Fire’ the word Azerbaijan literally means ‘protector of fire’ of which the symbol is reflected in the Flame Towers in the country’s capital city of Baku.
Beyond the Baku you will find a beautiful, historical country which maintains a traditional lifestyle with small mountain villages with locals ready to welcome you – get there before the rest of the world does!
Located at an elevation of 28 meters below sea level, Baku is the world’s lowest-lying national capital city and the largest city on the Caspian Sea. It is a city of contrasts from the UNESCO protected historical old city surrounded by 12th century walls to the incredible modern architecture of the Flame Towers, the carpet museum, and the star shaped wings of the Deniz Mall. It is also home to Little Venice, a man-made waterway which you can travel by gondola between shops and restaurants.
Gobustan Uncover an incredible collection of over 6,000 ancient petroglyphs charting ways of life dating back tens of thousands of years. A short drive away you will also find an incredible number of mud volcanoes, a fascinating natural wonder.
Azerbaijan’s former capital is surrounded by pretty countryside and recognized as the centre of wine making and carpet weaving. One of the most beautiful cities in the Orient, this historic town has several attractions including the Yeddi Gumbaz Mausoleum and the Jummah Mosque.
Sheki A small city located just off the slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains it is rich in Silk Road history and famous for its incredible architecture, food and friendly locals – a true gem of Azerbaijan!
Located in the western part of the Azerbaijan known for some of most picturesque scenery in the country with a beautiful mountain lake, dramatic peaks and thick green forests. The region is also known as the birthplace of the wine industry in Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan can be visited year round however the preferrable time is between April – June and September – October which avoids very hot summers and cold winters. The mountains in spring turn into a frenzy of beautiful wildflowers and you will see the locals out dancing in traditional costume to celebrate.
Flying into Baku, I was not really sure what to expect. Post-Soviet upheaval followed by modern era oil wealth and not yet on the usual travellers radar, the country calls itself the ‘Land of Fire’ endorsed by the three elegant spires of the Flame Towers soaring above the medieval Old City. Baku surprised me regardless – an ancient city centre surrounded by impressive modern architecture nestling between the Caspian Sea and semi-desert. I wandered by the mysterious Maiden Tower (possibly built as a temple but who knows?), and the 15th century Shirvanshah’s Palace before hitting the cobweb of tiny alleys of the Inner City to see artists at work, carpets and keepsakes, antique shops and little boutiques before sitting at a traditional restaurant to try dolma, stuffed cabbage leaves with lamb and rice, and qutab, a savoury spinach filled pancake with yoghurt dressing. A trip to Sheki at the foot of the Caucasus mountains was a treat. This was an important link in the old Silk Road and was visited by merchants from the world over. The pretty historical centre reflects its grand history of trade, a rich cultural heritage of artisan handcrafts and locals more than happy to take time out to chat.
Kate Couling, Director
Currency Azerbaijani Manat (AZN). Card payments are accepted in most places with cash preferred in smaller towns.
Language The official language is Azerbaijani, with Russian also spoken.
Why we love it A country less explored by tourists making it excellent value for money and also one of the safest destinations in the world. Get there before the rest of the world does!
Weather The winters are cold but not freezing, however The Caucasus Mountain Range does get light snowfall as they protect the country from Arctic conditions. The summers are hot and sunny with inland areas prone to some afternoon thunderstorms.
Social customs and quirks Drinking tea is a big part of Azerbaijan’s hospitality which takes place before a meal and done in the form of popping sugar or jam into your mouth before sipping your tea. Sweet treat anyone?
When families are matchmaking, the tea tray will indicate how arrangements are progressing – if it is served without sugar then more negotiating needs to be done and if it sweet…the wedding is on!
Bread is considered sacred and is never thrown away – Azerbaijanis will hang it up in bags to signify their respect and if it is dropped on the floor then it is customary to kiss as an apology.
Festivals and events
There are many festivals throughout the year including food, music, culture and wine.
The Novruz festival takes place in spring and is a traditional holiday which celebrates the Persian New Year and the coming of spring. All Azerbaijanis take part with travellers welcomed to take part in the celebrations.
Summer is the time for events and festivals including the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Zhara International Music Festival and the smaller folk festivals such as the Nomadic Culture Festival.
There are currently no health requirements for entering Azerbaijan.
Notes *Please be aware that Health information is subject to change at any time and you should always double check these requirements at the time of booking and before travel.