Have you ever heard of Azerbaijan, the land of fire? It is a republic divided partially between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. Azerbaijan is the centre of many; to its north, you can find Russia; to its east, you can see the Caspian Sea; Iran to the South and both Armenia and Georgia to its west.
Azerbaijan’s capital is Baku, located on the coast of the Caspian Sea. The country’s official native language is Azerbaijani, a Turkic language spoken by most of its population. Other languages are used and play a significant role in education and communication, which are English and Russian.
Ninety per cent of the population is mostly made up of Turkic-speaking Azerbaijanis; the rest are minorities of Caucasians, Russians and Armenians. Most of the population are Muslims, and a small percentage are Russian and Armenian Orthodox.
From 1918 to 1920, Azerbaijan was an independent nation and then incorporated into the Soviet Union. In 1936, it became a constituent (union) republic, but a few years later, in 1989, it declared sovereignty, followed by independence in 1991.
Currency and Economy
Azerbaijani Manat (AZN) is the national currency of Azerbaijan. Their economy is divided into several sectors, including industrial and agricultural. Also, they have been expanding in heavy industries, mainly petroleum and natural gas. Their main economy depends on oil, which led to remarkable growth, making it one of the leading countries with an oil-based economy.
Let’s Find out More About Their Unique Culture
Mix the Middle East, Russia and Turkey, and you’ll have Azerbaijan’s culture; it is a blend of both East and West. You can find theatres, libraries, and museums in their capital – Baku. One of the highlights of their culture is tea. They love to pour it into a pear-shaped glass called Armuda; it gets served without milk and usually with a cube of sugar that they bite into before sipping the tea. Tea is a form of hospitality there and is usually served with sweets and pastries.
Amazing Hospitality, Food and Music
The Azerbaijanis are very hospitable and take it seriously as they go to great lengths to make you feel comfortable, at home and valued. If you ask for directions, they would rather show you than just tell. Their food is also influenced by the East and West. One of their top famous dishes is “Plov”, a rice-based dish with a wide range of delicious food and combinations, such as chicken or meat. Other dishes: Dolma, which is stuffed grape leaves, Kebab, Piti, which is lamb and chickpea soup, Dushbara and many more.
They love and appreciate their music. Their most popular music is “Mugham”, a form of folk music. Their music is often performed at weddings and other celebrations and includes a variety of styles.
Novruz Celebration, which means a new day, is a very important tradition and holiday celebration that takes place every spring. They celebrate it with various customs, traditions, shows and games. Novruz has four symbols: fire, water, land and wind, symbolising the arrival of spring.
They celebrate every symbol on a separate day, believing that water purifies and stirs, then fire, next is land and fourth is the wind that awakes nature so that the trees blossom after winter. For the occasion, they prepare special foods such as Samani – a type of sprouted wheat, wear special customs, make bonfires, and visit family and friends.
The Climate in Azerbaijan
The climate there is characterised by mild winters, where sometimes it can be cold, and there is probably snow in the mountains. At the same time, summers are four to five long, sunny and hot months with heat waves sometimes.
The best tourist places to visit in winter are Shahdag Mountain Resort, Fountain Square, Tufandag Mountain Resort and the village of Khenaliq. On the other hand, it’s best to visit Baku, Qubustan and Sheki in summer.
Where to Go and What to Visit in Azerbaijan in Winter
Just because it snows in winter doesn’t mean you can’t visit Azerbaijan. You can enjoy many things from November till March, such as the snow and snow-related activities and the snuggly days with the breathtaking view of the mountains and nature. Winter lovers do exist, and here are a few things they will definitely enjoy.
The first thing on the list goes to gearing up and hiking. Take a stroll and wander in breathtaking places and enjoy the beautiful nature; you can do that at Yeddi Gozel Waterfall, World War II Memorial Park, Lake Nohur. You can also go skiing at Tufandag or Shahdag. There you will find all the safety gear and professional guides that’ll ensure you slide down the snowy slopes and enjoy your adventure safely. You can also take part in snowmobiling and quad biking tours.
Another daring activity for the adventurous ones is Zip-lining. You can go on exhilarating Zip-lining tours in Khizi, Salyan, and many more places. You can also enjoy Azerbaijan’s snow by engaging with your kids in fun activities such as sledging and snow tubing. After engaging in all these adventurous activities, you can chill by spending the day at the spa or enjoying some nightlife.
The best places to visit in winter are The Flame Towers, The Museum of Modern Art, The Teze Bazaar, and many more.
What’s Best to Do and Go in the Summer
Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, is a great place to start. It is known for its amazing architecture and seaside promenade. You can go see Heydar Aliyev Centre, the most famous building and an icon of Azerbaijan. It contains both a museum and a conference centre with rotating exhibitions.
Spend an evening by the Caspian Sea and enjoy some seafood. Another place you can enjoy is Absheron Peninsula which includes several resorts and beaches. Also, you can enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking and camping with stunning views of the Caucasus Mountains.
Another activity you can do during the summer in Azerbaijan is exploring the mud volcanoes. Mud volcanoes are formed by the eruption of mud and gases from underground. The most popular ones are Qubustan, Lokbatan and Turaghai mud volcanoes.
You can enjoy the beach season from June to September. Summertime is harvesting time for some delightful fruits, berries, greens and vegetables. You can enjoy your chilled fruits by the beach or save them for a picnic to pamper yourself. You can enjoy seeing a wide range of animals and species at one of the many national parks, for example, Absheron National Park in the Caspian region, Shivan National Park in Salyan Rayon, or Agh Gol National Park.
You can also check out the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum, one of the world’s largest carpet museums. It has a wide range of materials and styles from different ages. You can also find an extensive range of pottery and metalwork dating back to the 14th century. During your tour, not only will you see amazing stuff, but you can buy mind-blowing souvenirs as well.
The Gabala Music Festival
This annual festival is held every summer from late July to early August. It is held in Gabala city, hence the festival’s name. Talented musicians worldwide come to perform at the festival in open-air concert halls.
Further Fun Things to Do During Your Visit
Do not miss visiting the longest roller coaster in Azerbaijan on the slopes of Shahdag. The Alpine coaster is 1.430 metres above sea level and features a 1670-metre track and 9 thrilling turns. You can enjoy it either in winter or summer; you’ll see stunning scenery of snow-covered mountains in winter or perfectly green mountains in summer. An average of 300 people can use around 50 sledges per hour. The coaster is perfect for adventure and adrenaline seekers.
Volcanoes in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan has many volcanoes, and these are not just any volcanoes; they are mud volcanoes. A mud volcano is a landform created by the eruption of mud, water and gases. These volcanoes do not actually produce lava and are not active. There are around 400 ones all over the country; some famous are The Yanar Dag, Gobustan and Dashgil. One of Azerbaijan’s most famous mud volcanoes is Yanar Dag, also known as the Burning Mountain.
Museum of Miniature Books
Located in the old part of their capital city Baku, there is the only miniature books museum in the world. It contains around 8,000 tiny, printed publications from 76 different countries. It was first opened on 23 April 2002. It is divided into 15 cases and 25 other exhibition cases. The museum includes different genres and themes; you’ll be mind-blown with the collection and how small their books can be; sizes range from 2mm to 10mm, and you can even see ones that are 2x2mm small that you obviously need a magnifying glass for.
You can find rare religious books, including seventeenth-century editions of the Quran, a four-volume Bible, a Catholic prayer book, the Torah, Buddhist stories and more. The museum funds are constantly restocked with new publications, and you can always donate any editions. With the largest collection of miniature books in the world, in 2015, the museum entered the Guinness Book of Records.
Baku, The Eccentric Capital City
Located 28 metres below sea level, Baku is the lowest-lying country capital in the world. “The City of God” or “The Place of God” is what Baku means. The city is a hot place for tourists because there are many things to do.
As a first-time visitor, you can take a stroll down Baku Boulevard, a famous seaside avenue along the shore of Caspian. It’s 25 kilometres long and usually visited by walkers and joggers who love to spend time in peace and quiet.
You can explore the city on foot, by metro, public bus or taxi. There are a lot of shopping malls; the most famous ones are Port Baku, Park Bulvar, Ganjlik Mall, Metro Park, 28 Mall and Aygun City. If you target high-end boutiques, you can find them in retail areas as well as chain stores.
One of the places you could visit as well is The Maiden Tower. It is the oldest structure in Baku and the most mysterious. It is unknown why it was built or when, not even the origin of its name. Yet, the tower is a symbol of the country and even appears on their currency – Manat. The tower is believed to narrate an ancient story about tragic love; even the word “Maiden” means unconquered or unbreakable. It’s located opposite the National Park Boulevard.
Three flame-shaped skyscrapers, “The Flame Towers”, that are shaped to symbolise the elements of fire, are a reference to “The Land of Fire”, which is Azerbaijan’s nickname. Each tower has a different function; one is a residential 33-floor with a height of 190 metres, the second is a 30-floor hotel with a height of 160 metres, and the third is a 28-floor office with a height of 140 metres.
Do not forget to pass by and see the largest flag in the world, which is made of silk, weighs two tons and is 100 x 50 metres. We could go on and on about what a tourist can see, explore and visit in Azerbaijan; the list is endless. It is one of the nicest destinations to head to with family, friends or even solo.
In case you did not know Azerbaijan before, now you know enough. So, have you added it to your to-go list yet?