AZERBAIJAN TRAVEL GUIDE
Step away Turkey! Azerbaijan is the original 'East-meets-West' destination! Placed at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, this former Soviet Republic (barely bigger than Ireland!), boasts an astonishing variety of natural wonders from snow-capped mountains and bubbling mud volcanoes to sandy deserts and subtropical forests. Azerbaijan swings comfortably between modern city-scapes and Arabian night-esque exotica whilst providing some of the most extraordinary landscapes in all of Caucasia.
Partly thanks to the imposing Caucasus MOuntains the northern parts are arguably the prettiest part of the country. Around the misty peaks of this 4466 m behemoth bears, wolves and leopards still roam freely and nomadic shepherds to this day move their flocks along the slopes of the mountains in search of fresh pasture - as they have done for thousands of years. Meanwhile, a mere stone throws away, the capital of Baku buzzes in a confusing conflict between its old town heritage and modern architecture. Along the boulevards of downtown Baku, Nouveau riche residents flutter between expensive boutiques, exclusive shops, and luxury hotels. Modern Azerbaijan is a sovereign state and, although Islamic, the mood seems distinctly secular.
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AZERBAIJAN QUICK FACTS
Capital: Baku (Baki)
Currency: Azerbaijani manat (AZN)
Population: 9,047,000 (Aug 2010)
Language: Azerbaijani (Azeri) 93.4% (official), Russian 2.5%, Lezgin 2.2%, other 1.9%
Religion: Muslim 95.4%, Russian Orthodox 2.8%, other 1.8%
Electricity: 220V/50Hz (European plug)
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AZERBAIJAN PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
20 January, National Day of Mourning
8 March, Women’s Day
20 March, Now Rouz (Persian New Year)
9 May, Victory Day
28 May, Republic Day
15 June, National Day of Salvation
26 June, Armed Forces Day
18 October, Independence Day
9 November, State Flag Day
31 December, Solidarity Day of World Azerbaijanis
Also, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.
FESTIVALS IN AZERBAIJAN
BEST TIME TO VISIT AZERBAIJAN
Azerbaijan’s climate is highly varied, with different areas of the country containing examples of nine of the world’s eleven climate zones. This includes semi-arid, temperate, warm-temperate, cold, and tundra zones, meaning that there are marked variations in average annual temperate and precipitation in different regions. In general, more mountainous parts of Azerbaijan receive higher levels of precipitation and lower average temperatures than the central lowlands and Caspian Sea coast, where the climate is drier and hotter.
The best time to visit Azerbaijan is during spring (March-June) when the weather is warm and the foliage is in full bloom. The summer months (July-September) can be depressingly hot and humid, particularly in the capital, Baku, but these are also the best months to go hiking in the mountains.
Although temperatures along the Caspian coastline remain mild throughout winter (November-February), the mercury dip well below freezing further inland - as shown in the chart below. The mountains during the winter months are covered in snow and can be very treacherous to traverse. Though downpours do occur throughout the country, most of the rainfall is confined to the western parts.
AZERBAIJAN WEATHER SYNOPSIS
AZERBAIJAN TOURIST SEASONS
Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists.
Off Peak Season
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN AZERBAIJAN
The snow sports season in Azerbaijan is from mid-December until mid-April.
HIKING & CYCLING IN AZERBAIJAN
The best time for outdoor activities in Azerbaijan is from April to October. July and August can be hot but perfect for hiking the higher altitudes.
BEACH OPTIONS IN AZERBAIJAN
Azerbaijan has a hot summer from June to August. These are just some of the best beaches: Bilgah Beach, Amburan Beach Club, Shikhov Beach, Absheron Peninsula Beaches, Nabran, Pirsagi and Lankaran.
SURFING IN AZERBAIJAN
KITESURF IN AZERBAIJAN
Looking to kitesurf in Azerbaijan? Check out the Blueplanet resort in the Khizi region’s village of Shuraabad, near Baku.
For more details on kite surfing in Azerbaijan expand this section!
HEALTH RISKS IN AZERBAIJAN
Be aware of possible health risks in
Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.
Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.
Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.
AZERBAIJAN TRAVEL COSTS
Although it’s rich in oil money, Azerbaijan is still an affordable destination. Baku can be kind of expensive but, once you leave the capital, prices drop considerably and it’s easy to see a lot and spend a little, especially since so much of the country revolves around hiking and the outdoors.
The cost of traveling to Azerbaijan will depend on various factors such as the time of year, mode of transportation, and type of accommodation. However, on average, a budget-friendly trip to Azerbaijan can cost around $50-70 USD per day for accommodations, food, and transportation. This can vary depending on the level of luxury desired and the specific activities and sights you plan to visit. It would be best to research and compare prices for flights, accommodation, and transportation to get a more accurate estimate of the cost of your trip.
Here are some sample costs you might expect when visiting Azerbaijan:
- Accommodation: A budget hotel room can cost around $20-30 USD per night, while a mid-range hotel room can cost around $50-70 USD per night. A luxury hotel room can cost $100 USD or more per night.
- Food: A meal at a local restaurant can cost around $5-10 USD per person. Street food and snacks can be found for as little as $1-2 USD.
- Transportation: A one-way ticket on public transportation can cost around $0.50 USD, while a taxi ride within the city can cost around $5-10 USD. A domestic flight within Azerbaijan can cost around $30-50 USD.
- Activities: Entrance fees to museums and historical sites can range from $1-5 USD. A guided tour of the city can cost around $20-30 USD per person.
Please note that these are just estimates and prices may vary depending on the location, time of year, and other factors. It's always best to research and compare prices for specific dates and locations to get a more accurate estimate of the cost of your trip.
AZERBAIJAN TRAVEL TIPS
Here are some travel tips for Azerbaijan:
- Visa: Visitors from most countries will need a visa to enter Azerbaijan. It's best to check the visa requirements and apply for one in advance.
- Currency: The official currency of Azerbaijan is the Azerbaijani Manat (AZN). It's best to have some cash on hand as not all places accept credit cards.
- Language: Azerbaijani is the official language, but many people in the tourism industry speak English.
- Dress Code: Azerbaijan is a Muslim-majority country, and it's considered respectful to dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites.
- Transportation: Taxis are widely available and relatively inexpensive. They can be flagged down on the street or ordered by phone. Public transportation is also an option, but it may be less convenient for travelers.
- Safety: Azerbaijan is generally considered a safe country for tourists. However, it's always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and take standard safety precautions.
- Food: Azerbaijani cuisine is a mix of Mediterranean, Central Asian, and Caucasus flavors. Some traditional dishes include dolma (stuffed grape leaves), plov (pilaf rice), and kebab.
- Respect: Azerbaijan is a relatively conservative country, so it's important to respect local customs and traditions.
- Weather: Azerbaijan has a dry and sunny climate, but the weather can be quite hot in the summer. So, it is best to bring sunscreen, a hat, and lightweight clothing.
- Information: It's a good idea to have a guidebook or map with you when traveling in Azerbaijan. It will help you to find your way around and make your trip more comfortable.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF AZERBAIJAN
For a small country, Azerbaijan packs a powerful punch. Situated on the Caspian Sea, it offers visitors an enticing mix of seaside fun, stunning cities, unspoiled nature, remarkable historical attractions, and some of the most incredible national parks in the world.
Azerbaijan is divided into several regions, each with its own unique culture and attractions. Here are some of the main regions of Azerbaijan and the highlights of each region:
- Baku: This is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan. The highlights of Baku include the Old City, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to the Maiden Tower and the Palace of the Shirvanshahs. The city also boasts several museums, parks, and modern architectural landmarks such as the Flame Towers and the Heydar Aliyev Center.
- Absheron Peninsula: This region is located east of Baku and is known for its beautiful beaches, mud volcanoes, and the Ateshgah Fire Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Guba: This region is located in the northeastern part of Azerbaijan and is known for its beautiful landscapes, including the Gudial Chay Nature Reserve, which is home to a variety of plant and animal species.
- Gabala: This region is located in the northwest of Azerbaijan and is known for its stunning landscapes, including the Caucasus Mountains, and its traditional culture. The highlights of this region include the Nij settlement, the ancient city of Gabala and the Tufandag Winter-Summer Tourism Complex
- Lankaran: This region is located in the south of Azerbaijan and is known for its hot springs, beautiful landscapes, and the Hirkan National Park, which is home to a variety of plant and animal species.
- Sheki: This region is located in the northwest of Azerbaijan and is known for its traditional architecture, including the Sheki Khan's Palace, and its beautiful landscapes, such as the Sheki Zagatala Reserve.
- Nakhchivan: This is an autonomous republic located in the southwest of Azerbaijan, it is known for its rich history, including the Juma Mosque and the Nakhchivan Museum of Local Lore.
These are just a few examples of the many regions of Azerbaijan, each with its own unique culture and attractions. It's best to research and plan your trip to make the most of your visit.
Azerbaijan offers a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors, here are some of the best things to see and do when visiting Azerbaijan:
- Visit the Old City of Baku: This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the Maiden Tower, the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, and many other historical and cultural landmarks.
- See the Flame Towers: These three skyscrapers are the tallest buildings in Baku, and offer an amazing view of the city from the observation deck.
- Visit the Heydar Aliyev Center: This modern architectural masterpiece is a cultural center designed by the world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid.
- Relax on the beaches of the Absheron Peninsula: This region is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Azerbaijan, such as the beaches of Novkhani and Bilgah.
- Explore the Gudial Chay Nature Reserve: This reserve is located in Guba and is home to a variety of plant and animal species, including endangered Caucasian leopards.
- Visit the Ateshgah Fire Temple: This UNESCO World Heritage Site is an ancient temple dedicated to the worship of fire, which is located in the Absheron Peninsula.
- Visit the Gabala and Nij: This region offers a variety of activities such as visiting the ancient city of Gabala, home to many historical and cultural landmarks, and the Tufandag Winter-Summer Tourism Complex, which offers ski slopes and cable cars.
- Explore the Hirkan National Park: This park is located in Lankaran and is home to a variety of plant and animal species, including the endangered Caucasian leopard and the Caucasian deer.
- Visit Sheki: This region offers a variety of activities such as visiting the Sheki Khan's Palace, and the Sheki Zagatala Reserve, which is home to a variety of plant and animal species.
- Visit Nakhchivan: This autonomous republic offers a variety of activities such as visiting the Juma Mosque, the Nakhchivan Museum of Local Lore and the Khan's Palace.
These are just a few examples of the many things to see and do in Azerbaijan. It's best to research and plan your trip in advance to make the most of your visit.
WHAT TO EAT IN AZERBAIJAN
Azerbaijani food combines elements from both Turkish and central Asia. While Baku has an excellent selection of international restaurants, from Japanese fusion to Italian, in most rural restaurants the humble kebab most definitely reigns supreme. A special place in the Azerbaijani cuisine belongs to lamb kebabs, of which you will find many varieties. Vegetarians might end up eating a great deal of salad and lentil soup as most of the local dishes contain meat.
- Dolma: This dish is made of grape leaves stuffed with meat, rice and herbs. It's a popular dish in Azerbaijan and can be served as a main course or as an appetizer.
- Plov: This is a traditional dish made of rice, meat, and vegetables. It's a staple of Azerbaijani cuisine and can be found in most restaurants.
- Kebab: Azerbaijan is known for its delicious kebabs, which are made of meat grilled on a skewer. Some popular varieties include lyula kebab (made of ground meat), and shashlik (made of large chunks of meat).
- Dovga: This is a traditional Azerbaijani soup made of yogurt, vegetables, and herbs. It's considered a healthy and light dish and is perfect for hot summer days
- Piti: A traditional Azerbaijani stew made of meat and vegetables that are cooked in a clay pot and served with yogurt and herbs.
- Qutab: A traditional Azerbaijani dish made of thinly rolled dough filled with meat, greens or cheese.
- Gogal: A traditional Azerbaijani sweet made from flour, eggs, sugar, and butter.
- Pomegranate Juice: Azerbaijan is known for its delicious pomegranate juice, which is made of fresh pomegranates and is available in most restaurants and cafes.
These are just a few examples of the many delicious dishes you can try when visiting Azerbaijan. Be sure to try as many as you can while you're there and ask locals for recommendations as well.
LGBTQ IN AZERBAIJAN
WHERE TO STAY IN AZERBAIJAN
When visiting Azerbaijan for the first time, it's best to stay in the capital city of Baku. Baku offers a wide range of accommodation options, including budget-friendly hotels, mid-range hotels, and luxury hotels. Staying in Baku will give you easy access to many of the city's main attractions, such as the Old City, the Flame Towers, and the Heydar Aliyev Center.
The Old City of Baku or Icheri Sheher, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is considered one of the must-see places in Baku and offers a great location to stay, it is surrounded by many historical and cultural landmarks, restaurants and shops.
Another great option is the seaside boulevard or the Baku Boulevard, it is a popular spot for tourists and locals, this area offers great views of the Caspian Sea and the Flame Towers, it also offers a great variety of restaurants, cafes, and shops.
If you are looking for luxury accommodation, there are several options available such as the Fairmont Baku Flame Towers, Four Seasons Hotel Baku, and The JW Marriott Absheron Baku.
It's important to note that prices can vary depending on the season and events happening in the city, so it's best to research and compare prices in advance. Make sure to read reviews and check the location of the accommodation before making a booking.
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