AREAS WITH HIGH TOURISM POTENTIAL
Azerbaijan lands have important qualities for tourism potential. Especially the north parts of the Apsheron Peninsula, Khazar coasts, Guba-Khachmaz Lenkeran Plain, central and western parts have higher tourism potential.
Apsheron Peninsula: It is one of the most important areas where recreational resting complexes can be established considering its natural conditions, climate, warm and clear sea, fine sand beaches, healing waters, transport and infrastructure. Healing purpose sanatoriums are mostly here. There are many recreational centers on cardiovascular, nervous system and gastrointestinal diseases (Memmedov and Rehimov, 2000; Guliyev, 2000). This peninsula is also a focal point of camping. Hydrogen sulphure water sources in Surahanı, Şıh, Bilgeh, Buzovna, Pirşaha and Merdekan are important for thermal tourism.
Guba-Khachmaz: It is located in the northeast of Azerbaijan and it is one of the recreational areas with a large development perspetive. It has easy transport, natural view, mountain areas, balneology centers on Yalama-Nabran, Gilezi-Zarat coasts, Kalealtı, Haltan etc. mineral water sources to increase recreational importance.
Its close distance to the Khazar Sea and the railway, 500m height above the sea level, green landscaping, clean and healthy air and water made Kalealtı a popular center in a short time (Zeynallı, 1998; Oğan, 2000). It receives more than 2000 visitors only from Baku, Sumgayıt on weekends in summers. The total number of visitors in a year is about 100.000.
Lenkeran Plain: The Lenkeran Plain is one of the important recreational areas on the Khazar Coastline. The south of the plain, its subtropical climate, sand beaches, view, developed infrastructure, developed agriculture sector, labor force, mineral water sources strengthen the formation of tourism facilities. Lenkeran district has Meşesu and İbadı mineral water sources. They are preferred for treatment of joint diseases, gynecologic diseases, skin and cardiovascular diseases (Koçman et al. 1994; Abbasov,1998). Meşesu source has a 150 bed capacity facility.
Central and Western Region: Here, the tourism sector is less developed compared to the eastern part of Azerbaijan. There are a few seasonal recreational facilities on these vast lands.
The city of Naftalan on mountain hills has the only treatment purpose mud oil in the world. This city also has a 1500 bed capacity health unit which serves throughout the year.Naftalan treatment oil was used for treatment of scars even in very old periods according to Strabon.
In the second half of the 19th century, Naftalan drew attention of western states and a balm was produced in Germany from the sample taken from the oil well (Oğan, 2000; Memmedov and Rehimov, 2000). Today, the plants in Naftalan are visited by many tourists for treatment of various diseases (back, spine, joint, muscle, nervous system, vein, liver and gynecologic diseases).
The daily guest capacity of these plants is 30.000 and 120.000 personnel are employed here.
Şuşa is very famous balneology-climatic treatment center in Azerbaijan.
It is known to have superior healing properties than Davos health center in Switzerland.
In Şuşa, Turşsu and Şırlan carbon-hydrogen mineral waters, unique mountain views increase recreational potential (temporarily suspended under occupation of Armenia). In İstisu health unit, stomach, intestinal, nervous system, gynecologic and urologic diseases are treated (Koçman et al. 1994; Eminov, 2002). It is most visited in summer and houses and tents are for rent.
TOURISTIC CAMPS AND FACILITIES
Camps and facilities for tourists in Azerbaijan provide good accommodation.
Touristic Camps: There are various tourist camps in different areas of Azerbaijan. Mainly, Baku-Garadag, Mingeçevir, Hacikent, Susa, Naftalan, Gebele, Zagatala, Lenkeran and Yalama. Only the camps in Yalama have a capacity of over 1000 beds. The others have lower capacity. The tourism season begins in May and lasts for maximum 6 months until October. Tourist camps in Yalama, Zagatala, Susa and Baku are open for the entire year.
Recreational Facilities: There are 98 recreational facilities in Azerbaijan and they have 18.224 bed capacity as of 1998.
Their distribution by facility types and bed numbers are as follows.
Facility Type - Number of Facilities - Number of Beds
Treatment-Recreational facilities 48 10.914
Resting Houses and Hostels 13 845
Resting Camps 27 1461
Touristic Hotels and Tourism Camps 10 5004
Total 98 18.224
Source: ADİK*, 1999 and 2005.
* ADİK: Azerbaijan State Statistics Committee.
Considering recreational potential of Azerbaijan, the country can host 1 million tourists a year, but current facilities need to be renewed and new structures should be built. According to the Azerbaijan State Statistics Committee, the figures until 2014 are as follows.
Main Indicators of Tourism Organizations :
On the other hand, the organization of tourism and travel works is performed by local and foreign tourism institutions in Azerbaijan. For this purpose, tourism consultancy offices were established in some places such as Baku, Merdekan, Sumgayıt, Gence, Mingeçevir, Naftalan, Nakhchivan, Beylegan, Eli Bayramlı, Guba, Şamahı etc.
Major Tourism Centers and Touristic Roads
In Azerbaijan, the roads, which reach over to various tourism areas, and, which are commencing from the capital city, Baku, constitute the routes that have touristic value, and all of them are used within the inland tours.
Therefore, the roads, which have intense traffic load during weekends, holidays and summer months have gained importance as much as the destination center and its immediate vicinity. When one takes the Baku as the center point, some touristic roads and the touristic center within their vicinity are as follows:
Baku – Şamahı – Pirgulu: This touristic road passes through the south-eastern hillside of The Big Caucasus Mountains, and the stopover destinations are the wooden-houses located in Pirgulu Village and touristic hotels located in Şamahı. Şamahı is a county-town, which has various historical artifacts and ancient settlement ruins, and the Pirgulu is a rural recreational area, which contains abundant water resource and green-fields. The astronomy observatory creates attractiveness for that region. This area receives heavy snow-fall and is suitable for skiing, and various tours are arranged and it is possible to accommodate within the ordinary chalets.
Baku-Gence-Göygöl: Not only the historical richness of Gence city, but also the existence of Göygöl Lake are the main reasons for tourist to use the route during these excursions. The height of the newly-formed landslide barrier lake is 1566 meters. The major earthquake occurred in 1139 had caused to drop huge boulders into the Aksu River, and Göygöl Lake had been formed behind the barrier(Bugadov and Apoyev, 1991). There is a national park, which contains precious animals (gazelle, etc.) in that vicinity. The bendy road, commencing from the Gence city, is used for reaching that area, and there is a small-sized accommodation facility on the road.
Baku-Gebeleve Baku-Şeki: This touristic road, which passes through the south-eastern hillside of The Big Caucasus Mountains, provides transportation to the Gebele City, and Şeki City, by using one line for each.
The ruins of ancient Gebele city (belonging to the capital city of Caucasus Albania, a.d. 6-7 centuries) which located 20 km outside the Gebele City, and two mausoleums from the 15th century, and the graves from the b.c. 1000-3000 years are the most attractive places within that vicinity. The commercial center of that region, the Şeki City, has high potential for accommodation while taking into consideration of the climate conditions, and it contains high-level of cultural and historical resources. 2 touristic hotels, and 1 accommodation camping, and the athlete accommodation facility are the place suitable for accommodation.
Baku-Guba-Yalama: It is possible to observe the semi-desert landscape and green hayfield alongside the road, which passes through the Samur-Deveci Plain and north-eastern hillside of the Big Caucasus Mountains. Such touristic road provides transportation to the Guba and Yalama by using one line for each. The Guba City became a settlement site in the 15th Century, and it became the center of Guba Khanate between the years of 1733 – 1789. The 19th Century bath-house, Friday Prayer-Room and Mosque, and other historical mosques and ancient and traditional houses are among the top places to must be visited within that region. There are mineral water resources around the city. (Koçman, et al. 1994, Memedovand Rehimov, 2000).Yalama City has a coast on The Khazar Sea, it is noted for its prestigious beaches and forests. It also contains the tourist camps, youth camps and other accommodation facilities belonging to various institutions.
Baku-Lenkeran-Astara: The road that generally passes through coasts of The Khazar Sea provides transportation to Lenkeran and Astara City respectively. The region needs more modern recreation tourism complexes because of the fact that, it has the sub-tropical climate characteristics, and contains well-known beaches, nice scenery sites, developed infrastructure, mineral water resources, all of which have great value for future. In addition to the foregoing, the region is one of the most important touristic places because of the fact that, it is surrounded by the Talış Mountains from the west and south-west, and The Khazar Sea from the east. There are touristic camping, youth camping and accommodation facilities.