10 Reasons to visit Azerbaijan
9 out of 11 climate belts in the world
It is a unique thing to see many climates in the world from terrestrial to rainy subtropical (Lenkeran) to mountain tundra (Greater Caucasus Mountain Range). Most of Azerbaijan is located in subtropical climate zone. Tangerine, orange, lemon, feijoa, kiwi and other exotic fruits grow in the south of the country. There are banana trees in southern areas of Lenkeran and Masallı. Although these bananas never mature, they surprise guests from tropical countries. Suitable climatic conditions caused by early spring, mild winters and plenty of sunlight make Azerbaijan a beach tourism point. Apsheron opens the beach season in May and ends in September.
The largest salt lake of the world: Khazar Sea
All official and nonofficial sources refer to the Khazar Sea as the largest lake of the world. Its current surface area is 371.000 km2 and maximum depth is 1.025 m. This lake is called a sea as it has a very large surface area and the bed is covered with ocean type crust. Differently from other seas, it is suitable for swimming as it is not very salty, does not burn the eyes and dries the skin. When they are combined with developed infrastructure of Apsheron’s coasts and holiday attraction Nabran, many hotels, boat trips, yacht clubs, fishing and scuba diving activities, it is easily understood why Azerbaijan is the beach tourism point of the entire Khazar region.
Works Included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO
One of these works, Gobustan State History-Art National Park or only Gobustan is one of the rarest works of the world culture and one of the first settlement areas of human civilization. This Archeological National Park is on a plain land 60 km south to Baku and 537 hectare part is a cultural landscape. Cave paintings, settlement areas, tomb stones etc. evidence from the stone age and later periods are available in Gobustan mountains. There are also prehistoric kromleh (stones placed vertically to create a circle, similar to Stone henge) structures. There are about 6.000 petroglyphs of human and animal figures in Gobustan. It is interesting that in the first century AD, Roman Emperor Domitianus’ XII legion came to Gobustan.
İçeri Şeher which is a unique Historical Architecture National Park in Baku and called the tower by the public is another monument in the list. It is one of the oldest and still the most populated settlement areas of Azerbaijan, even the Middle East. More than 1.300 families live in the National Park built on a 221.000 m2 area. Archeological excavations found tombs from the bronze age. The Greeks and Romans described İçeri Şeher when they wrote about Baku. The world famous Maiden’s Tower (XII century) and Şirvanşahlar Palace (XIII-XIV centuries) are here. There are many unique works behind the walls of the tower (mosques, minarets, caravansary and bath).
The characters in "the Diamond Arm", the famous Soviet movie by Mironov and Nikulin walked through the streets of İçeri Şeher. “The Amphibian Man” movie was also shot here. There are many souvenir shops filled with national clothes, scarves, kitchen tools and hand made carpets etc. for tourists in İçeri Şeher.
Unique Healing Oil - Naftalan Facilities
Naftalan resting and healing facilities are world famous with the biological content of the healing Naftalan oil. The area is 20 km to the second city in Azerbaijan, Gence. It has multiple treating properties on the human organism. It has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, vasodilator properties and accelerates metabolic processes. Treating properties have been demonstrated by thousands of scientific studies.
German engineer and proprietor E. İ. Eger built the first factory to produce paste of Naftalan. The products and raw material of this factory were exported to Germany. “Magdeburg Naftalan” and “Dresden Naftalan” started production in 1986. The production method of “Eger” paste is a secret and is monopolized. Naftalan resting and healing facilities offer treatment to more than 70 diseases today.
Azerbaijan is the first in the world in terms of mud volcanoes. 350 out of 800 mud volcanoes in the world are here. Every year, thousands of tourists come to Azerbaijan to see explosion of mud volcanoes. During explosions, gas emerge and burn immediately. Flames reach up to 1.000 meters (Karasu volcano).
Travelers like being photographed among these volcanoes. NASA geologists resemble mud volcanoes of Azerbaijan to the heights of Mars.
It is accepted that the first explosion of mud volcanoes in Azerbaijan happened 25 millions years ago. 200 big explosions happened in Azerbaijan in the last 200 years. 23 mud volcanoes have become National Parks. Mud volcanoes of Azerbaijan ranked the 5th in the international competition by the “Seven Wonders of the World”, a noncommercial Swiss organization. The largest mud volcano of the world in Azerbaijan was included in the Guiness Records Book on 15 September 2004.
Unique National Cuisine of Azerbaijan
The Azerbaijan cuisine is a unique one. It is famous for meat, fish and vegetable dishes with aromatized greens and herbs. Foods in Azeri cuisine are authentic and unique. Many dishes are prepared with lamb, veal and chicken. Azeri people do not eat pork, as with other Muslims. The Azerbaijan cuisine is rich in vegetables. Plenty of spice is also used. Especially saffron is very popular. It is used in more than 50 dishes. Long pide, lavaş and tandır are preferred for bread. Various areas have their own popular dishes. For example, Şeki’s piti (national soup made of lamb and cooked in clay in the oven), helva (an Eastern dessert made of walnut and other seeds), levengi in Masallı and Lenkeran (chicken or fish filled with ground walnut and spices), kutab and bread in Kusar.
Şeki City on the Silk Road
Archeological data states that Şeki city, 380 km to Baku, is one of the oldest settlement areas in Caucasia. Many ruins are aged more than 2.500 years. Şeki has been famous for craftsmen and artisans. Merchants came here from the Big Silk Road countries. Şeki silk was awarded in the world exhibition held in Lion in 1872 and called Lion of Azerbaijan. Şeki is also the center of tekelduz (plant embroidery on velvet cloth or sahtiyan). Baba A. Dumas who visited Şeki said "I bought two embroidered saddles for 24 ruble. It is not even possible to buy than for 2.000 Frank in France, they are priceless”.Two of the structures from XVIII century (upper and lower caravansaries) have survived until today. The upper caravansary is still used as a hotel complex. There are many historical and architectural works in the city including early period Albania architectural works, old towers, mosques, minarets, hammams, bridges etc. Large Şeki Hans are embroidered with wall paintings and glass paintings built in the XVIII century.
The spirit of fire and secrets of the country of fire
Azerbaijan has been known as the country of fire. The Apsheron peninsula is rich in oil and gas. Burning gas on the surface was considered a myth and drew attention of people all around the world. Those who worshipped the fire gathered in Baku and built temples. Ateşgah is one of the temples of the Zarathustra. Ateşgah is 30 km to Baku, in Surahanı town. The temple was built by the Hindu people in Baku between the XVII-XVIII centuries. The famous author Alexander Dumas visited Baku in 1858 and left interesting notes about fire.
Burning gas on the surface made Mehemmedi, where the volcano is located, famous. The skirts of the mountain are filled with burning fire day and night. The Volcano was put under state control in 2007 and was declared a State Historical Cultural and Natural Park.
The most interesting point for everybody who comes to Baku for any reason is the Baku Coastal Park, the boulevard in short which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2009. The boulevard attracts tourists with stunning landscaping, roads in the shadow of the trees, delicious ice cream, dessert, tranquil cafes, yacht club etc many other attractions. The famous trade and entertainment center Park Bulvar, modern style International Magnum Center and authentic Azerbaijan Carpet Museum buildings are also on this boulevard. The real adornment of the park is the Baku Crystal Hall Sports and Concert Complex filled with neon lights which was opened in 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. Concerts, exhibitions, gift draws, parades are all available on the boulevard. Today, it is 5.5 km long and continues expanding. The boulevard extends from the State Flag Square of the highest flag (the pole height is 162 meters) to the International Baku Port. The coast will extend along the new district of Baku built in futuristic style called the Beyaz Şehir and the boulevard will be about 15 km long.
Unique Modern Architecture
Modern Baku has also new symbolic buildings in addition to historical places. The most important one is the Flame Towers made of 3 buildings. One of them is a residence, the other is a business center and the third is the world famous Fairmont Hotel. Illumination system of Flame Towers is considered to be the world’s best by skyscrapercity.com forum. Tower surfaces are all covered in LED screens which can be seen from a distance. Haydar Aliyev Cultural Center also became as famous as the Flame Towers. H. Aliyev Cultural Center is a complex with a congress hall, a museum, a library and a 9 hectare park. The project belongs to famous architect Zahe Hadid. Flame Towers and Haydar Aliyev Cultural Center buildings were discussed on Discovery and Science Channel. The last one is Crystal Hall which is an ultra modern concert hall in the State Flag Square which hosted 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. The façade is filled with modern and dynamic illumination mechanisms. In the Eurovision Song Contest, the flag of the country of the singers was reflected on the outer walls on the building while they took the stage. Special effects company Swiss Nüssli International AG claims no other city in the world has such thing. World stars who took state in Crystal Hall include Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, Rihanna, San Remo Stars etc.
Azerbaijan National Parks
İçeri Şehir, the core of the capital Baku, included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List, was seen by almost every visitor in Azerbaijan. However, the number of visitors of “Kobustan" which is also in the same list, is not very high. Although, it is the most important point to see in Azerbaijan.
Kobustan is 65 km to Baku. This open air museum has thousands of drawings on rocks from the Neolithic Age. High quality of the lines in these drawings makes them unique in the world. These drawings, dating back to the 12th century BC, include human figures as well as horse, cow, deer and fish and other animal figures, hunting scenes, religious ceremonies, hand tools and interesting boat figures. These drawings provide information about the lifestyle of the period.
Rock drawings in Kobustan are on Böyükdaş and Kiçikdaş hills and Jingirdag and Yazılı Tepe hills. There are more than 6000 drawings and the largest one is almost 9 meters wide. Do not forget the rock called "Gaval daş". If you hit it with a small piece of rock, you can create your own melody.
Absheron National Park, close to Baku, was established in 2005 with the initiative of President İlham Aliyev. The area was under protection also in the Soviet region. The area is dominated by desert and steppe climate, the plant cover is weak but there are enduring plant species. Coyote, fox and rabbit can be seen on dry lands. However, short Khazar seals on the coastline are unique assets.
Ağ-Göl National Park is in the South of Azerbaijan. This Park on Kura-Aras plain is actually a valuable birds heaven. There are more than 140 birds species, almost 90 of them live in this area throughout the year. The most common species are partridge, spoonbill, swan, widgeon and toy.
Göy Göl in the west of country was declared a National Park in 2008. It is one of the cleanest lakes in the country. It is completely covered in forests. It includes 420 different types of plants and 20 of them are specific to the area. Animal population includes deer, roe deer, grizzly bear and vulture, raven, partridge etc.
Hirkan National Park located in the southmost of Azerbaijan close to the Khazar Sea coasts in the Lenkeran plain has a surface area of about 400 km2. 99 percent of the park is covered in forests. An important part of the plant cover here is area specific species which are not seen in other parts of the world. For example, “Hirkan Kutu Tree”, “Chest leaved oak”, “Hirkan Quince”, “Silk Acacia” and “Caucasus Palm”. Beware; you can see a leopard in this forest. One was seen in 2007 although it was considered to be extinct.
Şahdağ National Park is the largest in Azerbaijan in the entire Caucasus region with about 1300 km2 surface area. The highest point of Azerbaijan, “Bazardüzü Mountain” is also in this national park. It is ready to become a tourist attraction. Necessary plants for mountain tourism are being planned.
Azerbaijan National Park Locations
Şirvan National Park which is close to Baku was established in 2003 and is known as the place of gazelle. It has small lakes, marshes and sand hills in the half desert land. It also hosts many bird species. It is dominated by gazelle. They are the biggest mammal population in the park.
Nakhchevan has Zangezur National Park. The park is located in the southeast to the autonomous republic close to the Armenian border and is famous for its biological richness. There are 58 species, 35 being vertebrates and 23 insects. The Anatolian Leopard which is extinct in Turkey lives in this park. Samur-Yalama National Park. It is in the North tip of the country in Khachmaz Rayon.
There are various camps for tourists in Azerbaijan. Mainly, Baku-Garadağ, Mıngeçevir, Hacıkent, Şuşa, Naftalan, Gebele, Zagatala, Lenkeran and Yalama. Only the camps in Yalama have a capacity of over 1000 beds. The main tourism season begins in May and lasts for maximum 6 months until October. Tourist camps in Yalama, Zagatala, Şuşa and Baku are open for the entire year.
The Khazar Sea coastline is in the east of İçeri Şehir, right outside the walls. The long coastline has streets, open air sculptures, pools, lamps, banks etc.This area was the pearl of the city in the first half of the 1900s. Famous Azeri architect Kasım Bey designed and built many structures on the coastline. Trees were planted on the coastline in 1900. In 1936, a 70 meter tall Parachute Tower was built. It is still there and has not been used since 1950. Baku Coastline was declared a National Park with the decision of President Haydar Aliyev in 1998. A well designed fountain system is available in “Azneft” square. Another fountain system before the Government House is said to be unique in the world.