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.
Here are seven of the country’s most beautiful sites.
1. The Waterfront Promenade In Baku
A waterfront capital city? Yes, please! Baku, the capital and commercial hub of Azerbaijan, sits on the Caspian Sea. The vibe is a little Mediterranean, with lots of chic cafes and people-watching opportunities.
Adding to the general joie de vivre is the gorgeous Baku Boulevard, a long lakeside promenade. It was established more than 100 years ago in 1909, when Baku’s oil barons built their mansions there to take advantage of the waterfront views. More recently an extension known as the Yeni Bulvar, or new boulevard, has doubled the length of the promenade and extended it all the way to National Flag Square. It’s a lovely, clean, family-friendly spot to enjoy the sunset and the views of Baku’s skyline.
2. Icheri Sheher, Baku’s Old City
While Baku’s modern waterfront promenade is beautiful, the Old City -- known as Icheri Sheher -- is downright beguiling.
When you’re not exploring the majestic old buildings, you can browse the tiny shops specializing in ceramics, carpets, and more. The whole area is like a cross between Paris and Plovdiv, Bulgaria, full of charm, history, and style.
3. The Bottle House Of Ganja
Ganja, which dates to 494 B.C., is the second-largest city in Azerbaijan. The city and the surrounding area are well known for their pretty vineyards, lakes, and forests, but in Ganja itself, there’s a glittery jewel that’s too interesting not to go see. The Bottle House is made from nearly 50,000 glass bottles, arranged in an intricate series of patterns, the glass shining in the sun.
There’s a sad tale behind this striking attraction. It was built as a memorial to the owner’s brother, who went missing in World War II. But for visitors today, it’s all part of what makes Ganja such an intriguing destination.
4. Gobustan National Park
While it’s half a world away from Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park, Azerbaijan’s Gobustan National Park has a lot in common with it.
It contains about half of the world’s mud volcanoes. While they’re the result of a different geological condition from the one that causes the bubbling mud of Yellowstone, the sights, smells, and sounds are strikingly similar.
Add in mysterious petroglyphs that date to 10,000 B.C., and you have one of the most amazing national parks you’ll ever see. Gobustan’s petroglyphs are considered to be among the best preserved and most artistic in the world.
Nearly 2,500 years old, Sheki, Azerbaijan, is one of the oldest towns in the Caucasus -- and perhaps the one with the most glamorous history.
It was once a major stop on the Silk Road, and Sheki’s silk, embroidery, and textiles were highly in demand.
Today, a different kind of beauty beckons visitors, including old buildings, mosques, and castles, plus pristine forests and mountains.
A tropical paradise in Azerbaijan? You bet! Lankaran, in the southern part of the country, set along the waters of the Caspian Sea, has one of the warmest and nicest climates in Azerbaijan.
Its pebbly and sandy beaches, long expanses of blue water, and nearby green mountains make it as pretty as a postcard.
Nearby Hirkan National Park is a prime spot to search for the elusive Front-Asian leopard, Persian leopard, and local lynx.
Azerbaijan is sometimes called the Land of Fire. For instance, in Baku, the Flame Towers are the city’s most famous buildings. Therefore, it’s only fitting to include the Surakhany village’s Ateshgah on this list.
The Ateshgah is a temple for fire-worshippers! The temple’s altar is located on top of a natural gas vent. While the vent’s natural reserves were exhausted in 1969, the temple’s lights still glow today thanks to the city supply from nearby Baku.
A visit at dusk is the best way to enjoy this striking site’s otherworldly beauty.
A Few Notes On Safety
While Azerbaijan is stunning, there has been ugly violence in some regions. The United States Department of State has issued a Level 2 travel advisory for Azerbaijan. This means that visitors should exercise increased caution due to terrorism and armed conflict in some parts of the country. In particular, the government recommends that visitors avoid traveling to the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The State Department reports that “intermittent gunfire and occasional use of artillery systems, including land mines and mortars, result in deaths and injuries each year” in this region. Visitors are advised to avoid roads near the Armenia-Azerbaijan border.