Best places to visit in Azerbaijan

Despite most people never dreaming of travelling to this part of the world, Azerbaijan provides those who do with a fulfilling adventure. Thousands of years of history combine with deeply-rooted traditions. The best places to visit in Azerbaijan offer diversity in landscapes, culture, wildlife and experiences.

The Baku, capital of Azerbaijan Republic with ancient history, natural and geographical conditions, abundant surface and underground resources, favorable climate, international transportation centers, modern and strong infrastructure and developed economy becomes one of the most beautiful capital cities of the region with its considerable strategic importance, as well as urban culture, modernity and beauty. Baku, the capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest commercial, cultural and scientific center in the Caucasus region, and the largest port on the Caspian Sea.

Ganja

Ganja is one of the oldest cities in the Caucasus, and has long been one of the most important in Azerbaijan.The name Ganja means wide derived from a word “gan” (wide). Ganja is an ancient city of Azerbaijan which is settled in the fifth century . The reference to Ganja could be found in the book “Kitabi Dada Korkut” ( the historical literature work of Oghuzs, the ancestors of Azerbaijani turks.) Having been subjected to a seemingly endless stream of invading armies, its name has changed repeatedly over the years. The historical name, Ganja, was restored once again upon Azerbaijan’s independence in 1991. With a population of over 500,000 it’s currently the country’s second-largest city. Ganja was the birthplace of the famous Central-Asian poet Nizami, and his tomb is a popular site for visitors.

Quba

Quba is attractive with its green nature, forests and mountain areas which is a part of range of Caucasus Mountains. A village of Khinalig considered as one of the highest (more than 2000 metres above sea level) and isolated areas are located in Quba region and frequently visited by tourists. Popular waterfall Afurdja which’s height is 75 meters is also located in Quba. The Kudyal River which takes its sources from high altitudes of Caucasus mountains flows through the territory of Quba.

The mountain villages

Head to the opposite side of the Qudailchay River traversing Quba and stroll through Qirmizi Qesebe (Red Town). This 2,500-year-old settlement houses a community of mountain Jews living in an enclave said to be the largest all-Jewish settlement outside of Israel. Other near villages include the remote Khinalug, Qusar, Lahij and Saribash.

Sheki

Sheki is Azerbaijan’s true travel gem, a small city off on the forested slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains. Etymology of the town’s name derived to the ancient times when this region of Azerbaijan was inhabited by tribe named “sakas” 6-7 age BC. Rich in Islamic architecture, Silk Road history, good food, and friendly people, this is travel and leisure in the Caucasus at its finest.

Shamakhi

Another hotspot for history connoisseurs: Shamakhi. Boasting a history of two and a half millennia and housing the former Shirvan Empire’s capital, the small town is worth the two-hour drive from Baku. Medieval archaeological ruins and the crumbling Gulistan Fortress that dates back almost a thousand years make interesting sites. The region is historically a hotspot for carpet weaving as well as being the birthplace of several Azeri poets.

Lake Goygol

A short drive from Ganja brings visitors to arguably the best place to visit in Azerbaijan for natural beauty. Lake Goygol or ‘Blue Lake’ at 1,500 metres (4,921 feet) features deep blue water against dense forest in the Murovdag foothills. Formed after a 12th-century earthquake, the lake is often one of the most popular day trips from Ganja. Driving through the mountains should be savoured too and not just for the landscapes. The region once housed a German community before falling victim to Soviet deportation. A hint of their legacy and influence lingers in some of the villages.

The Caucasus Mountains

Two mountain ranges stretching from the Caspian to the Black Sea and splitting Azerbaijan and Armenia, form the Greater and Lesser Caucasus Mountains. According to experts, the mountains are some of the most culturally and linguistically diverse regions on the planet. Various ethnic groups and languages different to Azeri are found in these isolated communities contributing to their diversity. Hiking through uncharted wilderness and following the trails on the ambitious Transcaucasian Trail are highlights.

Lankaran

Heading south from Baku along the Caspian Sea towards Iran reveals the sleepy resort town of Lankaran. With Neolithic origins and a long stretch of coastline, Lankaran is one of the local’s favourite places to visit in Azerbaijan. Stroll through the town and visit the Lighthouse, Lankaran Fortress, Heydar Aliyev Memorial Park and the Old Prison. Beach lovers are recommended to head a few kilometres south to Kanarmesha while fans of the outdoors can take a day trip to the Ghizil-Agaj State Reserve. The second houses more than 200 species of birds, wolves and boars.

Naftalan

Naftalan city is a well-known petroleum spa resort, the center of medical tourism in Azerbaijan. There is a unique naftalan oil in Naftalan that has no analogues in the world. It is a viscous liquid with distinguished black-brown and brown color and a specific odor. The uniqueness and high efficiency of naftalan oil is confirmed by numerous scientific studies and more than 100 years of experience in treatment of various diseases.

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