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Azerbaijan is an abundance of ancient fortresses and palaces, high-quality and inexpensive holidays on the Caspian Sea and oil treatment in Naftalan. Hospitable Baku and the cities of the Great Silk Road are all about Azerbaijan.
Is Azerbaijan still Europe or already Asia? If the question is relevant to you, feel free to assume that you have not yet been to this country. Travelers who have already seen Azerbaijan do not ask them anymore - not because they found the answer, they just have completely different priorities. For example, how to go here once or twice and where else to visit here.
But still, still: Europe or Asia? The orthodox geographer's answer: "Anterior Asia" is as accurate as it is useless. In fact, Azerbaijan is Azerbaijan. This is Old Baku, where all the Turkish scenes of the “Diamond Hand” were filmed (it is still the same, for sure - Istanbul), and pictures of the streets of New Baku, especially at night, can easily be mistaken for Central European ones. These are perfectly preserved Zoroastrian temples that are older than many world religions. These are 40 recipes for authentic Azerbaijani pilaf, which we rightfully put in one paragraph with history and culture: firstly, this is also history and culture, and what else, and, secondly, how delicious it is here!
And, of course, Azerbaijan is oil. Lots of oil. And not only the one that is “per barrel”, but also the famous healing one, to which people have been going to Naftalan for the third century in a row.
History of Azerbaijan
The statehood of Azerbaijan is almost 5000 years old. From the end of the 4th century BC. e. various national formations began to appear on this territory. For example, such strong states as Atropatena and Caucasian Albania were located here. They played a significant role in the formation of a single people. Later, in the 2nd century A.D. e., Azerbaijan was occupied by the Iranian Sassanids, then moved to the Arab Caliphate. Thus, many Arabs and Iranians appeared in the country.
The turning point in the history of Azerbaijan was the adoption of Islam in the 7th century AD. e. Religion actually began to unite peoples, form one language, create new customs and traditions. The subsequent political rise of Azerbaijan is associated with the appearance on the territory of several states: Shirvanshahs, Ravvadids, Sajids, Salarids and Sheddadids. Historians call this time the Renaissance.
Approximately 500 years ago, the gradual unification of the lands of Azerbaijan began. Shah Ismail Khatai connected the southern and northern lands, as a result of which the Safavid state was formed - one of the strongest empires in the Middle East.
His work was continued by Nadir Shah, who expanded the territory by capturing Northern India. But after his death, the empire began to disintegrate - into khanates and sultanates. At the end of the 18th century, the Ghajars, a well-known Azerbaijani dynasty, came to power in Iran. They wanted to return all the lands that were subordinate to Nadir Shah and establish a centralized government. However, they met fierce resistance from Russia, which wanted to capture the South Caucasus. As a result, after many years of wars, the parties agreed on the division of lands: Russia received Northern Azerbaijan, and Iran received Southern Azerbaijan. During the Soviet era, Azerbaijan became a socialist republic and existed in this status until 1991, when it left the USSR and declared independence.
Regions and resorts of Azerbaijan
If Azerbaijan is a motley tangle of ancient traditions and earthly riches of the third millennium, then Baku is the core of this intricacies. I would like to touch the origins - welcome to the Old City of Icheri Sheher. Its recognized symbol is the Maiden's Tower, towering on a rock. Even more impressive is the Palace of the Shirvanshahs - a monumental complex with a mosque, a mausoleum, a bathhouse and other medieval buildings. It is better to return from the distant past gradually, starting from the areas of Soviet development (Sabunchu Railway Station and the Government House deserve attention) and ending in a modern center with Flame Towers shining in the night, reminiscent of Dubai skyscrapers.
Another large Azerbaijani city is Lankaran, leading its history from the 10th century BC. e. He was clearly lucky with the location: the picturesque coast of the Caspian Sea with black sand, dense forests, thermal springs are ideal conditions for a recreational holiday.
The cultural program should definitely include a tour of the Lankaran fortress of the 18th century and the ancient khanega - a Muslim religious complex.
In search of oriental treasures, we recommend going to Ganja. Moreover, as the legend says, a lone traveler has already managed to find a real treasure here: cauldrons full of gold and precious stones. Modern travelers are more likely to expect riches of a different kind: incredible architecture, souvenir shops, cozy cafes. The heart of Ganja is the ensemble of Sheikh Bahauddin: here is the Juma mosque made of red brick, and the Chekyak-hamam bath, and the caravanserai, where a museum is open today.
There are also relatively young cities in the country that are gradually gaining the attention of tourists. For example, Sumgayit is attractive due to its nature: the climate here is mild, and the beaches are not the usual sandy and pebbly ones, but covered with a small scattering of snow-white shells. And Naftalan, as you might guess from the name, is famous for its oil: it is healing here, healing skin, nervous, gynecological and cardiovascular diseases. 
Time difference with Moscow  +1 hour
The territory of the country is heterogeneous in terms of weather conditions due to altitudinal zonation (there are 8 climatic zones out of 11 existing in the world). The average temperature in July ranges from +5 °C in the highlands to +27 °C in the lowlands. January, respectively, from −10 °C to +3 °C. The maximum summer temperature can reach +45 °C, while in winter the thermometer in mountainous areas often drops to -40 °C at night. Strong northern winds are characteristic, mainly in autumn. The best time to visit the country is from April to October. And the time from the end of November to March is the ideal time to relax in the country's luxurious ski resorts.
See also the weather forecast for the main resorts and cities of Azerbaijan.
Visa and customs
Citizens of the Russian Federation and most countries of the former CIS who enter Azerbaijan for a period not exceeding 90 days do not need a visa. But it’s still worthwhile to arrange travel insurance for the entire duration of the trip in advance. All tourists temporarily staying in the Republic of Azerbaijan for more than 15 days must be registered at the place of stay with the State Migration Service of the Republic of Azerbaijan without paying a state fee. This is usually done by the hotel (or other accommodation service), but this must be requested in advance.
Import and export of currency is not limited, a declaration is required. It is allowed to import duty-free: up to 1000 cigarettes or 1 kg of tobacco products, up to 1.5 liters of strong alcoholic beverages and 2 liters of wine, perfumes (for personal use, in reasonable quantities), as well as other goods in the amount of not more than 10,000 USD. The prices on the page are for September 2021.
It is allowed to export your personal belongings, handicrafts and goods bought in the country from Azerbaijan. The export of any antiques (including precious stones, coins, manuscripts and other works of art) without the permission of the relevant authorities is prohibited. Also prohibited is the transit of narcotic substances, weapons and ammunition (with the exception of hunting, for which you need to obtain permission), literature and video materials that offend the morality and political system of the country.
No more than 600 g of black caviar can be taken out of the country. Any carpet or handicrafts produced before 1960 are automatically considered antiques and are taxed. Exempts from tax only the corresponding certificate of the Ministry of Culture, which is issued with the purchase in official art salons or stores. Goods purchased in the markets or in private stores usually do not have such a certificate.
tax free
The Tax free system was introduced in Azerbaijan in 2016. Now tourists can get back 18% VAT (minus 20% of the total tax on all purchases as payment for the service) by making purchases in stores with the appropriate stickers. The cost of a one-time purchase must exceed 300 AZN, the system does not apply to medicines, food, uncut gems, vehicles, spare parts and a number of other goods. It is possible to export purchases outside of Azerbaijan within 90 days. For a tax refund, you will need to provide unpacked goods at customs, a passport and an invoice filled out in a store, get a stamp, and then - in any authorized bank - the amount due in cash or on a card.
The number of hotels in Azerbaijan is growing rapidly and decent housing can be found not only in the capital and resorts. Most of the hotels are 1-3 *, however, there are also representative offices of fashionable chains of the Hilton and Radisson level in Baku. For the most demanding guests, even 5+ hotels with richly furnished rooms and impeccable service are open.
Budget tourists traditionally prefer to stay in the private sector or hostels: the prices here are affordable, the atmosphere is sincere. In Baku, accommodation in a 2-3 * hotel will cost an average of 60 AZN, in 5 * - 270 AZN per day. One-room apartment in the center of the capital can be rented for 70 AZN per day. The average check in Ganja hotels is 60 AZN per night. Enjoying the rest in the spa hotels of Naftalan is available for 110 AZN per day, in Lankaran hotels prices start from 35 AZN per day.
Mains voltage 220/250 V, 50 Hz. Sockets of the Eastern European type, with two pins.
Azerbaijan beaches
Nestled on the shores of the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan is a great place for beach relaxation. You can have a great rest even in the capital, more precisely, in the surrounding villages that are part of the Baku agglomeration. The coast here is sandy, the entrance to the water is safe, without sharp fluctuations in depth. Fashionable beaches are scattered throughout the Absheron Peninsula, the most popular ones are in Novkhani: Palma Beach, Barbados Beach, Sahil Beach and Crescent Beach have showers, toilets, umbrellas, changing cabins and a whole entertainment palette for every taste.
Entrance to most Baku beaches is paid: from 15 AZN.
Excellent beaches are also found in Lankaran: the coastal zone is covered with fine black sand, which has healing properties. There are many sanatoriums here that use water from the surrounding thermal springs in their programs, and there is also a string of cafes, clubs and bars for lovers of noisy parties. In Sumgayit, there are 20 beaches at once, covered with small shells, burnt white in the sun. The infrastructure is well developed: there will be no problems with changing cabins, sunbeds, umbrellas and water activities.
Alpine skiing has been actively developing in Azerbaijan recently. The first resort that opened its doors to conquerors of snow-capped peaks is the Shahdag complex, at the foot of the mountain of the same name in the vicinity of the city of Gusar. The main wealth of these places is amazingly beautiful nature with untouched flora and fauna. Shahdag has several modern hotels, a ski school with a team of experienced instructors and a children's club. The infrastructure of the resort is 12 lifts (chairlifts, rope tows, gondola lifts), freestyle areas, equipment rental points, as well as green, red and blue trails for athletes of any level, equipped with artificial snow generators (they are used infrequently: winters are snowy here, with optimal temperatures for skiing).
Another ski complex, "Tufandag", was built in the picturesque district center of Gabala. 4 cable cars, 5 slopes of different difficulty levels, equipment rental and sale points, a ski school, hotels and cafes - all this is already in the young resort, and construction has not yet been completed. In the foreseeable future, new tracks and a full-fledged sports and entertainment center will open.
Treatment in Azerbaijan
The main wealth of Azerbaijan is oil, which is used not only as a fuel, but also as a unique natural cure for many ailments. The main balneological resort of the country is Naftalan, where "black gold" or "blood of the earth" is mined - as soon as this substance is not called. Another thing is important: it can be used to heal about 70 serious diseases, including neurological, muscular, gynecological, cardiovascular and urological disorders. Patients with disorders of the musculoskeletal system, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, thrombophlebitis, sciatica and other diseases that inevitably recede before the forces of nature come to Naftalan. In addition to naftalan baths and body wraps, doctors use massage, treatment with paraffin and iodine-bromine compounds, hardware technologies and physiotherapy exercises.
In Naftalan, a museum of crutches left by cured patients of sanatoriums as unnecessary has been opened. Visual Proof: Therapy Works!
Another famous Azerbaijani resort is Nakhichevan with healing mineral springs. With the help of water rich in useful substances, it is possible to cure diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and dermatological ailments, and the symptoms of bronchitis and asthma go away in the salt caves of Duzdag. In the sanatoriums of Lankaran, they treat with thermal water from hot springs.
Diving off the coast of Azerbaijan was actively carried out back in Soviet times: the local underwater world is rich in treasures. Today the fashion for diving is returning: schools and clubs are gradually opening, organizing expeditions to the bottom of the Caspian Sea and high mountain lakes. Diving center Dolphin Baku (off. site) even entered the NDL National Dive League, which indicates the first-class training of its instructors.
Diving to sunken ships is especially popular: there are about 60 of them near the Absheron Peninsula alone. The Caspian Sea is an ancient trade route, in the abyss of which, to this day, you can find ceramics, weapons, anchors and other curiosities, whose age often exceeds a couple of centuries. Diving in fresh lakes with crystal water, formed high in the mountains as a result of earthquakes, also brings vivid impressions. It is better to dive with experienced instructors: they will show noteworthy points, help you choose equipment and teach you all the intricacies of interesting and safe trips through the underwater world.
5 things to do in Azerbaijan
Take the Baku Acropolis by storm and climb the Maiden Tower, which is associated with a romantic legend.
Ask for a visit to a local grandmother and try real Azerbaijani home-cooked cuisine - after all, Azerbaijanis are so famous for their hospitality!
Buy a traditional oriental carpet in the Baku market, made in the best traditions of Azerbaijani carpet weaving, without forgetting to bargain for the best price.
Plunge into a naftalan bath and feel like a reborn.
Leave your mark on one of the cobbled streets of Ganja, along which Katran Tabrizi, Abul-Ula, Feleki, Khagani, Mehseti and other "stars" of the Azerbaijani renaissance walked.
In the center of Baku, shops are open from 9:00 to late in the evening, on the outskirts - mainly until 19:00-20:00. The lowest prices are in markets and fairs. Local silk, ceramics and other handicrafts can be bought at Sharg Bazary (modern closed market), as well as on the famous Torgovaya Street and in the Old City of Baku. Prices are negotiable, so you can and should bargain.
Some stores and restaurants accept credit cards, but it's a good idea to have cash on hand. Many goods sold in Azerbaijani stores are of Turkish origin.
Luxury brand boutiques are concentrated on Neftchilar Avenue and other streets of the modern center. The largest shopping complexes are Ganjlik Mall near the metro station of the same name, Port Baku Mall on the coast, 28 Mall near the railway station, Deniz Mall on Primorsky Boulevard. Fresh vegetables and fruits can always be found on the shelves of the "Green" and "Nasiminsky" bazaars. In the vicinity of the capital there are outlets with solid discounts on goods of famous brands.
High-quality and inexpensive carpets are sold at the Carpet Weaving Center in the Baku suburb of Nardaran, and expensive masterpieces are sold in specialized stores in the capital. In addition, it is worth bringing backgammon from Azerbaijan (this is a national game in which both old and young are “cut” in the country) and the famous “airfield” caps. Of the dishes, armuds are good - traditional pear-shaped glasses that keep drinks hot for a long time. The decoration of any kitchen will be tablecloths embroidered with gold threads. Edible souvenirs include black caviar (which you can’t really buy in Russia now), Baku baklava, spices and aromatic herbs, and also original white cherry jam.
What to buy in Baku stores

Cuisine and restaurants of Azerbaijan
Azerbaijani cuisine is notable for the abundance of all kinds of meat, fish and vegetable dishes, complemented by fragrant herbs and a great variety of spices. Some national dishes replace both the "first" and the "second". Another characteristic feature of Azerbaijani liquid dishes is the use of fat tail fat in their manufacture, which, as a rule, is put in food in finely chopped form. Flour first courses based on sour milk or katyk are widespread.
Second courses are prepared mainly from lamb, as well as from poultry, game, vegetables and rice. One of the most common dishes in Azerbaijan is plov, for which more than 40 recipes are known. Of the second courses, kebabs stand out, the famous kebab and dolma from grape leaves also belong there. It is also worth trying grilled lamb ribs, “gutaby” pies with herbs and cottage cheese or meat, and “saj” – pieces of lamb in assorted vegetables cooked in a flat frying pan over charcoal.
There are not so many sweet dishes in Azerbaijani cuisine. These are mainly baklava, badambura, kyata, mutaki, gozinaki, halva, Turkish delight (with various additives), jellied figs and sherbet (the most common dessert drink in the country).
The order of serving dishes is peculiar: at the beginning, according to tradition, there is tea, mostly black long leaf tea, then main courses. Often after dinner (especially after pilaf) they serve dovga - a soup made from sour milk and herbs.
The sign "teahouse" can be found in Azerbaijan on every corner. Tea is served in small, pear-shaped armuda glass cups. And to him - Baku baklava, jam from white cherries, figs, cherries and dogwoods, walnuts and watermelon.
The cheapest, but no less delicious Azerbaijani food is sold in street stalls, of which there are many. Famous donuts for 0.10 AZN, all kinds of buns from 0.20 AZN, the ubiquitous shawarma from 1.50 AZN - you definitely won’t be able to lose weight on such a diet. Fast food establishments, gelateria with ice cream, pastry shops and other places where you can have a bite to eat on the go are open on the embankments. Traditional treats are better to try in family restaurants with a warm atmosphere and a simple but hearty menu. Connoisseurs of the exotic will like establishments in Turkish, Japanese and Mediterranean styles, and those who miss their homeland will like eateries stylized as old Russian huts.
A business lunch in an inexpensive cafe will cost 6-8 AZN per person. For dinner in a restaurant, you will have to pay from 50 AZN for two.
During Soviet times, Azerbaijan earned more from viticulture than from oil. This fact clearly shows how important the wine industry was for the republic. Which is not surprising - the country has always been famous for its excellent wine.
Archaeological excavations show that wine production began in Azerbaijan as early as the 3rd century BC. e. However, Muslims persecuted connoisseurs of this drink, and winemaking quickly fell into decay. Wild grapes helped local residents - they quickly adapted it to their needs. As a result, Azerbaijan received excellent grape varieties, which gave a rich harvest.
Another blow was the anti-alcohol campaign that unfolded in the USSR in the 80s. last century. Because of it, huge vineyards were cut down. It seemed that Azerbaijani wines would never return to their former glory. But it was not there.
Today, the country has relied on expensive grape varieties for the production of fine drinks. Surely many of us have tried such varieties as Shemakha, Agdam, Kara-Chanakh, Kurdamir, Madrasa, Chinar, Baku Lights. Azerbaijani wines, even after decades, still remain piece goods. Previously, they were supplied mainly to the tables of the elite of the republic and the country, today they exclusively go abroad. But a rich assortment of Azerbaijani wines is easy to find on store shelves, this drink remains one of the most democratic in terms of its cost. And for this price you will definitely get world-class quality.
Entertainment and attractions
Azerbaijan is a link between Western and Eastern civilizations. First of all, Azerbaijan is interesting as a unique collection of archaeological monuments, some of which are several thousand years old. There are over 130 museums, galleries and their branches, theatres, mausoleums, mosques, fortresses and other unique cultural objects in Azerbaijan.
Baku: the old part of the city is a historical and architectural reserve, often called the Baku Acropolis. 70 km south of the city is the largest in the CIS accumulation of rock paintings Kobystan (Gobustan), which includes more than 4 thousand rock sites, caves, fortresses and burial grounds. 30 km from Baku lies the village of Surakhani with the temple complex of fire worshipers Ateshgah. Also of interest is the Shikhovo balneological resort built on hydrogen sulfide springs. Guba is the capital of the ancient Cuban khanate, 165 km north of Baku. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the country with a 16th century fortress, various mosques and famous Cuban carpets.
Shamakhi is one of the oldest and most interesting cities in the country, located 130 km west of the capital. The main attraction is the fortress of Giz-Galasy (or Gulistan, 11-12 centuries) - the last refuge of the Shirvanshahs. Today it is also a recognized center of winemaking and carpet weaving.
Once one of the main stops of the Great Silk Road, Azerbaijan still fascinates with its sights and beautiful nature.
Sheki is located 380 km west of Baku, near the Georgian border. Many finds on its territory are more than 2500 years old. There are a huge number of historical objects, mosques, there is a local history museum. The city is also known as a center of silk production and a climatic resort.
Lankaran is located in the very south-east of the country, on the border with Iran. This is one of the best balneological resorts in the country. The city itself is interesting for the fortress of the 18th century and the Kichik-Bazar mosque of the 19th century.
Talysh region is located in the south-east of Azerbaijan on the border with Iran. It pleases guests with the most beautiful landscapes of green mountains cut by gorges with raging rivers, numerous thermal and mineral springs. The famous Arkevan hot mineral springs flow here near Jalilabad. In the Talysh mountains there is a subtropical zone with mixed and broad-leaved forests. Residents of Azerbaijan love to relax not only on the shores of the Caspian Sea, but also in the Gabala, Guba, Shamakhi regions, where a good tourist infrastructure has been created. There are hotels, boarding houses, and interesting tourist routes.
Nakhichevan is one of the oldest cities in Azerbaijan. Its main attractions are the mausoleums of Yusuf-ibn-Kuseyir (1161) and Momine-Khatun (1186). Also of interest are the Literary and Historical Museums, an art gallery and the Gyaur-Kala fortress of the 12th-13th centuries.
In Ordubad, the Juma and Dilber mosques of the 17th-18th centuries, the madrasah, the Khan's palace of the 18th-19th centuries and many medieval buildings, united in the state historical and architectural reserve, are worth attention. 60 km south of Ordubad on Mount Gemigaya (Kemchigaya) there is an area of concentration of rock petroglyphs dating back to 3-2 millennium BC. e.
On the Absheron Peninsula, you can find a network of abandoned fortresses, ruins of castles, fortifications. There is also a balneological resort Shikhovo, built on hydrogen sulfide sources. The nature of Azerbaijan is unique in that 9 out of 11 climatic zones existing in the world are located in the country at once. It turns out a kind of journey around the globe through rivers, waterfalls, mineral springs, as well as through deposits of medicinal (!) Oil.
Holidays and events
In Azerbaijan, as elsewhere in the post-Soviet space, they love the New Year and celebrate it on a grand scale. Local Santa Claus Mine Baba, dressed in a blue sheepskin coat, congratulates children and adults in the company of Snow Maiden Gargyz. The onset of the New Year is officially celebrated twice: on January 1 and March 21, on the day of the vernal equinox. The "second series" of the holiday, Nowruz, symbolizes the renewal of nature and is accompanied by a number of customs. In the morning, it is customary to wash yourself thoroughly (preferably in a river or stream, if there are any nearby), washing away everything bad from yourself. On the table should show off

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