Historically a part of the Great Silk Road and situated at the crossroads of the geopolitical, economic and cultural interests of many nations and civilizations, Azerbaijan has, since ancient times, aroused the interests of great minds, scientists, travellers and historians. References to this amazing land, located on the western coast of the Caspian Sea and in the eastern part of the South Caucasus, can be found in the ancient writings of Herodotus, Strabo, and Claudius Ptolemy. Azerbaijan has an amazing historical and cultural heritage with more than 7500 natural, archeological, architectural, and historical monuments. Cave drawings at Gobustan, Momine-Khatun and Garabaghlar mausoleums, the Palace of Sheki Khans, the Maiden Tower, the castles of Absheron, medieval manuscripts decorated with magnificent miniature paintings, antique rugs, and works of literature, arts and sculpture – all of this is just a small part of the country’s rich and priceless heritage.
Azerbaijan is often referred to as the “Land of Fire”. It is known that the majority of those residing on this territory before the Common Era were fire worshippers. Since then, the country has preserved the ancient evidence of that era: cave paintings, statues of gods and ancient temples. Two of the most vivid examples of this heritage are the temple of fire-worshippers (“Ateshgah”) at Surakhani near Baku and “Yanardag”, translated as the “burning mountain”. According to legend, “Ateshgah” temple was built by Indian fire worshippers, who arrived here after learning about the eternally burning fire, emitted from the ground, and were so amazed by what they had seen, that they decided to build a temple on this very place. These lands were considered to be sacred for centuries and throughout history were worshipped by the followers of Zoroastrianism, Hinduism and Sikhism.
The fire rhetoric, passed from generation to generation, has been reflected in the many artistic works of Azerbaijani masters throughout the centuries, and has recently reached its culmination in the form of The “Flame Towers” complex. Constructed in Baku not long ago, the Flame Towers have, in very a short period of time, become a breathtaking architectural landmark of the capital city, embodying a tribute to our history, and representing contemporary Azerbaijan – a new, ambitious country, developing and progressive, but still loyal to its roots and origins.
Azerbaijan is the West in the East and the East in the West! Welcome!
Airport : Heydar Aliyev International is located in Azerbaijan, using iata code GYD, and icao code UBBB.
Country Code: 994
Credit Cards: Visa and Master Card are popular in Azerbaijan. Debit cards linked to credit cards may not work in some situations.
Currency: Azerbaijani manat(AZN)
Departure Tax: No airport tax is levied on passengers upon embarkation at the airport.
Drives on the: Right
Electricity: 220 - 240 V (German, French and Russian configuration)
Ethnic Groups: Azerbaijanis 90.3%, Russians 5.3%, Others 4.4%
Location: Azerbaijan is situated at the eastern side of the Transcaucasia (or South Caucasus) on the shores of the Caspian Sea. The population of Azerbaijan exceeds 9.8 million and the territory covers an area of 86 600 square kilometers. According to both of these figures, Azerbaijan is the largest country of the South Caucasus. The City of Baku is the capital and the country’s largest city. The National language here is Azerbaijani. However, Russian is also widely used and many younger residents also speak English. Azerbaijan shares borders with Iran (765 km), Turkey (15 km), Russia (390 km), Georgia (480 km) and Armenia (1007 km). The eastern shores of the country are washed by the waters of the Caspian Sea.
Official Language(s): Azerbaijani (Azeri) 90.3%, Others (Lezgi ,Russian ,Armenian)
Religion: Muslim 93.4%, Russian Orthodox 2.5%, Armenian Orthodox 2.3%.
Time Zone: GMT + 4
Tipping: Tipping is expected, whether service is good or not. Tip in local currency. Transfers, luggage assistance, and guided tours are all tipped per journey. Restaurant service is expected at 10%.
Azerbaijan is a great place to visit in any season and visitors are welcome year round. The country has nine of the world’s eleven climate zones and offers a different experience to tourists. But each of the seasons, of course, has its own unique colours and features. Which of them will bring you more pleasure can be found only through personal acquaintance with Azerbaijan’s amazingly beautiful nature, the Caspian coast, ancient history and our cultural traditions. We hope that the information we provide in this section will help you choose the best time to visit our country.
The recreation and entertainment zones located in Azerbaijan along the Caspian coast, our delightful forests and stunning mountains will deliver an unforgettable experience to all those who love the sun, sea and sand, picnics and walks along forest trails, swimming under cool waterfalls and horseback riding. Many tourist regions of Azerbaijan also have numerous natural springs with thermal and mineral waters which offer high therapeutic value.
One of the main features of the summer season is the abundance, range and local varieties of fresh vegetables and fruit in Azerbaijan.
Calm, sunny days, a warm sea and verdant forests, parks and gardens which begin to change colour in late October – it’s a real pleasure to spend autumn in Azerbaijan! A stay here will be filled with beautiful experiences without worrying about the weather which can often spoil your vacation in other countries.
Autumn in Azerbaijan - what could be more tempting for those who admire the generous gifts of Mother Nature! In place of the summer figs, watermelon, walnuts and quince come persimmons and pomegranates. This is the time when autumnal fruits ripen with their amazing colourful and tasty offerings; succulent fruits – heavy and juicy.
Every year, more and more foreign tourists who chose to visit Azerbaijan in December flock to the historic area of Sheki where, at the end of the year, unique equestrian events and competitions are held. One of the most popular of these is Chovgan – an ancient Azerbaijani version of polo. Judging by the interest shown in these tournaments across of the country, we are clearly seeing a revival on a national level of this elite game - the royal, noble, eastern version of polo.
Winter in Azerbaijan is a lovely season for lovers of local food and Azerbaijani culinary surprises.
The main and the most spectacular season, which can be enjoyed by everyone who visits Azerbaijan in Spring, is the annual Novruz holiday - the symbol of nature’s rebirth. Every year prior to March 21 all Azerbaijanis enjoy the run up to this ancient national holiday by preparing for it for four weeks. A number of holiday traditions and rituals of Novruz holiday will surprise and delight foreigners throughout the whole of March. Many people specifically travel to the regions, for example to Yukhari Salahli village, where they can witness classic rituals and traditions, just as in times gone by. During the celebration of the Novruz holiday in Azerbaijan, families and friends visit each other’s homes, exchanging gifts and the many sweets lovingly prepared at home.
Azerbaijan’s capital on the Caspian Sea combines a medieval old town with 19th-century European palaces and today’s ultramodern skyline. Once notoriously expensive and now affordable, this relatively unknown travel destination has something to suit everyone – from history buffs to food connoisseurs. Here are some of the best Baku attractions.
Icheri Sheher (Baku’s Old Town)
Baku’s UNESCO-listed fortified old town was once the medieval capital of the Shirvan Shahs. Today, it’s the capital’s heart with Maiden Tower, traditional carpet weavers, bars and restaurants. Visiting traders in a bygone era often referred to Icheri Sheher as the Acropolis of Baku.
The cylindrical tower has a mysterious story. Dating back to more than 1000 years, experts believe the UNESCO-listed Maiden Tower served as a Zoroastrian temple before becoming a watchtower in the 18th century. Follow the spiral staircase to the top of the 29 metre-structure (95.1 feet) for the best views of Ischeri Sheher. Opening hours: 9:00am to 6:00pm.
The Palace of the Shirvan Shahs
The Palace of the Shirvan Shahs, the ruling dynasty for 800 years, is on the back of the 10 Manat banknote. The 15th century UNESCO-listed complex has a palace, mosque, burial vaults and a mausoleum making it one of the top Baku attractions in Icheri Sheher. Opening hours: 10:00am to 6:00pm. Admission: AZN10 ($5.90).
Museum of History of Azerbaijan
Travel gives you the opportunity to learn about the world and see exhibits and artefacts you otherwise would miss. The Museum of History, inside an Italian Renaissance-style mansion, has more than 300,000 artefacts. Exhibits cover everything from ancient to modern history and ethnography making it the largest museum in Azerbaijan and a top Baku attraction. Opening Hours: Daily 9:00am to 5:00pm. Admission: AZN5 ($3).
Named after former Azerbaijani poet, Nizami Ganjavi, the 3.5 kilometre-street (2 miles) forms the main shopping district. As you stroll through, pay close attention as the architecture changes from the baroque, neo-gothic, and neo-renaissance façades and to more mundane Stalinesque styles.
House of Government
The opulent baroque House of Government on Neftchiler Avenue was built in 1952 by the Soviets. Ministry offices occupy the space inside. The main attraction is the architectural beauty, especially when it lights up at night.
The pedestrianised Fountain Square, formerly Parapet, is one of the must-see Baku attractions. Dozens of fountains fill the area stretching from Nizami Street to the eastern walls of Icheri Scherer. Several bars, cafés and restaurants with outdoor terraces fill the lower floors.
The Flame Towers
The tallest of the three Flame Towers reaches 182 metres (597 feet) and is perched majestically above Baku Bay. From a distance, the trio resembles flames. And at night, the exterior lights up in the colours of fire.
National Flag Square
National Flag Square marks the western end of Baku Boulevard. Officially opening in 2007, the square is a symbol of national pride. The giant flag measuring 70 by 35 metres (229.7 by 114.9 feet) on a flagpole standing 162 metres (531.5 feet) was once in the Guinness Book of Records.
If you haven’t visited The City of Canals, Baku’s mini-Venice will give you a taste. The small area on Baku Boulevard has two large islands and smaller ones interconnected with bridges. Locals and tourists pay a few Manat to ride the Azerbaijani version of gondolas through the artificial canal system first opened in the 1960s. A top Baku attraction for a romantic evening.
Azerbaijan Carpet Museum
Another first for Azerbaijan: The Carpet Museum, established in 1967, became the world’s first. Enter the building that resembles a rolled carpet decorated with motifs and learn about traditional carpet-weaving and its importance in Azerbaijani culture. Opening hours from: 10:00am to 6:00pm Tuesday to Sunday. Admission: 7AZN ($4.10).
The Caspian Sea Cruise
What can be a better way to see the evening skyline than taking a Caspian Sea cruise? The terminal lies in the centre of Baku Boulevard. Cruises go into the bay for approximately one hour, costing 6AZN ($3.50). Highlights are the glowing Flame Towers and the sparkling city of Baku.
Azerbaijanis rejoice in many festivals throughout the year with May noted for being the month for food festivals in Baku. Many events and concerts also take place during this period. Among them are the Jazz Festival and Food exhibitions of Baku. As Muslims make up a majority of the population in Azerbaijan, the spiritual festival of Ramzan is celebrated big time with festivities and decorations all around the country. Many national days have been instated to honor and remember important events in Azerbaijan's struggle for independence.
Gurban Bayram (Festival of Sacrifice)
Also known as the "Festival of Sacrifice", this day is very important in Muslim tradition, as it marks the end of Haji pilgrimage and the readiness of Abraham to forgo his son for God. In Azerbaijan this day is known as Gurban Bayram where a goat or camel is sacrificed to God in remembrance of Ibrahim (Abraham).
Novruz Bayram or the Zorastrian New Year is now a public holiday in Azerbaijan. The novruz table is decorated with sweets, candles, dried fruits and colored eggs. In some places the table is filled with food items starting with the letter "S", such as sib, sonbol, sabzi, serkeh, sir, sumakh, sekkeh and saat. A bowl of goldfish is placed in the centre of the table, as it is believed that the fish will turn north as the clock strikes New Year.
Ramazan (Ramadan) Bayram
As the month of Ramazan comes to an end, Muslims all around the world celebrate the last day as Eid Ul Fitr. In Azerbaijan this day is known as Ramazan Bayram. Those who have fasted the whole month with pure heart, break their fast after seeing the full moon. Families and friends come together to celebrate this festival by exchanging gifts and sweets and donating money to charity. Prayers are offered at mosques and later everybody greets each other with "Id-Mubarak".
International Baku Jazz Festival
Jazz is a much loved music form in Azerbaijan and every year through various festivals and concerts jazz lovers pay their respect to the growth in jazz music in post Soviet Azerbaijan. At the Baku Jazz festival, various groups, bands and musicians get together to celebrate their love for jazz music by participating in this festival.
The top souvenir to bring back from Azerbaijan is undoubtedly a traditional carpet, either woolen or silk. Most are in the sumptuous Persian style, although some are rather plainer and more ethnic. There are seven main centres of carpet manufacture: Baku, Shirvan, Guba, Tabriz, Karabakh, Genca and Gazakh. Each region had its own technology, typical patterns and colours.
If you are in the market for one of these beauties, a visit to the Carpet Museum on Baku's Boulevard is recommended to get an idea of the range of styles and colours. Then its on to one of the carpet shops in Icheri Sheher, the Old Town. You may be able to haggle about the price over glasses of chaff, but the days when you could pick up a bargain are long gone. However, you will return home with a stunning work of art.
Traditional earthenware pottery and ceramics in Oriental blue shades can be found throughout the country. Caviar from the Caspian Sea is no longer the bargain that it once was; pollution and over-fishing mean that the mighty sturgeon which produces these sought-after eggs is now rare. However, it is still approximately half the price of tins in the West.
In Baku, a trip to the Taza bazaar is recommended; it is where locals shop for the freshest fruit and vegetables. If you are the market for a chicken, granny will wring its neck, pluck and draw it before your eyes. There are also plenty of reasonably-priced handicraft. Unlike many Oriental bazaars it is a friendly place with no aggressive salesmanship.
In the north, Sheki's strategic location on the Silk Road has endowed it with centuries of silk-making expertise. The town's silk factory has a shop attached; both quality and prices are high. Tourist shops also sell silk items; scarves make colourful and highly portable mementos.
Food and Drink in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijani food combines Turkish and central Asian elements. While Baku has an excellent selection of international restaurants, from Japanese fusion to IMlian, in most rural restaurants the kebab is most definitely king.
Azeris reckon their tomatoes are the best in the world and there is some justification for this. A special place in the cuisine also belongs to lamb kebabs, of which there are many different varieties. Sumac, a purple powder derived from dried berries, adds a zesty citron flavour to plainly grilled meat.
Hand-cut chips, made from locally-grown potatoes, are excellent. Vegetarians will end up eating a great deal of salad and lentil soup as most dishes contain meat. In the rhaikhanas (tea houses), men linger for hours drinking sweet black tea out of tiny glasses and playing nord(backgammon).
kebab: Spiced, minced lamb pressed on to skewers and grilled. Dograma: A milky potato, cucumber and onion soup served cold.
Piti: Mutton and chickpea soup -a Sheki speciality.
Qutab: Pancakes stuffed with spinach, herbs or meat. Badimjan dolmasi: Lamb and herb-stuffed trio of aubergine, tomato and green Pepper. Dushpara: Soup made with mutton stock containing small pieces of pasta.
Toyuk levengisi: Chicken stuffed with nuts and dyed fruits.
Shirin ploy: Meat and rice pilaf with nuts and dried fruit.
Monastirski: Chicken or lamb topped with melted cheese and pomegranate sauce.
Coban salatasi: Finely chopped tomatoes, onions, cucumber and herbs.
Local wine: Improving all the time and a reasonably priced alternative to expensive foreign imports.
Xirdalan: The favoured local beer. Shebat A soft iced drink made of sugar, various fruits and herbs.
Chai: Tea, served black in a glass with lemon and sugar to taste.
Darchin chai:Tea, flavoured with cinnamon, ginger and, occasionally, rosewater.
Su: Mineral water from the mountains available either naturally carbonated or still.
Alison Travel Azerbaijan is part of Alison Travel Group is a leading travel agency, specialising in group and individual Inbound tours in Azerbaijan and Georgia.
We have one of the best fleet of luxury cars, vans and large coaches with very experienced and competent drivers and highly discounted rates from hotels due to our large volume of business with them. This not only enables us to offer good prices but ensures about the high quality of services. We can provide Arabic, English, Russian, Chinese speaking guides to your clients. We truly believe in providing personalised high-quality service and 24x7 assistance to all our guests to ensure hassle free tour.