Azerbaijan is often called „the pearl of the Middle East.“ This former Soviet Republic has become the most attractive tourist destination in the Caspian Sea region. Beautiful beaches and mountains, enticing and interesting mix of cultures makes the country very interesting for tourism. Azerbaijan is located where Eastern Europe and Russia in particular meets the Orient. Today the capital Baku is becoming a modern city, although on some places on the streets and sometimes in the architecture you can still feel the shadows of the past.
Geographic location, boundaries and size of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is located in the western parts of mainland Asia, into the geographical region called Asia Minor.
A small part of the territory falls within the boundaries of Europe. These are areas which are located north of the Caucasus Mountains. Azerbaijan is located between 38 and 41° north latitude and between 44 and 50° east longitude.
It occupies an area of 86,600 sq.km. On the north it borders with the Republic of Dagestan, which is within the Russian Federation, on the northwest borders with Georgia, on the west with Armenia and on the south by Iran. Azerbaijan has a wide outlet to the Caspian Sea on the east.
Territorial Problems of Azerbaijan. Situation with Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity is quite complicated. On the territory of the country there is an autonomous region called Nagorno-Karabakh.
The area is located in the western part of Azerbaijan in Small Caucasus Mountain Range and is inhabited mainly by Armenians. Today, this autonomous region is an independent Armenian Republic called Artsakh.
Moreover, Azerbaijan has an enclave between Armenia and Iran. This territory is called Nahichevan and is remote at approximately 30 kilometers from the rest of Azerbaijan.
Relief of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has a very diverse topography. Northeast of the country is crossed by jagged and harsh Caucasus Mountains that reach near the shore of the Caspian Sea.
Here on the border with Dagestan is the highest point in the country – Mt Bazardyuzyu. It rises to about 4466 meters above sea level.
In addition to the northeast, in Azerbaijan there are impressive mountain ranges also in the southwestern part of the country. Small Caucasus Mountain Range rises to a height of 3724 meters.
Between the two mountains lies a large flat area Kura-Aras. Much of the country lies below sea level. This applies to the coastal areas of Caspian Sea, where is located the Caspian Depression.
This is the lowest land in Azerbaijan. Parts of it are situated about 28 meters below sea level.
Climate of Azerbaijan. This country is located within the subtropical climate zone. However, the climatic conditions are very different from those on the shores of the Mediterranean.
The local climate has a continental character, expressed by hot summers and relatively cold for the subtropics winters. Weather in the majority of Azerbaijan is dry almost all year around, and scrub lands landscapes speak quite eloquently about this fact.
More humid is usually the climate in coastal areas of the country and in the mountains. Snowfalls are possible and fall practically in the whole country, but mostly in the mountains.
The snowfall in the coastal areas is relatively rare and insignificant. For example, in the capital Baku rarely snowing, and when this happens the snow cover is relatively thin and perishable.
Here summers are extremely hot, which is typical feature for the subtropics, but winter is not very mild. Sometimes the temperatures can drop to historically low levels.
For example, in some areas of the country are not excluded temperatures around (-20) and even (-30) °C, although this rarely happens. Azerbaijan occasionally experiences some of the coldest winters that can happen in the subtropics.
Coastal areas of the country as a whole have significantly milder climate. For example, in the capital Baku winters are mild and moist.
Winters last from December to March and temperatures during the day vary from 5°C in January and February to 10°C in December and March.
April is a typical spring month with temperatures around 15°C and in May you can even feel the summer. Temperatures in May are usually about 22 – 23°C and every day get higher.
From June to September is very warm – about 25 – 28°C, and in July and August are the hottest days in the year. In this part of the year daytime temperatures rarely fall below 30°C.
Autumn is mild. In October and November temperatures range from 10 to 20°C depending on conditions.
Economy. Azerbaijan’s economy is growing and the standard of living is relatively low even though the country is very rich in minerals.
Azerbaijan can boast with significant reserves of oil and natural gas in the Caspian Sea and a number of ore minerals. The main reason for the low income in the country is that post-Soviet Azerbaijan has gone through many economic difficulties and serious reforms.
Today, in addition to mineral resources of Azerbaijan, national economy relies also on agriculture. The plant-growing is predominant. Smaller is the share of the livestock production.
Most important crops grown in the country are cereals, fruits vegetables, vineyards and industrial crops. In Azerbaijan are well developed also some industrial sectors – food, chemical, textile and others.
The national currency of Azerbaijan is Azerbaijani Manat. Currency was in circulation from 1919 to 1923 and today again after 1993.
A typical feature of the local currency is that on all banknotes is depicts a small map of Europe and a larger map of Azerbaijan.
Population. Azerbaijan has a population of over 9 million people. Most of them are Muslims. In the country live also a small number of Christians, consisting mainly of Russians.
Population is not evenly distributed in the territory of Azerbaijan. For example, in mountainous areas the population density is much lower.
The greatest is the concentration of people in coastal areas, especially in the capital Baku, where live about 2.1 million people.
This is approximately 23 – 24% of the total population of Azerbaijan. Official language in Azerbaijan is a Turkic, also known as Azeri. Besides Azeri, widely spoken in the country is Russian.
This is perfectly natural, because until February 5, 1991 Azerbaijan was part of USSR. It is important to note one cultural feature of Azerbaijan – although the country falls almost entirely in Asia local population sees itself as a European nation.
Tourism in Azerbaijan
What kind of tourists usually visits Azerbaijan? About 2 million tourists visit Azerbaijan every year. The country is particularly attractive in the Russian tourist market as a good alternative to the Mediterranean and Black Sea.
Geographical proximity to Russia and the wide spreading of Russian language are often crucial to the choice of tourists.
Apart from the Russians, however, Azerbaijan is visited by tourists from all around the world.
It is expected that the interest of some of the travelling nations such as Germany, Britain and the U.S. will increase as a result of the massive advertising campaign and ambitious architectural projects in Baku.
Beach tourism. Azerbaijan has some really nice beaches, which offer pleasant coolness in the hot summer days. In most places the sand is dark beige or light brown, while in other places instead of sand beaches are covered with small round stones.
One of the most popular places for sea vacation in Azerbaijan is the north coast and in particular the small resort town Nabran and its environs.
There are a wide variety of accommodation options whether you are looking for the luxury and big hotels or solitude, which can offer a small, but comfortable bungalow.
Huge advantage in beach tourism is that only a few steps from the sand you will find beautiful deciduous woodlands, which offer great opportunities for nature walks and cool shade after you get enough of Azerbaijanian bright and hot sun.
Mountain tourism. Mountains of Azerbaijan are wild and extremely beautiful. They offer excellent opportunities for skiing.
In winter, heavy snow makes the scenery to remind of the Alps and the Balkans in Europe. In summer opportunities for walks in the fresh coniferous and deciduous vegetation of the mountain forests may tempt everyone and this is the most attractive side of Azerbaijan.
The great wealth of mineral springs is very important for the development of spa tourism in the country. Among the high mountains are nestled small and picturesque villages that are attractive place to practice rural tourism.
The life style has not changed notably in the 20th century. People in the mountain villages still produce their own food and live a simple lifestyle close to nature.
In the local villages still the food is clean and problems such as preservatives and dyes in food products are something incomprehensible for the people.
In mountainous areas of Azerbaijan you will find many beautiful canyons, gorges, rivers, lakes and waterfalls. One of the most attractive places for rest and relaxation in the mountains is Long Forest.
The resort is located near the town of Guba. Furthermore, Long Forest, about Guba there are and some other smaller but also very attractive resorts and camp grounds.
It is generally believed that this place offers the most picturesque mountain scenery in Azerbaijan and precisely for this reason the region has such saturation opportunities for tourism.
Urban tourism. The largest and most attractive tourist city in Azerbaijan is the capital Baku. It is a hilarious and modern metropolis, home to over 2 million people.
It posses beautiful architecture and offers its guests to combine entertainment with local culture.
Here you will find numerous restaurants, bars, clubs, discos and hotels of various categories, glittering shops, modern shopping centres and malls, but also numerous museums, galleries, mosques and churches.
Baku combines all the most modern and innovative in Azerbaijan in one place. In recent years, people from world wide speak strongly that Azerbaijan will soon become the second Dubai.
There are plans to build unique hotels, restaurants and office buildings that really astound with their amazing architecture!
If all the projects become reality, Baku will become the most modern city in the former USSR.
When to visit Azerbaijan? The best time for tourism in Azerbaijan is between May and September especially if you plan to go hiking into the green mountain forests.
In this part of the year you will see the country in its best light and will also be able to enjoy the beautiful beaches along the Caspian Sea.
What clothes to wear? If you visit Azerbaijan during the period from May to September (summer tourist season) you have to wear thin summer clothes and swimsuit as well as light and airy shoes, sun glasses, sunscreen etc.
If you plan to travel at the beginning or end of the summer season (May or September), it will be better if you wear a light overcoat just in case (e.g, jacket or anything), because the nights can get cooler.
For the months October and April is better to stay prepared for any kind of weather (cool, warm, rainy, sunny, windy and so on.) and from November to March warm winter clothes are necessary.