Pearl of the Caspain
Azerbaijan, a vibrant Caucasian nation and, most likely, one of the least visited places in both Europe and Asia, is an interesting and one of a kind nation, as it is where East truly meets West. A genuine mix of Europe, Middle East and the Soviet Union, for quite a long time, individuals have battled in attempting to make sense of where does is it really have a place with:
Is it a player in Asia or, maybe, Europe?
Indeed, in all actuality you truly can’t tell, in light of the fact that the fanciful line that isolates Europe from Asia experiences the center of Azerbaijan. This fanciful segment isn’t just geographic however it has likewise characterized the social way of life of the numerous Azerbaijanis who, because of their geographic area and history, have received traditions from the two mainlands.
If you closely look at Azerbaijan’s borders, it looks like a crazy bird flying off while loosing one big feather. It is located in the central Caucasus region bordered by five other countries Iran, Russia, Armenia (Closed Border),Georgia and Turkey (through Nachitchevan Autonomous Reupublic).
It is a secular state and guarantees religious flexibility and notwithstanding continuous pressures with Armenia over the enclaves of Nachitchevan and Nagorno-Karabakh, the nation is extremely protected and the general population are all around really inviting and exceptionally welcoming to guests. The Azerbaijani dialect is like Turkish, but due to the Soviet past, numerous individuals still communicate in Russian.
Visa and connectivity-
Apply for a tourist visa here.
As an Indian national, the visa processing took about 5 days, hassle free.
Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan is well connected to most Middle eastern, Central Asian and European cities.
Things to do in and around Baku –
I noticed right off the bat that Baku resembled both the old and the new. The old feeling originated from the antiquated Old City, which is surrounded by huge brick walls on all sides. Furthermore, the new originated from the modern skyline (hello Flame Towers!) and different urban attractions around the city. Loads of oil cash has added to a fast developing economy which is by all accounts growing by the day.
Walk around the Old City
Start your trip off by strolling around the enchanting Old City. Inside this complex, you’ll discover cobblestone boulevards, limit winding rear ways, boutique houses, and tons of nearby shops, bistros and eateries.
The flame towers are the most iconic structure of the city, and some of the most modern buildings in the Caucasus region. The three buildings are identical in size and appearance, and worth a visit! You can take the cable car up the mountain to the base of the towers, and then pay a fee to go to the observatory deck. The views are spectacular.
From almost any vantage point in Baku, the most conspicuous symbol of this city are the Flame towers, rising 235m above the city. During the day the orange and blue tinted glass gives them a more fiery look in keeping with Azerbaijan’s religious heritage of Zoroastrian fire worship. By night, the towers are even more impressive. Ten thousand LED lights display a series of animated scenes. They vary between flag waving, geometric patterns and most successfully a dancing fire. A spectacle indeed!
Heydar Aliyev Center Museum
My favorite experience in Baku was chilling in the park outside this funky, modern buildings and enjoying the Azeri atmosphere. The museum was build by the famous Iraqi-British female architect named Zaha Hadid. It has a futuristic appeal and the museum is loaded with amazing artifacts, vintage cars, art and music. Worth a visit!
Walk Along the Caspian Sea Boulevard
The Caspian Sea is a massive lake, or more like an ocean, that is adjacent to the city of Baku. There is an extra long street that you can walk down, with loads of cafes, bars, restaurants, concert venues, parks and great views of downtown. Oh, there’s free Wi-Fi 😉
Tour the Formula 1 Tracks
If you love NASCAR and/or car racing is your thing, then you must pay a visit to the rack tracks of one of the world’s most prestigious events. This city has hostel the European and Azerbaijan Grand Prix in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
A visit to Baku isn’t complete until you’ve tried the local cuisine. It has a lot in common with Iranian and Turkish food. Kebabs, salads, flat bread, hummus, fresh fruits & vegetables, etc. Azeri tea is popular and for a quick on-the-go snack, pick up a Donner, pretty cheap for less than a dollar.
Post apocalyptic is the best way to describe the landscape at Gobustan, located about 70km from Baku, about an hour’s drive along the Caspian coast. If Azerbaijan is otherworldly, then Gobustan is otherworldlyness incarnate.
This place is also known for the famous mud volcanoes. Not driven by lava, it is methane and carbon dioxide gases released deep within the earth. It’s gooey.
Exploring this landscape was good fun, feels like you’re standing at the edge of the world here… definitely a must see attraction.
The Nature Museum and Petroglyphs at the entrance is worth the stop before venture into the large landscape. A good collection of ‘drawings’ and symbols made by early humans are on display here, dated back up to 40,000 years. Get a guide to take you around understand this place better.
Ateshgah at Surakhani
Based on Persian and Indian inscriptions, this fire temple was used as a Hindu, Sikh and Zoroastrian place of worship. It’s built in a castle like complex, in a suburb called Surakhani.
A little history : After the introduction of Islam Zoroastrian temple was destroyed. Many Zoroastrians left to India and there continued their worship. But in the 15th -17th centuries the Hindus-fire worshippers who came to Absheron with caravans began to make pilgrimages to Surakhany. The Indian merchants started erection of the temple. The earliest temple part is dated 1713. The latest – the central temple-altar was built with the support of merchant Kanchangar in 1810. During the 18th century chapels, cells, a caravanserai were added to the central part of the temple. One can find carved inscriptions in Indian lettering there.
One of the most famous and popular tourist places of the “eternal flame” in Azerbaijan is the mountain of Yanar Dag. Actually, it is rather a hill than a mountain, with natural gas burning on its slope from ancient times. Meter-long tongues of fire are licking the stratified earth approximately for 10 m in width, searing those who approached too close. People occupy the benches to watch the blazing hill in the evening, when the its sight is most effective.
Yanar Dag is located 25 km to the north from Baku, in Mehemmedi village. There are buses running to it from the city, so you can get there fairly cheap and easy. This place was declared a state-protected conservation area in ’07.
Selling itself as the “Land of Fire”, the theme continues to its sky scrappers, temples, natural reserves and even their national fruit is a sliced pomegranate … It’s neither Europe nor Asia, it’s a nexus of ancient historical empires, but also a ‘new’ nation rapidly transforming itself with a super-charged gust of petro-spending. A true marvel if you’re looking to be surprised… totally worth checking out!!
Until next time, sonra görmək!!