Azerbaijan is very much a country of contrasts. This is perhaps best evidenced in its capital city of Baku. While the Old City of Baku speaks to the country’s rich history, many of the city’s other districts boast modern buildings and reflect the forward-moving mentality of so many Baku residents. A Muslim-majority country, Azerbaijan doesn’t exactly maintain exact semblance to other such countries when it comes to religion and customs. Azerbaijan was the first Muslim-majority country to have operas and theater plays, for example. Also, it is interesting to note that the Constitution of Azerbaijan doesn’t recognize an official religion. Much of the country’s contrasting features are undeniably linked to its location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Neighboring countries include Russia, Georgia, Armenia, and Iran. Turkey lies to the near west, while the Caspian Sea meets Azerbaijan’s eastern border. The lowest part of the country is at sea level, while the highest point – Mount Bazarduzu – tops out at 14,652 feet.
The history of Azerbaijan is quite complex. For centuries on end, the country was surrounded by competing empires, and when it comes down to it, anyone wishing to gain a full understanding of Azerbaijan history will also need to make sense of Persian, Turkish, Arab, and Russian history. In short, what is now the Republic of Azerbaijan was part of the Persian Empire beginning in the 6th century. In 325 AD, many of its people adopted Christianity. Following the Arab advance into Albania in the 7th century AD, Islam became the major religion in Azerbaijan. During the Muslim era, a cultural boom occurred in the 12th century. Lending to the decline of this era were earthquakes and invasions from the Mongols and the Timur. Following this, what is now the country of Azerbaijan experienced another boom of sorts as part of the Persian Empire. Tensions between the Persian and Ottoman Empires would eventually cause more problems, and things didn’t exactly get better when Russia took an interest in the area in the 1800s. Much of Azerbaijan was incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1813. When the Russian Empire collapsed during World War I, Azerbaijan joined Armenia and Georgia and became part of the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic. This republic dissolved in 1918, which saw Azerbaijan become its own republic. Russia reassumed control of the country in 1920 under the rule of Vladimir Lenin. Russia’s desire to control Azerbaijan was largely rooted in oil. By 1905, Azerbaijan was actually supplying half of the world’s oil. Russian rule would continue until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Azerbaijan has been independent ever since, and to this day, it remains an important country in relation to energy. Two-thirds of its lands are rich in oil and natural gas.
Baku is the largest city in Azerbaijan, boasting an urban population of more than two million people. It also serves as the country’s capital and is the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the Caucasus region. It can be found on the southern shore of the Absheron Peninsula, which juts out into the Caspian Sea along the Azerbaijan coast. A very forward-moving metropolis, Baku also offers a rich history. Its fascinating Old City certainly contrasts with its more modern neighborhoods, and among the main things that visitors will notice is the city’s varying architecture. Also adding depth to Baku are its East meets West infusion and its vibrant nightlife. Dining and shopping are just two more things to take an interest in while in town, and the city’s numerous hotels are testament to its re-emergence as a popular travel destination.
Azerbaijan was a popular tourist destination in the 1980s. During the 1990s, however, its tourism industry was largely damaged by two things – the fall of the Soviet Union and the Nagorno-Karabakh War. In the 2000s, the tourism industry began to recover, and today, many Azerbaijan visitors come with an interest in history, religion, and the country’s spa and health care industries. Exploring the Old City in Baku is a direct example of something that many Azerbaijan visitors come to do, and anyone who appreciates gorgeous landscapes is likely to find bliss in the country’s mountainous region. A number of smaller cities complement the larger capital of Baku. Ganja is one such city, and among its assorted attractions are the Bottle House and the Tomb of Nizami. The Bottle House is a private family house that is decorated with tens of thousands of glass bottles. The Tomb of Nizami lies just outside of Ganja and honors the poet and writer, Nizami Ganjavi. The Old Prison & Lighthouse in Lankaran is just one more example of an Azerbaijan attraction. Part of its fame lies in the belief that it once housed Joseph Stalin. Sandy beaches can be found along the coast of Azerbaijan and present tourists with just one more thing to consider. Add it all up, and it becomes clear that Azerbaijan caters to all kinds of travelers with its numerous ancient ruins, its varying landscapes, its ethnographic variety, its modern resorts, its skilled craftsmen and its many other inviting attributes.
Azerbaijan Hotels & Lodging
Azerbaijan Hotels & Lodging Image: Jumeirah Bilgah Beach Hotel
Azerbaijan has many wonderful hotels to select from, and resorts are increasing in number should that be the preferred lodging option. The majority of the top lodging establishments are found in or near Baku, and they include plenty of upscale gems. Since many of the world’s largest and most recognizable hotel brands have a presence in and around Baku, travelers should have little trouble finding something familiar in the capital region. Outside of Baku, the number of recognizable hotel brands decreases, though there are still some good lodging options. Other destinations that travelers often visit and stay overnight include, but aren’t limited to, Ganja, Stepanakert, Quba, Balakan, and Qabala. Apartment rentals are also available in the larger Azerbaijan cities, especially Baku. Either way, it can be a good idea to search for Azerbaijan travel packages that include lodging if you are having trouble figuring out where to stay. These packages also tend to include visits to major attractions, which can certainly be of help when trying to plan an Azerbaijan vacation.