Importance is given to the development of tourism in Azerbaijan, and every year various decisions are taken for the development of tourism, projects are initiated for the development of touristic areas. Tourism has a great impact on Azerbaijan’s economy, like many countries in the world.
Azerbaijan has borders with Georgia in the northwest, Armenia in the west, Russia in the north, Iran in the south, and the Caspian Sea in the east that located in the Caucasus at the intersection of Western Asia and Eastern Europe.
In Azerbaijan, which is one of the largest countries in the Caucasus, cultural tourism, nature tourism, health tourism, mountain and winter tourism and religious tourism are generally carried out.
1. Why Travel to Azerbaijan?
Azerbaijan has 9 of 11 climate types. Azerbaijan is one of the unique tourism destinations where you can travel in 4 seasons, with its rich flora, nature created by more than 15 thousand animal species and 4500 kinds of plants.
Azerbaijan’s landscape and climate are shaped by a combination of factors such as temperature, precipitation, humidity, evaporation, and cloudiness. The country exhibits significant climatic variation from its eastern to western regions. The western mountainous areas experience a drier and more extreme weather pattern, while the eastern part near the Caspian Sea enjoys a more moderate climate.
Interestingly, the very name “Azerbaijan” holds a profound significance as it translates to “protector of fire.” This is due to the country’s abundant reserves of oil and natural gas. Throughout history, Azerbaijan has been associated with fire worship, and even today, fire remains a prominent symbol in its capital, Baku. This symbolism is beautifully depicted in the awe-inspiring Flame Towers, standing tall as a testament to our enduring connection with fire.
Flame Towers, a collection of three skyscrapers located in Baku, soar impressively into the sky. The tallest tower among them stands at an impressive height of 182 meters.
2. Cultural and Historical Tourism Areas
There are more than 6 thousand architectural monuments under protection in different provinces and districts of Azerbaijan. These historical, cultural and natural areas registered by UNESCO are visited by thousands of tourists every year. Sheki Khan Palace, Old City, Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape, Shirvanshahs Palace, Maiden’s Tower, Atesgah, Yanardag etc. are included in these areas.
The Palace of Shaki Khans, constructed in 1797 under the direction of Muhammed Hasan Khan, served as a summer retreat for the Shaki khans. Its purpose was to accommodate the khans who held authority over Shaki as viceroys under the Zand and later Qajar Persian dynasties from around 1750 to 1813, following the Russo-Persian War. In recognition of its historical significance, the Historic Centre of Shaki, along with the Khan’s Palace, was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019.
The Old City, also known as the Inner City, represents the historic nucleus of Baku. This ancient section of Baku is enclosed within walls and features notable landmarks such as the Maiden Tower, whose origins can be traced back to the 12th century. The Old City of Baku, which encompasses architectural gems like the Palace of the Shirvanshahs and the iconic Maiden Tower, earned the distinction of being the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in Azerbaijan in 2000.
The Palace of the Shirvanshahs, commissioned by Ibrahim I of Shirvan, is renowned as one of the architectural treasures of Azerbaijan. Built in the 15th century, this palace stands as a testament to the grandeur of the Shirvanshahs dynasty. Situated within the Inner City of Baku, it forms a remarkable ensemble of historic monuments alongside the Maiden Tower. Recognized by UNESCO, this ensemble is listed as a World Heritage Site, showcasing the rich historical heritage of Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan, which has been a bridge between Asia and Europe on the silk road for many years, has been influenced by the rich culture of different nations throughout history. The cities of Ismayilli and Sheki, which have historical and cultural richness, are examples of this. Ismayilli, which is an area of interest for tourists, has famous touristic districts such as – Lahic, Basgal, Ivanovka. In these districts, which have different architectural structures, you can see that Lahics, Lezgins, Molokans, Jews and old Albanians live freely.
There is Sheki Khan palace, which is recorded by UNESCO as there is extensive information about it in history. The palace with 600-year-old historical plane trees in its garden, no nails used in its construction, and the most beautiful examples of grid art on its walls consisting of 2 floors, 6 rooms, 2 mirrored balconies, it was built during the reign of Hüseyin Khan, the grandson of Haci Celebi Khan, who laid the foundation of the first independent khanate in Azerbaijan in 1761-1762.
There are many architectural structures and districts as examples of historical and cultural areas In Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. The Shirvanshah Palace built in the 15th century and the Maiden’s Tower, which is located in the old city and is full of secrets with its structure and many secret passages, are the first historical places to be added to the list of tourists on the city tour.
The itinerary includes the destinations; Absheron, Atesgah (Fire Temple), Surakhani town, Balakhani, Diri Baba mausoleum, Mausoleum of Yeddi Gumbez and more.
3. Nature tourism and Ecotourism
Azerbaijan Ecotourism Association was officially established for the development of Eco-tourism in Azerbaijan in 2019. At the same time, The International EcoTourism Society elected the chapter head in Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan, with its unique natural nature, makes it possible to realize more than one nature tourism in the Caucasus. Since 2003, National Parks have been established in Azerbaijan in order to protect natural areas, increase ecological awareness and support eco-tourism.
Tourists who come to Azerbaijan to participate in nature tours usually participate in tours to Ismayilli, Sheki, Gakh, Quba, Qebele or to the cities of Lankaran, Astara, Masallı, Lerik in the south. In these provinces, accommodation opportunities are available not only in hotels, but also in village houses or bungalow type houses.
There are also camping areas in the provinces and districts of Azerbaijan. Camping areas are free areas that do not belong to any business and are completely in the bosom of nature. These areas are ideal areas for tourists who love Ecotourism and Adventure tourism and want to see natural areas. You will need guides throughout the tours. Guides will help you to explore the natural and magnificent scenery.
Kinalik village, 65 km from Quba province, is located at an altitude of 2300 m. This village, with an average of 3000 people and 400 houses, was founded before Christ, based on historical information. The village located between Şahdağ, Tufandağ and Kınalık Mountain has been declared a Historical Architecture Ethnographic Conservation Area.
Guba, which is 2 hours away from Baku, is one of the destinations frequently preferred by tourists for these tours. From the moment you enter Guba, a unique forest landscape will accompany you along the way. If you go to Quba, you should definitely visit Gechresh village. Gechresh, one of the largest villages of Guba, is located on the banks of the Gudyalçay river.
4. Health Tourism
Azerbaijan also has important destinations in health tourism. Recently, health tourism has been the branch of tourism preferred by tourists. Nakhchivan, Naftalan, Lankaran and Astara and Galaaltı regions from the North are the main regions of health tourism in Azerbaijan. In these areas, which are included in thermal tourism, 3 types of treatment methods are applied: spa, drinking and mud (peloidotherapy).
Lankaran soil is rich in hot springs. One of the hot springs found here is the “Lankaran” sanatorium, located in a beautiful campus located at the foot of the Talysh Mountains, 12 kilometers from Lankaran. The temperature of the water here reaches +42 degrees. As a natural treatment method, mineral hot water with hydrogen sulfide, which is widely used, naturally comes out of the ground and is used in pools, baths, showers. Lankaran is also located on the coast of the Caspian Sea. One of the main features of this shoreline is the black sand, which has extraordinary healing properties, and it is only possible to come across here. With the natural hot water springs coming out of here, heart, blood-vessel, peripheral nerve, joint movement and skin diseases are treated, while rheumatism and other such joint pains are treated with sand.
Another Natural treatment destination is Naphthalan. “Fountain of black gold – the key to health” The natural resource described as Black Gold by this sanatorium, which continues its activities with the slogan, is Naftalan oil. This oil has been used for many years in the treatment of diseases such as skin, urology and gynecology. There are 8 medical sanatoriums here. (“Kurort union”, “Çinar”, “Magic Naftalan”).
In addition to this, there are springs with therapeutic properties such as Yumurtalı spring, Narzan spring, Turşsu spring, Gible spring, Gaygı spring, Kidney broth, Idris spring, Seyid spring in Dashkesen, and health-treatment centers such as Salt Mountain in Nakhchivan.
Galaalti is a district of Shabran province, 120 km from Baku. Naftsu is famous in therapy with its natural mineral water source. Thanks to this water, kidney diseases, gall bladder diseases, musculoskeletal system diseases, nervous system diseases, cardiovascular system diseases, digestive system diseases, respiratory diseases, skin diseases, endocrine system and metabolism diseases have been treated for many years. Water prevents (prevents) the formation of crystals in the kidney and gallbladder.
5. Mountain and Winter Tourism
Guba, Gusar, Gabala, Ismayilli and Sheki, which are important destinations for winter tourism, are the touristic destinations that tourists travel the most. There are “Shahdag” ski resorts in Gusar and “Tufandağ” ski and cable car centers in Gabala, operating in winter, In Azerbaijan. Ski resorts operate from December to April.
The Greater and Lesser Caucasus Mountains and Talysh Mountains cover 2/3 of Azerbaijan’s land. The Greater Caucasus Mountains are located in the north of the country, and the Talysh Mountains are located in the south.
Mountain tourism, which is especially important in Azerbaijan, is carried out in 4 seasons of the year. These tours, which are of interest to tourists and include eco tours, are generally organized by starting from the northern regions.
We got information about mountain tourism and ecotours in Azerbaijan from Mr.Togrul Cafarov, who has been an Azerbaijani alpinist/ecotourist and mountain guide for many years, and also the Manager of Ecotour.az and Tufan Mountaineering Club.
Mr.Togrul stated that mountain tourism has been in Azerbaijan for many years, since the time of the Soviet Union and it still continues actively. He also explained that few professional guides work in this field and that there are institutions where trainings are still given about mountain tourism / mountaineering
Based on the information we received from him, we learned that mountain tours and ecotours are organized and maintained more actively in the Northern regions of Azerbaijan.
In which Destinations are mountain tours and eco tours organized?
Mr. Togrul said that mountain and eco tours in Azerbaijan are usually organized from Guba province in the North: “ Villages in this province are located at an altitude of more than 2000 m. We organize ecotours and mountain tours on routes between villages. On these tours, we can pass through mountain lakes over Babadağ and move towards other provinces and districts (Ismayilli, Gebele, Gakh). We organize Mountain Tours actively in 4 seasons. Generally, we make tours to the middle mountain areas in March, while we organize tours to the high mountain areas and peaks in the summer months. Our groups are usually organized as a maximum of 20 people. Mountain tours last 2-3 days and campgrounds are determined and camps are set up during the tours. Professional guides lead the tours.”
Campgrounds in Azerbaijan; Camping areas are free forest areas that do not belong to businesses and companies. Generally, you can easily camp in these areas. In some areas, you can set a campsite with the help of your guide and enjoy the unique beauties of nature.
The Kam mountain massif near Qalayxudat village of Quba province has rocks with a height of 15-20 meters for bouldering (rock climbing), the availability of places to set up tent camps on the outskirts, and the availability of routes of various degrees of difficulty, not only for exercises, but also for international competitions. It is a very suitable route for bouldering races.
Also, the freezing of mountain waterfalls in Gusar province in winter offers opportunities for ice climbing. The freezing of mountain waterfalls located in the high mountainous (1700 meters) areas near the village of Laza in the province of Gusar, and at an altitude of 3000 meters of the Shahdag massif, are ideal venues for ice climbing training and racing.
At the same time, rafting tours are organized for tourists on the Qudyalçay river in the province of Gabala.
6. Religious Tourism
Azerbaijan is a tolerant country and religion is separate from the state. There are places of worship for different religions in different provinces and districts of Azerbaijan. Although religious visitor areas are generally of interest to local visitors, some areas are frequently visited by foreign tourists. The most famous of these is the “Ateshgah” temple. Although this temple serves as a museum today, it is visited by Indian tourists because it was built on the site of the Zoroastrian holy temple in history. At the same time, there are many touristic places that tourists can visit both as historical and religious sites, such as the historical “Alban church” in Kis district of Sheki province, “Besparmak” in Guba province, “Ashab-i-Kehf” in Julfa district of Nakhchivan.
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