Welcome to Azerbaijan - "Guardian of the Fires."
Fascinating Azerbaijan tours. This land sizzles with oil; burning on mountain tops and in homes for centuries, in Zoroastrian fire dances and the eternal Temple of Fire, and attracting political and economic conquerors and investors. Fanned by the winds off the Caspian Sea these flames have lighted the way for travelers from all directions throughout its history.
Bordered to the north and west by the snow-capped Caucasus Mountains and in the in the east by the azure waters of the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan is also the guardian of some of the most ancient treasures of human ancestry. The petro glyphs of Gobustan dating back to 10,000 BC whisper hunting and dancing stories of the Stone Age and Neolithic cultures. Five thousand years of rich civilization beckon from silent tombs, lofty palaces, gorgeous mosques and powerful fortresses of a complex and unique country of both Eastern European and West Asian influences. Retrace the footsteps of the Silk Road caravans that carried prized Azeri goods; silk, gold, ornate calligraphy, and elegantly crafted weaponry.
You might begin in the capital city of Baku, a sophisticated blend of old and new. This golden city overlooking the sparkling Caspian Sea has a deep history intertwined with Azeri oil and with the mystical Zoroastrian traditions of the eternal fires of Atashgah, a 17th century fire temple. Savor fine Azeri wine and caviar, then stroll through the narrow stone streets of the medieval walled city to the Shirvansha Palace complex. Enjoy breathtaking views of the harbor from the distinctive 12th century Maiden Tower, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To the southeast, weave through the Talish Mountains along the Lankoran River where it flows to the sea and meet the traditional Talysh people, who have preserved their centuries old traditions, language and customs. The Lankaran region is a fertile land; the warm climate encouraging lush growth of citrus trees, grapes, tobacco, rice and oak. Sip the local tea renowned for its delicate flavor or follow Lankoran's broad streets to the Majak, a cylindrical structure that used to house the local thieves.
Take a train westward, up into the crisp Caucasus Mountains through the oak forests here at 700m above sea level to the town of Sheki overlooking bountiful yaylags (pastures) and lush vegetation. Be serenaded by traditional musicians at the lively riverside caravanserai, and look out over red roof tiles that seem to float down the mountainside. Savor the spring water running through the canals, peruse the local market, or sample some halvah at a local sweet shop. Stop at the charming local silk makers, remnants of the once large, high-quality silk center, and don't miss the dazzling frescos and delicate stained glass work of the 18th century Khan's summer palace, or the glorious 7th century Albanian Church. In the evening enjoy dinner and a panoramic view of the city at sunset, a magical time in Sheki. On the plains below the Lesser Caucasus, learn about the healing properties of the oil spas in Naftalan. For thrill seekers and history buffs, hike up into the pristine Quba Rayon Mountains to reach the 5000 year old Caucasian village of Khinalug.
Step into the Azeri's living local history and explore the distinctive flair of every region. Their craftsmanship and artistic development is renown, their carpets celebrated worldwide. In certain mountain villages, the genius of this craft is still passed from mother to daughter, using motifs of abundance and the rich earth and natural dyes from flowers and herbs picked with along the high mountain passes. Wool is spun by apprenticing daughters to produce the purple carpets lauded by 12th century folk epics and even by Marco Polo himself.
The powerful beauty of Azerbaijan is in its extremes: as fire runs through the land, the placid waters and persistent winds of the Caspian Sea and the remote high mountains are part of the national character, too. The opulence of the landscapes, the breadth of its history and the melodies of Azeri traditional folk music, Mugham, inspire and exhilarate the soul. Mineral spas, delicate teas and the warmth of the people comfort the traveler as you discover the treasures of this land of fire and water.
Come and relish the treasures of Azerbaijan!