Think Azerbaijan only holds appeal for travellers looking to tick off every country on the map? Think again. Imagine an enigmatic country squeezed in between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains, scattered with small fishing towns and remote mountain villages far from the tourist trail. Envisage the capital Baku and picture Europe-meets-Asia with a Gulf States flair – a brash cosmopolitan metropolis flaunting the latest in futuristic architecture sitting alongside ancient mosques, walled cities and old-world Russian opulence. Think how bemused your friends will be upon hearing of your latest holiday choice. Fascinating, austere and intriguing by turns, this back-of-beyond nation won’t fail to charm and perplex.
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At a glance
|Capital city:||Baku (population 2.1 million)|
|Time zone:||(GMT+04:00) Baku|
|Electricity:||Type C (European 2-pin)|
Best time to visit Azerbaijan
April through to June is the best time to visit Azerbaijan, when the temperatures are warm, the flowers are out, and skies at their clearest. September and October are also good temperature-wise, though the countryside isn’t as scenic. The heat and humidity can be oppressive in Baku during the summer months of June, July and August, and from November to March temperatures can fall below zero.
Geography and environment
Top 5 World Heritage-Listed Sights in Azerbaijan
1. The Walled City of Old Baku
Constructed sometime in the 12th century, this walled fortress was granted UNESCO World Heritage listing in 2000. A bustling labyrinth of alleyways, old buildings and boutique hotels, where the locals still live and go about their day, it retains the quintessential elements of a medieval town. It’s one of the few World Heritage sights in which you can actually bed down for a night.
2. Shirvanshah’s Palace
This ornate sandstone palatial complex received World Heritage status at the same time as the Walled City (in which it’s located). Largely destroyed by a bombardment, courtesy of the Russian Navy in the 18th century, the Palace has since been meticulously restored and is clearly visible from the sea and the city’s surrounding heights.
3. Maiden's Tower
Another World Heritage-listed sight inside the Walled City, Qiz Qalasi – translated as the Maiden’s or Virgin’s Tower – is one of Azerbaijan’s foremost architectural accomplishments and recognisable emblems. Standing 29 metres high and cylindrical in design, the history of this spiralling and mystifying structure remains a point of debate between historians, while its top offers 360-degree views of surrounding Baku Bay and the town’s alleys and minarets.
4. Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape
The ancient carvings and petroglyphs of the Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape, less than 70 km from Baku, provide a rich and fascinating insight into how life was for people in the area over 40,000 years ago. More than 6,000 depictions of flora, fauna and people engaged in hunting and fishing activities reveal both cultural continuity between prehistoric and medieval times, and seismic geographical change. The site received UNESCO listing in 2007.
5. The Khan’s Palace
Currently on the tentative list of sights seeking World Heritage listing, the former summer residential palace of Shaki Khans is an ornately tiled and patterned two-story structure built in 1797. Renowned for its exquisite stained-glass windows, murals and frescos, the palace’s beauty is only enhanced by verdant natural surroundings.
FAQs on Azerbaijan
LETTERS OF INVITATION (LOI):
Most nationalities require a visa to visit Azerbaijan. Most also require a LOI in order to apply although this can depend on where your application is made. Visa rules for Azerbaijan are constantly changing and embassy staff often find it hard to keep up with or know how to interpret them. We recommend checking the following websites for reports and up to date information: http://azerbaijan24.com & http://caravanistan.com.
The following information was current at the time of writing. You will need to check with the embassy where you will apply for specific information and costs.
VISA ON ARRIVAL:
It is no longer possible to get a visa on arrival at Baku Airport or at any land border into Azerbaijan. All travellers must apply for their Single Entry Tourist Visa to Azerbaijan in advance.
APPLYING FOR AN E-VISA:
From March 2013 Azerbaijan has introduced an e-visa system. This is an online process, with the visa emailed to you as a PDF attachment that you will need to print out. This visa enables entry to Azerbaijan at any border point, land or air and is issued strictly for the dates your documents show only. The e-visa costs US$100 and takes up to 15 days to be processed and requires submitting the following documents:
*Clear, colour copy of passport in JPEG format
*Clear, colour copy of applicant’s photo size 3x4 cm in JPEG format
*Flight reservation details if arriving or departing by air
*Confirmation of hotel booking – This can be requested from Dragoman by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
*Completed e-visa application form in WORD format
Please note that while this is a very new service, we advise all pax to apply for the e-visa rather than applying at an embassy.
There are 2 options for obtaining the e-visa:
1. The Visa Machine
The application process can be started by going to the following address:
The application cost is $80US plus £20 admin fee.
2. Direct to an Azeri travel agent
An alternative option is to use Azerbaijan24, an Azeri travel agent. Please follow the link to find instructions on completing the application form independently:
The application will cost $100US.
INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
Organisation, juridical or physical person inviting you to Azerbaijan:
Mirvari Travel Ltd.
Istiqlaliyyet str. 23
+994 12 492 09 45
Address of the place of your stay in Azerbaijan:
Asif Zeynally street 39
(unless otherwise indicated on your LOI)
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
* Letter of Invitation (LOI), additional official documents depending on the embassy
* Photocopy of your passport
* Passport size photos (up to 4)
* Please check with the embassy for any other specific requirements
Bottle of local beer = 2.5 AZN
Meal at an inexpensive restaurant = 8 AZN
Meal at a mid-range restaurant = 40 AZN
For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Jan 20 Martyrs' Day
Mar 8 International Women's Day
Mar 21 Nowruz (Persian New Year)
Mar 29 Good Friday
Apr 1 Easter Monday
May 9 Victory Day
May 28 Republic Day
Jun 15 National Salvation Day
Jun 26 Army and Navy Day
Aug 8 Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
Oct 15 Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice)
Oct 18 Independence Day
Nov 12 Constitution Day
Nov 17 National Revival Day
Dec 31 Day of Azeri Solidarity
Please note these dates are for 2013. For a current list of public holidays go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/azerbaijan/public-holidays
Health and Safety
Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:
From New Zealand?
Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/
Go to: http://travel.state.gov/
Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/
The World Health Organisation
also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/
Azerbaijan Travel Tips
Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.
Top responsible travel tips for Azerbaijan
1. Be considerate of Azerbaijan’s customs, traditions, religion and culture.
2. Only use your right hand for eating and passing things to locals. The left is used for ‘unhygienic tasks’.
3. Dress modestly and respectfully. Shoulders to knees should be covered and shoes removed when entering places of worship.
4. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water or use water purification tablets.
5. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.
6. When bargaining at markets, stay calm, be reasonable and keep a smile on your face. It's meant to be fun!
7. Learn some local language and don't be afraid to use it - simple greetings will help break the ice.
8. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive and supports the local community.
9. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.
10. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.
11. When on community visits or homestays, refrain from giving gifts or money to locals.
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