Straddling two continents where East meets West, Azerbaijan offers a rare and dynamic mix of culture, architecture and culinary heritage. Add to this the warm climate and the diversity of natural landscapes – from mountains, volcanoes and gorges to waterfalls, forests and sandy beaches along the Caspian Sea – Azerbaijan has all the ingredients for remote tourism. social that is both accessible and exhilarating.
âIn Azerbaijan, we don’t artificially invent tourist things to profit from tourism, we look inside our country and try to find what is unique, what is endemic. Once we identify these assets, we then create them into immersive experiences for travelers.
âWe apply this philosophy to the full range of intangible heritage, cultural goods, conservation work and nature – our mountains, lakes and waterfalls – everything. “
âOver the past year and a half, the paradigm of global travel has changed, at least for now. What we are seeing is a shift from large mass events to individual requests for cottages, self-contained properties, isolated rural dwellings. Basically, sustainable tourism and responsible development is the need of the hour and that’s what we’ve been doing from the start.
Currently, citizens and permanent residents of 42 countries can travel to Azerbaijan by air, including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. With the connection re-established via Azerbaijani airlines, Flydubai, Air Arabia and Qatar Airways, passengers over the age of 18 can now fly to Azerbaijan, by presenting both a COVID passport (an official document issued by the country concerned on full vaccination or recovery from COVID-19) and a negative PCR test carried out within 72 hours before the flight, while for minors, only the latter must be provided within the time limit indicated.
In 2019, 10,472 travelers from Qatar visited Azerbaijan. Some 10,399 Qatari citizens have received electronic visas for Azerbaijan, a substantial increase of 50.3% compared to 2018.
âFrom January to February 2020, just before the pandemic, 15,000 travelers from Qatar had already visited Azerbaijan. In 2019, visitors to Qatar were also among the top spenders – around $ 1,530 per person. “
Thanks to the country’s geographical location along the ancient Silk Road, each region has its own culinary heritage and unique products, which together form the basis of the rich flavors of Azerbaijani cuisine. By combining travel with first-hand dining experiences with farmers, shepherds, butchers and bakers, travelers are encouraged to help preserve food traditions and local ingredients that might otherwise be on the verge of extinction.
One of these experiences offers travelers keen to experience this side of Azerbaijan the opportunity to stay overnight in rural guesthouses and participate in seasonal activities, such as seeding, planting, cultivation , harvesting, processing and packaging, and to be rewarded with the opportunity to cook and also taste the fruit of their labor.
ATB also recently introduced the national Ark of Taste menu, which was created as part of an EU-funded project to promote Slow Food. The menu offers a unique celebration of traditional cuisine by helping local farmers and food producers to preserve indigenous ingredients and techniques, such as the production of mountain honey, Madrasa grape, hazelnuts, rosehip syrup and of dairy products made from buffalo milk.
âWe promote pleasant and easy hikes around our natural assets of the Greater Caucasus. We put nature on stage. Azerbaijan is one of the top three birding destinations in the world. We have mud volcanoes – our mud volcanoes center will open in the summer of 2022. â
Azerbaijan has almost all types of geography to explore. Highlights include:
Hiking in pristine nature – with around 150 kilometers of marked hiking trails connecting isolated mountain villages and crossing lush forests, waterfalls and lakes in the Caucasus Mountains, hiking, biking and hiking are now easier than ever before. camping in these landscapes and traveling between them.
Bird watching – with around 400 recorded bird species, Azerbaijan has established itself as a leading destination for bird watching. There are wonderful sites in the Caucasus Mountains for bird watching, and special emphasis has been placed on the preservation and development of Beshbarmag State Reserve, northwest of Baku, to help protect and to monitor the region’s bird population and serve as a hub for bird watchers.
Winter activities – travelers looking for a fairytale destination this holiday season, should look no further than Shahdag in Gusar, Tufandag in Gabala and Agbulag in Nakhichevan for a real winter taste, while lovers of winter adrenalinists will love the choice of activities available on land and in the air, including skiing, snowmobiling, paragliding and quad rides.
Along with plenty of opportunities for nature-oriented activities, travelers also have the opportunity to develop a deeper appreciation for the country by tasting a variety of wellness experiences that harness the restorative effects of nature itself.
Salt therapy – believed to have positive effects on a variety of ailments, including asthma and allergies, as well as benefits for skin aging, one of the most impressive places to experience traditional salt therapy is Duzdag, or ” Mountain of salt âin Nakhitchevan. The old salt mine is made up of a complex of tunnels dug 300 meters into the mountain that is said to contain 130 million tonnes of the purest natural salt in the world.
Now part of the Duzdag Physiotherapy Center, guests can stay overnight in one of the centre’s underground chambers, not only enjoying the restorative powers of salt, but also seclusion and peace of mind.
Thermal baths and springs – since ancient times, the inhabitants of the south-eastern region of Azerbaijan have turned to thermal springs for their health. Known as “istisu”, bathing in mineral-rich water – or even drinking it – is a common pastime in Lankaran, Gabala and the Karabakh region, where it is revered for its qualities. rejuvenating and used to treat many conditions.
With over 30 hot and cold mineral springs in the Greater Caucasus Mountains – each offering health seekers distinct concentrations of minerals and organics – there are plenty of opportunities to bask in soothing formal treatments. while enjoying breathtaking views of some of Azerbaijan’s great natural attractions.
Naftalan oil – Used for therapeutic purposes since the 12th century, the unique composition of Naftalan oil has helped to make the city of Naftalan one of the leading health tourism destinations in Azerbaijan.
According to local folklore, the healing properties of the oil were first discovered by a Silk Road merchant who left one of his sickly camels near a basin of Naftalan oil and is returned later to find it fully recovered. Today, it is believed to have natural anesthetic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antihistamine properties, and can be used to treat over 70 different ailments, from skin conditions and nervous system issues to stress and stress. tired.
From world heritage sites to amazing architecture, there is so much history and culture to explore in Azerbaijan. There is no better way to experience the cultural heart of the capital Baku than with a specially organized walking tour of its medieval heart – the UNESCO protected Old Town with Maiden’s Tower and Palace by Shirvanshahs.
The unique history and culture of Azerbaijan, home to some of the earliest civilizations, has also been enriched by the constant flow of travelers passing along the Great Silk Road. One of the places where their traces are clearly visible is the Ateshgah Fire Temple, which was built around naturally burning fires previously revered by Zoroastrians. Adopted by Hindu merchants trading in the nearby city of Baku, the temple was an important pilgrimage site for fire worshipers until the 1880s.
Another visible trace of the Silk Road is the town of Sheki, whose historic center is the last UNESCO World Heritage Site in Azerbaijan. Thanks to its local craft traditions, which date back several centuries, Sheki is also part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. âShaki is a great place to visit – there are beautiful hotels, perfect restaurants, bazaars, you can visit silk workshops where the silk thread is produced and woven, where the printing is applied. There is a walled area with the Khan Palace, with its beautiful colorful windows, various museums and workshops. About 5 km from Sheki is a mountain village called KiÅ.
There is another route to follow in Azerbaijan to explore its cultural heritage. One of the most recent inspiring destinations in Azerbaijan is Shusha, home to many Azerbaijani composers, musicians and poets, as well as one of the main schools of mugham, a traditional genre of vocal and instrumental arts. It is also known for its carpet weaving traditions and was the center of the famous Karabakh carpet school.
* Azerbaijan Tourist Board will participate in Qatar Travel Mart 2021