With one of the largest harbor cities along the Caspian Sea, Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, stands apart from the others with the country’s largest skyscrapers at a height of 182meters in honor of the deep history the country has with the Zoroastrian faith’s fire worshippers. The Flame Towers recently built in 2012 are an excellent emblem for the country known infamously as the Land of Fire. Many aspects of its terrain, history, and culture so tied together with the burning image of fire and flame. Azerbaijan is a very beautiful, but very rarely spoken about Nation, to most of us adventurous globetrotters. When usually in the region, travelers tend to head to Turkey.

When I think of Azerbaijan, I draw so many similarities between Turkish culture and arts– beautiful tapestries, gargantuan aging buildings that hold endless stories and music ringing through city corridors of string instruments. Very close, geographically, you’ll start to realize that this country is really a stunning place with its own characteristics.

IMG: Heydar Aliyev Center. Aleksandr Zykov Flickr. Creative Commons.

IMG: Souvenirs From Baku, Azerbaijan. Y Nakanishi Flickr. Creative Commons

IMG: “Candy Cane Mountains” – Near Alti Agac, Azerbaijan. David Davidson. Flickr. Creative Commons.

This democratic country is a blend of Turkic and Arab heritage, it is a multicolored covered place located in the central Caucasus with the amazing Caspian Sea. Geographically, it is one of the more originally shaped countries with the Nakchivan Republic, located off of the mainland of Azerbaijan, with Iran laying between them and access to Turkey along the Araz river. Backpacking this area would make a great cross country trip if you have the time and energy, but it is always recommended to check the political climate, as well as, the visa situation before crossing multiple borders.

Azerbaijan is beset with ancient ruins and sights to see like the underwater city of Sabayil, also called the Atlantis of the Caspian. A rare gem of a place, Azerbaijan has something for everyone to explore. Yet, back in ancient times, Azerbaijan was a famous place for many followers of the Zoroastrian faith. Zoroastrian followers have a love affair with fire, which they considered the “light of wisdom.” Though popular in its day, Zoroastrian’s popularity slowly declined with the arrival of Islam. Most of these Zoroastrianism practitioners left to North India around this time. Yet in Azerbaijan, the famous fire temples still stand, as if paying homage to the followers that left so long ago. One of the more famous temples is in Ateshgah near Baku and it is a real tourist hot spot to visit.

IMG: Sabayil Castle was built in 1232-1233 on an island just off shore apparently accessible via a tunnel from the mainland. A major earthquake in 1306 collapsed the castle and submerged the island into the Caspian Sea. Archaeological expeditions on the 20th century recovered relics and more than 700 inscribed stone panels. Dan Lundberg. FLickr. Creative Commons

IMG: Ateshgah of Baku (Fire Temple). motodraconis. Flickr. Creative Commons

IMG: A diorama showing fire worship. shankar s. Flickr. Creative Commons.

Landscape wise, Azerbaijan is a blend of many different topographies and climates from its subtropical areas to its mountainous areas.  With a country made up of 80% natural gas and petroleum deposits,  the natural underground gas reserves that run throughout the country, play a big part in the nickname for the country – Land of Flames. These reserves also give the country its national symbol – Yanar Dag, in English it means “the burning mountain.” Yanar Dag is a natural gas fire which continually blazes near Absheron Peninsula on the Caspian Sea in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. Flames have been known to fly upwards of 10 feet. 

IMG: Yanar Dag – Asheron – Baku. Rita Willaert. FLickr. Creative Commons

IMG: Yanar Dag. Wikicommons. Creative Commons.

IMG: Bubbling Mud Volcano. Peretz Partensky Flickr. Creative Commons.

We all know about lava-spewing volcanoes, but have you ever seen ones that bubble out mud? More than half of the world’s mud volcanoes are in Azerbaijan and the Gobustan mud volcanoes are one of the natural wonders of the region that bring many visitors to the country. If you manage to find a mud volcano that isn’t too hot, it is a great place to have an alternative style spa with warm mud baths and a breathtaking view.

So go and enjoy!




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