Situated at the boundary of Eastern Europe and West Asia, Azerbaijan is a cultural melting pot with magnificent landscapes all around. With Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Turkey and Armenia to the west and Iran to the South, Azerbaijan has many influences. Let’s explore a little more about this beautiful country that combines rich grasslands, mountainous peaks and many diverse ways of life.
Azerbaijan’s history dates back to the Stone Age, and historical artefacts have been discovered as far back as the Paleolithic era. In ancient and medieval times, Azerbaijan and the surrounding areas (known as Transcaucasia), were populated by Turkic nomads, Kurds and Caucasian Albanians.
At various times, the area known as modern-day Azerbaijan has been under Islamic, Mongol, Iranian and Russian rule. In 1918, the nation became somewhat independent, but only until 1920, when it was again proclaimed a Soviet state.
Finally, Azerbaijan declared independence in 1991. The political landscape has experienced many periods of turmoil, with several secular religious groups going in and out of favour throughout history. The result today is a diverse nation full of many religious and cultural influences.
Due to the long and varied history of the entire Caucasus region, Azerbaijan has been treated to a diverse spread of cultural influences. As with most nations, religious beliefs have much to do with Azerbaijan’s cultural development, meaning the country has a strong Islamic influence.
Decorative arts are a big part of the Azerbaijan culture and can include anything from wood-carving to jewellery-making. Carpet-making is also a popular activity.
There is a rich history of music in the country too, with traditional folk music and instruments still being popular. However, since the fall of the Soviet Union and an increased Western influence, Azerbaijan has also embraced contemporary mainstream music.
The population of Azerbaijan has grown to over 10 million as of 2022 and includes various ethnic groups. People identifying as Azerbaijanis make up the majority of the population, but other ethnic groups such as Lezgins, Russians, Talysh, Avars and Turks have strong representation.
Religious affiliations are also diverse, but the majority of the population identifies as Islamic, be it Shia or Sunni. Christianity now only makes up 3% of the population.
The landscape is just as diverse as the population, meaning people in Azerbaijan may lead very different lifestyles depending on where they reside. Modern city life can be found throughout the nation, however, many people still live in mountain towns and historical locations, preferring a more traditional way of life.
Like most parts of the world, Azerbaijan has a unique landscape that drives its traditional cuisine. Agriculture has always been a big part of Azerbaijan culture, owing to the plentiful grasslands in the region. However, its proximity to the Caspian Sea also brings fishing into the equation. Therefore, Azerbaijan food is typically a mixture of fresh produce, dairy and meat, particularly beef, mutton, fish and game.
Different cultures have inhabited the land over the years, which also means there are plenty of cultural influences on the local cuisine. While a huge array of foods is available, a traditional Azerbaijani meal usually includes three courses. The first is plov, a rice dish followed by the second course of meat. Meat is prepared in many styles, using a variety of spices, sauces and nuts. The third course would usually be a soup, and there are more than 30 different common types.
In many ways, Azerbaijan food is reminiscent of Middle Eastern cooking, and some communities still use traditional copper bowls and plates for meals.
If you’ve decided to visit Azerbaijan, you’ll be pleased to know there are so many amazing experiences to uncover. Here are just a few of the things you must see when visiting this unique country.
History buffs will love some of the ancient artefacts that can be found in Azerbaijan. One of these sites is Gobustan, a UNESCO heritage Site featuring one of the most ancient museums of rock engravings in the world. You can explore the area’s 6,000 rock engravings that date back as far as 40,000 years.
Surrounded by an ancient fortress wall, the Old City of Baku is a sight to behold. Baku is the country’s capital, and the Old City reflects how it was before modern expansion. The impressive architecture has been preserved, with towers, mosques and palaces dating back centuries.
Azerbaijan is known for its natural gas reserves, and one of the most famous examples of this is the Fire Temple. Once used as a place of sacrifice, this temple was built on a natural gas vent, allowing for what became known as an ‘eternal flame’. Nearby, Yanar Dagh, or ‘The Burning Mountain’ is another example of natural gas seepage causing continuous fire.
If you enjoy feeling like you’ve stepped into the past, Azerbaijan has many quaint towns and villages that have maintained many of their ancient and medieval features. The stone-cobbled streets of Lahidj, and mountain villages like Kish are perfect examples of the historical places you can visit.
If you’d like to know more about visiting Azerbaijan, contact Crooked Compass today. We offer life-changing and perspective-shifting travel experiences that you’ll never forget, and Azerbaijan has plenty to offer the curious traveller.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.