Azerbaijan is neither European or Asian, east nor west. It is a wonderful, exotic mix of the many cultures and peoples who have made this nation their home over the centuries – many of whom would have been traders and travellers on the famed Silk Road. Set on the shores of the Caspian Sea, the region is rich in oil and natural gas, which is why it’s often referred to as the Land of Fire. These natural resources have brought great wealth to the country; the skyline of the capital, Baku, is filling rapidly with Dubai-style skyscrapers. However, authorities have been keen to preserve the city’s rich history and the Unesco-listed 10th-century old town has been lovingly restored.
Beyond Baku is an area of semi-desert, mud volcanoes and a curious fire phenomena. While further inland these deserts make way for rich, green farmland, deep forests and the soaring Caucasus mountains. These mountains are home to the beautiful town of Sheki, the jewel in the crown of rural Azerbaijan. This is a fascinating nation, still largely unexplored by western travellers, but one not to be missed.
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