On the shores of the Caspian Sea lies the exotic and mysterious capital of Azerbaijan, Baku. It is a rapidly changing city where Europe and Asia, ancient and modern collide. The 10th-century Unesco-listed Old City is a charming mix of narrow alleyways, workshops and caravanserais, with the tapered Maiden Tower at its heart. Outside this are the grand tree-lined boulevards of 19th-century Baku, which sprang up during the times of the first oil booms and could easily pass for Paris or Vienna.
The modern Baku cityscape is a heady mix of Soviet relics and jawdropping modern masterpieces including the late Zaha Hadid’s Heydar Aliyev Centre, and the trio of Flame Towers. Beyond the city limits are the Ateshgyakh Fire Worshippers’ temple, which pre-dates the arrival of Islam, and the 40,000-year-old rock carvings at Gobustan National Park.