A relatively untouched country, there is so much to see in scenic Azerbaijan. Explore the capital of Baku, delighting in its modern architecture and historic highlights. Tour impressive Gobustan National Park, home to mud volcanoes and thousands of primitive rock carvings. Visit Absheron, the Baku Fire Temple, Burning Mountain, Yanardagh and so much more.
Small Group Tours
Give your adventurous spirit free reign in some of Europe’s best kept secrets, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan
Give your adventurous spirit free reign in some of Europe’s best kept secrets, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan Facts & Tips
Did you know?
- Azerbaijan is home to two of the top chess players in the world – Garry Kasparov and Teymur Rajabov, who was the youngest International Grand Master ever at 14.
- 60% of the country is mountainous and it has more than 400 mud volcanoes, more than any other country on earth
- In 1847, the first oil well was drilled in Azerbaijan and 95% of its GDP comes from oil
- Baku is home to the world’s first offshore oil platform city – Oil Rocks – which is the first and largest town to be constructed on stilts at sea
- Novruz in mid-March is the oldest national holiday in Azerbaijan and it celebrates the New Year and the coming of Spring
- There are two cultural UNESCO World Heritage sites in Azerbaijan, the Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape and the Walled City of Baku including Shirvanshah’s Palace and Maiden Tower.
- Baku is home to a Carpet Museum shaped like a giant rolled up carpet, as well as the world’s largest KFC.
- The Gamigaya Petroglyphs date back to the 1st to the 4th centuries BC and are thought to be some of the oldest art forms in the world.
- The national animal is the Karabakh horse, which is endemic to Azerbaijan and known for its effortless speed, intelligence and endurance.
Visas & Passports
Australian passport holders travelling to Azerbaijan need a visa at this time. An eVisa must be applied for before you travel online at: https://evisa.gov.az
We require that your passport is valid for travel for at least six months from the date you are planning to return to Australia. Your passport must be valid to travel internationally and must be machine-readable. You also need to carry a valid return ticket on you.
Whether travelling on an Australian passport or the passport of another country, all travellers require visas for a number of countries, and it is your responsibility to secure what may be required before departing Australia. You can consult with your travel agent, but it is also recommended that you check the foreign embassy website for your respective destination as it can also provide you with useful information.
The Australian Embassy in Turkey is responsible for Azerbaijan:
MNG Building, 7th Floor
88 Uĝur Mumcu Caddesi
Gaziosmanpaşa, Ankara 06700
Ph. +90 312 459 9500
Fax. +90 312 446 4827
The official currency of Azerbaijan is the Manat. Notes are in denominations of ₼ 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 manat.
The recommended currency to take to Azerbaijan is the US Dollar or Euro, as their local currencies are not available outside of the region. Ensure you request smaller clean notes as many places will not exchange large denominations or notes that are torn and dirty. Once there, you can exchange your US Dollar or Euro for the Manat. Ensure you change a small amount into small denominations.
Advise your bank of your travel plans so that they can make a note of it, otherwise they may cancel your credit card as a safety measure due to the overseas transactions. Also make a note of the 24-hour emergency contact number of the bank or building society which issued your credit card in the unlikely event that your card is lost or stolen.
Whenever possible use ATMs when the banks are open (Mon – Fri) so that if a machine ‘eats’ your card you can then deal with it straight away. It is always advisable to carry a supply of cash in addition to your credit card.
If you don’t have US Dollars or Euros with you on arrival, we advise you to exchange some money into the local currency at the airport even if the exchange rate is not the best, this way you’ll have money to get a drink, snack or give a tip during those first few hours of arrival. Your guide will be able to advise you on the best places to exchange money.
Small change is also useful for paying for toilets while on tour which is customary in many places outside of Australia.
- The price of a cappuccino in Baku is approximately €2.
- The price of an inexpensive lunch is approximately €5.50.
- The price of dinner in a moderate restaurant is approximately €12.50.
- The price of a beer in a local pub is approximately €2.
Hospitality plays a large part in Azerbaijani culture, guests are treated to an abundance of food, and turning down more and more servings can be seen as rude – even if you are too full! Food holds a sacred place and sharing a meal with someone creates a strong bond.
The main foods in Azerbaijan generally include a mixture of meat and vegetables with various types of white bread. Kufte bozbash is typical of the region, which is meat and potatoes in a thin sauce, along with many Russian dishes including borsch. The traditional baked flat breads include churek, lavash and tandyr, lavash being the most common. Shakh Pulov/Plov or King Pilaf is often found at celebrations, the steamed rice dish with apricots and raisins in a casing of crispy lavash is also served with kebabs and other forms of meat. Savoury pancakes called kutabi or qutab are stuffed with cheese, veggies, or meat. Dolma, similar to the Greek dolmades, are either stuffed vine or cabbage leaves, but can also be stuffed vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants or capsicums. Ghuru Kingal is essentially a deconstructed dumpling with minced lamb, fried onions and spices on a bed of dumpling pasta.
Sweets include paklava/pakhlava (similar to the Turkish baklava) filled with hazelnuts or walnuts mixed with honey and spices, and badambura, which is a slightly less sweet version of paklava and made with almonds, cardamom and vanilla. Shakarbura is a thin dough pie filled with nuts and sugar, often served with shyra, a sweet nonalcoholic drink. Black tea is the national beverage, and Azerbaijan has a very strong tea culture, often sweetening their tea with jam and flavoured with thyme, lemon, mint or rosewater.
Important: When dining at buffets (i.e. breakfast) please refrain from taking food away with you to ‘save’ for later! If you feel that you’ll need snacks between meals, pack some dried fruit, nuts, muesli bars etc.
If you have specific food allergies and/or preferences, we highly recommend you take every precaution before your tour, including carrying a small card with your food allergy listed in each language of every country you are travelling to show to table staff when ordering. Whilst we take all dietary requirements seriously, due to the serious nature of potential allergic reactions, it is your responsibility to be as prepared as possible.
Azerbaijan has nine of the world’s eleven climate zones and is a great place to visit year-round. Spring is the most popular time to visit, starting with the annual Novruz Festival on March 21, as the weather is pleasant and the foliage is in full bloom. Summer brings heat and humidity, especially in Baku, but this is the best time for hiking in the mountains. Autumn’s calm, sunny days and the changing colours of the parks and gardens are a highlight for many at this time. Winter on the Caspian Sea is quite mild, however the temperature does go well below freezing inland and the mountains are covered in snow.
Year-round, the mountains are much cooler than the low-lying destinations, so regardless of when you visit, bring warm clothing if you are venturing into the mountainous regions.
Want to get out and explore on your own?
Taxis are widely available in most cities and towns, but as they are unregulated and meters are not widely used it is best to agree to (negotiate) a fare before setting off, or get the hotel to arrange a newer London-style metered taxi for you. There is a bus and rail network for suburban and regional travel, but in Baku, most people use taxis to get around, if their destination is not walking distance!
When catching taxis, have small change on you and choose one with a meter, if it doesn’t have one then negotiate the price before getting in. Also, ask your guide or hotel staff the names of reputable taxi companies.
So, you’d love to bring home a special souvenir from Azerbaijan…
The archetypal souvenir from Azerbaijan is a carpet, either made from wool or silk and featuring traditional Persian designs or the plainer more ethnic style.
Embroidered clothing, homewares, and leather goods, including gold embroidery, is one of the oldest folk arts in the region. While the traditions were almost lost during the Soviet Era, they are now being revived and make popular souvenirs with traditional patterns and colours.
Ceramics and earthenware pottery can be found throughout the country, traditionally in shades of blue.
There is a rich history of metalwork in Azerbaijan: Hatamkarlig/Khatamkarlyg, where the surface is hammered with small coloured nails it to create mosaic patterns; Shebeke, or filigree work; Harasavad, where silver is coated and a pattern is engraved to show the silver; as well as traditional embossing and glazing.
The tea culture makes the traditional pear-shaped Armudu tea glasses a popular choice. Often made from glass and painted with traditional ornamental patterns, they can also be made from porcelain.
Kelaghayi, the colourful traditional headscarf worn by local women as part of their national costume, is decorated with traditional woodblock patterns. The colours and the patterns used have symbolic meanings and are often worn at specific occasions.
Important: Any artefact or carpet more than 30 years old is subject to an export tax and must be certified for export by the Ministry of Culture. Even new carpets require a certificate stating the price and age of the carpet. A great way to support the local community is to try to buy your souvenirs in smaller shops rather than larger ones. Items purchased at any tourist shop should be certified and the shop owner should be able to provide you with any paperwork. Goods purchased at market stalls may not have the required paperwork, so please check before buying anything significant.
- It is not considered proper for adults to openly mention going to the bathroom
- Smoking in front of older people is not respectful, and women rarely smoke in public
- Blowing your nose or picking teeth in front of others is considered extremely rude, especially during meals
- Don’t mention Armenia – they are bitter enemies in the Nagorno-Karabakh war
- Public displays of affection are generally frowned upon
- Crime against tourists is generally non-existent, however it is best to always travel with others, especially after dark. Keep to well-lit, public places such as shopping malls and restaurants. Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
- Keep identification on you at all times – a photocopy of your passport page is sufficient.
- Don't take photos indiscriminately. Many people object to having their pictures taken, so ask permission first. Military installations, airports and bridges should never be photographed.
- Don’t carry around non-essentials and valuables as pickpockets have been known to frequent tourist sites. Use your hotel safe and don't flash expensive jewellery, watches and cameras.
Celebrations & Public Holidays
The Goychay Pomegranate Festival is an annual cultural festival to celebrate Azerbaijani fruit-cuisine with the focus on pomegranate. As the only country in the world where all varieties grow, the pomegranate has become a symbol of Azerbaijan and the two day festival will showcase this unique fruit, alongside musicians and traditional dancers. The Azerbaijani’s also celebrate a number of musical events through the year, from the classical sounds at the Gabala Music Festival to the International Jazz Festival in Baku.
Other national public holidays to be aware of include:
- New Year’s Day
- New Year’s Day (January 2nd)
- Martyrs’ Day (January 20th)
- Women's Day (March 8th)
- Nowruz (March 20th – 24th)
- Victory Day (May 9th)
- Ramadan holiday
- Republic Day (May 28th)
- Day of National Salvation of the Azerbaijani People (June 15th)
- Azerbaijan Armed Forces Day (June 26th)
- Feast of the Sacrifice (3 day event held after Ramadan)
- State Flag Day of Azerbaijan (November 9th)
- World Azerbaijanis Solidarity Day (December 31st)
The capital of Azerbaijan, Baku is centered around the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old City, or Icheri-Sheher. Along with the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, the crenellated fortress walls and Maiden Tower make a stark contrast to the modern Flame Towers, Baku Crystal Hall, and the white flowing Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre. Often described as the love-child of Paris and Dubai, thanks to the contrast between the modern and traditional architecture, the remnants of Soviet rule can still be seen as well!
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