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The Caucasus


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Alluring Azerbaijan

Fragments from Azerbaijan’s past lives create a rich cultural mosaic. Countryside caves housed prehistoric humans. Empires rose and fell. History is alive in art, architecture, cuisine, music and dance. Archaeological treasures and geological oddities can be found between lush orchards, forested mountains and Martian landscapes.

The oil-rich Caspian laps wealth upon the shores of this cosmopolitan capital, where gleaming skyscrapers peer over Persian portals and Silk Road caravanserais. Printed textiles and intricate carpets line lemon walls. An exoticism hangs in the air, as men gossip over backgammon in a cloud of tobacco and woman sashay down leafy avenues hijab free.

Regional Highlights

  • Climb the eight floors of the Maidens Tower, a UNESCO World Heritage sight and a landmark of Baku. From here you can enjoy a magnificent view of the Old Town and Baku Bay
  • Wander the sprawling ancient Palace of the Shirvanshahs now a fascinating museum.
  • See the impressive three Flame Towers illuminated at night - it is spectacular!
  • Take a seaside walk along Baku Boulevard dotted with cafes, restaurants, water fountains and monuments. Have a meal or sit and watch local life carry on around you!
  • Hop on the funicular that will take you up to the sombre Martyr’s Lane. A row of grave-memorials for the Bakuvian victims of the Red Army’s 1990 attack and early martyrs of the Karabakh conflict.

Flames lick the mountainside as natural gas seeps from the sand. The mysterious fires were documented by Marco Polo in the 13th century, and are said to have ignited Zoroastrianism – a mystical faith centred around fire ritual. Watch the 10m wall blaze from a nearby teahouse.

Marvel at a series of petroglyphs that chronicle 40,000 years of art history. The 6,000 rock engravings are located in an other-worldly reserve of mud volcanoes, bizarre rock formations, burning gas vents and hypnotic musical stones. Archaeological discoveries in the area reveal intensive human use following the last ice age.

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How to prepare for overland border crossings


Capital city: Baku

Population:  9.3 million

Language: Azerbaijani (Russian is also widely spoken)

Currency:  Azerbaijani Manat (AZN)

Time zones: GMT+04:00 (Baku)

Electricity: Type C (European 2-pin)

Dialing code: +994

All travellers require a visa to enter Azerbaijan and it must be arranged in advance. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently simplified this process and all tourists can now apply for an e-visa online at the following website:

Your e-visa will be valid from a specific date (as chosen by you and in relation to your arrival date) and be valid for 30 days from that date. Your stay cannot exceed 30 days. Please ensure you enter the correct arrival date as per your expected arrival into Azerbaijan. You can apply for this visa at any time, as long as it is at least 5 business days before your arrival.

You will be required to print your e-visa electronic document and take it with you on your journey. Upon arrival, your e-visa and passport will be stamped. Please retain your e-visa until you have departed the country.

Please check the appropriate consulate website for specific information on the cost and method of payment. Cash is generally not accepted and often payment will need to be arranged before you apply with the embassy/consulate. The actual application process will vary depending on your nationality and the consulate/embassy at which you will be applying. Please check the appropriate consulate website for specific information.

Travel Insurance is mandatory for all group journeys and Sundowners Overland strongly recommends travel insurance for all other journeys. You must ensure that your insurance policy covers you for the entire duration of your journey, for all activities you will be participating in and that you have purchased the highest level of cover available to you for medical emergencies (including repatriation/evacuation cover) which are relevant to ALL the destinations that you will be visiting. Contact us for further information and quotes.

If you are taking special medication, it is a good idea to carry a letter from your doctor to show authorities if necessary. Some medications, such as those containing Codeine 30mg or strong painkillers, even when obtained on a legal prescription at home, should not be transported across international boundaries unless they are accompanied by a customs clearance from the country concerned. You must apply to the appropriate Consulate or Embassy for this.

Since some medications can also be affected by changes in temperature or require special care, we recommend you discuss this with your doctor before departure.

April to June and September to October are considered the most favourable times to visit Azerbaijan, avoiding the extreme heat of summer and cold temperatures of winter – particularly in the mountains. The Caucasus Mountains does get snow in winter along with sub-zero temperatures but they also protect the rest of the country from full on Arctic conditions. Similarly the Caspian Sea keeps summer manageable, but it can still get very hot.

March brings Novruz Bayrami celebrations (Persian New Year) and is a fabulous time to join in the festivities and experience the culture as well as the traditions of this country. In the spring snow melts and the mountains become a wildflower frenzy, carpeting valleys and villages.

The local currency is the Azerbaijani Manat (AZN). ATMs are the easiest way to access your money, when available. They are becoming common, however should only be relied on in Baku. Virtually all accept Visa and Master Card, other cards may not be accepted at all machines. ATM’s sometimes run dry on weekends. Do not expect to find them in small towns, villages and rural areas.

Please note that using a credit card in foreign countries usually requires a new “chip-and-pin” credit card with an embedded microchip and an associated PIN number. If you have questions about using your credit card in a foreign country, please contact your bank prior to departure.


  • Coke USD$0.50
  • 2 course meal & a drink in a decent restaurant USD$30
  • A cup of coffee USD$2.50
  • Bottle of local beer USD$1.00

*Prices are approximate average costs based on prices at 11/03/17 and are based on the equivalent amount of local currency.

As far as border crossings go these ones should be reasonably quick and painless, with very limited paperwork and some rather lovely scenery!

When crossing from Azerbaijan to Georgia by train you will not have to leave the train as all immigration procedures will be carried out on board.

A border official will come and collect all passports and return them around 20 minutes later with your Azerbaijan exit stamps. You will then continue a little further before Georgian officials climb on board to stamp you into Georgia. Too easy!

  • Respect and manners go a long way in any culture.  Learning a little of the language, reading as much about the history and culture of the region and observing local gatherings is a great way to start.
  • As 98% of the population is Muslim, foreign women should dress modestly, especially in the rural areas. Women can dress in normal western-style modest clothing, although female visitors should avoid wearing short skirts and shorts. Women should ensure that headscarves are worn at all religious sites. Men should remove their hats in religious buildings and wear long trousers/pants.
  • In churches it is polite to stand around the edges of the building, rather than in the centre. It is acceptable for foreigners to light candles.
  • Azerbaijan is a largely secular society that regards religion a private matter.
  • Many Azerbaijanis disapprove of public displays of affection.
  • A handshake is the usual greeting between men.
  • Did you know Azerbaijan was the first Muslim country in the world to introduce universal suffrage, granting women the right to vote in 1918?

Mobile phone coverage is reliable throughout the capital and major cities, but is not readily available in remote areas.

Internet access is widespread and usually available throughout major cities of Azerbaijan. Many hotels and cafes offer access, some you will need to pay while others have free Wi-Fi zones.