Best things to do in Azerbaijan from volcanoes to tea culture

Azerbaijan is the land of mountains and mud volcanoes, multiculturalism and mugham music.

Straddling East and West, it blends dramatic landscapes with a people and culture that reflect its fascinating location at the crossroads of Turkey, Russia and Iran. With a new and easy three-day visa service, reasonable prices and unbeatable hospitality, travelers that make it to the "Land of Fire" are often very pleasantly surprised.

Stroll through time in Baku's Old City

Baku is cultural heart of Azerbaijan with maze-like cobbled streets, artist's workshops, cafés and museums. Taking a guided walking tour around The Maiden's Tower, Shirvanshahs' Palace, old mosques and hammams is a great first step, but don't miss trying Azerbaijani cuisine at one of the many authentic restaurants. Sehirli Tendir near the Double Gates is very popular, especially for its traditional Azerbaijani breakfasts served with hot tendir bread.

Visit Baku's Museums

The curvy, futuristic forms of the Heydar Aliyev Center designed by the late Zaha Hadid, make this extraordinary structure an exhibit in itself but inside the center also regularly hosts world-class exhibitions. Equally eye-catching is the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum.

Take a day trip to Gobustan

About 40 kilometers from central Baku in the Gobustan National Park are more than 6,000 UNESCO-listed rock carvings which offer a unique insight into prehistoric life in the Caspian-Caucasus region.

Explore the beaches of the Absheron

Summer in Baku is hot, so come late May the Baku residents who can will make a hasty escape to dachas (country houses) on the Absheron Peninsula, the area that protrudes into the Caspian like an eagle's beak.

Hiking between Guba's remote villages

Azerbaijan is blessed with some breathtaking scenery and few places can beat the Caucasus Mountains in the Guba region. bThis area is also home to a multitude of ethnic minorities that speak their own languages and live in remote mountain villages. Two of those villages in particular – Khinalig and Griz – are becoming popular eco-tourism spots.

Experience the Formula 1

Formula 1 is still something of a novelty in Baku as the first race only took place here in 2016. Like Monaco and Singapore, the Azerbaijan Grand Prix is a street race and the Baku City Circuit is the fastest of them all.

Weekend away in Nakhchivan

The legend goes that the iconic fang-like peak of Nakhchivan's Mount Ilan Dagh (Snake Mountain) was carved out by Noah's Ark as it retreated from Mount Ararat after the flood.

Marvel at Lake Goygol

The most iconic site in the west of the country is the spectacular Lake Goygol ("Blue Lake") at the foot of Mount Kapaz in the Goygol National Park.

Embrace the hospitality and tea culture

The simplest and greatest Azerbaijani experience can be had anywhere in the country and often completely spontaneously. Azerbaijanis are so hospitable that, especially in the regions, you're bound to meet an inquisitive local and before long find yourself being invited home, served bowls of home-cooked dolma, khingal or plov and endless cups of tea.