An Antipodean travel company serving World Travellers since 1983.
Azerbaijan tours for seniors
Azerbaijan, along with Armenia and Georgia, are often referred to as ‘the Caucasus region’. The Caucasus, or Caucasia, refers to both the mountain system and the region bounded by the Black Sea in the west and the Caspian Sea in the east. The capital of Azerbaijan is the ancient city of Baku, which boasts of the best harbour on the Caspian Sea.
Azerbaijan’s history overlaps with that of its neighbouring countries, as their borders were redrawn after every war or invasive siege, each country growing bigger, smaller, or encroaching on another’s territory. The Greeks, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Mongols, Ottomans, and the former Soviet Union have all left their mark in the region. Surrounded by Christian kingdoms (with Armenia famously the world’s first Christian state), Azerbaijan remained largely Zoroastrian until later conquests. In 1501 Shirvan was conquered by Persia’s Safavid Dynasty, which converted the state from Sunni to Shia Islam. Shia Muslims remain the majority in Azerbaijan, which is home to the second highest Shia population percentage in the world after Iran.
Nineteenth-century treaties divided Azerbaijan: the territory of present-day Azerbaijan became part of the Russian Empire while southern Azerbaijan became part of Persia (modern-day Iran). Azerbaijan gained full independence as an autonomous republic in 1991 with the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
‘Azer’ in Persian means ‘fire’ and the country’s nickname is ‘the Land of Fire’. Zoroastrianism, the main religion during Persian rule, puts great importance on fire, which is believed to be a source of knowledge. We now know that the country’s vast oil and natural gas reserves are responsible for the seemingly ever-burning flames that define Azerbaijan’s landscape, but during ancient times, the flames made Azerbaijan a place of great mystery and a place of pilgrimage. The skyline of its capital, Baku, is dominated by the Flame Towers, a trio of skyscrapers that serve as the symbol of the city. There is much to explore in this fascinating country.
Odyssey travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including trains and ferries. Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary. Buses are widely available, with regular services running between Baku and most major towns. Taxis are also commonplace, and are fairly cheap. Train services can be somewhat slow, though they are relatively inexpensive.
In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our longstay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.
Odyssey always engages local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of places you visit.
Geography, Environment, & Weather
Azerbaijan covers an area of 86,600 square kilometres. Azerbaijan is a mountainous country, with the Caucasus and the Less Caucasus mountain ranges dominating the northern and western areas of the country respectively. The south-central and eastern portions of the country flatten out into flood plain, ending at the Caspian Sea.
Azerbaijan experiences hot summers and cold winters, with the mountainous regions experiencing especially cold temperatures during winter. Depending on when you intend to travel, check the weather reports and dress accordingly.
World Heritage sites
Azerbaijan has 2 properties inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites List, with another 10 on the Tentative List. You can view the official list of the sites here (https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/az). The current World Heritage Sites in Azerbaijan include:
Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape, featuring thousands of elaborate rock carvings dating back millenia
Walled City of Baku, filled with historic buildings and monuments including the Maiden Tower, a 12th-century monument of national significance
Festivals & Events
As a Muslim majority country, important occasions on the Islamic calendar are observed and commemorated with several festivals across the year. Ramazan Bayram (Ramadan) is a month of fasting, the end of which is observed with prayers at mosques and donations to charities, then celebrated with families gathering to exchange gifts and sweets. Secular occasions include National Salvation Day, commemorating the 1993 election of former president Heydar Aliyev, and Republic Day, which celebrates the founding of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan in 1918. If you’re a jazz enthusiast, be sure to check out the International Baku Jazz Festival, which brings jazz musicians from all over the country and across the world for a week of live jazz performances.
Splendid Azerbaijan: The History and Culture of the Land, by Glen Alberto Salazar
Solar Plexus: A Baku Saga in Four Parts, by Rustam Ibragimbekov
Azerbaijan Diary: A Rogue Reporter’s Adventures in an Oil-Rich, War-Torn, Post-Soviet Republic, by Thomas Goltz
Classic Poetry of Azerbaijan: An Anthology
Book, by Paul Smith
Eating & Drinking
The culinary traditions of the Caucasus region carry over into the food of Azerbaijan. Like elsewhere in the Caucasus, dolma (minced meat, herbs and spices wrapped up in cabbage leaves) and plov (a dish made of rice, meat, vegetables, and herbs) are widely popular in Azerbaijan. Nuts and herbs are commonly used to add flavour and texture to many Azerbaijani dishes, such as lavangi (chicken stuffed with walnuts and herbs) and kufta bozbash (a soup made from meatballs, potatoes, peas, saffron and tumeric). Nuts are especially used in desserts, with healthy amounts used in making shekerbura (a sweet patty filled with ground nuts mixed with sugar) and pakhlava (a pastry made with alternating layers of filo and chopped nuts and honey).
Black tea is commonly served after a meal, and is often served with sugar, lemon, or honey as a sweetener. Other traditional beverages in Azerbaijan include sherbet (made from sugar, lemon, saffron, mint, basil, and fruit) and aryan (a savoury drink made from yogurt mixed with salt and water).
Health & Safety
Generally speaking, Azerbaijan is a safe country to travel in; however, it is advised to avoid travelling to the either the Nagorno-Karabakh region or the Armenia-Azerbaijan border due to the risk of armed conflict in these areas.
Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adaptor. Azerbaijan’s electricity supply runs at 220V and 50Hz. Azerbaijan uses Type C and Type F electric plugs, so make sure you have the right travel adaptor with you.
Ateshgah Fire Temple
Azerbaijan has a single time zone, Azerbaijan Standard Time (UTC+4). Daylight savings are not observed in Azerbaijan.
Yes, overall. The Australian government’s advice for travel to Azerbaijan is “exercise normal safety precautions“. However, the advice is “do not travel” to the Armenia-Azerbaijan border and the Nagorno-Karabakh region due to armed clashes and risk of armed conflict, respectively. Odyssey Traveller follows government travel advice and our tours in Azerbaijan do not venture into these areas.
WiFi should be available in most hotels, cafes and restaurants when travelling in Azerbaijan.
Azeri or Azerbaijani cuisine blends the flavours of Eastern Europe and the Middle East, with its kebabs, rice-based dishes, and stews. A famous dish is shah plov (“king pilaf”), where rice is encased in a crust of flaky flatbread, topped with meat and dried fruits.
Azerbaijanis have a strong tea drinking culture dating back to ancient times, and travellers will most likely be welcomed with a cup of black tea.
Tea ceremonies have deep traditional roots in Azerbaijan. A traditional tea ceremony has its own rules and practices that are designed to make the serving and drinking process enjoyable. According to the old tradition, the host has to offer tea to every visitor, even if the visit is supposed to last only five minutes. (Source)
Cafes and restaurants abound in Azerbaijan, even within the walls of old Baku. Odyssey Travel Program Leader Dr Bruce Cameron describes an Azerbaijan tea set as “a bottomless pot of tea accompanied by a range of treats including nuts, chocolates, dried grapes and prunes, jam, and pakhlava [an Azerbaijan pastry stuffed with milled nuts and sugar]”.
Articles about Azerbaijan published by Odyssey Traveller.
- Visiting Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia: The South Caucasus
- Among the Mountains: A guide to the nations of the Caucasus
- Armenia: An Ancient Civilisation
- Discovering Georgia
For all the articles Odyssey Traveller has published for mature aged and senior travellers, click through on this link.
External articles to assist you on your visit to Azerbaijan.
Responsible travel tips for Azerbaijan
- Learn at least the local greetings to break the ice. Although some locals speak English, the more you know of the native language, the greater your experience of the country will be.
- Carry a business card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
- Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
- When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
- Before departing on your trip, contact your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.
- Before departing, make sure you have a number of manat in a range of denominations. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card. It will also help you avoid card transaction fees, and it makes tipping a breeze.