Azerbaijan is a former Soviet satellite in the Caucasus region, and the largest one at that. It is now an independent republic with the Caspian Sea on its eastern shores and land borders with Russia, Armenia, and Georgia. The climate is what you want it to be, since Azerbaijan has everything from semi-arid desert to frozen tundra. The Baku region on the Caspian Sea coast accounts for a majority of visitors and more than two million of the country's 9.15 million population. The weather here is generally warm and dry during the summer. The climate in mountain getaways such as Shaki is completely different. Get a car for hire in Azerbaijan and you can see all the diverse landscapes from Baku and Khachmaz on the coast to Shaki up in the mountains.
Most tourists in Azerbaijan land in Baku and stay put. The capital city does have a fascinating array of attractions divided into three parts. One is the historic walled city called Icheri Sheher, a UNESCO world heritage site. The second Baku is the one the Soviets left behind, and the third one is the modern Baku that popped up after the Russians left. Do not miss the Palace of the Shirvan Shahs inside Icheri Sheher. The city beaches are hideously polluted, so you might want to get a car for rent in Azerbaijan and head out to the Absheron Peninsula which pokes into the Caspian Sea. Nice beaches on the peninsula's north shore include Amburan and Bilgəh.
Khachmaz is less than three hours north of Baku if you follow the E119 along the coast. The city is ideally located in between the Caspian Sea coast and mountainous inland destinations such as Quba and Qusar. You will find an amazing wealth of historic attractions, from a Bronze Age monument called Sarkartapa to a fourth century Albanian mosque. Move a few centuries ahead and you have the medieval Bostanchy Village, the 15th century Mosque of Sheikh Yusif and the Khudat fortress. If you crave for more local history, visit the Regional Ethnography Museum and the Carpet Museum.
It is a four hour drive from the coast at Baku to Shaki up in the mountains. It is the perfect getaway from the big city, with a healthy mix of nature trails, hikes, and historic attractions. Visit the Silk Factory and the ancient Silk Road stop for caravans called Caravansarai. The public baths are on the way to the Silk Factory, if you feel like taking a dip. Do not miss the palace called Khansarai and the Juma Mosque.
There are many more similar destinations in Azerbaijan. For example, the city of Ganja, about a couple of hours from Shaki, is the second largest city in Azerbaijan. Another town near Ganja is the spa town of Naftalan. Absheron Peninsula destinations for day trips from Baku include Sumqayit and Surakhany, with its fire temple. Book your car rental in Azerbaijan right now and figure out how you can see all this on a short holiday, and perhaps throw in a Caspian Sea coastal road trip from Baku past Khachmaz and Khudat and across the border to seaside resorts in Russia such as Derbent and Makhachkala.
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