Since ancient times, Azerbaijan has been known as 'The Land of the Sacred Fire’. With rich reserves of oil and natural gas deposits erupting continuously from the earth, it positioned itself at the heart of the Zoroastrian religion for centuries, attracting fire worshippers from all over the world. Still remarkably untouched by tourism, the fires of Zoroastrianism may be long extinguished but you can still enjoy the promise of a warm welcome.
Its capital is Baku, a fascinating city built around a bay on the Caspian Sea. A place blessed with an engaging mix of European flair and eastern promise, it is home to a number of impressive highlights including the old caravanserais and mosques of the medieval walled settlement of Icheri Sheher, the carved stone palace of the Shirvan Shahs and the mysterious Maiden's Tower.
A stroll through its atmospheric streets will also reveal turreted stone towers and the elegant domes of the Hadji Haib baths. With many of the sights to yourself, discovering the riches of Azerbaijan takes a little time and a good guidebook…just the way intrepid travel used to be.
Keep your eyes peeled for the most bizarre beach resort south of Baku which looks out onto the Caspian Sea and an oil refinery.