Mountainous Azerbaijan © Matthew Hadley
Known as the 'Land of Fire', Azerbaijan lies between Asia and Europe and is a delightful mesh of contrasts, where east meets west, and bold modern architecture stands along side the UNESCO old town.
Wellness tourists in particular will relish a chance to try the country's unique medicinal oil, Naftalan. Considered an effective treatment for arthritis, psoriasis and rheumatism, the remedy lures many to Naftalan town, which has special spas and treatment centres where patients sit up to their necks in baths of the rare substance. Visitors to Azerbaijan can also choose from more than 1,000 mineral springs located throughout the country.
The capital, Baku, is the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the Caucasus region, and is Azerbaijan's cultural, economic, political, and scientific centre. Situated on the Caspian Sea, it is about 5,500 years old. History lovers can see some wonderfully preserved relics, ancient mosques, cities, oases, fortresses and palaces. They can also visit the ancient fire-worshipper temple complex, Ateshgah, and walk the natural gas-fuelled Yanar Dag (Fire Mountain), which is one of many impressive eternal fires on the Absheron Peninsula. Travellers who'd prefer a luxury experience of high-end hotels and exclusive boutiques should head for the boulevards of downtown Baku.
The mountainous northern hinterland is a treat as well. These lofty peaks are dotted with beautiful lakes, and have a population of bears, wolves and leopards, along with nomadic shepherds.
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