I had never heard about Azerbaijan until late 2016 when I received an email from a local travel company highlighting it as one of its upcoming destinations. At that time, I was confused because it was a place I had never heard of. I did a quick search on the web to know more about it and instantly became fascinated by the country.
Since then, I have dreamt of travelling to Azerbaijan to see its beauty with my own eyes. It was more than a year in the making but the wait was worth it. In January 2018, a group of friends and I has planned to go to Georgia, a neighbouring country of Azerbaijan. Over the weeks of planning, I saw this as an opportunity to also visit my personal dream destination.
On our last day in Georgia, my friends had to fly back home while I went to the train station that connects Tbilisi (Georgia’s capital) and Baku (Azerbaijan’s capital). I took the overnight sleeper train which takes around 15 hours. I was lucky enough to have a bunkmate in the train that is a fellow traveller, a local from Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan that could communicate with the people using their language.
When we arrived in Baku, it was nothing short of what I expected. The capital was mysterious and intriguing. Azerbaijan is a low-lying city with coastline along the Caspian Sea. It is particularly striking because of its architecture, a good balance of both modern and traditional. Lying in the Caucasus, straddling Western Asia and Eastern Europe, Baku or Azerbaijan in general, takes inspiration for its architecture from its Asian and European heritage. You can also see evidence of Islamic influence in the designs and patterns, with Azerbaijan being a Muslim country. Strolling around the old city, Icheri Sheher, I took so many photos of the unique architecture.
During my stay, I was also able to visit Sheki, a small city off on the forested slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains which offers true historical experience to its visitors and is a little more than a 5-hour marshrutka (the Soviet version of a bus, as it used to be part of the Soviet Union) ride from Baku.
Though winter is evidently a dead season for tourism in Azerbaijan, it is nothing short of amazing. It is a country with so much to offer, from the views and sceneries to the delicious food, freshly brewed teas, and local hospitality. My visit was a short one and there’s still so much of this mysterious country I’d love to see. Azerbaijan, I cannot wait to return.
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Jayson Cortez is an an emerging travel photographer based in Dubai. A graphic designer by trade, Jayson has enjoyed photography as a hobby since late 2016. He tries to travel as much as he can while working full-time in Dubai. You can find more of his work on Instagram or at jaysoncortez002.com.