Azerbaijan’s unique location - at the crossroads of North, South, East, and West - makes this a land of extraordinary natural diversity. The country is home to 9 of the 11 climate zones on Earth, all accessible within a few hours’ drive of each other. There are lakes, rivers, waterfalls, mountains, steppes, and sea all waiting to be discovered.
Baku, the capital, is located on the Caspian Sea, the world’s largest lake and home to many endemic species. From here, venture three hours north by car and you find yourself at the heart of the majestic Caucasus Mountains, which spread dramatically all across northern Azerbaijan. Here you enjoy superb hiking and ecotourism opportunities. About 3 hours’ drive south of Baku is the Talysh Mountains, covered in a lush forest filled with endemic tree species that survived the last ice age. This southern region is subtropical and ideal for growing tea and citrus fruits.
The wildlife is equally varied and interesting. Azerbaijan is home to rare predators like brown bears, grey wolves, lynxes, leopards, and striped hyenas. And the birdlife is a real highlight - an extraordinary array of waterbirds, seabirds, steppe birds, game birds, and raptors can be observed. Some are endemics that cannot be seen elsewhere while others pass through in great numbers at certain times of the year - such as flamingoes that enjoy wintering here.
A great way to discover this natural diversity is by visiting national parks. There are 10 in total and each has unique characteristics. In western Azerbaijan Goygol National Park is famous for its picture-perfect lakes that formed as a result of an earthquake in the 12th century. To the east, Shirvan National Park is home to one of the world’s largest loitered gazelle populations. And in Nakhchivan, Zangezur National Park is roamed by the ultra-rare Caucasian leopard.
One of the most outstanding features of Azerbaijan’s nature is its mud volcanoes. These occur in areas with rich underground stores of oil and gas. There are about 400 of them in Azerbaijan - the world’s finest and most diverse collection. Generally, they are calm and not dangerous, but they do occasionally show off by erupting and throwing huge flames into the air.