Alpine meadows, a flower festival and the start of the hiking season make spring the perfect time to visit this Central Asian nation
The Nowruz festival is celebrated across Central Asia every March. It marks the beginning of spring, and it is held on the spring equinox – when day and night are of equal length. However, celebrations start a month before, as Azerbaijanis give thanks to water, fire, earth and wind on the four Tuesdays before Nowruz. Azerbaijanis celebrate by jumping over bonfires to purify their souls. Locals also visit relatives’ graves, take part in folk dances and competitive sports and grow wheat seeds, a symbol of the revival of nature. Young people meanwhile, particularly girls, make wishes at their neighbours’ doors.
March, April and May are sunny and dry making spring the perfect time to visit Azerbaijan’s plains. By April, the plains are blooming with poppies, lilies of the valley, tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocuses and chamomiles, making them a popular spot for locals having picnics. May brings highs of 20 degrees in the Absheron Peninsula near the capital of Baku in the east and Kur-Araz lowlands in the centre and south of the country.
With temperatures hovering between 9° and 17°, April is the start of Azerbaijan’s hiking season. Despite the Caucasus mountains resembling Switzerland, it sees far fewer hikers. If you want to hike independently, explore cattle paths and canyons around Mt Shahdag near the town of Quba, or hike along the road between Xinaliq village – 2,350m above sea level – to Qalayxudat, which takes about two and a half hours.
First held in 2010 in memory of the late President Heydar Aliyev, this festival is celebrated across the country on 10 May every year. Flowers are planted across Baku, with displays of bouquets and sculptures of Azerbaijan’s flag, landmarks and historic sites made from blooms on show in Heydar Aliyez Park in front of Heydar Aliyev Palace. Visitors can also watch flower arranging demonstrations, dances, outdoor concerts along the capital’s seafront and fireworks.
This annual festival, held in March, celebrates mugham, a genre of improvised folk music and classical poetry which is inscribed on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural heritage of Humanity. First held in 2009, it sees local and international singers, dancers and musicians perform across the country, but in particular in the capital at the International Mugham Centre of Azerbaijan, Baku Puppet Theatre and the Azerbaijan State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre. Performers play folk instruments such as the kamancha, a four-string violin; the daf, a large tambourine, and the tar, a long-neck lute.
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