6 mins

9 ancient highlights and flavours of Azerbaijan

Further along the Ancient Spice Route in Azerbaijan, the ingredients that inspired the OPIHR Gin's Arabian Edition are found in the traditional local cuisine. Here are 9 ancient highlights...

Ancient highlights of Azerbaijan (Shutterstock)

The Persian black lemons or loomi which inspires the OPIHR Gin's Arabian Edition can be found in Azerbiajan. This is a richly intense Arabian citrus and spice-led gin, perfectly balanced for a smooth and unique flavour combination. From the historic walled city of Baku to the incredible Caucasus mountains and the many opulent palaces that pockmark the country, we take you on a journey through Azerbaijan to uncover the incredible sights and flavours of this ancient land.

Here are just 9 ancient highlights…

Click here for your chance to win a £2,000 travel voucher plus loads of OPIHR Gin treats

3 must-visit sights

1. The walled city of Baku 

The walled city of Baku (Shutterstock)

The walled city of Baku (Shutterstock)

Azerbaijan’s capital city, Baku dazzles with its modernity. But at its very heart is the ancient UNESCO-listed Old City. Surrounded by an ochre-hued wall and paved with cobbles, you can’t beat a history-soaked walk here.  Admire the ancient architecture of palaces and mosques, peek inside traditional silver merchants and see where the old meets the new by gazing at the skyline; a jumble of skyscrapers and ancient buildings.

 2. Sheki's opulent palaces 

The Palace of Sheki Khans (Shutterstock)

The Palace of Sheki Khans (Shutterstock)

Azerbaijan is pockmarked with palaces which decorate the landscape with splashes of opulence. For a castle fix, head to Sheki. Surrounded by woodlands and green meadows, this delightful Caucasian town’s most popular palace is the 18th century Palace of Sheki Khans. Every minute detail of this ornate masterpiece is worth studying, from the colourful mosaic tiles that decorate the inside and out to the paintings on the walls and the wooden lattices of the windows.

Another lesser visited but no less spectacular palace in Sheki is the Xan-Evi. Hidden down a house and tree-lined alley, this smaller palace is covered in fascinating murals, well worth exploring.

3. The mountain village of Xınalıq (Khinalug)

The village of Xınalıq, translated as Khinalug in the Caucasus Mountains (Shutterstock)

The village of Xınalıq, translated as Khinalug in the Caucasus Mountains (Shutterstock)

Situated high up in the Caucasus Mountains, this traditional farming village offers horizon-breaking views over the undulating green-covered peaks.

But a stay here is about more than enviable views. Visit the village of Xınalıq to learn about the culture of this shepherd community. Watch the shepherds going about their daily rural life and listen to them speak in their own language. See their sheep grazing on the green meadows and admire the quaint stone-built houses.

3 must-see beauty spots

1. Lake Göygöl

The crystal-clear Lake Göygöl (Shutterstock)

The crystal-clear Lake Göygöl (Shutterstock)

30km from Göygöl city and 1,500m above sea level is one of the most beautiful sights in all of Azerbaijan, Lake Göygöl.

This sky-reflecting lake’s name literally translates to blue lake, and it’s no exaggeration to say its waters are as clear as glass. Formed after an earthquake in the 12th century, the lake has long been a source of creative inspiration, drawing artists and writers from all around the country to attempt to encapsulate its beauty.

When you manage to draw your eyes away from the lake, be sure to explore the wider Göygöl National Park to uncover more rugged and wild natural beauty.

2. Alinja castle

Alinja Castle (Shutterstock)

Alinja Castle (Shutterstock)

Known as the Machu Picchu of Azerbaijan, this ancient mountain-top citadel has all of the spectacular views and fascinating history of its South American sibling but with none of the crowds.

Perched high in the Julta mountains is a recently restored castle, dating back to the Middle Ages. A museum at the foot of the mountain allows you to learn of the historic significance of this stronghold.

Legend has it that treasure is hidden in the walls of the castle. But the real prize can be found after a 1,500 step climb to the summit. From here, you can see the surrounding sky-piercing mountains melting into the horizon. A view fit for royalty.

3. Hirkan National Park

Autumn landscape of the Talysh mountains (Shutterstock)

Autumn landscape of the Talysh mountains (Shutterstock)

Situated in the Talysh mountains on the Caspian Coast, 99% of the Hirkan National Park is covered in lush emerald forest, making it a hiking heaven for wildlife enthusiasts. Under the shade of the jungle canopy, you’ll see some 1,300 species of plants growing thick around trickling waterfalls. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the incredibly rare Persian leopard. More likely, you’ll see foxes and wolves in this majestic fairy-tale forest.

3 must-try dishes 

1. Plov

Be sure to try plov in Azerbaijan (Shutterstock)

Be sure to try plov in Azerbaijan (Shutterstock)

Wherever you are in Azerbaijan, you’ll be able to get a steaming plate of Plov. This classic dish features saffron-infused rice topped with eggs, prunes and other dried fruits. With dozens of variations of the recipe, you’re likely to taste many different flavours of Plov during your visit.

2. Lyulya Kebab

Lyulya kebab (Shutterstock)

Lyulya kebab (Shutterstock)

This traditional minced lamb kebab is smothered in herbs and spices before being barbequed. Before serving, a huge helping of lemon juice is added to the meat, making for a delicious citrusy treat. 

3. Dolma

Dolma (Shutterstock)

Dolma (Shutterstock)

This traditional Azeri dish is dangerously more-ish. Rice is mixed with lamb and seasoned with mint and fennel before being wrapped up in a cabbage or vine leaf.

Try OPIHR'S Arabian-inspired cocktail

While you’re planning your Azerbaijan getaway, why not enjoy a taste of Arabia with OPIHR’s Spiced Daiquiri?

To the recipe

Don't miss your chance to win! 

For more travel inspiration and for your chance to win an array of travel prizes courtesy of OPIHR Gin, including a travel voucher worth £2,000, a Panasonic Lumix camera worth over £399 and the entire OPIHR Gin range, visit OPIHR.com/postcard

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