Azerbaijan small group vacation

“Week-long small group overland tour of Azerbaijan leaving in early May or Sept to offer travelers unique access to Azeri communities living within the land of fire. ”

Highlights

Baku | Absheron Peninsula | Gobustan | Guba | Krasnaya Sloboda | Shamakha | Lahic | Qabala | Shekhi | Kish |

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2019: 5 May, 12 May, 8 Sep, 15 Sep
2020: 3 May, 6 Sep
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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Azerbaijan small group vacation

Environment

Most of the time on this tour is spent in towns and cities, but we also visit the extraordinary landscapes of Gobustan, where mud volcanoes belch from the earth to create a very unusual phenomenon. We brief our travelers to stick to the trails so as not to disturb this unique landscape and leave it for others to enjoy. Elsewhere at Gobustan are a remarkable collection of petroglyphs and prehistoric rock art, which are particularly susceptible to damage, and again we ensure our travelers do not damage these. Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union and as such western European norms regarding the environment are not so well entrenched, therefore it is quite common for local people to dispose of rubbish simply by throwing it out of the window. We operate a strict no litter policy on our tours, and work to educate our drivers and other service providers so as to avoid contributing to this problem.

Similarly, in conjunction with our local team we work with hotels and guesthouses to implement best practices when it comes to environmental matters – in some places this is far behind what we might be used to in other parts of the world. This includes basic things like not replacing towels each day, as well as saving electricity and turning lights off – small things but Azerbaijan, especially outside of Baku is not as used to tourism as countries in western Europe.

Community

On all of tours we strive to include a strong focus on local communities and we are firm believers that tourism should have a positive impact on the places visited. On this tour we try to allow our travelers to gain a real insight into the traditional customs of the country; a good example of this is on our Nakhchivan Extension where we visit the pilgrimage site of Ashabu Kaf. We join local people at the mountain and travelers are explained the complex customs here which intertwine Islam with older beliefs. We ensure that our travelers are appropriately briefed in order so as not to offend local sensibilities. This also applies to the churches, mosques and that we visit on this trip; Azerbaijan is a religious country and it is important that we respect these traditions.

We also stop to visit communities of Armenia’s ethnic minorities including the Jewish community of Krasnaya Sloboda. We only visit villages that are pleased to receive us – it is important that we do not treat such communities just as ‘exhibits’, and we recognise that some traditional groups prefer to be left alone.

We visit a number of sites and monuments on this tour that do not necessarily receive much funding from other sources; the entrance fees that we include help to maintain the heritage of this country for future generations – not just western travelers but more importantly to local people to whom they have far more cultural and historical significance. We use locally owned suppliers and our partners here are deeply involved with the preservation of the culture and heritage of the country. Many of Azerbaijan’s sites have been poorly maintained in the past and entrance fees play an important part in their restoration and conservation.

3 Reviews of Azerbaijan small group vacation

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Reviewed on 25 Sep 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The whole trip was memorable, but especially the visits to the three mountain villages...Kish, Lahic and Xinolic. It was very exciting to see seven Caucasian Golden Eagle soaring quite close to us.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Its not as cold in the mountains as you think!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


On the whole yes. However we would like to have spent longer in Xinolic and used a local guide to show us their shrines and mosques etc.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


A lot packed in to six days, an extra day would have been good, but it was a brilliant trip and Elvin our guide was excellent.

Reviewed on 03 Jun 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Azerbaijan is a great country and this trip definitely picked the highlights! I loved Baku, it is a great city with all the benefits of modern development including some stunning modern architecture, but also some beautiful historic buildings in the medieval walled city, and in the centre of town which has some amazing early 20c mansions built by the first Russian oil barons. However my highlights were the villages that we visited as we travelled through the rest of the country, the best being Xinaliq, a largely unchanged mountain village set amongst beautiful Caucasian mountain scenery. The drive to get there was amazing as well. I also enjoyed Lahic - full of local tourists enjoying the beautiful local crafts and also reached by an impressive mountain drive.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Baku is very westernised with lots of great restaurants and English is widely spoken. However outside the city things are more unpredictable! Choice in restaurants was much more limited despite large menus, but the food was good and well cooked. It was much easier to use ATMs and change money than I expected. Hotels we stayed in were excellent. The weather was mixed, cooler than you might expect especially in the mountain villages.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


All the hotels we stayed in the restaurants were locally owned, and there were loads of lovely things to buy, clearly produced locally.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


On the whole the vacation was excellent, but, probably not very surprisingly, we did not have a wonderful guide and our initial driver was not so good either! Fortunately he was replaced by a much nicer, competent driver after the first 2 days. Our guide was young and inexperienced and tried hard but need a bit more training. Tourism is still new in Azerbaijan so that's to be expected. Personally I didn't mind as I prefer minimal guiding anyway, and can work most things out for myself. He led us around competently but imparted very little information!

Read the operator's response here:

Azerbaijan is a great country and this trip definitely picked the highlights! I loved Baku, it is a great city with all the benefits of modern development including some stunning modern architecture, but also some beautiful historic buildings in the medieval walled city, and in the centre of town which has some amazing early 20c mansions built by the first Russian oil barons.

Reviewed on 26 Sep 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The entire trip was both memorable and exciting! Azerbaijan is a beautiful country and has a rich culture, I loved the capital city of Baku a cosmopolitan, vibrant place, where the old historic monuments sit alongside new modern landmarks. The genuine openness of the local people was clear to see who were more than happy to help with directions or places to see in the city. The other locations on route had picturesque scenery and showed an insight into everyday Azeri life and it was clear to see how the culture of the country today is intertwined with the many of the previous settlers that once were in Azerbaijan.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


A top tip would be to be prepared to walk a lot and have suitable footwear, other than that the guide will assist in places other than Baku, when staying in the city it's fairly easy to walk around with the majority of people speaking some degree of English.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes, whereever possible we stuck to routes already marked, and lunches or dinner were always in local restaurants, any other shopping was always done in local stores, as well as this we gave some additional Manat (local currency) to all the places we visited or tipped workers. This is not obligatory.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


The organisation was fantastic, the transport, hotels, locations etc. Our guide Kamilla was professional and polite throughout the trip, always on hand to answer any questions we had.

Azerbaijan is a country that isn't brash and loud like some destinations. The appeal of it is in the heritage and history, quiet dainty streets, charming rural areas and the genuine hospitality of the local people. I hope I get to visit again soon.


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