Tourism is a significant component of Azerbaijan’s economy. In the 1980s, the country was a popular tourist destination. However, the collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as the Nagorno-Karabakh War in the 1990s, harmed the tourism sector and Azerbaijan’s reputation as a tourist destination.
The tourism sector did not begin to revive until the 2000s, and the nation has subsequently seen rapid increase in the number of visitor visits and overnight stays. Azerbaijan has also been a popular destination for religious, spa, and health care tourism in recent years. During the winter, the Shahdag Mountain Resort provides skiing with cutting-edge amenities.
The development of Azerbaijan as an elite tourism destination is a key goal for the Azerbaijani government. It is part of a national plan to make tourism a significant, if not the only, contributor to the Azerbaijani economy. These activities are governed by Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Azerbaijan is located in Eurasia’s South Caucasus area, spanning Western Asia and Eastern Europe. It is located between the latitudes of 38° and 42° N, and the longitudes of 44° and 51° E. The entire length of Azerbaijan’s land boundaries is 2,648 kilometres (1,645 mi), with Armenia accounting for 1007 kilometers, Iran accounting for 756 kilometers, Georgia accounting for 480 kilometers, Russia accounting for 390 kilometers, and Turkey accounting for 15 kilometers. The coastline extends for 800 kilometers (497 miles), while the width of the Azerbaijani portion of the Caspian Sea is 456 kilometers (283 mi). Azerbaijan’s area stretches 400 km (249 mi) north to south and 500 km (311 mi) west to east.
Azerbaijan is dominated by three geographical features: the Caspian Sea, whose coastline provides a natural border to the east; the Greater Caucasus mountain range to the north; and the vast flatlands in the country’s middle. There are also three mountain ranges, the Greater and Lesser Caucasus, as well as the Talysh Mountains, which encompass about 40% of the nation. Mount Bazardüzü (4,466 m) is Azerbaijan’s highest point, while the Caspian Sea (28 m) is its lowest. Azerbaijan is home to almost half of all mud volcanoes on the planet; these volcanoes were also nominated for the New7Wonders of Nature.
Surface waterways are the primary water sources. However, only 24 of the 8,350 rivers are longer than 100 kilometers (62 miles). All of the rivers flow into the Caspian Sea in the country’s east. Sarysu (67 km2) is the biggest lake, while Kur (1,515 km) is the longest river, both of which are transboundary. The four major islands of Azerbaijan in the Caspian Sea have an area of more than thirty square kilometers.
Since Azerbaijan’s independence in 1991, the Azerbaijani government has made significant efforts to protect the country’s ecology. However, national environmental protection began to really improve after 2001, when the state budget expanded owing to additional funds supplied by the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. Protected areas more than quadrupled in four years and currently cover 8% of the country’s land area. Since 2001, the government has established seven major reserves and almost quadrupled the budgetary allocation for environmental preservation.
Azerbaijan has a diverse range of landscapes. Over half of Azerbaijan’s land mass is made up of mountain ridges, crests, yailas, and plateaus that rise to hypsometric levels of 400–1000 meters (including the Middle and Lower lowlands), 100–120 meters in some places (Talis, Jeyranchol-Ajinohur, and Langabiz-Alat foreranges), and 0–50 meters in others (Qobustan, Absheron). The remainder of Azerbaijan’s topography is made up of plains and lowlands. Hypsometric markers in the Caucasus range from approximately 28 meters along the Caspian Sea coast to 4,466 meters (Bazardüzü mountain).
Azerbaijan’s climate is affected mostly by frigid arctic air masses of Scandinavian anticyclones, temperate Siberian anticyclones, and Central Asian anticyclones. The varied terrain of Azerbaijan influences how air masses approach the nation. The Greater Caucasus shields the nation from the direct effects of chilly air masses from the north. As a result, most of the country’s foothills and plains have a subtropical climate. Meanwhile, lowlands and slopes have high sun radiation rates.
Azerbaijan has nine of the world’s eleven climatic zones. Julfa and Ordubad both had absolute lowest temperatures of 33 degrees Celsius (27.4 degrees Fahrenheit) and absolute high temperatures of 46 degrees Celsius (114.8 degrees Fahrenheit). The highest yearly precipitation occurs in Lankaran (1,600-1,800 mm or 63-71 in) and the lowest in Absheron (200 to 350 mm or 7.9 to 13.8 in).
Rivers and lakes are the main components of Azerbaijan’s water systems; they developed over a vast geological time span and altered considerably throughout that time. This is especially evident in the remains of ancient rivers located all throughout the nation. The country’s water systems are constantly altering as a result of natural forces and human-initiated industrial activity. Azerbaijan’s water systems include artificial rivers (canals) and ponds. In terms of water availability, Azerbaijan falls short of the global average, with about 100,000 cubic metres (3,531,467 cubic feet) of water per square kilometer per year. Kur is the foundation for all large water reservoirs. Azerbaijan’s hydrography is mostly associated with the Caspian Sea basin.
Azerbaijan has about 8,350 rivers of varying lengths. Only 24 rivers are longer than 100 kilometers. The Kura and Aras rivers flow through the Kura-Aras Lowland and are the most popular rivers in Azerbaijan. Rivers that flow straight into the Caspian Sea originate mostly on the northwestern slopes of the Major Caucasus and Talysh Mountains and run through the Samur–Devechi and Lankaran plains.
Yanar Dag, which translates as “burning mountain,” is a natural gas fire that burns constantly on a hillside on the Absheron Peninsula on the Caspian Sea near Baku, known as the “land of fire.” Flames shoot into the air from a thin, permeable layer of sandstone. It is a tourist attraction for Baku tourists.
As of July 2011, approximately 52 percent of the entire population of 9,165,000 people lived in cities, with the remaining 48 percent living in rural areas. Females made up 51% of the overall population. As a result, the sex ratio for the entire population that year was 0.97 men for every female.
The population growth rate in 2011 was 0.85 percent, compared to 1.09 percent globally. A high degree of migration is a major factor limiting population expansion. Azerbaijan had migration of 1.14 per 1,000 inhabitants in 2011.
The Azerbaijani diaspora is present in 42 countries, and there are numerous centers for ethnic minorities within Azerbaijan, such as the German cultural society “Karelhaus,” Slavic cultural center, Azerbaijani-Israeli community, Kurdish cultural center, International TalyshAssociation, Lezgin national center “Samur,” Azerbaijani-Tatar community, Crimean Tatarssociety, and so on.
According to the 2009 population census, the ethnic makeup of the population is as follows: 91.60 percent Azerbaijanis, 2.02 percent Lezgians, 1.35 percent Armenians (nearly all Armenians live in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh), 1.34 percent Russians, 1.26 percent Talysh, 0.56 percent Avars, 0.43 percent Turks, 0.29 percent Tatars, 0.28 percent Tats, 0.24 percent Ukrainians, 0.14 percent Tsakhurs, 0.11 percent Georgians,
Iranian Azerbaijanis are by far Iran’s biggest minority. Furthermore, the number of ethnic Azerbaijanis in Iran considerably outnumbers those in neighboring Azerbaijan. According to the CIA World Factbook, Iranian Azerbaijanis account for at least 16% of Iran’s population.
Muslims make up about 98 percent of the population. The Republic of Azerbaijan has the world’s second largest Shia population proportion, with 92 percent of Muslims being Shia and 8 percent Sunni. Other religions are practiced by different ethnic groups in the nation. Azerbaijan is a secular state that guarantees religious freedom, according to Article 48 of its Constitution. In a Gallup survey conducted between 2006 and 2008, just 21% of Azerbaijani respondents said that religion is an essential component of their everyday life.
Christians account for about 280,000 (3.1 percent) of the nation’s religious minorities, with the majority being Russian, Georgian Orthodox, and Armenian Apostolic (almost all Armenians live in the break-away region of Nagorno-Karabakh). There were 250 Roman Catholics in 2003. Lutherans, Baptists, and Molokans were among the other Christian faiths in 2002. In addition, there is a tiny Protestant community. Azerbaijan also boasts a 2,500-year-old Jewish community; Jewish groups estimate that 10,000–20,000 Jews exist in Azerbaijan. Members of the Bahá’, Hare Krishna, and Jehovah’s Witnesses groups, as well as followers of other religious communities, live in Azerbaijan. Unofficial restrictions on religious freedom have been imposed on certain religious groups. According to a State Department report on the subject, members of some Muslim and Christian organizations have been detained, and numerous groups are having difficulties registering with the SCWRA.
Azerbaijan joined the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Islamic Development Bank, and the Asian Development Bank after achieving independence in 1991. Azerbaijan’s financial system is made up of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan, commercial banks, and non-banking credit institutions. The National (now Central) Bank was established in 1992 on the basis of the Azerbaijan State Savings Bank, an affiliate of the former USSR State Savings Bank. The Central Bank of Azerbaijan is the country’s central bank, with the authority to issue the national currency, the Azerbaijani manat, as well as oversee all commercial banks. UniBank and the state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan, led by Dr. Jahangir Hajiyev, are the two largest commercial banks in the country.
The 2007 Q1 inflation rate hit 16.6 percent, pushed up by rising expenditure and demand. Nominal income and monthly salaries increased by 29 percent and 25 percent, respectively, in comparison to this number, while price rises in the non-oil sector fueled inflation. Azerbaijan exhibits certain symptoms of the so-called “Dutch disease” due to its rapidly expanding energy industry, which generates inflation and raises the cost of non-energy exports.
Chronically high inflation was brought under control in the early 2000s. This resulted in the introduction of a new currency, the new Azerbaijani manat, on January 1, 2006, in order to solidify economic changes and eliminate the remnants of an unstable economy.
The World Bank’s Doing Business Report named Azerbaijan one of the top ten reformers in 2008.