Land of Fire.. 5 sites you should add to your destination list in Azerbaijan

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    The transcontinental state of Azerbaijan, which is rich in natural resources and occupies a privileged location on the borders of Europe and Asia, has a wonderful history.

    Tierra del Fuego (the land of fire) has long been coveted by legendary conquerors such as Alexander the Great and Tamerlane, and sprawling empires such as the Achaemenid, Roman, Ottoman, Safavid, and Tsarist Russians – not to mention countless local kingdoms and dynasties.

    All of this has left its mark on the culture, cuisine, folklore and mentality of modern Azerbaijan. At the same time, there remain more tangible reminders of their existence such as the abundance of castles, fortresses, and dungeons found throughout the country, from city centers to remote mountaintops.

    Often, in order to understand historical events, you need to be in the place where they occurred, to live the atmosphere of that period, and to travel through time to many centuries, as if you were in a time machine or on a magic carpet.

    Here are 5 sites you should add to your list of destinations in Azerbaijan:

    Old city in Baku

    You don’t have to travel far to see Azerbaijan’s impressive history. The heart of its capital, Baku, is itself a medieval fortress, listed in 2000 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    The narrow eastern alleys and centuries-old houses of this bustling neighborhood are filled with historic baths, mosques, caravanserais, and palaces.

    The ancient icon of Baku, the Maiden Tower, also looms near the Caspian Sea. The tower’s mysterious shape still raises controversy about its origins.

    Mardakan Murabba Castle

    North of Baku, a series of small castles spread around the Absheron Peninsula, extending to the Caspian Sea.

    In the Middle Ages, these castles formed a unified defensive system that guarded the main trade routes and protected the coastline from invasion, and legend says that they were all connected via underground tunnels.

    One of the best-preserved castles is the Mardakan Square Castle, located in the historic village of Mardakan, which was built by the ruler of the Shirvanshah dynasty, Akhsetan I, in the late 12th century.

    Inside there is a courtyard and a tower 22 meters high.

    Chirag Qala Castle

    The fortified parts of a tower and a wall in the northeastern area of ​​Shabran represent the oldest castle on this list, supposedly dating back to the 6th century and the era of the Sasanian Empire.

    It cannot be reached by road, and travelers must trek to its dramatic location atop a rocky outcrop, but the reward is stunning sea views.

    Chirag Fortress is believed to have been a lookout post along the Gilgilchay Wall, a massive defensive system designed to prevent incursions by northern nomadic tribes through the passes of the Caucasus Mountains and the Caspian coast.

    Shaki Castle

    This expansive fortress at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains is a key part of the UNESCO-listed historic center of Shaki.

    Built in the mid-18th century, it housed the administrative headquarters of Khan Shaki (1743-1819) and was spacious enough to accommodate about 40 buildings, as well as fountains and gardens.

    Somoj Tower

    This stone and brick tower stands proudly at the base of the Caucasus Mountains near the charming village of Ilisu in the northwest.

    It takes us back to a period of about 300 years when Ilisu was the capital of a small sultanate of its own, before the Russian invasion in 1844.

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