By Rashid Shirinov
The charming city of Lankaran, one of the most vibrant and beautiful cities of Azerbaijan, is located in the South-Eastern part of the country, right at the shore of the Caspian sea. Clean air and beautiful nature, abundance of attractions and hospitality of local people are that special factor, which annually attracts tourists from all over the world.
Lankaran can be considered one of the oldest settlements of Azerbaijan -- its area was inhabited from the Bronze Age. Due to its location between Europe and Asia, Lankaran was a major stopover point for international caravan routes. In 1742, the city became the capital of the Talysh Khanate.
For centuries, people of Lankaran were involved into agriculture, gardening and sericulture. Moreover, blacksmithing, coppersmithing, pottery, and weaving are the main pride of the Lankarani craftsmen who are well-known throughout the country and far beyond. Since ancient times, they had ties with merchants from Iran, Turkey, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and Central Asia.
Lankaran includes a lot of historical attractions – one of the most magnificent is the Lankaran Fortress. Built in the 18th century, it was one of the most important military fortifications in the Talysh Khanate. The fortress was surrounded by a moat which got filled with water when enemies attacked. The two towers of the fortress were used for precise fire at the attackers. The fortress included a bazaar as well. However, it was later demolished and two mosques were erected in its place. Soon, these mosques became the most visited sites for pilgrims throughout the whole region.
Around the city, visitors can find “Lankaran” medical sanatorium, which provides an opportunity to take intense wellness course based on the healing water of Istisu springs.
Fans of eco-tourism should visit the Gizilagach reserve and the nearby Sarah Peninsula, which are located right at Gizilagach Bay. The Peninsula is covered with rich forests and the reserve is strictly protected by the government.
The main feature of the Gizilagach reserve is countless species of birds living in it. In the winter there are ducks, geese, swans, pelicans, coots, mullet, francolin and flamingos. Here you can find the majority of birds from the Red Book of Azerbaijan. Due to the fact that the reserve is beside the gulf, a lot of fish can also be found there. Overall, the Gizilagach reserve is Europe's largest wintering waterfowl.
Hirkan National Park is another nature reserve placed in Lankaran. It has an enormous territory of 15,000 hectares where wild boars, jackals, Asian leopards can be met. As for birds, woodpeckers, Hirkan tits, and stone sparrows live there. As for trees, there are chestnut leaf oak, iron-wood, the Caucasus persimmon and Lankaran acacia in the lower part of the park.
Due to its placement at the sea, Lankaran has a number of clean and charming beaches with restaurants placed right under the open sky – you can visit Kanarmesha area of Lankaran in order to reach them.
Of course, when visiting Lankaran, you should definitely taste Lankaran tea, which is constantly exported to other regions of Azerbaijan and foreign countries as well. Tea is so popular in Lankaran, that it has tea monument beside the entry to the city – a huge samovar (tea boiler).
If you ask an Azerbaijani about the most fruitful region of his country, he will probably name Lankaran. In agriculture of Lankaran citrus and subtropical fruit-growing occupies a special place, and it is no coincidence that Lankaran is called the land of citrus plants, such as oranges, tangerines, lemons, pomelo and others.
Let’s turn to transportation matter. There is the Lankaran International Airport launched in 2008 in the city, so travelers of some countries can book tickets straightly to Lankaran. Nevertheless, if you plan to visit Lankaran from the capital Baku, you will also have some other options to do it. The first and fastest one is coming by taxi – it will take about 3.5 hours and $6 to travel from Baku to Lankaran.
Another way is to come by bus or minibus. The travel time will be a bit longer, 4-6 hours, but the price lower -- $3. Most of long distance taxis, buses and minibuses gather at the Lavangi auto station of Lankaran.
There are significant accommodation sites in Lankaran, namely Gala, Xazar, Dalga, Gizil Tajh hotels and many more. Lankaran Olympic Sports Complex provides its visitors with hotel, sports, and conference facilities. The per-night prices vary from $15-economy to $30-80 deluxe rooms. Also, a visitor can find a cheap hostel or rent a room/flat from Lankaran citizens. Moreover, some of genuine hospitable Lankaranis can place their guest with no charge.
Exquisite architecture, a wonderful climate and beautiful natural landscapes are the hallmarks of the glorious city of Lankaran. So, when coming to Azerbaijan, you should definitely visit this city to drink Lankarani tea, eat ripe lemons and oranges, relax by the Caspian sea and sightsee the ancient monuments of the great Lankaran.
Rashid Shirinov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @RashidShirinov
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