Valentine’s Day is here. Whether you are spending the most romantic day of the year with a special someone or getting together with close friends, you may want to check out some top spots in the Caspian. Let’s face it: A romantic holiday in Paris is a cliché, and the Caspian coastal countries can offer you something different.
The Moscow-based analytics agency TurStat, which provides regular rankings of resorts and tourist destinations, recently completed an Internet survey among Russian citizens that ranks the most romantic cities among neighboring countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region that were once part of the Soviet Union. Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan have been named some of the best destinations to visit for those that want to celebrate love.
While Kazakhstan’s capital Astana came in at number two, Azerbaijan’s capital city Baku was ranked third in the romantic tourism category.
According to the CIS’ Most Romantic Cities online survey, more than one million Russian travelers prefer to spend romantic holidays in the region. TurStat’s data shows that nearly 14 percent of respondents voted for Baku and Astana each. In addition, Alma-Ata in Kazakhstan ranked among the most romantic cities in the CIS region, taking five percent of the vote.
If you think that Baku is just an old eastern city, think again, because a big surprise is waiting for you when you arrive. Stretching along the western shores of the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan’s capital has become a modern metropolis with glass skyscrapers in the form of flames, magnificent fantasy fountains, wide boulevards planted with exotic plants brought from the other end of the world, and a unique architecture that is a blend of the east and west.
Staying in a suite located inside the iconic Flame Towers hotel, complete with romantic rooms overlooking the Caspian Sea, is a great way to relax while you are love-struck by Caspian culture. There is nothing like strolling along the streets of the Old City, called Icherisheher (meaning “the inner city” in Azerbaijani); visiting medieval buildings that now serve as museums; and admiring Maiden Tower and Shirvanshah’s Palace. While in the city, enjoy exhibitions in the Heydar Aliyev Center designed by the famous Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid. And try not to miss delicious food at the many metropolitan restaurants, where you can taste delicious Azerbaijani dishes.
It is no wonder why Astana was put in a list of the most romantic cities, as it is brimming with up-to-date charm. Located in the northern part of Kazakhstan, relatively close to Russia’s southern border, the 20-year old capital of Kazakhstan has changed beyond recognition with new, ultra-modern buildings, shopping and entertainment centers, squares and parks – all emerging out of the vast Central Asian steppes that surround it.
With nearly five million visitors per year, romantic tourism peaks in Russia, however. According to TurStat, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Vladivostok, Kazan, Moscow and Yekaterinburg are all considered romantic destinations in the world’s largest country.
Russia’s cultural and historic capital city of St. Petersburg took in nearly 60 percent of the Russian citizens' vote, according to another Internet survey that ranks the most romantic Russian cities. If you are looking for romance in the world’s largest country, this is the city for it. The abundance of places where you can have a good time with a loved one is overwhelming, from the world-renowned Hermitage Museum to the Mariinsky Theatre. A canal boat tour along the Neva River is a perfect way to experience romance Russian style and explore the beauty and versatility of this old city.