So closely associated is Azerbaijan with its capital, Baku, that most visitors overlook another Caspian Sea-side port.
Lankaran is Azerbaijan’s sixth largest city, located roughly 30 miles from the country’s border with Iran, and lies within the southeastern region of the same name. The area’s famed black sandy beaches, deciduous forests, and mouth-watering cuisine are just three of many reasons to pay it a visit.
See: House of Khan
Dive into Lankaran’s rich history and visit the historic house museum that once belonged to Mir Akhmad Khan, a descendant of the last ruler of Lankaran Khanate – a province that existed on the territory of Azerbaijan, between 1747 – 1828. In 1913, when the region was ruled by the Russian empire, Mir Akhmad Khan invited architects from France to design and build what was the region’s very first multi-storied home for his fiancée. Over a century after its constructing, this building still inspires those who come to see it, which now serves as the Lankaran Regional Museum of History and Ethnography. Exhibits range from home furnishings of the day and national clothes to carpets and paintings displaying Mir Akhmad Khan and his wife, Tughra khanym.
See: Hirkan National Park
Hirkan National Park offers breathtaking views for those looking for an outdoor experience. Located on the slopes of the Talysh mountain range, visiting this region is like going back 200 million years and experience what Earth must have been like before the ice age. The park is covered mostly with a subtropical forest that is home to leopards, lynxes, martens and brown bears. Hirkan also contains 150 endemic species of plants, ranging from the chestnut tree oak and figs, to the ironwood. Although the cost of this wood is usually several times more expensive than that of other species, the iron tree is widely used while manufacturing axes, frames, floorboards, various joinery because of its toughness.
See: Black Sand Beach
The Lankaran region is famous for its 120 miles of coastline, where one finds some of the world’s best black sand beaches. The sand is useful for more than just relaxing under the sun: Chemically equivalent to basalt, the rock has been used for treating diseases of the musculoskeletal, nervous and cardiovascular systems. If you visit, be sure to take a pair of sandals that will protect your feet from the abnormally hot sand!
Your culinary marathon in Lankaran should definitely begin with lavangi – fish, chicken or eggplant stuffed with walnuts, onions and plum paste. The most delicious lavangi are made in a tandir – a cylindrical clay oven in Azerbaijan, in which food is cooked on charcoals, giving it a delicious flavor.
Tired of scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast? Then check out kükü, an omelet baked with lots of herbs such as dill, cilantro, and green onions and served with lavash – a soft, thin flatbread – and fresh yogurt. A modern twist on this classic dish may also contain green beans, eggplant, and cauliflower.
One of Lankaran’s most common dishes is turshu-kabab. Despite the name, it has nothing to do with meat that is cooked on a stick – but this does not mean it is any less tasty and delicious. The word turshu means “sour” in Azerbaijani, as these small meatballs are made with lamb, herbs and lemon sauce, which gives this dish a piquant taste.
Tea lovers are welcomed in Lankaran just as they are anywhere else in the country. With the first tea crops planted here between 1928 and 1929, Azerbaijan launched an indigenous tea industry that by 1937 saw the beverage having widespread reach to the everyday consumer. Azerbaijani tea is exported as far north as Finland and as far east as Mongolia.
While in Lankaran you will be served black tea poured into the traditional armudu glass or pear-shaped glass that is said to keep tea hot at the bottom while helping it cool faster at the top, maintaining a constant temperature. Don’t forget to take a selfie with the figures of giant samovar and armudu installed right in the city center.