Oil-rich, Azerbaijan is the major player in the Caucasus. Sat on the Caspian Sea it bridges East and West and was once an important stop on the Silk Road. These days it remains strategically important. Azerbaijan travel is based around business, whilst Azerbaijan holidays are for those looking to try somewhere new.
The capital Baku is a boomtown, riding high on the country's new-found wealth. A modern metropolis has developed adjacent to the medieval Old Town, which is a maze of alleyways, dead ends and caravanserais (inns).
The rest of the country operates at a slower pace. Stretching out to the Caspian Sea beyond Baku, the Absheron Peninsula is the site of several fine medieval castles. Elsewhere, Shemakha in the foothills of the Caucasus maintains a reputation for carpets and wine. Higher up in the hills are Xinaliq and Laza, two villages with a warm traditional welcome and outstanding panoramic views.