The coronavirus hit Azerbaijan hard, and the Center for Disease Control strongly advises non-residents to steer clear of the country for now. Likewise, Azerbaijanians aren’t keen on outsiders bringing more cases to their shores and further taxing the nation’s healthcare infrastructure.
The country confirmed its first case on February 28, 2020, and, as of this writing, 33,246 more people in Azerbaijan have contracted the virus. On March 12, the first Azerbaijani citizen passed away from COVID-related complications. Thus far, 478 individuals in the country have suffered the same fate.
Beginning in early March, officials ordered the closure of non-essential businesses and all schools. They also banned Iranian supply trucks. On March 31, a nationwide shut-down went into effect, and residents needed permission to leave their homes.
Since April, officials have loosened restrictions slightly, and essential businesses are operating. Every month, they’ve extended their border closure, and discouraged non-essential foreign travel.
When Is Azerbaijan Reopening Its Borders for Tourism?
Currently, Azerbaijani lawmakers are reluctant to reopen. At the time of this writing, the country is closed to non-essential travel. People who fly in for medical or residential reasons must quarantine for at least two weeks — and some folks must stay in government-monitored facilities.
In July and August, medical teams from Cuba, Italy, and China traveled to Azerbaijan to help the nation’s doctors better understand the virus and how best to manage and treat it. Since then, the number of cases appears to be declining.
For the past thirty years, Azerbaijan has poured money and manpower into building its tourism industry. The goal is to transform the formerly war-torn country, sandwiched between Russia and Iran, into the next holiday hotspot on the Caspian Sea. And believe it or not, the plan is working — slowly but surely.
Most visitors arrive from Russia, the Baltic nations, the Middle East, and the United Kingdom, and the number of tourists has doubled over the past decade.
But it’s little surprise that the country is successfully making the transition; after all, Mother Nature took extra care when crafting Azerbaijan and made sure it had a little bit of everything. A long, golden-sand coastline gives way to turquoise waters, and majestic mountains, suitable for downhill, pepper the interior. It’s never too hot and never too cold in Azerbaijan — and even the skiing weather is pleasant.
Luxury resorts are scattered throughout the country, and the government regularly funds large-scale travel marketing campaigns. In 2017, it used the slogan “Land of Fire.” The following year, after realizing the potentially problematic connotation of the motto, authorities changed it to “Take Another Look.”
These days, the big tourist centers are the coastal capital of Baku, in addition to Gabala, Ganja, Nakhchivan, and Shaki. Travelers do need visas to enter, but they’re easily obtained online.
Azerbaijan is a promising rookie on the travel destination team. Nomads who like to hit spots before the normcores show up should consider heading to Azerbaijan soon after officials lift the travel bans — because it won’t remain an underrated gem for long.