When Christmas is out of the way, most tourists head to warmer climates rather than the cold and icy Caucasus. But the braver tourists who do can experience an exceptional New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day celebration in Baku. Baku itself is full of lights and colour decorating the streets, and endless parties in the bars, hotels and restaurants entertain tourists. New Year’s celebrations take place in other parts of the country, but Baku is by far the most active. Stick around the capital until the end of the month for Martyrs Day. The holiday on January 20 commemorates the loss of 130 Azerbaijani lives when Soviet tanks stormed the city during protests on January 20, 1990.
Average temperature in Baku: 2-7°C (36-44°F). Rainy days: 6. Snowy days: 4.
Winters in Azerbaijan tend to be relatively mild along the Caspian Sea and cold in the interior. Snowfall is frequent in some parts of the country towards the Caucasus Mountains. If the weather feels dreary, head to one of Azerbaijan’s skiing resorts at either Shahdag or Tufandag. Fewer tourists visit Azerbaijan in the winter and accommodation can be snapped up for just a few dollars.
Average temperature at Mount Shahdag: -20°C (-4°F). Snowy days: 15+.
Novruz Bayrami, the Persian New Year, takes place towards the end of March. The Zoroastrian celebration is a national holiday in Azerbaijan to honour spring’s arrival. Locals host regular events and festivals with endless supplies of traditional food and drinks. Tourists visiting in late spring should aim to be in Azerbaijan to experience this unique and once-in-a-lifetime cultural event. As the spring starts, green foliage starts to fill the landscapes with colour before the summer’s parched brown.
Average temperature in Baku: 4-10°C (39-50°C). Rainy days: 5.
Sheki, an ancient town dating back more than 2000 years, sits in the foothills of the Greater Caucasus Mountains. With an abundance of history and culture in this destination near the Georgian border, visiting Sheki often rates as a top activity in Azerbaijan. Winters tend to be cold and harsh. Given the location near the mountains, head to Sheki in spring and experience the rebirth of the leaves and flowers.
Average temperature in Sheki: 5-19°C (41-66°F). Rainy days: 12.
Walk around the streets of many towns and cities in Azerbaijan and be greeted with the name May 28. The date refers to Republic Day, which marks the day the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan was formed in 1918. For a brief two years until 1920, the nation was independent. Expect celebrations and limited opening times in shops along with potential travel disruptions. Baku is the best place to experience Republic Day celebrations in Azerbaijan.
Average temperature in Baku: 15-22°C (59-72°F). Rainy days: 3.
Summers in Azerbaijan are hot. By hot, expect temperatures to sometimes reach 40°C (104°F) in Baku. Combine the heat with humidity from the Caspian Sea, and it makes an uncomfortable place for sightseeing in June. That being said, most of Baku’s population seems to take long siestas in the afternoon and emerge again after nightfall, when the temperatures are more tolerable. Consider heading to one of the beach resorts or head south to Lankaran.
Average temperature in Lankaran: 28-34°C (84-93°F). Rainy days: 1
While summer might be hot in the lowlands, the highlands experience more pleasant temperatures making it an ideal time for hiking. Head to either Sheki or Quba and expect more comfortable temperatures. For this reason, July is the best time for hiking in the Caucasus Mountains. Xinaliq’s snow only melts in July. In the Azerbaijan lowlands, expect temperatures to hover around the lows 30s (86-95°F).
Average temperature in Xinaliq: 10-20°C (50-68°F). Rainy days: 6.
Visiting Baku in summer isn’t a problem for those who don’t mind the hot sunny weather. Local tends to head to the beaches along the Absheron Peninsula. Strong winds tend to blow across the Caspian Sea, cooling the air slightly. Consider visiting Quba to escape the coastal heat. The small cultural town nestled in the foothill of the Caucasus Mountains is enshrined in history and traditions. From the world’s only all-Jewish settlement outside Israel, to ancient mountain villages and a variety of languages, Quba makes an intriguing place to visit in Azerbaijan’s summer.
Average temperature in Quba: 18-28°C (64-82°F). Rainy days: 1.
Lake Goygol near Ganja in Central Azerbaijan ranks among the most beautiful spots in the country. With its deep blue colours and surrounding forests, the mountainous lake attracts hordes of local tourists each year. Visiting Lake Goygol on a day trip from Ganja is a common activity. But arguably one of the best times to visit Azerbaijan to see the lake is towards the end of summer. The green leaves change to orange, browns and auburns blanketing the perimeter of the lake.
Average temperature in Lake Goygol: 7-18°C (45-65°F). Rainy days: 6
The transition between summer and autumn is abrupt. Clouds roll over Baku in October and the capital experiences more drizzle. Temperatures hover in the mid-20s with cooler evenings. According to locals, the best time to visit Azerbaijan is during October after the oppressive summer heat and before the onset of winter. Sightseeing in Baku and taking day trips to visit Ateshgah, Yanar Dag (Baku’s ‘Burning Mountain’) and Gobustan National Park will be much more comfortable. Heading to the highlands and hiking in the Caucasus might not be such a good idea. Independence Day celebrations take place on October 18 throughout the country too.
Average temperature in Baku: 14-20°C (57-68°F). Rainy days: 6.
Few take the time to visit Azerbaijan towards the end of the year when temperatures plummet. But those with a passion for wildlife and the outdoors might appreciate the bird migration. Amateur twitters and experienced ornithologists can observe a variety of birds in Azerbaijan at all times of the year in the national parks. Seasonal birds fly from the harsh Russian winter, making bird-watching an activity to be enjoyed as autumn transitions to winter. Many of the national parks are located along the coast.
Average temperature along the Southern Coast of Azerbaijan: 7-14°C (45-57°C). Rainy days: 4-10.
Despite Azerbaijan having a majority Muslim population, the locals still embrace Christmas celebrations throughout the country. From Christmas markets to themed nights at bars and restaurants, tourists will get a taste of the festival spirit in Azerbaijan.
Average temperature in Baku: 5-10°C (41-50°F). Rainy days: 6. Snow days: 3.
When not to go to Azerbaijan?
The best time to visit Azerbaijan depends on the specific itinerary and travel plans. Locals suggest avoiding the middle of both summer and winter when temperatures soar to 40°C (104°F) or plummet to below freezing. Spring and early autumn experience more pleasant temperatures for sightseeing while hiking in the Caucasus Mountains should only be attempted in summer.
With the majority of people identifying as Muslim in Azerbaijan, it might be easy to assume travel difficulties during the fasting month of Ramadan. But, unlike other Islamic nations further south in the Middle East, Azerbaijan is secular. Everything goes on as usual. Restaurants, cafés and bars open and will be full. Travelling to Azerbaijan in Ramadan shouldn’t pose any problems. The Islamic Eid al Adha or ‘Festival of Sacrifice’ is celebrated in Azerbaijan too.