Imagine yourself climbing a fortress tower so old that historians have lost track. Stare out across an ancient citadel ringed by crenulated walls. Watch yachts bobbing across an azure vista of the fabled Caspian Sea. Observe a hectically mushrooming skyline sprouting fanciful 21st century architecture. Then stroll back to a pampering at one of Baku’s gamut of dazzling new five star hotels or to a modest but hospitable family pension tucked into Baku’s medieval warren of old-city alleys. Either way, feel refreshed, inspired and ready for the next day’s conference or convention in Eurasia’s stunning new business destination.


Ever better connected, Baku is one of Eurasia’s biggest air traffic hubs and is closer to Central Europe than you might have thought. But Azerbaijan is not just conveniently located – it also benefits from being a remarkable human melting pot that straddles four great cultures – European, Turkic, Russian and Persian – all seamlessly integrated within a harmonious nation. Where else can you find a hospitality industry where virtually all staff will speak Turkish and Russian along with decent English and a smattering of Farsi? Where else can you gather delegates across the CIS, the Turkic world and Iran with a minimum of visa formalities?


As though by the wave of a magic wand, Baku has suddenly unleashed one of the world’s most astonishing building booms. In less than a decade a remarkable mixture of Parisian-styled stone palaces and breathtaking marvels of 21st century modernist architecture have multiplied. Few architectural sights have a greater wow-factor than the Zaha Hadid-designed Heydar Aliyev Centre. Or the trio of sinuous silver Flame Towers that crown the city’s western flank. Both of the above could contain your next event! And Azerbaijan has a parallel bonanza of luxurious international-standard hotels. Facilities are state of the art as a large percentage of all conference venues is brand new.


You’re drinking local wine in a medieval caravanserai. You’re sipping fragrant Lankaran tea in a silk-draped cavern teahouse puffing at an apple flavoured hubble bubble. You’re watching Caucasian dancers wafting arabesques in vibrant chiffon as their menfolk high kick pointy-toed in heavy leather boots to the bloodstirring wail of the Zurna flute. You’re invited for Novruz dinner eating nutty-sweet baklava, lighting a lucky candle and leaping across a courtyard bonfire to celebrate the nation’s ancient spring-festival. You’re tapping feet at the Baku Jazz Club. You’re mesmerised by mugham. You’re pumping your fist at an Absheron beach DJ club. You’re lost in the magic of a Gara Garayev ballet. And you’ve only just arrived. Let’s hope the conference ends early! Welcome to Baku – a mélange of cultural worlds together in one city.


Azerbaijan means business. The country has been a hub for regional conventions, sporting contests and trade fairs since the mid 1990s. But we have ramped up our MICE focus considerably since hosting the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest and the Baku 2015 European Games. Azerbaijan’s determination to be recognized as a major events venue is part of the Vision 2020 national strategy which aims at doubling the national GDP by the end of the decade and on growing visitor numbers. Given the enthusiasm to attain these ambitious goals, you can be assured of great commitment on bid support to ensure a highly advantageous solution for all stakeholders.


Wind surfers plough the sparkling turquoise waters of the fabled Caspian Sea. Adrenaline junkies scale the heights of Europe’s highest mountain range or plough down the pistes from two dazzling new ski resorts. In the mirage-prone semi desert, are those really wild antelope bounding across the steppe? Did we see flamingos on that lagoon? Are there really leopards amid the ironwoods of the Hirkan forest? Yes, you could speed across this compact country in just a few hours. Yet within its modest boundaries, Azerbaijan presents an awesome smorgasbord of climates, cultures and scenic wonders. A day trip is enough to see mud volcanoes and oaks, poppy fields and deserts, timeless villages and 21st-century cities. So go on, give yourself an extra day or two once you’re here. You won’t regret it.


Bakuvians compete on a global stage as peacocks of passeggiata. Strolling, preening, socialising along the balmy Caspian-side Boulevard or in parks full of fountains. Flat capped old men, skinny-jeaned lads with front combed mop tops, scampering kids marshalled by mothers in 4-inch heels or Islamic chic scarfs – all rub shoulders in a city that’s determinedly multicultural. Mosques, churches, and synagogues are dotted between with coffee shops and pubs, boutiques and galleries. Single women walk home alone without a worry. And there’s so little petty crime that you could leave a bulging wallet in your back pocket as you wander.


For several years since 2006, Azerbaijan’s economy has been one of the world’s best performing. The solid rise in GDP has been led by oil and gas but there is a rapid move to diversify and capitalize on the country’s potential as a regional value-added economy. Even a short term visitor can see the remarkable improvements in infrastructure, the constant beautification of cityscapes and the ever expanding range of commercial opportunities that continue daily. The nation underlines its European credentials, most visibly in sporting and cultural arenas. Welcome to the 21st Century ‘Silk Road’.


From German to Georgian, French to Asian Fusion, and featuring a rich, ever more refined Azerbaijani cuisine all of its own, Baku will delight your palate as much as your camera. Tantalising restaurants range from minimalist works of 21st-century art to olde worlde charmers wafting with 19th-century ambience through jewelled exotic teahouses, cosy coffee shops and genuinely ancient caravanserais tucked into the labyrinthine streets of Baku’s Old City. You’ll wish you had longer to sample them all.


The city of wind caresses visitors with its Caspian breezes. But behind its maritime seascapes, artful water features and manicured green parks lies a semi desert hinterland. Here mud volcanoes burp and bubble. Spontaneous flames leap magically from lonely hillsides. And the antique fire temple of Surakhany still burns in own its unique fashion. Drive two hours on recently upgraded highways and the towering peaks of Europe’s tallest mountain range raise their snowy heads. Yes, it’s just a day trip to the Caucasus’s grandest new ski resorts and not much further to fascinating caravanserai towns like historic Sheki, idyllically set amid patchworks of bucolic fields and forested mountain foothills.