#934 Lankoran, Azerbaijan

If you asked most people living or visiting Azerbaijan about Lankoran, very few would know much. Unless you travel up from Iran, the chances of visiting Lankoran are slim. One would also never say that as a city it is beautiful -- it has a typical Soviet square where no doubt Lenin once stood (now replaced by Heydar Aliyev), one former Intourist Soviet hotel, and a very small downtown. There is a seafront along the Caspian with an old lighthouse, and there used to be an (in)famous tank statue on the shore (now removed), but now it has little except a dirt track alongside a concrete barrier.

Lankoran, however, deserves another look. It is at the foot of the beautiful Talysh Mountains with ancient villages like Lerik and Yardimli, Ballabur Castle and amazing landscapes. One place is a Soviet-era dam and Xanbulan Lake that feels like it hasn't changed in 50 years, grown over with forest and surrounded by a forgotten town. The wettest part of Azerbaijan's many climates, just north is beautiful Qizil Agach bay with many flamingoes and a spit of land where Naimanabad village is slowly crumbling into the rising Capsian Sea.

South of the city, just miles from the Iranian border at Astara is an interesting phenomenon where you can see fire emerge from water (because gas is trapped in the same vein as a natural spring) - Yanar Bulaq, and the quaint villages like Pensar shelter ancient mosques with beautiful wooden stained glass windows and old fashioned Turkish bathhouses. The pace of life is relaxed and old men sit outside and watch the world pass by while sipping tea and playing backgammon.
Source: Mark Elliot's 'Azerbaijan' Guidebook, 4th Edition

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