Azerbaijan is encapsulated between Russia, Iran, Georgia and Armenia. The country is not visited a lot by tourists: VISA is a bit difficult to get because you need a LOI (Letter Of Invitation), and hotels are expensive. For this reason, organized travel companies which visit the caucasus probably avoid the country. However, things are getting more easy: it seems people from most countries can get a VISA at the border now if they arrive by air. Azerbaijan is definitly making efforts to boost it's tourism.
The country is, although unknown, worth visiting. There are many things to see. Baku has a wide variety of parks, statues, shops. People on the streets are friendly, always ready to help a stranger, to point out directions, or just to offer to play a boardgame or a tea. The hassle of tourist scams and bargaining, just doesn't exist in this country, maybe because of the lack of tourists.
But also outside Baku there are things to see: which country can offer an unique phenomenon like cold "mud volcanoes", petroglyphs, or where else than here can you discover one of the only remaining temples of the Zoroastrians? How about visiting Yanar Dag, the "Fire Mountain", a mountain which is filled with natural gas, which is on fire all the time. Historic buildings, like the Maidens Tower and Shirivan's Palace also exist.
Downsides are definitly the oil industry and how it is managed: it destroys nature and makes Azerbaijan the most polluted country in the world. Shipwrecks are resting in the sea, oil is floating on the water, plants and soil are covered with dust.
Further inside the country, unique graveyards, moutains, rivers and a paradise of nature can be discovered - a complete contradiction of the pollution of oil business.
Azerbaijan is a country with very big contradictions. Public transportation in Baku is not too modern (except the metro which is quite good), some parts of the city are dirty. Oil industry and pollution is terrible. But in the city also the most beautiful parks, immense statues can be found. The ballet house on the inside is remarkable decorated, mosaics in metro stations are beautiful (unfortunatly taking pictures there is forbidden). The government house is a beautilful building where most countries only can be jealous about. People are probably among the most friendly you can find.
These people can hook you up with a fantastic appartment for a low price so that you can escape the huge hotel costs, they will pick you up at the airport, fix taxi's, take care of everything. They can even provide you a LOI if you want. Just don't doubt, contact those people and relax :-)
And if you would book an appartment, say 'hi' from me to Rena and Alla :-)
Minibus 135 goes from 28 May station to the airport.
In the city itself: Baku has a great metro system.How to find the mud volcanoes and the petroglyphs?
Take a bus to Gobustan (direction to the oilfields). In Gobustan, you have to search for a taxidriver who knows where the mudvolcanoes are located. You can visit the petroglyphs during the same trip.
How to go to the fire temple?
Take the electric train from the trainstation to Suraxani station.
There are not so many guidebooks about Azerbaijan. There is the Lonely Planet of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, but if you really want a true vault of information, you need the "Trailblazer Azerbaijan", written by Mark Elliot : http://www.trailblazer-guides.com
Would I visit this country again? Sure. There is still a lot to discover: Sheki, Ximaliq, Ganja lake, mountains. An interesting destination with a lot of possibilities.