Azerbaijan may have won the Eurovision Song Contest, but its mud volcanoes and beautiful, remote towns are uncharted territory for most Europeans
It is on the world’s largest lake, has hillsides that sprout fire, and the national game is nerd. This is Azerbaijan. Proud winner of Eurovision and proudly independent since 1991, Azerbaijan is probably where the Vikings came from, and definitely has the most mud volcanoes in the world. But a herdsman living 2km from the volcanoes had never heard of them.
Tourism is in its infancy here. You share your flight to the capital, Baku, with a load of oilmen. Sundry Nobels and Rothschilds helped found the world’s first oil and gas industry here, and today you fly in over thousands of smudgy, nodding-donkey wells, and a city of rigs sitting in the lapis blue Caspian, some linked by causeways that look like Scalextric sets.