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Astara - Azerbaijan - location mapAstara is a small picturesque Caspian port town of about 15.000 souls, on the Iranian border, capital of Azerbaijan's southernmost Rayon. If you are coming north form Lenkoran a giant samovar by the road welcomes you to the rayon.

Astara rayon is in part occupied by Talysh Mountains with the rest of the territory in plains along the Caspian, leading to the climatic diversity of the area. The  rivers Astarachai and Tengerud originate high in Talysh Mountains and flow into the Caspian Sea. Forests are widespread. Flora includes wild quince, medlar, hawthorns, blackberry bushes, silk tree, evergreen butcher's broom, various lianas. The area features also famous lignum vitae (Damir Agach). Located in the rayon is a part of Hyrcanian National Park. Near the border with Iran, in Isti-Su you can find hot springs.

Istisu, Astara region, Azerbaijan: a plastic tent surrounds a couple of knee deep concrete warm water ponds - photo by F.MacLachlanThe rayon has a rich historical heritage, but don't expect anything dramatic. In several villages there are traces of ancient occupation:. Babek tower in Shindan; a tower in Nudis; the Bath of Meshedi Abutalyb, the Mosques of Gadzhi Teimus and Gadzhi Jahan Bakhish in the village of Pensar; a mausoleum in Shakhagach; the Bath of Kerbelai Gamid Abdulla in the village of Archivan; fortress ruins, a mausoleum, a caravanserai dated to the 7th century and stone sculptures dated to the Stone and Bronze ages in the villages Siniyapert, Lomin and Pileken.

The town of Astara is located near the Tavalesh mountains and surrounded by a sea of rice fields. Plenty of enjoyable sandy beaches are to be found around Astara, and the water is cleaner than on the Apsheron peninsula. There is a Regional Historical Museum on Sh. Aliyev Street.

Astara rayon, Azerbaijan: Azeri-Iranian border - Iranian border guards, a little to the west of the town of Astara, on the way to the Istisu - no Azeri guards at all - photo by F.MacLachlanAstara is an important transit point for all kinds of goods, as the numerous lorries at the border well illustrate. The pipeline coming from Abadan also enters Azerbaijan in Astara.

The area is home to a large Talysh population. The Talysh are an Indo-European people, mostly Shia Muslim, which spreads to both sides of the border along the western shore of the Caspian. During the18th century Astara was the capital of the Talysh khanate, until the local ruler Garakhan moved it to Lenkoran.

Astara, Azerbaijan: Azeri-Iranian border - main vehicle border crossing - a muddy and litter strewn track alongside the beach - Mercedes-Benz truck clears customs - photo by F.MacLachlanHere you can cross the border into Iran, well you cross the river Astara to the iranian half of the town, also called Astara (the Baku to Tehran bus stops in Astara). Expect long delays at the border, however entering Iran is now a lot easier than a few years ago. The Iranian government is quite eager for the Euros brought in by the tourists, although they still prefer 'package tours' to independent travelers.

(300 km south of Baku)
see also: places, Lerik, Lenkoran, maps, Azeri visas, Iranian visas, history, South Azerbaijan, Talysh, images
A to Z of Azerbaijan / A dan Z ye Azerbaycan