Southern Azerbaijan's coastal strip is the lush breadbasket of the country, where tea plantations line the roadsides and trees are heavy with citrus fruit. Inland, bucolic forested mountains offer tempting streamside getaways and plenty of hiking potential.
The unexpectedly green Talysh (or Qirkan) region west of Lankaran is the real highlight. It has its own language and super-hospitable culture and progresses geographically from rolling forests into sheep-mown hills, impressive canyons and craggy mountains.
The area is home to the hospitable Talysh people, famed for living to great ages. Using the overnight train to Lankaran, a trip to the south makes an easy escape from Baku or a pleasant stop en route to Iran.
Quite the opposite of conventional wisdom, as you head south towards Iran, the landscape becomes progressively greener. Indeed the Talysh region (Lankaran/Lerik/Astara rayons) is the wettest part of Azerbaijan and, especially in the autumn, it is likely to rain almost every day. This is not just depressing but also turns normally rutted mountain tracks into impossibly muddy quagmires. Humidity is high and though summer temperatures are not necessarily as high as in Baku, it can feel very muggy.
The ideal time for a visit is May when the temperatures are cool and the chances of rain slim. Winter is short and mild on the coast, but Lerik and Yardimli may get snowed in.