Azerbaijan Geography

What is the terrain and geography like in Azerbaijan?


The Republic of Azerbaijan is a country of great physical variety and complicated boundaries. Its territory of 33,774 square miles includes one autonomous region, Nagorno Karabakh (currently occupied by Armenian forces); one autonomous republic, Nakhchivan, which is separated from Azerbaijan proper by the Zangezur Region of Armenia; and several clusters of small islands in the Caspian Sea. Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, is situated on the northern shore of the Bay of Baku on the Apsheron Peninsula, which juts into the Caspian Sea.

Azerbaijan can be thought of as a dry trough between wetter mountain ranges. The Greater Caucasus Mountains, running southeastward along the northern border, rise in places to over 14,000 feet. The Lesser Caucasus and Talysh Mountains, somewhat lower in elevation, parallel them along the southern border. Deep and abrupt river valleys carve the rugged mountain terrain. Forests cover much of the middle elevations. The semiarid Kura Depression between these ranges occupies about half of the country. Toward the Caspian Sea coast, this mostly flat depression dips below the world sea level. The landscapes around Baku and to the south are dry and brown. As one travels northwest toward the Greater Caucasus, however, eroded hills give way to green hills and finally, in most seasons, to snow-capped mountains.

The country’s rivers flow from Georgia, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan’s mountains. Most join to form the Kura‑Aras river system, which empties into the Caspian Sea about 80 miles south of Baku. The Caspian is salty and subject to substantial changes in water level. Coastal flooding in the mid‑1990s subsided several years later. Sandy beaches border much of the coastline. Some 250 lakes and several large reservoirs dot parts of Azerbaijan. Many ephemeral lakes and ponds form during rainy periods.

The country’s vegetation is similarly varied, with sparse, low‑growing plants in the semi-arid lowlands; forests (mostly deciduous and covering about 11% of the land areas) in the mountains along the upper Kura River and northernmost coast; and meadows and alpine tundra on the highest mountains. Marshlands have formed where water collects in the lowlands.

Fourteen nature reserves were established to protect samples of the country’s flora and fauna. The Kizil-Agach Reserve, the largest at 217,000 acres, includes extensive wetlands on the southern coast. Half a million water birds, among them several thousand flamingos, winter here. Persian gazelles roam the Sirvan Reserve, farther north. Other reserves, such as Ismailly, in the Greater Caucasus Mountains, protect dense, diverse forests and rare trees, as well as other wildlife. Permission is required to enter the nature reserves.

Parts of Azerbaijan are subject to earthquakes, particularly the southern slope of the Greater Caucasus in the Sheki‑Shemakha Region and the southern part of the Lesser Caucasus adjoining the Aras River.

Geography - note

Both the main area of the country and the Naxcivan exclave are landlocked

Azerbaijan Use of Natural Resources

Geographic Location Asia
Total Area 33,436 Square Miles
86,600 Square Kilometers
Land Area 31,903 Square Miles
82,629 Square Kilometers
Water Area 1,533 Square Miles
3,971 Square Kilometers
Land Boundaries 1,251 Miles
2,013 Kilometers
Irrigated Land 5,502 Square Miles
14,250 Square Kilometers
Border Countries Armenia (with Azerbaijan-proper) 566 km, Armenia (with Azerbaijan-Naxcivan exclave) 221 km, Georgia 322 km, Iran (with Azerbaijan-proper) 432 km, Iran (with Azerbaijan-Naxcivan exclave) 179 km, Russia 284 km, Turkey 9 km
Geographic Coordinates 40 30 N, 47 30 E
Terrain Large, flat Kur-Araz Ovaligi (Kura-Araks Lowland) (much of it below sea level) with Great Caucasus Mountains to the north, Qarabag Yaylasi (Karabakh Upland) in the west; Baku lies on Abseron Yasaqligi (Apsheron Peninsula) that juts into the Caspian Sea
Highest Point 4,485 Meters
Highest Point Location Bazarduzu Dagi 4,485 m
Lowest Point -28 Meters
Lowest Point Location Caspian Sea -28 m
Natural Resources Petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, nonferrous metals, alumina
Time Zone UTC+4 (9 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
Daylight saving time does not observe daylight savings time
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