The coastal Astara region of Azerbaijan is lushly forested and is known especially for its citrus fruits. Rising rapidly behind this narrow fringe, the first phalanx of wooded hills are vaguely evocative of South-East Asia with big slightly sparse tree cover on thin, red soil. Behind are folds of forested mountains hiding numerous villages. These would make for intriguing horseback exploration. Astara Town offers very little but the Istisu excursion is fun and Archivan`s Yanar Bulag is fascinating.
Yanar Bulag (Fire Spring) is nearby Archivan village. It is an unusual spring which fascinatingly combines the two elements, fire and water. The phenomenon starts simply enough. Water comes gurgling from a metal stand-pipe inside a small pavilion, not looking particularly unusual. But when a lighter or another ignition source is touched to the water, the liquid itself will be set ablaze. This unique and entertaining property of the water is due to its uniquely high methane content.
Put a lighter to it and it burns, giving a magical little display of the wet and the warm. Despite the methane in the water, water from the spring is said by locals to have remedial properties. People come from all over the region to collect water from the spring. Similarly, for tourists it has become almost a rite of passage to take a mouthful of the water while the top of the pipe is being set ablaze.