Forget Dubai or Shanghai — if you want to see a skyline full of the coolest new architecture in the world, get yourself to Baku. The capital of Azerbaijan was a walled city until the 19th century, full of historic buildings that harken to its pre-Islamic past. But after Soviet reign ended, crazy new construction began in this oil-rich country, most famously the shining flame towers that announced Baku’s arrival into the 21st century. You’ll also want to check out the National Carpet Museum, the only building in the world designed to look like a rolled-up carpet. Baku, as well as the rest of Azerbaijan, is also blissfully affordable, so once you get here, you can traverse the country for almost nothing.
Make the short trip from Baku to Gobustan National Park, and you’ll discover rock carvings that date back 15,000 years. Azerbaijan also sits in the Caucasus Mountains, where you’ll find some of the most stunning scenery in Eurasia dotted with remote villages in the Guba region. Or you can try skiing at some of the new resorts that have opened up as part of the country’s tourism boom in the Shahdaq and Tufandag Mountains.