Top 5 Things to See and Do in Azerbaijan


  1. Explore Baku


Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, lies along the Caspian Sea and is a somewhat curious mix of old walled city and modern skyscrapers. It’s a cool small city that only needs a day or two. There’s good food, interesting museums, and amazing wine bars. The Old Town, called Icherisheher, is a maze of cobblestone streets where you’ll find museums, art galleries, mosques, and two landmarks—Maiden Tower and Shirvanshahs’ Palace. Restaurants and rooftop bars have great views over the waterfront, where you can stroll on Baku Boulevard and take a ride on the Baku Eye Ferris wheel. Architecture buffs won’t want to miss the Zara Hadid-designed Heydar Aliyev Centre, a museum focused on Azerbaijani art and culture; and the Carpet Museum, in a clever building shaped like a rolled-up carpet. The most prominent examples of modern architecture are the three iconic Flame towers—LED-covered skyscrapers that curve at the top.

  1. Visit Sheki

The city of Sheki was a famous stop on the Silk Road, and the large old caravanserai (inn with a courtyard) dating to the early 18th century still stands today. Built like a castle to protect merchants (high walls, one gate), you can stay there today for around 50 AZN per night. Silk is still produced in the well-preserved historic town center where you can also see craftsmen at work. The city is known for its colored glass mosaics called shebeke, which are set in wooden lattice framework without glue or nails. With a facade covered in shebeke, Sheki Khan’s Palace is worth a visit to see the intricately patterned frescoes, ceramics, and other ornate decorations in this former summer palace.

  1. Go to Lahij

Lahij is beautiful, with cobblestone streets and stellar views of the valley. A tiny, remote town, Lahij’s mountainous location makes it a popular summer destination for people looking to escape the heat of lower elevations. Known for coppersmithing, Lahij artisans have perfected the art of handcrafting and engraving plates, cookware, water vessels, and other items. Other handmade items from tin and leather are sold in shops where you can often see two or three generations at work. There a lot of hiking trails and activities around that you can do too. You’ll find some castle ruins on the trail leading up from the nearby river and waterfall but be warned: it’s a steep 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) up and the ruins (really just a wall) are easily missed.

  1. See the Gobustan Petroglyph Reserve

The UNESCO-listed Gobustan Petroglyph Reserve is home to 6,000 rock paintings that are up to 40,000 years old. The well-preserved sketches display ancient populations traveling on reed boats, men hunting antelope and wild bulls, and women dancing. Unique to Gobustan is that the petroglyphs date from the Mesolithic Era to the Middle Ages and document life over the centuries. The area, including tombs and caves, has provided archaeological findings like jewelry and weapons that you can see in the Gobustan Museum.

  1. Visit Ateshgah

Ateshgah is a temple just outside Baku that has been used as a Hindu, Sikh, and now a Zoroastrian place of worship. Each room has panels detailing the temple’s history and the Zoroastrian religion. In the complex center is a naturally occurring, unquenchable flame representing God that has inspired pilgrims for millennia. Enclosed by stone walls in the shape of a pentagon, the fire altar is in the middle of the courtyard. About 19 miles from Baku, which has long been called the City of Fire, it’s open daily. Admission is 4 AZN.

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