Things to see and do in Azerbaijan
Attractions in Azerbaijan
Baku, Fire Temple
18km (11 miles) west of Baku city centre is Surakhani, home to the Fire Temple of Baku or Ateshgah of Baku. Built in the 17th century, it was the worship place of Zoroastrians, but was also used by Indian devotees of Shiva.
Baku is home to several excellent museums including the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum, Azerbaijan National Art Museum and National History Museum.
Azerbaijan Carpet Museum
Located in a building modelled on the shape of a rolled carpet, this museum showcases a rich collection of beautiful carpets and artifacts. If you want to purchase a beautiful Azerbaijan carpet, we recommend you to get one from the shop at the Carpet Museum and keep the certificate with you. All carpets must have a certificate stating the price and the age of the carpet. Please note that anything more than 30 years old is subject to an export tax and must be approved by the Ministry of Culture.
Azerbaijan National Art Museum
This extensive collection displays Azeri, Russian and worldwide art from prehistoric times to modern movements, housed in two adjacent buildings. The local modern art is particularly interesting.
National History Museum
Housed in an oil baron's sumptuous Belle Époque mansion in central Baku, this informative museum provides a detailed overview of Azerbaijan's history with plenty of striking exhibits from Bronze Age jewellery to Ruritanian military costumes, all with English-language explanations. The no-expense-spared interior design and plush furnishings of the old house are also of interest.
Baku, stroll along Baku Boulevard
Take a stroll along Baku's tree-lined promenade for sea breezes, manicured gardens and soothing water fountains. A Ferris wheel offers fine panoramas of the Caspian Sea, while inviting garden cafés can be found scattered along the leafy promenade. Typically, the evening is the best time to visit when locals go to walk off dinner.
Baku, the Old City (Icheri Sheher)
Explore the fabulous Içeri Seher (or Icheri Sheher), the walled old city of Baku and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The narrow streets, honey-coloured city walls, caravanserais, quaint houses and mosques provide a nostalgic glimpse of old Baku before the oil boom of the 20th century created the modern city. Stop for tea in one of many atmospheric cafes and drink in the views. Famous sights within the Old City include the Maiden Tower and Palace of the Shirvanshahs.
Climb the spiral staircases inside Maiden's Tower, which overlooks the Caspian, and marvel at the stunning 360-degree view of the city from 30m up. Informative multi-lingual touch-screen installations provide a fascinating overview of the building's history, from 500BC onwards. It was rebuilt as a fortress in the 12th century.
Palace of the Shirvanshahs
This is the largest monument in Baku's Old City and dates from the 15th century. Painstaking restoration and imaginative new displays give a flavour of the rich and cultured lifestyle of the Persian Sufi ruling dynasty - the music, the paradise gardens, the lovely art and sumptuous costumes. The upper stories were blown away by an early Russian naval bombardment in the 18th century.
Beşbarmaq dağı (Besh Barmag Mountain)
Join mystic-minded Azeris on a climb up Beşbarmaq dağı (Five Finger Mountain), which rises dramatically 520m (1,706ft) above the coast just north of Baku and is one of Azerbaijan's most holy animist sites. Rock has been worn smooth by devout kisses and Tibetan-style prayer flags festoon the bushes. Prayers are led by mullahs but the mountain was considered sacred long before the advent of Islam.
Fire Mountain (Yanar Dag)
Watch the flames dance at Fire Mountain (Yanar Dag), a 30 minutes' drive from Baku, where a 10m (33ft) wall of fire blazes day and night thanks to underground natural gas. The spectacle is more impressive after dark.
Gobustan National Park
About an hour's drive from Baku is Gobustan National Park which is famous for three things: prehistoric rock carvings, mud volcanoes and Gaval Dash (musical stone).
Prehistoric rock carvings
The area is said to have been inhabited continuously for at least 20,000 years and early inhabitants have left striking petroglyphs of giraffes, elephants, aurochs, lions, shamans and tattooed dancers. Archaeologists believe that the first humans to migrate out of Africa also stopped here. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and contains the earliest known representation of a boat.
Bubbling out of the lonely hills of Gobustan, these enchanting mud volcanoes offer the chance to witness geology in action. The mud is reputed to have therapeutic properties, but don't get too close: it is boiling and from time to time splutters out in a great ball of fire.
Gaval Dash (musical stone)
This big flat stone makes a tambourine-like sound when it is hit with an object, quite a surreal experience.
High on a hillside above Sheki, this tiny village serves up a traditional slice of Azeri life. It's also home to a charming 12th century church which captivated the late Norwegian explorer, Thor Heyerdahl, who believed the original Norse gods were Azerbaijanis who migrated to Scandinavia during the Roman period.
Shop for exquisite copper products in the Persian mountain town of Lahic, where great hiking, charming architecture and natural beauty combine for the ultimate mountain escape. Workshops, smithies and craft shops line the cobbled streets and the tourist office can help arrange homestays with local families.
Discover Shaki, one of Azerbaijan's most beautiful towns, which nestles in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains. Highlights include Khan's Palace, which is set in ornamental Persian gardens and contains stunning murals and stained glass, and the Karavansarai Hotel, whose faded charm captures the once thriving days of the Silk Road.
Sirvan National Park
Get your binoculars out at Sirvan National Park. Due south of Gobustan, this little-visited slice of coastal wilderness is well worth exploring. The birdlife is outstanding, particularly during the spring and autumn migrations, and is easily viewed from lakeside platforms. Also on display are Azerbaijan's last goitered gazelles and their antagonists: wolves. Wild boar and jungle cats are also common.
Discover the remote mountain village of Xinaliq, where you can find a unique ethnic group of proto-Caucasians who have inhabited this part of the mountains since the Bronze Age and have preserved their original language, customs and traditions. The best option to Xinaliq is to rent a car or share a jeep with others from Quba; the journey is about 1 hour and 25 minutes. Don your hiking boots as there are several great hikes around Xinaliq including the trail that connects Xinaliq and Laza.
Azerbaijan Republic Ministry of Youth, Sport & TourismAddress: 1072, Baku City, Olimpiya str. 4, Baku City,
Telephone: (12) 465 6442.