Baku! Situated right on the Caspian Sea, the capital of Azerbaijan is a beautiful city with many influences from Europe and Asia. It is a flourishing city with lots to see and do.
Baku has a rich history. It was once a city on the Silk Road and has seen Persian and Russian rule. There’s also evidence of it being inhabited during the Stone Age. We were able to spend 4 days in Baku thanks to a friend’s birthday celebrations and used about 3 days to see some of the major sites.
The first place we saw was Gobustan Natural Park. Gobustan is a UNESCO site where you can see rock engravings from the Stone Age and mud volcanoes. It’s located about 60km from Baku and takes about 35min to get to the mountain. Gobustan is quite mesmerizing and before you get to the actual mountain there’s a museum to give you some history about the place as well.
Fee for entry is 4 Manats for an adult which also includes the museum entry.
After seeing the engravings we headed over to the mud volcanoes. Which was about a 20 minute drive from Gobustan. With the tour we had booked with we had to change cars since a normal sedan cannot do any off-roading. But instead of switching into a 4×4 we ended up in an old Russian taxi. Let me tell you that car is pretty durable as we were going up at a pretty steep incline to get to the top of a mountain and nothing happened!
Azerbaijan is home to about 400 mud volcanoes. Mud volcanoes are formed when there are pockets of underground gas that have found a weak spot in the ground and find a way to make it to the surface. Contrary to their name mud volcanoes aren’t actually hot but cold. Every 20 years or so they do explode when the gas underground ignites. It’s a pretty cool sight.
On the way back from Gobustan there is the Bibi-Heybat Mosque that is situated right on the edge of the Caspian Sea. It was built as a recreation of the 13th century original in the 90’s.
Within the city itself there are a number of museums and sites to see. The Old City is a must do in Baku. It’s also UNESCO listed as it has Baku’s most historic sites. These include The Palace of the Shirvan Shahs, the Maiden Tower, s few old Mosques, and ancient bathhouses. It’s been very well preserved and quite easy to walk through.
There are audio and guided tours available near the Maiden tower. Otherwise it was 2 Manat for entry into the Maiden Tower.
Another site to check out is the Flame Towers. These are a trio of skyscrapers meant to resemble flames! At night the towers are lit up with a mini light show. To get closer to the towers and see an amazing view of the city, there is the Upland Park which is accessible by the funicular or by steps. We ended up walking up since the funicular was down because of the strong winds. If lots of steps aren’t your thing then a taxi/funicular is the way to go. But getting to the top is completely worth it.
Now on to food. Azerbaijani food is really delicious and comes in large portions. Dishes we really enjoyed were Dushbere, a soup with mini lamp dumplings. Gurza, boiled dough with lamb inside (kind of like a lamb dumpling). Shakh Pilaf, lamb or chicken pilaf cooked inside a pastry.
In terms of restaurants I highly recommend Sumakh (20/22 Khojali Avenue, Baku, Azerbaijan), Nargiz (T. Aliyarbayov St., 9 | Baku Fountain Square, Baku, Azerbaijan), and Chayki (Neftchilar Ave., 24/1, Baku 1095, Azerbaijan).