Azerbaijan is a country that's not well known, but it has much to offer the adventurous traveller. From mud volcanoes to beautiful beaches, it's a truly unforgettable destination.
The capital, Baku, is a great place to base yourself and take day trips around the country. It's also the ideal base for exploring Gobustan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can find petroglyphs and mud volcanoes.
Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, is a mix of old and new. From the UNESCO World Heritage-listed walled city of Icheri Seher to a modern building craze that has seen skyscrapers rise like flame towers, Baku embraces its past while looking to the future.
One of the best ways to learn about the history of this incredible country is to visit the Heydar Aliyev Museum. This impressive museum is packed with exhibits that tell the story of the country's president.
2. Icheri Sheher
If you’re looking for a blend of old and new, Baku’s Icheri Sheher is the place to go. It’s the oldest part of the city and is surrounded by thick fortress walls, with one side opening up to the Caspian Sea.
The Old City is filled with cobblestone streets and ramparts adorned with ancient architecture, and it’s also home to several hotels, souvenir kiosks, and museums. Take a walk around to discover this UNESCO World Heritage Site and enjoy all of its beauty and rich Azerbaijani history.
The Tower of the Maiden is another popular destination within Icheri Sheher, and it’s one of the most iconic symbols of Baku. Inside, you’ll find engaging historical exhibitions that will give you an insight into the history of this city.
3. Lake Aggol
Located in western-central Azerbaijan near the town of Agjabadi, this vast lake is surrounded by steppe and semi-desert. It formed as a result of flooding of the Kura and Araz rivers and is a haven for birds all year round.
It is home to over 140 bird species and was included on the Ramsar List of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance in 2001. Besides birds, you can also spot gazelles, wolves, foxes, wild boar, snakes and turtles here.
Despite a number of challenges, Azerbaijan is making great strides in biodiversity conservation. However, it is a challenging task due to factors such as a highly centralized government, poor infrastructure and a pervasive culture of corruption.
4. Alinja Castle
Azerbaijan, known as the Land of Fire, sits between Europe and Asia, offering travelers a mix of UNESCO-recognized historical appeal, natural beauty in spades and a dazzlingly modern capital.
The Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan (Julfa) is home to Alinja Castle, atop the mountain whose name translates to “plain land” and is a stunning example of castle architecture. The castle walls rise row after row along the slope, enclosing the top with residential and other buildings.
The medieval ruins of Alinja Castle are a great place to take in the natural surroundings and explore its history. It’s a must-visit for anyone who loves the thrill of exploring a historic structure.
5. Ashab-I Kehf Cave
One of the most charming retreats to the east of Nakhchivan City is Ashabi-Kahf Cave (meaning “Cave Masters”), a shrine with an ancient legend attached to it. It’s a sacred place that attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year.
This pilgrimage site is deeply rooted in Korani Kerim, a holy text that tells of seven young people who had escaped from their community and stayed in this cave. They were Tamlikha, Barnush, Sarnush, Maksilma, Maslina, Sazanush, and Kaftantush, and their devoted dog Gitmir.
6. Bibi-Heybat Mosque
The Bibi-Heybat Mosque is a beautiful Islamic mosque in Baku. It was built in the 13th century and has two minarets and three domes.
The mosque is a significant part of the city’s history. It was destroyed by the Bolsheviks in 1936, but was restored years later.
Today, the Bibi-Heybat Mosque is one of the most important mosques in Azerbaijan. It features a blend of Islamic and Shirvan style architecture.
The mosque is also famous for its tomb of Ukeyma Khanum, a descendant of Prophet Muhammad. This place of worship is believed to bring fertility to infertile women who come here and pray.
7. Yanar Dag
If you're a fan of nature, this is one sight you don't want to miss. Located in the mountains near Baku, Yanar Dag (literally 'burning mountain') is home to a natural gas fire that burns continuously for over 2000 years.
The phenomenon is unique in the world. It is a testament to the enormous natural gas reserves that exist beneath Azerbaijan's soil.
It was first mentioned by world traveller Marco Polo in the 13th century and is one of the most famous natural fires in the region. It is a stunning sight to behold, especially at night when the flames reach up to 10 metres into the sky.