Baku is the capital and largest city in Azerbaijan. The city is the most developed city in the Caucasus (including Armenia and Georgia) and the luxuriousness and skyscrapers reminds of Dubai. Here’s an amazing list of things to do in Baku – the capital city of Azerbaijan.
Where is Baku and how do I get there?
Baku is reachable by flight, rail, bus and car. When driving can cross the border of Azerbaijan through Russia, Georgia, Iran and Turkey. Buses depart from Baku International Bus Terminal to cities in Russia, Georgia and Turkey.
Old City Tour
Read a miniature book
Located in the old city of Icheri Sheher, The Museum of Miniature Books was included in the Guinness Book of Records for having the largest number of miniature books in the world. The creator of the museum, Zarifa Salahova has amassed this unique collection over the past 30 years. The museum was opened in 2002 and today they have over 6000 books from 66 countries.
Climb up the Maiden Tower
The Maiden Tower Is a unique 8-floor structure with majestic 4-5 meter thick walls built on a rocky promontory overlooking the Caspian Sea. Maiden Tower has been included into UNESCO’s World Heritage List. There is an amazing view to the city and the Caspian Sea from the top of the Tower.
See the Fire Mountain
Fire Mountain (also known as Yanar Dag), is one of the few remaining natural gas fires that burns continuously thanks to the steady seepage of gas from just beneath the surface of the earth.
Shopping in Baku
There are many bazaars (market) and shopping centers in Baku. Head to Yasil Bazaar for organic vegetables and fruit. Russia Flea Market for Soviet memorabilia, souvenirs and carpets.
Baku Carpet Museum
Open in 1967, The Carpet Museum is a treasury of Azerbaijani national culture. It demonstrated carpets in close connection with other kinds of traditional handicrafts of Azerbaijan. Its collection includes about 14 000 traditional carpets, embroideries, costumes, copper artworks, jewellery art, as well as contemporary works of glass, wood, and felt.
Go on a wine tour
Wine is produced in several regions in Azerbaijan. Prior to 20th century communist rule, Azerbaijan had a thriving wine industry that dated back to the second millennium BC. There are over 400 types of wild grapes found in the country. The wines made from grapes are called sharab, while wines from other fruits including apples, pomegranates and mulberry are called nabiz.
Flame Towers are a trio of towers in Baku. The first tower is the tallest, at 190m and a residential luxury apartment. The second building is a hotel. At 160m, The Fairmont Hotel & Resorts has 250 rooms and 33 floors. The third tower is a 140m tall office building. The aim of the buildings was to create a unique focal point on Baku’s skyline. The Towers representing flames symbolize fire as a sign of Ahura Mazdain Zoroastrianism by Azerbaijanies and Azerbaijan as a birthplace for the prophet Zoroaster.
The Heydar Aliyev Center
Designer by Iraqi-born British architect, Zaha Hadid. The center was named after Heydar Aliyev, the first secretary of Soviet Azerbaijan from 1969 to 1982, and president of Azerbaijan Republic from October 1993 to October 2003. The building serves as a temporary and permanent museums and exhibitions.
See the Mud Volcanoes
Visit Gobustan National Park and Museum to see the ancient petroglyphs to understand the ancient civilisation. Gobustan is assumed one of the cradles of civilization, as ancient petroglyphs have been identified as belonging to the 12-8th century B.C. While at the National Park, see the active (bubbling) mud volcano site.
Azerbaijan has more mud volcanoes than any other country on Earth (locals call them, “yanardagh”)
Ride a gondola around little Venice
Cruise around Baku Boulevard, a has two large and several small islands, which are connected by decorative stone bridges, and gondolas can be seen travelling in the channels full of still and clean water.
Palace of the Shirvanshahs
The palace complex was built in the period from the XIII to the XVI century. It is the former residence of the rulers of the Shirvanshahs. Inside the complex, you’ll find the palace, the courtyard of the Diwankhana, the courthouse, the Shirvanshahs’ burial vault, the palace mosque of 1441 with its minaret, the bathhouse and the mausoleum of the court scholar, Sayid Yahya Bakuvi.
Things to know before visiting Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan is located in the Caucasus region which straddles both Eastern Europe and Western Asia. Here’s a place with centuries-old traditions influenced by Persian, Turkish and Russian culture, where tea culture is a real thing and the country has active volcanoes.
Visa Requirements for Azerbaijan
South Africa and 92 other nationalities can apply for an e-Visa to visit Azerbaijan. This visa allows for a maximum of 30 days stay in the country, visitors aren’t allowed to work or study.
Azerbaijan e-Visa options: (Costs for South Africans in July 2019)
- Standard processing time –the cheapest and the most commonly used option. This is for only $45. It takes four business days to process. It is recommended that you apply 6 days before departure because while delays almost never happen, it is best to be on the safe side. The ‘2 days in advance’ rule applies to all processing times.
- Rush processing time – the next option will enable you to get your Visa within 2 business days. The processing fee is $75.
- Super Rush processing time – for emergency cases, this is the recommended option. You will receive your Azerbaijan evisa for South Africa in the next business day. However, as you can expect, this is also the most expensive option. It costs $95 as processing fee.
Language in Azerbaijan
The official language of Azerbaijan is Azerbaija, which is a dialect of Turkish. There is also a large community of Russian speakers.
Money in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan Manat (AZN) is the currency in Azerbaijan. Notes are available in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50. Coins (gopik) are available in denominations of 1, 3, 5, 10, 20 and 50. Most places outside of the capital city of Baku don’t accept cards, always carry cash.
Azerbaijan and Armenia conflict
There’s a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan and I would advise travelers wanting to visit both countries to visit Azerbaijan first then Armenia because if Immigration officers in Armenia see a stamp from Azerbaijan, you will have difficulties entering the country. Learn more about the conflict and peace negotiations HERE.
Don’t forget that accidents and mishaps are often a part of traveling abroad, and so you shouldn’t forget to cover yourself and your belongings for any eventuality. I always choose World Nomands, because you can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.