In March this year, husband and I made a plan to visit Baku the capital of Azerbaijan. As we only had 4 days in hand, Baku was the best choice as it is just 3 hours from Dubai and there is no time difference as well.
The visa procedure is simple, you don’t have to go to the embassy and can apply for it online. And within 3 working days we got our visa, it cost us 27 USD per person.
From Dubai, both Emirates and FlyDubai flies to Baku, Azerbaijan. If you’re traveling from Sharjah, Air Arabia flies to Baku. The national airline of Azerbaijan- Azerbaijan Airlines or AZAL also flies to Dubai daily. We went by FlyDubai and our return ticket per person costed us around AED 2,100.
Baku offers various kinds of accommodation from high end to mid-range and budget hotels. We stayed at the centrally located Hilton Baku. Its an ideal hotel to explore the historic city center, many tourist attraction and vibrant nightlife. There is a shopping mall directly opposite to the hotel and metro station is a short distance away.
Azerbaijan is a small country that was also a part of former Soviet Republic. It is bounded by Caspian sea and Caucasus mountains which span Asia and Europe. Its neighboring countries are Georgia, Armenia, Iran and Turkey.
Azerbaijani language is the spoken language, but people also speak Russian and English. But English is not widely spoken, we had difficulty communicating in English with restaurant staff, shop keepers, taxi drivers etc. Their currency is Azerbaijani Manat(AZN).
Baku is the capital of Azerbaijan, its a city of contrasts with a blend of old and new. Although it is a Muslim country, it is not orthodox and very modern.
April to October is the best time to travel. However its a great idea if you want to visit during winter season and go for skiing. The weather in March when we visited was 7-10 degrees, it was cold but pleasant.
We mostly used taxis to get around the city, taxis are not expensive. The public transport like buses and metro stations are equally good.
You can do sightseeing with a travel company or on your own. We hired a car for 2 days and did sightseeing on our own and through a travel company to visit sites outside of Baku. Inside Baku you can go on your own as the city is small and easily manageable.
Here is the the list of places to visit and things to do in Baku:
Baku Full Day City Tour
Discover the rich history and culture of Baku from Middle Ages to Modern Era. The tour started from our hotel and the first stop was :
- UNESCO listed Old City or Walled City and there we visited the Maiden Tower, Shirvanshahlar Palace, mosques, baths and Market Squares. We also did souvenir shopping, tried local cuisine and visited a 12th century Caravan Serai.
- The uber stylish and very European Fountain Square.
- Nizami Street which houses beautiful mansions, Musical Theatre, National Library, Opera House etc.
- Flame Towers, the tallest towers in Baku.
- Upland Park or upside hill which has Martyrs Alley, Martyrs Mosque and offers the Panoramic View of Baku.
- The modern Heydar Aliyev Center.
- The amazing Carpet Museum.
- Baku Boulevard.
- Mugham Center.
Day tour of Ateshgah and Yanar Dag
We did a half day tour to Zoroastrian temple Ateshgah which is around 30 kilometers from Baku. It is a very interesting place. A must-visit, if you ever visit Azerbaijan. The history of Ateshgah goes back to the time when Zoroastrianism was the main religion in the area.
After that we visited Yanar Dag or fire mountain. It has natural gas burning on its slope from ancient times. Only a few fire mountains exist today and most of them are located in Azerbaijan. Yay, we were lucky enough to see it.
Gobustan National Park and Mud Volcano Tour
Gobustan National Park is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Azerbaijan. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here we explored the Gobustan Museum and learnt about the history of petroglyphs. We loved the real rock paintings in the open air museum.
After Gobustan National Park, we headed towards the area where Mud Volcanos were situated. Azerbaijan holds the record for having most numbers of Mud Volcanos in the world. Honestly speaking I never knew there was something like Mud Volcano that even existed.
Over a thousand Mud Volcanos are known to exist in the world and some 400 of them are in the coastal areas of Azerbaijan. During the trip we got a chance to see active volcanos from very close distance. And it was a spectacular sight. Truly an unforgettable experience.
If you have an extra day, you can visit Shahdag National Park which is 3 hours from Baku and stay in the Shahdag Mountain Resort, it is the first and largest ski resort in Azerbaijan.
We had a wonderful time in Azerbaijan, the people are friendly and helpful. The country is beautiful with lot of history, culture and art.
The Azerbaijani cuisine is amazing, it has been influenced by Turkish, Arabic, Russian and Iranian cuisine. For authentic Azerbaijani cuisine I would like to recommend Firuze and Nargiz restaurants in Fountain Square, Baku.
I don’t remember when was the last time that I enjoyed so much on a short trip. Its a place worth visiting at least once.