This small country located in the southern part of the Caucasus doesn’t get a lot of visitors but the ones that do visit are left in awe from what all the country has to offer. You can find literally anything in Azerbaijan, from majestic mountains and lush nature through hundreds of kilometers of coastline and wildlife to semi-arid plains and historic towns. To add to this, Azerbaijan’s unique location brings the best from both, the East and the West and even the country’s name sounds very exotic. Even though it’s a difficult task, in this article, we’ll share some of the best places to visit in Azerbaijan.
A few things to know before visiting Azerbaijan
The whole country of Azerbaijan is a chaotic mix of Sovietism and the Middle East. Azerbaijani people are closest to Turkish and Iranian (we might even say they’re a mix of the two). They speak a language that’s very similar to Turkish, drink tea and have very similar customs to Iranian with one exception. They drink their tea with vodka and the country is ruled in a Putin-like manner by the Aliyev family since 1993.
Azerbaijan covers a territory of 86,600 square kilometers. The population is almost 10 million people, out of which one quarter (2.3 million) leave in the capital Baku. More than 95% of the people living in Azerbaijan are Muslim with most of them following Shia Islam. However, don’t let this fool you; Azerbaijan is a secular country. In fact, it’s the first Muslim country to publicly declare itself as a secular country (1918).
If you’re wondering about the 5% of Azerbaijan’s non-Muslim population, most of them live in the Nagorno-Karabakh. Even though part of Azerbaijan, this is an autonomous region populated by Catholic Armenians and if you want to visit Nagorno-Karabakh, you might have issues going to different parts of the country.
Two-thirds of Azerbaijan’s territory is rich in oil and natural gas which are the main drivers for the fast-growing economy. The currency used in Azerbaijan is Manat (1 Euro= 2 Manat). The country has six international airports but more often than not, the most feasible option is to fly to the capital, Baku which is where we start our list!
1. Baku, the Bustling Capital
Starting off this list of places to visit in Azerbaijan, we have Baku; probably one of the most beautiful cities in the Caucasus and one of the most important historic centers in the region. It’s a city of contrasts dotted with beautiful Islamic architecture and beautiful European facades in the Old Town. It’s a city with respect for its people’s traditions but also a city that has adopted the modern lifestyle as well. The city’s most bustling area is Baku Boulevard, the longest promenade in Azerbaijan with beautiful views of the surrounding hills and the Caspian Sea.
To make things even more interesting, the capital is located on the Absheron Peninsula which is the aridest part of Azerbaijan but since it’s a peninsula, you will find an amazing nature and beautiful beaches on a short ride away from Baku.
That’s why we’ll start this list of the best places to visit in Azerbaijan with places located on the Peninsula in relative proximity to the capital. We’ll continue with…
2. Icheri Seher, Baku’s Old City
Technically, Icheri Seher or ‘Old City’ is a part of Baku but we have to mention it separately because Old City’s appearance is very different from the modern city of Baku. Icheri Seher is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you’ll find some of the most breath-taking architectural marbles in Azerbaijan.
Here, you can see important historical sites such as the legendary Maiden Tower that was a part of the ancient walled city of Baku and Shirvanshah’s Palace, one of the most beautiful palaces that were ever built in this part of the world but also a lot of ancient pagan temples, tombs, some of the oldest mosques in Baku, and a lot of charming artisan shops that will make you feel like you went back to the Middle Ages.
Without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places to visit in Azerbaijan.
3. Mud Volcanoes
You can find a lot of mud volcanoes in and around Baku and it’s one of the most bizarre natural phenomena in this part of the world. These mineral-concentrated volcanoes are located in the desert area of the capital and are known for their healing properties. In fact, Azerbaijan is the country with most mud volcanoes in the whole world; around 400 of the world’s 1,100 mud volcanoes can be found in Azerbaijan. Most of them are located in the desert area of Baku and along the Caspian Sea coastline.
Fun Fact: According to NASA’s geologists, mud volcanoes in Azerbaijan have a surprisingly similar texture to the uplands of Mars!
And speaking of unusual sights and places to visit in Azerbaijan, did you ever hear about…
4. Yanar Dag, the Burning ‘Fire Wall’
Yanar Dag is the main reason why Azerbaijan has the nickname ‘The Land of Fire’. I guarantee, you’ve never seen anything like it except maybe the Darvaza gas crater in Turkmenistan. Yanar Dag is basically a 10-meters long wall of fire that has continuously been burning for years. Most probably, the fire was caused by the vast gas reserves of the peninsula.
It’s because of fires like this that Azerbaijan was called ‘the Land of Fire’ and this probably played a major role in the creation of Zoroastrianism, a religion that’s said to have influenced the creation of Judaism, and subsequently all other major religions.
If this makes you curious to learn more about one of the world’s oldest religions, you should definitely visit.
5. Ateshgah, the Temple of Fire
Back in the old days, the burning gas outlets like Yanar Dag were believed to contain evidence of a divine being. As a result, a lot of ancient temples were built near these sites. One of these temples is Ateshgah also known as the ‘Temple of Fire’.
The temple has a hexagonal shape with a fire altar in the center. Originally, there were natural gases that kept the fire going but since most of the gas in the area has been exhausted, the fire is produced via gas pipeline from the capital.
If you’re looking for a great tour that covers the Fire Wall and Ateshgah, check out this affordable day-trip tour from Baku.
Speaking of places to visit in the Absheron Peninsula of Azerbaijan, we just have to mention Mardakan. This small town dates back to the 13th century and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in Azerbaijan. The town is also home to a beautiful Medieval castle that might be a bit difficult to find but it’s certainly worth the detour.
Some other places to visit include the Mir Movsun Agha Shrine and the Hassan Pir Shrine where you can see priests smashing bottles on pilgrims’ heads to ‘cure the nervousness of their spirit’. Visiting Mardakan is a great day-trip from Baku and a nice opportunity to learn about the unique local culture.
7. Absheron National Park
Finally, no list of places to visit in Azerbaijan can be complete without Absheron National Park. The park that’s located just 60 kilometers south of Baku features more than 2,000 acres of arid plains and rolling sand dunes against the blue waters of the Caspian Sea.
Here, you can find more than 50 different species that call this unique terrain their home, including gazelles, jackals, badgers, comb jellyfish, and Caspian Seal.
Now that we covered the most beautiful places on the Absheron Peninsula, we’ll give you a few ideas for some nice day trips northwest of Baku.
With the majestic Caucasus Mountains to the west and the Caspian Sea to the east, Khachmaz is one of the most beautiful places in Azerbaijan. It’s off the beaten track, a lot of tourists don’t know about it (yet), and hence, it’s a great place to unwind and enjoy nature. However, nature isn’t everything Khachmaz has to offer.
The city is also home to several important and interesting museums, the Bronze Age archaeological site of Sarkartapa, the ancient fortress of Khudat, and Bostanly; one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the Caucasus.
Quba is an important historical city that was once home to the Quba Khanate. The city is located on the bank of the Kudyal river close to the Russian border and today, it’s one of the best places to visit in Azerbaijan because it’s a great starting point for exploring the territory of the former Quba Khanate that includes several other important towns and villages.
Today, Quba is the center of Azerbaijan’s carpet weaving industry, so if you’re looking for a unique traditional souvenir from Azerbaijan, you should definitely visit some of the local carpet shops. If you visit, I also suggest you check out Juma Mosque (a beautiful sample of Quba-style mosque), the old Jewish neighborhood, and the old Chuhur hamam.
If you want to experience the best of Azerbaijan’s countryside, a trip to the remote village of Khinaliq is a must. Sitting at 2,350 meters above sea level, this is Azerbaijan’s highest settlement where you can get a glimpse of ‘the real Azerbaijan’. There aren’t any hotels or tourist facilities around and only 1-2 tours per day come to this mountainesque town, giving Khinaliq a feeling of an untouched pristine destination.
Due to the high altitude, the village is relatively isolated and the 2,000-or-so people who live here speak Khinalug, a language that’s quite different from Azerbaijani that’s on UNESCO’s list of endangered languages. The local architecture is also quite unique as well with cobblestone houses that, from far away, look like they’re glued on top of each other.
As you might expect, the roads that lead to the village aren’t very good and I wouldn’t recommend taking a day trip from Baku because you’ll lose most of the day on the road. Instead visit Khachmaz, Quba or both before coming to Khinaliq and try to spend at least one night in this isolated yet charming mountain town.
If you’re planning to visit the northeast part of Azerbaijan, note that there aren’t a lot of places you can go from here. The region is mountainesque and if you want to visit Khachmaz, Quba or Khinaliq, you would have to go back to Baku if you want to travel to the central or southern part of Azerbaijan.
Lahic is a tiny village on the southern slopes of Greater Caucasus famous for its authentic handicraft traditions, particularly related to copper. During Medieval times, Lahic was one of the most important centers of craftmanship in Euro-Asia. Locals used to produce almost everything, from jewelry and carpets to paintings, iron and steel products, and even shoes.
Today, this village has barely 800 people but you can still see a lot of interesting handcrafts in some of the local museums. If you’re into handcrafts and want to bring some cool souvenirs from your trip, this is one of the places in Azerbaijan you just have to visit.
Qabala or Gebele is the former capital of the Albanian Kingdom (in the Caucasus, not to be confused with the country Albania on the Balkan Peninsula). The area surrounding the city has numerous archaeological sites, some of which date back to 2,500 years ago. You can also explore the ancient capital’s ruins, go skiing during winters, chase waterfalls, and explore the beautiful canyons surrounding the city.
Sheki was another important city of the ancient Albanian Kingdom and a city with a rich history. For over a thousand of years, the city’s silk production made Sheki an important part of the old Silk Road but there are evidence of life on today’s territory of Sheki that dates back to 2,700 years ago.
Today, this is one of the biggest cities in Azerbaijan with numerous important Medieval mosques, castles, and one of the most beautiful medieval palaces in Azerbaijan; the Palace of Sheki Khans.
If you like history and are looking for places to visit in Azerbaijan, you should definitely plan a trip to Qax. Qax is home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations. The territory on which the city is located has been inhabited since the Eneolithic era and according to several historical sources, it was also a part of the ancient Scythian Kingdom.
And even though the city has only 12,000 residents today, it’s arguably the most important historical city in Azerbaijan. While you’re around, also check out Ikisu Village (the former center of the sultanate), Iceri Bazaar, and Qum Village.
If you’re looking for some unusual things to do in Azerbaijan, you’ll probably like the idea of a trip to Naftalan. Interestingly, the city got its name from the type of grade oil (Naftalan) that’s extracted in the area in and surrounding the city. In fact, Naftalan is the center of Azerbaijan’s naftalan industry. In addition to this, the city is also famous for the grade oil medical treatment industry; a lot of people believe that crude oil extracted in this region has certain healing properties. You can even find a lot of spas in Naftalan that offer oil-based remedies that can help you ease or heal certain medical conditions.
I know it might sound a bit funny but Ganja is actually the country’s second-largest city and one of the most popular places to visit in Azerbaijan. Moreover, Ganja also has a rich cultural and historical heritage and is filled with a lot of interesting things to do.
Furthermore, you can also check out the local vineyards for some of the finest wine in Azerbaijan, the picturesque forests surrounding the city, the numerous mineral springs and resorts, and some of the most visited monuments in Azerbaijan. Ganja is home to the Nizami Mausoleum, Ganja’s Ancient Gates, Javad Khan’s tomb, the popular Chokak Hamam, and the colorful Imamzadeh- one of the most beautiful mosques in EuroAsia.
17. Lake Goygol
As we mentioned above, the area surrounding the city of Ganja is filled with stunning nature and beautiful lakes. In this area, you can find a total of 19 lakes with eight of them sitting at an altitude of more than 1,500 meters. The most beautiful one of them all is without a doubt Lake Goygol.
The lake’s name translates to ‘blue lake’ and it’s one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen (and I’ve seen many). A lot of people who visit Azerbaijan still don’t know about it and if I were you, I would visit before it becomes a major tourist attraction. It’s a perfect choice for a day trip from Ganja.
18. Goyazan Mountain
Around 170 kilometers northwest of Lake Goygol, you’ll find a haven for mountain lovers and hiking enthusiasts. Goyazan might not be the highest mountain but it will show you landscapes that will surely take your breath away. The mountain stands against a flat background of ridiculously-beautiful rolling meadows and plains that make Goyazan one of the most unique and beautiful sights in Azerbaijan.
If you’re like me and like to get off the beaten track, I suggest you visit the autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan. This part of Azerbaijan is basically a landlocked exclave within Armenia’s borders that borders Turkey and Iran and as such, this region is geographically distinct from the rest of Azerbaijan. The only way to get from Baku to Nakhchivan is by flight because the land borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan are closed (the two countries have a lot of disagreements).
However, don’t worry, visiting Nakhchivan is totally worth it. The region is home to some of the most famous Islamic funerary mausoleums in Azerbaijan with Momina Khan being the most famous one. And if you’re already here, you should spend at least a few days here because you can’t go back to Azerbaijan by road (unless you go through Iran).
Furthermore, you can trek Mount Duzdag and see the gorgeous Lake Batabat near the Armenian border. However, if you plan to get around, you would have to either rent a car or hire a driver but both options aren’t very expensive; Azerbaijan has an abundance of oil and therefore, the price of gas is ridiculously cheap.
20. The Caspian Sea
The Caspian Sea or Lake is the largest inland body of water in the world. This means that it’s surrounded by land from all sides by Azerbaijan, Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan. It’s often referred to as a lake because of this reason, but a lot of scientists call it ‘sea’ because of its saline water.
Whatever the case, the Caspian Coast of Azerbaijan is filled with beautiful beaches and resort towns. The two most famous coastal towns of Azerbaijan are Astara and Lankaran which are included in this list of the best places to visit in Azerbaijan. However, if you’re a beach lover and have enough time, we encourage you to visit more coastal towns.
This is the southernmost city in Azerbaijan where you can experience a completely different side of Azerbaijan. Astara is a beach resort town with a subtropical climate that sits on the border with Iran. Literally sits on the border; the city of Astara in Azerbaijan is only a short walk away from the city of Astara in Iran. The beautiful beaches are surrounded by lush forests and green rainforests with an abundance of wildlife including the very rare Caucasus leopard. If you visit Hirkan National Park within the city’s borders, you might even get the chance to see one.
Lankaran is Azerbaijan’s subtropical paradise and a real treat for the eye. This beautiful beach resort town is surrounded by towering mountains and beautiful landscapes. This means that even the scorching hot summers aren’t that hot because of the abundant greenery that surrounds the city. However, nature isn’t everything Lankaran has to offer. It’s one of the 10 largest cities in Azerbaijan and home to some important historical sites such as Lankaran Fortress and the Kichik-Bazar Mosque.
Additionally, Lankaran is a great spot for exploring Azerbaijan’s natural park. Gobustan is only 100 kilometers away, Shirivan is 150 kilometers away, and Agh Gol is around 200 kilometers away.
23. Gobustan National Park
Located halfway between Baku and Lankaran, Gobustan is one of the most popular national parks in Azerbaijan. And there’s certainly a good reason for that. This national park is an otherworldly mix of mud volcanoes, scenic boulders, and even ancient cave carvings and ancient tombs, some of which date back to 40,000 years ago. This is the main reason why the park is a part of UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
If you’re looking for a tour, check out this affordable one-day trip from Baku to Gobustan National Park.
24. Shirivan National Park
Shirvan National Park is a large, semi-desert park that consists of dunes, forests, wildlife, and a short stretch of coastline. The park has a large population of jungle cats, gazelles, and turtles but you can also find more than 200 species of bird inside the park, including 32 very rare ones. Additionally, the park has some tourist facilities, including bungalows in the forest and a lot of camping properties. So, if you like camping or staying in the woods, this is one of the best places to visit in Azerbaijan.
25. Ag-Gel National Park
This park is home to Lake Aggol, the second largest lake in Azerbaijan. Ag-Gel is dominated by arid landscapes but there are a lot of places, especially near the lake where you can find hundreds of migratory birds. This makes Ag-Gel arguably the best bird-watching spot in the whole country. If you’re a fan of nature and you love nature, bird-watching, remote places, and scenic views, you should definitely visit this national park.
In the end, after covering the best places to visit in Azerbaijan, we’ll help you plan your itinerary. If you want to visit all 25 places on this list, you would need at least 3 weeks if not more. However, we know that not everyone has this much time when traveling. That’s why we will divide this Azerbaijan itinerary into regions to help you plan your trip more efficiently.
Best Places to visit in Azerbaijan’s Absheron Peninsula
In our opinion, 4-5 days should be enough to explore the Azerbaijani Capital and its surroundings. There’s a lot to see in this part of Azerbaijan.
Reaching Baku and exploring the modern city of Baku.
Exploring Baku Old City and its UNESCO Heritage Sites.
Take a day trip from Baku to Mardakan and also check out the Mud Volcanoes and Yanar Dag along the way.
Visit the iconic Ateshgah Temple at the outskirts of Baku and explore the natural beauty of Absheron National Park.
Best Places to visit in Northwestern Azerbaijan
If you’re a mountain lover, you just have to visit this part of Azerbaijan. In my opinion, this is the most underrated part of the country. However, if you want to skip it, you can start exploring the north and central part of Azerbaijan and head to Lahic or Ganja.
Drive from Baku to Khachmaz and spend at least a day here.
Drive from Khachmaz to Quba and explore this historical city.
Visit Khinaliq, the most isolated village in Azerbaijan, mingle with locals and feast your eyes on the mesmerizing mountain landscapes.
Drive back to Baku. This will take time but you should still have enough time to reach Lahic from Baku on the same day. In Azerbaijan, all roads really do lead to Baku…
Best Places to visit in Northern Azerbaijan
Explore the historical sites of Lahic and shop for some beautiful authentic souvenirs. Stay for the night and drive to Qabala in the morning.
Visit the numerous historical sites of the former ancient capital and enjoy the beautiful nature surrounding the city. It’s a good idea to stay for the night and take a short drive to Sheki in the morning.
Go sightseeing in Sheki, one of the most important cities of the ancient Albanian Kingdom. Spend the night in Sheki and take a day trip to Qax in the morning.
Spend a few hours in the town of Qax. Explore the archaeological sites and see some of the city’s landmarks. Try to leave around the afternoon so that you can reach Naftalan before nightfall.
Best Places to visit in Central Azerbaijan
Visit Naftalan, the center of Azerbaijan’s Naftalan industry and see how it’s like to have a grade oil medical treatment. Stay for a night and relax in some of the city’s many resorts and drive to Ganja in the morning.
Explore Azerbaijan’s second-largest city. If you have the time, I suggest spending at least three days here because the nature surrounding the city is just amazing. Visit the city’s main landmarks, stay for the night and take a day trip to Lake Goygol.
You have two options for this. Either take a day trip from Ganja to Lake Goygol and drive back to Ganja or visit Lake Goygol and try to find accommodation in some of the villages surrounding the city and head to Goyazan mountain in the morning.
Explore the gorgeous Goyazan Mountain and drive back to Ganja. You can stay for one more night or get an overnight bus to Lankaran.
Best places to visit in Southern Azerbaijan
Unwind in Lankaran, Azerbaijan’s most famous coastal resort. You’ll probably have to spend a few days here because it’s a great starting point for exploring the Caspian Coast of Azerbaijan but also there are three national parks that are just a short ride away. In addition to this, the city has a lot of important historical landmarks.
Take a day trip to the coastal town of Astana and relax at the beach. The distance between the two cities is only 38 kilometers so going and coming back shouldn’t be difficult.
Finally, if you love nature, you can devote the next three days to taking day trips to some of Azerbaijan’s most beautiful national parks- Gobustan, Shirivan, and Ag-Gel.
Driving from Lankaran back to the capital which is probably where your flight back will be.
The shortest road leading to Nakhchivan passes through Armenia, but as I said, the borders between the two countries are closed. This limits the options for visiting Nakhchivan to taking a flight from Baku or Ganja or driving to Iran through the Goyazan Mountain. The journey lasts for 10 hours but you would have to cross the Iranian border. So, the more feasible option is to drive back to Ganja (2 hours from Goyazan to Ganja) and take a flight to Azerbaijan’s remote exclave.
What about the visa?
Whether you are planning a trip to this country for business or vacation, you need a valid visa for visiting and staying in Azerbaijan. Thanks to online visa services, the process of application and approval is quick and easy in comparison to manual procedures.
What are the Documents Needed for Visa Application?
According to the visa process in Azerbaijan, citizens from 95 countries can apply for a visa with their passport only. However, if you do not belong to any of these 95 nations, you need to provide some other travel document numbers as well. When making an online application, put these documents together, and scan them for easy upload. The documents include:
- A scanned digital copy of your passport, no matter if you are eligible for a visa upon entry. The passport must be officially valid for a minimum time of three more months after the expiry of your visa
- Your debit card, credit card, or a PayPal account to pay visa fees
- Your email address where you will receive your Azerbaijan e-visa after approval
- Passport size photo against a white background taken recently
- Confirmed flight tickets and hotel reservation details
If your stay in the country exceeds ten days, you have to seek registration at the state migration service in Azerbaijan. Since the process is online, it doesn’t take much time for your visa to arrive at your home.
The Tourist e-Visa System in Azerbaijan
The Republic of Azerbaijan initiated the process of the e-visa system in 2013 to allow online authorization for foreign nationals visiting and traveling in the country. This e-visa is allowed for 90 days, while the maximum stay permit is for 30 days per entry.
The conditions under this visa also include the following:
- It is a single entry visa to visit and exit Azerbaijan once only
- It takes 1-3 business days to process the visa application
- The applicants can apply for a visa only when they are outside Azerbaijan
- You need to print one copy of e-visa for arrival in the country and present the visa at border control checkpoint as well
- Keep the visa with you throughout your stay
The Process to Apply for Azerbaijan Visa Online
There is a simple method to apply for the Azerbaijan visa through online portals. Firstly, you need to check if you require a visa to visit the country or if you can obtain a visa on arrival.
The next step is to provide complete and accurate information in the online application form. It includes generic details like name, passport information, address, etc. At this level, you can also choose the processing time before proceeding with the payment process.
After making the payment, submit your application and wait for your e-visa to arrive at your email inbox. Make sure that the details provided on the online application form exactly match the information on your passport and you’re good to go.
Helpful resources for visiting Azerbaijan
For the cheapest flights to Baku, check out Qatar Airways’ special deals.
If you want to rent a car in Azerbaijan, use this link to compare prices from all local car rental companies and choose the best offer.
For some interesting tours in Azerbaijan, get the best deals from local guides on GetYourGuide.
And last but not least, don’t forget about travel insurance. Personally, I always choose World Nomads. They might be more expensive than most other insurance companies but they cover literally anything that can happen to you on the road!
Finally, it’s your turn; did you ever visit this amazing country? Did you like this list of the best places to visit in Azerbaijan? Which one was your favorite? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!
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