The popular Russian travel portal Tutu.ru offered its readers ideas for a short but informative holiday in Azerbaijan. The author of the review, traveler and photographer Svetlana Puzanskaya told the readers of the site how best to plan a trip to Azerbaijan for 5 days.
“Azerbaijan will pleasantly surprise you. This country combines the oriental flavor of small cities and the European gloss of Baku, the author claims.
Day 1: Baku Old city
First of all, go for a walk through the Old Town. Visit the Maiden’s Tower. The purpose of this building is still a mystery. Inside the tower is a museum, and on the roof – an observation deck.
The atmosphere of old Baku can be felt just by walking through the streets, where merchants offer you to buy their goods from all sides. Local souvenirs definitely deserve attention: carpets with fancy ornaments, porcelain and metal utensils, colorful scarves. If you decide to buy, be sure to bargain, here it is accepted.
Get away from the bustling tourist streets into the city. It is very quiet here, so do not rush to click the shutter of the camera – just go and watch how the locals live.
Do not rush to go to lunch in the first cafe. As a rule, tasty and inexpensive food can be found where local people eat. In the Xezer restaurant you can have a hearty lunch for only 15 manats for two (about $ 9).
In the afternoon, take the funicular to the Mountain Park. From the height of the park there are stunning views of Baku.
End the day with the Boulevard promenade. Baku at night is a stunningly beautiful sight. Take a ride on the Ferris wheel (5 manats – about 3 dollars) to see the lights of the city from a bird’s eye view.
Day 2. Baku
Spend the next day in the modern part of Baku.
Surely you saw the building of the Heydar Aliyev Center in photographs. Live it is even more impressive. Go around to see the whole building. The building houses the Heydar Aliyev Museum, exhibitions, a congress hall, offices and cafes.
The museum exposition will please not everyone: the exhibition of dolls, models of buildings in miniature, the president’s car and multimedia panels with a video series about the history of the country. But to visit the inside is definitely worth at least to see the structure with an almost complete absence of right angles.
Walk to the Green Market. Here you will find the famous Baku tomatoes, seasonal fruits, berries, greens. Take Azerbaijani tea and oriental sweets for souvenirs. And again, do not forget to bargain.
You can finish the day at the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum. Here you will learn many new things not only about carpets, but also about the history of the country as a whole. Be sure to take a tour (8 manats – about $ 5) or audio guide (3 manats – about 2 dollars). Otherwise, you simply cannot read the signs and symbols hidden in the carpet patterns.
Day 3: Gobustan and mud volcanoes
Gobustan National Park is an archaeological reserve from the UNESCO World Heritage List. There were found unique rock petroglyphs and the sites of ancient people. The reserve is located 60 km from Baku.
You can take a tour or go on your own. Bus number 195 goes from Baku to Gobustan village. Then you can either walk 6 km on foot or take a taxi.
“We chose an organized tour. First, it is impossible to read petroglyphs without having sufficient knowledge in the field of history and archeology. We were lucky with the guide, he told about the petroglyphs, Gobustan and the history of Azerbaijan as a whole. The tour cost 80 manats (about $ 50) per person, and it was worth it. Secondly, all the logistics had been thought out for us in advance, we moved on a comfortable mini bus, lunch was also included in the tour. In one day of the excursion we visited not only Gobustan and volcanoes, but also the burning Mount Yanardag and other objects”.
Day 4. Beaches
After three days of sightseeing, it’s time to take a break and relax on the Caspian Sea. On the proven beaches where Baku residents rest themselves.
The village of Bilgah, the beach in the territory of the Bilgah Beach Hotel. Great beach with a fine entry into the water, ideal for family holidays. There is a whole beach infrastructure. “In May we went to the territory completely free of charge, but this may change during the season.”
How to get there: from Ulduz metro station by bus 171 or 172.
The village of Shikhovo, Eldorado Beach. Admission is free, sunbeds and umbrellas – 10 manats (about $ 6). “Iceberg” beach and water park. Entry – 12 manats (about 7 dollars). The price includes the use of the water park and the entire infrastructure of the beach.
How to get there: by bus 125 from Baku Central station. On the way – about 40 minutes.
After a day at the beach, return to Baku. For the final dinner in the capital, the restaurant Firuze is perfect. You will feel oriental flavor in every detail: delicious food, authentic interior, etc.
Day 5. Sheki
You looked Absheron peninsula, it’s time to see the mountainous Azerbaijan. To do this, go to Sheki – the ancient city in the east of the country, the applicant for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List. For Sheki, one day is enough, but if you like hiking in the mountains, it is worth staying for another day or two.
How to get there: there are buses from Baku, but it is most convenient to travel by night train. Buy a ticket to train number 664. Departure from Baku at 23:20, arrival in Sheki at 7:12.
The railway station is located about 20 km from Sheki, so you need to take a taxi. Adequate cost per passenger is 4 manats (about 2.5 dollars).
Be sure to go to the Palace of Sheki Khans – one of the best examples of palace architecture of the XVIII century in the Caucasus. Visit the Caravanserai – a complex where the caravans of the Great Silk Road used to stay for the night. Now in this building the hotel also works. Take a walk through the cobbled streets of the city. And, of course, try the famous Sheki baklava (it is also called halva). Sheki is surrounded by mountains: hiking enthusiasts will find routes of varying complexity and duration.
“Azerbaijanis are very open people and are always happy to help guests. In Baku, a passer-by gave us a sudden tour of the city, told about the history of the country and treated the most delicious shawarma in the city (Igor, if you read this, thanks again!).”
Mostly national cuisine consists of meat dishes, but vegetarians will not go hungry. Be sure to try dolma in grape leaves, saj with meat, vegetables, mushrooms (saj – a special kind of pan); bozbash (stew of lamb and vegetables), Azerbaijani plov, qutab with meat, greens or cheese. And, of course, kebab. And for tea, order Azerbaijani sweets – Baku and Sheki baklava.