Flights to Baku
Currency in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan’s manat (AZN1) is denoted locally by a special 'M' that looks like a euro symbol rotated through 90 degrees. A manat is divided into 100 qəpiq (100q). Azerbaijani manat is the only currency that is being used in Azerbaijan. Therefore, you have to exchange your money upon or before arrival either in the airport, train station or in the exchange offices and banks. Most exchange offices accept Euro, British Pound, Turkish Lira, Russian Ruble, and many other currencies.
Visa to Azerbaijan
According to the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan “On exit from, entry into the country, and passports”, foreign nationals and stateless persons (hereinafter referred to as “foreigners”) may come to the Republic of Azerbaijan with their passports on the basis of visas issued in accordance with international agreements, provided that they enter the country through border checkpoints. For citizens of certain countries, there is a visa-free procedure of travel to the Republic of Azerbaijan, determined in accordance with interstate agreements, entered into force by the Republic of Azerbaijan.
To obtain a visa, the following documents are required:
- application form
- 2 color photos (3×4 cm on a white background)
- Passport of a foreigner or relevant ID document of a stateless person
- Invitation to the receiving party or, in the case of a foreigner applying for a visa for tourism purposes, a tourist voucher or other information confirming the tourist’s nature of the visit
- Receipt confirming payment of the state dutyA visa is not issued if the validity of a foreigner’s passport or a stateless person’s relevant ID document expires in less than three months.
Best Time to Visit Baku
Baku experiences a steppe climate characterized by warm summers and mild winters. Baku is generally a dry city while the months from October to December being the wettest months of the year. The summer lasts from June to September, whereas the winter season is at its peak from November to March. Snowfall occurs heavily in January. The busiest season in Baku is during the summer so expect hotel and rental rates to surge during this period. We recommend traveling to Baku in September when temperatures are still hot but the hotels are a lot cheaper. Temperatures hover in the low 80s, just a bit cooler than the average 90°F you would experience during peak season. Hence, this is the best time to avoid the crowd or make a budget-friendly trip to Baku.
Why is Azerbaijan Called ‘The Land of Fire’?
Look at Azerbaijan’s state emblem and you’ll see a red flame as the centerpiece. Walk through Baku and observe the city’s focal point, the Flame Towers, dominating the skyline. Azerbaijan has a close relationship with fire, earning the nickname as 'The Land of Fire’. Here’s why. Azerbaijan was a mysterious place for the ancients. Flames often burst from the mountains and sea. Imagine what the people thought back then when most worshipped the natural elements of earth, fire, air, and water. Zoroastrianism, once one of the largest religions in the world and believed to have influenced the birth of Judaism, was born. The early Zoroastrians placed great importance on fire, which they believed represented the light of wisdom. Ateshgah, near Baku, became a central worshipping and pilgrimage site until the Arabs brought Islam in the 10th century. Most Zoroastrians then fled Iran and Azerbaijan to Northern India.
Baku and Beyond
Despite most people never dreaming of traveling to this part of the world, Azerbaijan provides those who do with a fulfilling adventure. Thousands of years long heritage beautifully combined with deeply-rooted traditions. While Baku features the medieval Icheri Sheher with the mysterious Maiden Tower forms its focal point, a late 19th-century Inner City with architectural styles from the Russian Empire and a modern skyline complete the layered appearance of the city. Highlights include Bake Boulevard hugging the Caspian Sea, Flame Towers and the shopping district along Nizami Street. Not only will visitors find a selection of hotels to suit any budget but a wide variety of restaurants, bars, and cafés. However, a trip to Azerbaijan is incomplete without true exploration of its diversity in landscapes, culture, wildlife, and experiences. Here is how we suggest you expand your experience beyond Baku:
ShekiVisiting one of the Caucasus’s oldest settlements ranks among the best places to see in Azerbaijan. With a population of just 60,000 at the foot of the Greater Caucasus Mountains, the humble impression outsiders get is somewhat deceptive. For millennia, Sheki’s silk transformed the small town into a major post on the Silk Road. Traders from east and west converged here with many sleeping in the town’s caravanserai. Flash forward and find the Palace of the Sheki Khans from the 18th-century, castles and historical mosques. Head away from Sheki and find rivers, waterfalls, and gorges along with several opportunities to hike in the mountains.
Another hotspot for history connoisseurs: Shamakhi. Boasting a history of two and a half millennia and housing the former Shirvan Empire’s capital, the small town is worth the two-hour drive from Baku. Medieval archaeological ruins and the crumbling Gulistan Fortress that dates back almost a thousand years make interesting sites. The region is historically a hotspot for carpet weaving as well as being the birthplace of several Azeri poets.
The birthplace of famous 12th-century poet, Nizami Ganjavi, attracts relatively few tourists compared to Baku. But make the 370-kilometers trip journey from the capital, taking approximately four and a half hours, to experience this historical city. A rich history dating back to the 6th-century along with ancient mosques, caravanserai, churches and a house constructed from bottles awaits to be unraveled.
Anyone looking to experience pristine landscapes, ancient mountain villages and immerse themselves in Caucasus culture should consider Quba. The cultural center located 170 kilometers from Baku in the northeast tends to be included in the top places to visit in Azerbaijan. Sat at 600 meters above sea level on the slopes of the Shahdag Mountain, the region has crisp and fresh air while oozing with culture. Natural beauty in the Greater Caucasus Mountains landscapes, Tenghi Canyon and waterfalls are just a few of the highlights.
The mountain villages
Head to the opposite side of the Qudailchay River traversing Quba and stroll through Qirmizi Qesebe, also known as the Red Town. This 2,500-year-old settlement houses a community of mountain Jews living in an enclave said to be the largest all-Jewish settlement outside of Israel. Other near villages include the remote Khinalug, Qusar, Lahij, and Saribash.
A short drive from Ganja brings visitors to arguably the best place to visit in Azerbaijan for natural beauty. Lake Goygol or ‘Blue Lake’ at 1,500 meters features deep blue water against dense forest in the Murovdag foothills. Formed after a 12th-century earthquake, the lake is often one of the most popular day trips from Ganja. Driving through the mountains should be savored too and not just for the landscapes. The region once housed a German community before falling victim to Soviet deportation. A hint of their legacy and influence lingers in some of the villages.
The Caucasus Mountains
Two mountain ranges stretching from the Caspian to the Black Sea and splitting Azerbaijan and Armenia, form the Greater and Lesser Caucasus Mountains. According to experts, the mountains are some of the most culturally and linguistically diverse regions on the planet. Various ethnic groups and languages different from Azeriare found in these isolated communities contributing to their diversity. Hiking through the uncharted wilderness and following the trails on the ambitious Transcaucasian Trail are highlights.
Heading south from Baku along the Caspian Sea towards Iran reveals the sleepy resort town of Lankaran. With Neolithic origins and a long stretch of coastline, Lankaran is one of the local’s favorite places to visit in Azerbaijan. Stroll through the town and visit the Lighthouse, Lankaran Fortress, Heydar Aliyev Memorial Park and the Old Prison. Beach lovers are recommended to head a few kilometers south to Kanarmesha while fans of the outdoors can take a day trip to the Ghizil-Agaj State Reserve. The second houses more than 200 species of birds, wolves, and boars.
Day Trips from Baku
Azerbaijan’s capital has a long promenade along the Caspian Sea, a historical core and modern shopping districts. More intriguing attractions including mud volcanoes, fire temples, and 40,000-year-old rock art can be experienced in a day trip from Baku. Here are the best places to visit.
Atesgah Fire TempleAteshgah Fire Temple lies approximately 20 kilometers to the east of Icheri Sheher, making it a very common day trip from Baku. The temple has one large central flame and four smaller ones, which were built in the 17th century. Inside the complex, each room tells the story of the relationship between fire and Zoroastrianism in Azerbaijan. You can either join a tour or take a taxi. The more budget-friendly option would be using public transport where Bus 184 from Koroglu Metro Station takes you to Ateshgah.
Yanar DagYanar Dag, the burning mountain, is a bizarre natural wonder that lives up to Azerbaijan’s nickname as the Land of Fire. Underground gas seeps out of the mountainside stretching approximately 10 meters and burns continuously. According to some sources, Yanar Dag ignited after a shepherd in the 1950s discarded a cigarette. Head up the steps to get views of the scorched hills and the occasional shepherd from a bygone era. It’s possible to visit both Ateshgah and Yanar Dag the same day itself. Take bus 217 from Koroglu Metro Station to get there.
Few people have lived up the real experience of seeing mud volcanoes. The volcanoes spew freezing mud pushed to the surface from underground gas. Azerbaijan has more than one-third of the world’s mud volcanoes along the Absheron Peninsula, which you can reach on a day trip from Baku. Some are volatile and have the potential to explode. A tour for the true experience is highly recommended.
Gobustan National ParkUNESCO-listed Gobustan, to the southwest of Baku, has more than 6000 rock carvings and paintings with the older ones dating back almost 40,000 years to the days of hunter-gathers. A museum details the origins and historical significance of the petroglyphs along with displaying human bones and tools that date back millennia. Apart from the archaeological sites, there’s also an intriguing natural wonder called Gaval Dash, which is a large rock that when tapped sounds like a tambourine. A combination of the climate plus oil and gas over thousands of years cause this strange phenomenon. You can head over to the Mud Volcanoes from Gobustan too. Most people take a tour which makes their day hassle-free. It’s possible to reach using public transport by taking bus 195 towards Alat, but, expect to walk a few kilometers to the National Park in Gobustan or take a cab from the bus stop.
Bilgah BeachAzerbaijan doesn’t have many beautiful beaches because of the inevitable pollution caused by more than 150 years of oil exploitation. But Biglah Beach on Absheron Peninsular’s northeast coast 45 kilometers from Baku is an exception. The beach stretches for a kilometer and is a pleasant place to relax for an afternoon. Popular spots include Amburan Beach Club and SeaZone Beach Baku.
ShamakhiHistory fans can take a day trip from Baku to visit the ancient capital Shamakhi. The former center of the Shirvan Empire dates back almost two-and-a-half thousand years and was the capital between the 9th and 16th centuries. The main attractions include the one-thousand-year-old fortress, archaeological ruins, and traditional carpet weaving. It takes at least two hours to reach Shamakhi from Baku.
Reasons to visit Baku
Baku, Azerbaijan’s modern capital, combines a medieval old town, modern Flame Towers that light up after dark and a promenade stretching along the Caspian Sea. The city exudes attractiveness, shining under the endless blue skies, and oozes intriguing layers of history just waiting for you to unravel. Here are several reasons why you should visit Baku and put Azerbaijan on this year’s bucket list.
Amalgamation of modernity with heritage
Baku’s historical core, or Icheri Sheher, has the ancient cylindrical Maiden Tower, the medieval Palace of Shirvanshahs and stalls selling traditional Azerbaijan carpets. Head further from the center, and you’re walking along Nizami Street’s pedestrianized shopping district. Gothic and Baroque styles from the Russian Empire and Baku’s first oil boom, both in the late 19th-century, line the long and straight streets of Azerbaijan’s capital.
Baku’s promenade, also called the Baku Boulevard extends a few kilometers along the Caspian Sea. Strolling along gives views of the city center, endless swarms of fish in the Caspian Sea as well as an amusement park, cafés, the Baku Eye Ferris Wheel, and a shopping mall. Come back after dark and watch the Flame Towers perform their magical light show.
Safe for solo adventures
Compared to other capital cities, Baku feels safe. Sure, crime does exist, and you still need to be cautious. But, you’ll feel safe walking around after dark and won’t have to hug your backpack. Everyone feels at ease when the sun goes down, and you will too.
Ideal for some fam-bam
Women walk chatting away, and families enjoy their attractive surroundings at all hours of the day and night. Young children run and play while their parents watch nearby, despite the clock chiming at 11:00 pm.
Baku has become inexpensive in the past few years, Hearty meals in local restaurants washed down with Azerbaijan beer or wine rarely exceed AZN50 for two people. And you’ll get a few rides on the bus and metro for less than AZN1. If you visit Baku today, you’ll find the city to be a very affordable destination.
Easy to get around
Long straight roads divide Baku into large blocks along the Caspian Sea. Getting around on foot usually involves walking straight and turning either left or right before continuing to go forward. Getting lost is almost impossible. Public transport for a single journey on the metro just costs about AZN0.20.
6 Favorite Museums in Baku
Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, houses more than 30 museums covering everything from history and ethnography to a collection of tiny books. Take advantage of the museums in Baku to appreciate its fascinating story and culture and come away with a more enhanced travel experience.
National Museum of History AzerbaijanThe National Museum in Baku, inside a former Italian Renaissance mansion, has more than 300,000 artifacts, making it Azerbaijan’s largest. Archaeological relics and original documents tell its story. Visitors take a journey from the early Zoroastrians who placed spiritual importance on fire, medieval states, both oil booms and the Soviet Union to the present day. Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Admission: AZN5 ($3).
Azerbaijan State Museum of ArtThe most extensive collection of art in Baku is on display in the State Museum of Art. First opening in 1936, the collection today includes more than 3000 items across 60 rooms inside two buildings. Exhibits include paintings and sculptures from Azerbaijani, Russian and European artists. A section on Eastern Art displays work from Persia and Turkey too. Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Admission fee: AZN5 ($3).
Baku Museum of Miniature BooksA small museum in Baku on the edge of Icheri Sheher displays a collection of tiny books. Once a private collection and now a free museum, a range of items from a 17th-century Koran to Soviet books fill the shelves. Highlights include the three smallest books in the world, for which you need a magnifying glass to see. Opening hours: 11:00am to 5:00pm. Closed on Monday and Thursday. Admission: Free
Palace of ShirvanshahsThe Shirvanshahs ruled parts of Azerbaijan for centuries in Shemakhi. An earthquake forced the Persianised Arab rulers to move their capital 123 kilometers southeast to Baku where they built the Palace. The main palace, a mausoleum, two mosques, and a bathhouse are inside the 15th-century UNESCO-listed complex. Most people spend between one and two hours. Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Admission is AZN10 ($5.90)
Maiden’s TowerIcheri Sheher’s symbol evokes mystery and intrigue. The 29 meters cylindrical tower might date back more than one millennia. But no one knows for sure. Visit the museum to learn Baku’s medieval story and how the city transformed through two oil booms to a modern capital. Opening hours: 9:00am to 6:00pm. Admission: AZN10 ($5.90)
Azerbaijan Carpet MuseumCarpet weaving in Azerbaijan dates back more than 3000 years and plays a huge part in the local identity. Each region produces their own patterns and designs in a tradition once passed down generations. The Azerbaijan Carpet Museum along Baku Boulevard has two claims to fame: the architecture and the displays. From the outside, the building looks like a rolled-up carpet, something unique in the world of architecture. Exhibits teach visitors the importance of carpet weaving and display more than 10,000 items including medieval ceramics and jewelry. Opening hours: From 10:00 am to 6:00 pm Tuesday to Sunday. Admission: 7AZN ($4.10).
24 hours in Baku
If you are traveling to Baku and only have 24 hours, you won’t have enough time to experience the city’s wonders. But, we sure will help you make the best of this beautiful city in a day.
Visit Baku, and follow a journey from the medieval Islamic influences through two oil booms, almost 200 years of Russian rule, both Imperial and Soviet, and experience the city’s transformation today. And don’t forget to use the Baku Funicular to the Eternal Flame for views, walk along the promenade hugging the Caspian Sea and watch the Flame Towers at night.
Most of the must-see attractions in Baku are near Icheri Sheher. The 15th-century historical core features Maiden Tower, Palace of the Shirvanshahs, mosques, baths and the world’s only Miniature Book Museum. Alleys twist and branch along the gently rising cobblestone streets. Get lost in the labyrinth of historical buildings, walk around the fortified walls and inspect the traditional carpets on sale. Expect to spend two or three hours experiencing the Inner City’s attractions. Several cafés are nearby for a cup of coffee.
Exit Icheri Sheher on the northeast side, and you’ll reach the Nizami Museum of Azerbaijan Literature. The Nizami Monument, named after 12th-century Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi, is outside. The building’s exterior has six life-size statues of famous poets, making it a favorite attraction in Baku. Head through Fountain Square, and explore pedestrianized Nizami Street, Baku’s shopping district on foot.
If you want to experience 19th-century architecture when you travel to Baku, check out the different styles and façades of the early buildings along Nizami. Several bars, cafés, and restaurants line the shopping street too. Grab lunch here.
After lunch and a drink, walk south towards the Caspian Sea to Baku Boulevard. The 3.5-kilometres promenade stretches alongside the sea. Walk along, enjoy the views and ride the Baku Eye, the city’s version of the London Eye. You’ll find some of the best bars in Baku with sea views here.
Ride the Baku Funicular to the Eternal Flame and Martyrs’ Alley, perched on a large rocky outcrop. Enjoy the views of the nearby Flame Towers, and the city’s historical expansion from Icheri Sheher to modern skyscrapers below. Savor the views of Baku Bay, and the Caspian Sea stretching endlessly towards the horizon. A hilltop café serving coffee and beer are a must when you travel to Baku.
Walk through Martyrs’ Alley, and show your respect to the victims of Black January in 1990. More than 100 Azerbaijanis died, and hundreds more were injured as Soviet troops shot demonstrators.
From here, walk past the Flame Towers and through the old city. Some of the best bars in Baku are in this district. Either head for a drink or catch a taxi back to Baku Boulevard, and go on the Caspian Sea Cruise. The cruise lasts approximately one hour, costing no more than a few dollars and taking you on a loop around the bay to experience the skyline’s magical light show.
Best Street Markets in Baku
Visiting markets and getting involved in conversations with locals tends to be the easiest way to peek into a country’s local way of life and culture. And few things make such a contrast between the capital’s wealth and lifestyles than the items found in the suburban markets in Baku. Local markets range from sprawling bazaars to obscure flea markets and stalls selling touristy souvenirs. Others sell fresh fruit and vegetables, snacks and clothes, along the side of the street.