Baku is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan located on the southern shore of the Absheron Peninsula on the Caspian Sea. Many beautiful, historical and interesting places are around Baku which are worth visiting. I highly recommend a day tour around the area of the Baku suburb and Absheron Peninsula. Some of the day trips can be done in combination with other in the same area while others like Shamakhi or Qabala need a full day. Here is the list of places you can visit around Baku;
Bibi Heybat Mosque
The Bibi Heybat Mosque is one of the most interesting place to visit in Baku, and even non-Muslims will enjoy exploring this wonderful piece of architecture.
The existing structure, built in the 1990s, is a recreation of the mosque with the same name built in the 13th century by Shirvanshah Farrukhzad II Ibn Ahsitan II, which was completely destroyed by the Bolsheviks in 1936.
The mosque includes the tomb of Ukeyma Khanum (Prophet Muhammad’s descendant), and present day serves as a spiritual centre for and a major monument of Azerbaijan’s Islamic architecture.
It has three domes, which follows the traditional shape of the old mosque and two minarets. The domes are decorated with turquoise and green mirrors which are bordered with gilded inscriptions from the Qur’an. People from all faiths are welcome to visit outside of prayer times. Photography is allowed inside the mosque.
The rock carvings and petroglyphs at the site display mesmerizing images of prehistoric life in the Caucasus. Located 60 km away from Baku, the site is well maintenance with walkways clearly marked and lot of sign boards. Walking amongst massive boulders to see ancient rock art is a great experience.
Gobustan State Reserve has more than 6,000 rock carvings, mostly dating back to 15000 years. These petroglyphs depict scenes of hunting, dancing, animal symbolism, their day to day activities and events. No one exactly knows what their actual meaning is, but there’s a museum before entering the rock carving area explaining the different interpretations of each and every carving.
The museum housing the exhibits was very well presented with lots of interactive displays all of which were very informative. The museum entrance fee include the fee for the petroglyphs rock carving area. Spend some time in the museum before climbing up to the rock carving area for better understanding the interpretation of each rock carvings. Snakes are the frequent visitors of this place, beware of them.
You don’t have other activities to do here. All the petroglyphs can be seen in one hour. There is no souvenir or snack shops there. Bring your snacks, cap/umbrella and water with you. You will get a nice panoramic view of Caspian Sea from the hill.
Azerbaijan has the most number of mud volcanoes than any other country. Around 40% of the world mud volcanoes are in Azerbaijan. Some islands in the Caspian Sea are originated from the mud volcanoes. A mud volcano is created by the eruption of mud, water and gases. Mud volcanoes here are associated with oilfields. There is a huge gas reserve below which pushes the mud outside in the form of slurry. Mud volcanoes are essentially channels for releasing pressurized gas and water, together with associated mud from great depths.
Mud volcanos in Gobustan are situated at a place known as Dasgil Hill, which is around 15 kilometers from Gobustan town. From the Gobustan town it’s a 15-20 minutes “off road” drive on a dirt road leading up to the volcanos with no signboard anywhere. If you don’t have an off-road vehicle you can take a taxi which will take you straight to the volcano. Taxi drivers don’t speak English, so if you don’t know and don’t speak Russian or Azeri it would be better to use a guide or join a guided tour. The tourist infrastructure is undeveloped, there is no shelter and no information provided at the site.
It’s a great natural phenomenal which you won’t see in a lot of places in the world. Once you finally reach the site, you will be amazed by dozens of small but fully active mud volcanoes. It’s really unique place and visiting it is great experience. Many small and medium sized mud volcanoes keep on erupting with mud bubbling continuously & naturally. Enjoy the views & touch the mud which is cold, soft and quite pleasant to touch.
If you want to touch and feel the mud bring wet wipes, water and plastic bags to dispose them properly. If you are going after rain or in rainy season, bring plastic bags to wrap on your shoes and additional bag for disposing them. On site there is no dustbin. There are no shops on location, so bring your snacks and water.
Ateshgah Fire Temple
The “Temple of Eternal Fire” or “Fire Temple of Baku” is a castle-like religious temple in Surakhani town, a suburb in Baku, 30 kilometers from the city Centre. The place name Surakhani, in local language means ‘hole with the fountain’. (Gas bursts forth in many places some of which are always burning).
“Atash” is the Persian word for fire so this worship place is named as Ateshgah. From times immemorial this was the holy place of Zoroastrian fire worshippers. The site was considered holy & has been attributed by many historians. It is mentioned in 7th century Armenian geographer Anania Shirakatsi in his book Ashkharatsuyts. It is a pentagonal complex with fire temple at Centre and living rooms all around. Several rooms have some artifacts and mannequins in poses with little or no explanations, while many have captions and descriptions in English.
Based on Persian and Indian inscriptions, the temple was used as a Hindu and Zoroastrian place of worship. There are 14 Sanskrit, 2 Gurumukhi and 1 Persian inscription in the Ateshgah. Make sure to visit all the rooms and check out the history behind it.
Entry fee is 4 Manat and it’s open from 9 am till 6 pm. In the same complex there is plenty of parking space, a few gift shops, toilets and a cafe. The temple in its present state was constructed in the 17th-18th centuries. It was built by the Baku based Hindu community and traders of that time. The natural eternal flame went out in 1969 due to commercial exploration of petroleum and gas in the area, but is now lit by piped gas. The complex was turned into a museum in 1975. “Ateshgah” was nominated for UNESCO world heritage site in 1998.
Also known as “Burning Mountain.” Is basically a natural fire at Yanar Mountains that is burning for long time getting gas from nearby oil field. Situated on the Absheron Peninsula, 25 kilometers northeast of the capital city of Baku, Yanardag is a 116-metre hill located on top of a pocket of natural gas that constantly erupts into flames. These flames jet out into the air through a porous layer of sandstone. The fire is a small strip just a couple of meters wide, which continuously burns alongside the edge of the hill.
The mountain has been burning for as long as anyone can remember, and the fire isn’t showing signs of going out any time soon. The view is most spectacular at night and during snow fall in winter. The best place to visit to get warm in their cold weather.
It is located on a high hill in the Ramana region of Baku. Exact construction date of the tower is not known, but it is believed to be built in the 12th century for the purpose of defense and used as a castle during the Shirvanshahs’ reign. This castle is made of white stone and is well preserved.
It’s a medieval quadrangular castle situated in a small town Mardakan (nor far from Baku). There are two castles in Mardakan known as Mardakan Towers and they have different tower shapes, one is round and the other one is rectangular. The Quadrangular Tower is bigger than the Round Tower. There is nothing inside but castle itself is well-preserved. Next to the castle there is a Tuba-Shakha mosque which hosts a permanent exhibition about the castles and fortifications of the Absheron peninsula. The castle was made for the purpose of defense and observation point
Shamakhi was one of the ancient cities of the east. It became famous as the home of many prominent Azerbaijani philosophers, architects and scientists. The town used to be capital of Medieval state of Shirvan and played one of the major roles in the region until its destruction in 1717 by Dagestanian semi-states. The city is located in the most seismic area of the Caucasus and destroyed many times due to earthquake. After the earthquake of 1859, the capital was moved to Baku. Shamakhi can easily be explored on foot. Places to explore in Shamakhi are Juma Mosque, Yeddi Gumbaz Mausoleum, Nasimi Memorial Park and House-Museum of M. Sabir.
Lahic is an ancient village with charming eye-catching sidewalks inlaid with stones. It is famous for its medieval water supply and sewage systems, as well as traditional jewelry, copper ware, carpets, pottery, daggers, and iron tools workshops. In the afternoon, drive back to Baku. Drop of at your hotel.
Qabala is rich with historical monuments and there are many memorials in Qabala. This city was the capital of Caucasian Albania for 600 years. Up to this present time there are the ruins of the ancient city and the main gate of Caucasian Albania. There is a great number of historical and cultural monuments of different eras in this region. Chukhur Gabala is one of them. Other places to visit are Nohurgol Lake,Tufandag Summer-Winter Complex, Yeddi Gozal waterfall and theme park Gabaland.