Salam! The first stop on your trip is Baku. In Azerbaijan’s capital, historical buildings from the Middle Ages meet mirrored glass palaces and futuristic skyscrapers. The Old City of Baku is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has narrow, winding streets and is almost completely surrounded by a 12th-century city wall. Contrasted by modern architectural structures, such as the Flame Towers or the Heydar Aliyev Center, Baku's cityscape is truly unique. You can also find the Maiden Tower, Baku's landmark, here, which gives you a beautiful view over the Old City. It stands at the highest point of the Old City and is one of the most impressive monuments from Baku's past. Why not experience the city’s authentic flair and visit Bazar Square, the lively Fountain Square, the Museum of Modern Art, and the legendary Palace of the Shirvanshahs? In addition, you can take a boat trip from the Bay of Baku and get a panoramic view of the capital from an entirely new perspective. In the evening, we highly recommend walking along the waterfront or going to a beach party. Cheap hostels in central locations charge as little as €8 for a night in an 8-bed dorm.
While you're in Baku, don't miss out on a Stone Age tour to the Gobustan State Historical and Cultural Reserve. One highlight here is the Mud Volcanoes, a crater landscape that makes you feel like you're standing on Mars. After you’ve seen these active volcanoes, the tour continues to the Petroglyph Museum in Gobustan, where you can admire some prehistoric rock paintings. The tour also includes a visit to the famous Bibi-Heybat Mosque, the spiritual center of the region. This five-hour day trip costs €35 per person, including transportation, a guide, entrance fees, and drinks.
For about €3, you can take the bus to Quba. This charming little town is a perfect stopover destination to get an idea of the unique atmosphere in northern Azerbaijan.
Quba is known for its "Red Town", a village called Krasnaya Sloboda, where a community of Mountain Jews live. There are rows of synagogues and traditional mosques here. The Quba Mosque, the Sakina Khanum Mosque, and the lively bazaar are definitely worth a visit. At Qadim Quba, a carpet factory, you can marvel at the production of the colorful carpets that this part of Azerbaijan is famous for. An overnight stay in a single room in a nearby hostel will cost you €10.
Your next stop is Khinaliq. A €10 taxi ride is the quickest way to get to this 5,000-year-old mountain village. It’s Azerbaijan’s highest settlement and one of its most beautiful places. At an altitude of 2,350 m, Khinaliq lies isolated in the Caucasus Mountains, and – despite the impressive scenery – you’re unlikely to see other tourists here.
The village consists of terraced mud houses that are arranged like stairs along the mountain slope and connected by stepped terraces. This system gives Khinaliq’s architecture its unique look. While you’re here, we recommend visiting the Lezgin village of Laza or hiking to the summit of the 4,142 m-high Shahdagh. From here, you have an impressive panoramic view of the imposing mountain landscape with its steep gorges and waterfalls.
There are hostels available near the center of Khinaliq, where you can sleep comfortably. For as little as €7 you can get a single bed in a 6-bed dormitory.
Next, you’ll take a taxi back to Quba, and then the bus from Quba to Lahic (approx. €25 in total). The town lies on the slopes of the Greater Caucasus and was founded in the 5th century BC.
A walk through the narrow cobblestone streets will take you past traditional Caucasian fieldstone houses with wooden balconies and countless workshops. Lahic is Azerbaijan’s capital of craftsmanship, particularly when it comes to copper work. You can watch the whole production process in one of the town’s traditional workshops. Don’t forget to buy a souvenir! We also recommend a hike in the picturesque surroundings of Lahic, a trip to Shamakhi, and a visit to the mausoleums of Diri Baba and Yeddi Gumbaz. During your stay, you can stay in a single room in one of the nearby hostels for about €15 per night.
The final stop on your trip around Azerbaijan is Sheki. To get here, take a bus for around €6. Sheki is located further west and is also known as the Pearl of Azerbaijan. The city lies on the southern foothills of the Great Caucasus and is surrounded by beautiful green mountains and forests. As a former stop on the Silk Road, Sheki is of great importance, both historically and with regard to the production of silk.
The architectural highlight of the city is the Palace of Sheki Khans, built in the 18th century and decorated with Persian-style paintings and carvings. In addition, you’ll find lots of parks, theaters, and museums as well as Islamic buildings, churches, and quaint teahouses in the 2000-year-old city. Stroll through the traditional market, visit the art gallery and the ethnographic museum, and enjoy the oriental atmosphere of Sheki.
We also highly recommend visiting the picturesque mountain village of Kish. Its church, St. Elishe, was built in the 1st century and is said to be the oldest one in the whole Caucasus. This monument of Azerbaijani-Albanian architecture was recently restored with the support of the Norwegian government.
During your time in Sheki, you can stay in an 8-bed dorm, where a night will cost you around €5. The bus ticket back to Baku, from where you’ll be heading home, is around €18.