In 2020 when everything stopped during lockdown I was one of those people who knew they won’t be able to travel in this year. People who visit different places every year they can’t just sit at home and wait. It’s like an addiction but in a good sense. Traveling makes them feel fresh when they see different people from different countries & places, they experience a different kind of energy inside when they watch different faces of nature. Flowing rivers, green meadows, golden deserts, dark forests & the noise of sea waves push them to explore this world as much as they can. So when I was stuck at home I had nothing to do but to miss being on vacation in 2019 in one of the beautiful countries along the Silk Road, Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan, the land of fire is surrounded by the Caspian Sea and Caucasus Mountains, straddling both Western Asia & Eastern Europe. Here you will find the beautiful combination of meeting east to west and you’ll like it. You can spend the moonlit windy nights along the beaches of Caspian Sea or you can join a trip to the flaming mountains, it’s up to you. From the mystical lakes to ancient towns Azerbaijan has a lot to offer you. Here are few of the most stunning and delightful places, you must visit if you’re in Azerbaijan.
Baku, the largest & capital city of Azerbaijan, situated along the Caspian Sea, is somewhat the mixture of both modern and old infrastructure. You can enjoy the sightings of skyscrapers especially flame towers and you can unfold the pages of history at the ancient sites of Icheri Seher, also known as Old City. Baku has more than 15 places where you can get to know the history & culture of the home place of more than 2 million residents. If you are a food lover then this city is an ideal place to taste variety of cuisines including Dolma, Kebabs (prepared with lamb & beef mostly) and especially traditional Plov (most famous Azeri food). So Baku has a lot to offer you, you just need to be there.
2. Absheron National Park
In the Azizbeyov region, Absheron National Park lies around 38 Miles (60 Km) from the Baku City. With an area of more than 780 hectares it is an ideal place to see different colors of nature. It’s the home to more than 50 species of wildlife including gazelles, jackals, badgers, Caspian seals and different kinds of birds. Other than animals you can have the splendid view of the unpopulated and crystal-clear water of Caspian Sea while sitting on the sand dunes.
3. Gobustan Mud Volcano
The land of Mud volcanoes, Gobustan is one of the best destinations to visit in Azerbaijan. It’s the capital of mud volcanoes, containing almost 400 mud volcanoes, most in any country in the world. According to the geologists, the first mud volcano erupted around 25 Million years ago. If you’re in Baku then it is just one hour’s drive away (around 70 km) from the city. If you want to see the surface of moon on earth then you should definitely visit this place.
4. Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscapes
Don’t get confuse with Gobustan Mud volcanoes, in fact this place is about 16 km away from it. Gobustan Rock Art is actually the rock cravings of ancient men, their rituals, their way of traveling, animals, and stars & suns (may be their gods). These drawings date back to 5000 to 20000 years ago. There are the findings of ancient settlements & tombstones, goes back to the Stone Age. This place is a considered a home of one of the ancient civilizations in the human history.
On the southern part of the Greater Caucasus Mountain region, Sheki is located around 250 km from the Baku. It is considered the oldest human settlement in this region. In the past it was the popular city for its finest silk & textiles along the Silk Road. In other tourist attractions you can find mosques, castles and Persian bathhouses of old times and the most important Sheki Khan’s Palace. Sheki is the place where you’d like to be lost for a day or two.
Quba is another breathtaking destination for the tourists in Azerbaijan. The city lies along the Kudyal River at an altitude of 600 meters above the sea level. Surrounded by bumpy mountains and magnificent green valleys, the city is an important cultural centre in Azerbaijan. With the population of around 40,000, the city is also the center of the carpet weaving industry.
Yanardag is the example, why Azerbaijan is called Land of Fire. Yanardag basically means Burning Mountain. When you visit Yanardag, you see fire which blazes continuously on a hillside due to the gas reserves under the surface. This place looks tremendous in the night when you can experience it properly. It looks miraculous and there you’ll know how Zoroastrianism started from this land.
Ateshgah means place of fire. In the ancient times as I mentioned earlier, this natural process of burning mountains were considered holy & divine. People started to consider it a miracle of great powers and started to worship it. This led to the construction of fire temples in that area. Ateshgah or Fire Temple is at one of those sites. Atesh is Persian word means fire. This place will bring you back in the ancient times.
With the border of Iran along the Caspian Sea, a small but one of the beautiful cities in Azerbaijan, is known as Astara. It is surrounded by beautiful mountains & forests on the one side while Caspian Sea on the other. With the population of just 16000, the city has cafes, restaurants, a railway station & a museum too. If you want to go to Baku by train don’t forget to eat from the café near Railway Station. You can hear the noise of waves & enjoy the sightings of Caspian Sea while sitting at that café run by an old but very kind lady.
10. Lake Goygol
Lake Goygol is another beautiful place on the list of best places in the Azerbaijan. Due to the earthquake in 1139, parts of surrounding mountains collapsed and stopped the flow of Kurakay River, resulted in the formation of this beautiful lake. Goygol Lake means Blue Lake. Around 1 hour distance from the nearest city Ganja through the mountains, it’s the most favorite destination of the tourists.
11. Batabat Lake
Lake Batabat is the gem of Nakhchivan region of Azerbaijan. It’s located in the mountains of Shahbuz at an altitude of 2500 above sea level. This lake was formed as a result of receding glaciers in thousands of years. Lake Batabat is one of the popular place in Nakhchivan. The most interesting thing is that this lake has its own floating island made from peat & grass and it’s not attached to the bottom of the lake. It moves slowly, throughout the year. This place seems a fantasy. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited in my life.