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About Baku

Baku, also known as the city of winds, is the capital city of the Republic of Azerbaijan; a small but wealthy country in the south Caucasus region and a stop on the old Silk Road. The city of Baku lies at the bottom of the Absheron peninsula on the Caspian Sea (which is actually an inland lake). The city is unique in that lies 28 metres below sea level, making it the lowest capital city anywhere in the world.

The city is famed for its charming old town which became a UNESCO site in 2000. The cobbled streets are set within medieval style walls protecting the area from the traffic and hustle of the rest of Baku. Tiny lanes wind hither and thither through the maze of backstreets. Small squares open up with shops selling an assortment of teas, carpets and silverware, like an Aladdin’s Cave and traditional shashlik (Kebab) restaurants vie for you trade.

Juxtaposed with the quaint old city, the Baku skyline is crowded with skyscrapers of various shapes and hues; a testament to the country’s oil wealth from its reserves in the Caspian Sea 70km offshore. Three of the most famous of these monuments to modernity are the so called “Flame Towers”. Built in the shape of flames, they light up at night and dance with oranges and reds and blues to give the impression they are actually burning.

Baku Quick Facts

Population: 2.3 million

Language: Azerbaijani

Currency:  ₼ Manat (AZN)

$1 USD = ₼1.70 AZN

Time Zone: GMT +4

Baku Attractions

Maidens Tower

The Maiden’s Tower, also known as Guz Qalasi, is a 12th Century tower in the centre of Baku’s old town. You can ascend the tower for stunning views across the city and out to the Caspian Sea. Inside there are displays chronicling the history of the tower and associated legends.

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Practical Info

Address: Old City, Bake, Azerbaijan

Opening Hours:
10am to 6pm Daily

Entrance fee: 10 AZN ($6)

Palace of Shirvan Shahs

The Palace of the Shirvan Shahs is a 15th century palace described by UNESCO as one of the pearls of Azerbaijan. Within the palace the stone walls are lined with ancient tapestries and carpets. Outside ornamental pools decorate the stone walkways. 

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Practical Info

Address: Old City, Baku, Azerbaijan

Opening Hours:
Apr – Oct 10am to 7pm
Nov – Mar 10am to 6pm

Entrance Fee: 10 AZN ($6)

Photograph Pass: 2 AZN ($1.20)

Ancient Market

Just next to the entrance of the Maiden’s Tower is an excellently preserved market square dating back to medieval times. This archaeological site is deemed by some to be the place where Jesus’ disciple Bartholemew was skinned alive and beaheaded! 

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Practical Info

Address: Next to Maiden’s Tower, Old City, Baku, Azerbaijan.

Opening Hours:
10am to 6pm

Entrance fee: Entrance is included with a ticket to Maiden’s Tower (10 AZN) but it’s easy to see the site from the walkways nearby without having to buy a ticket.

Baku Old Town

The old town (or Old City) is the beating heart of Baku. Lose yourself in the narrow winding alleyways and cobbled streets to explore this enchanted area. The medieval stone walls seperate the old town from more modern Baku.

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Practical Info

There are many entrances and exits to the old town through the city walls. 

Caspian Beaches

The Absheron Peninsula is home to some wonderful beaches on the Caspian Sea. A short drive from the city, Bilgeh is a great place to cool off in the summer and less crowded than the polluted beaches nearer to the city centre. 

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Practical Info

Address: Bilgeh, Absheron Peninsula, Baku, Azerbaijan

Take bus 185 from Koroghly Metro. 

Yanar Dag (Fire Mountain)

Yanar Dag is a burning hillside on the Absheron Peninsula outside Baku. The flame has been burning for thousands of years due to natural gas deposits in the area. Read my complete guide to Yanar Dag for more information. 

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Practical Info

How to get there:

Take bus 217 from Koroglu Metro to the last stop. Journey time is approx 40 minutes. 

Opening Hours:

9am to 6pm

Entrance Fee: 3 Manat ($1.75)

How to get to Baku 

Flights to Baku:

Baku is served by Heydar Aliyev International Airport which has direct flights to and from Europe, the Middle East, East Asia and the USA. See Trip.com for cheap flights.

Trains to Baku:

From Tbilisi, Georgia:

There is a daily overnight train that departs Tbilisi at 20:35 and arrives in Baku at 08:50. The train stops for approximately 2 hours at the border at around 21:30. Ensure your Azeri Visa is valid for the day you will cross (I made the mistake of putting the arrival date on my application, but they let me through).

1st Class (2 berth cabin) = 84 GEL ($30)

2nd Class (4 berth cabin) = 52 GEL ($18)

3rd Class (open carriage) = 35 GEL ($12)

You can purchase tickets at Tbilisi Railway Station. I was able to buy a ticket on the day of departure, but it’s always best to buy one a few days in advance if you can.

From Moscow, Russia:

It seems there used to be a train from Moscow to Baku but it’s not possible to find tickets or a timetable online which could indicate there is no longer a service. Check at the station in Moscow, and if anyone has done this trip recently I would love to hear the details in the comments or by email.

Ferry (freighter ships) to Baku

There are sailings to Baku Port from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. There are no schedules and it takes some perseverance to secure a ticket and make the crossing, but it’s an adventure I would certainly reccomend if you have the time.

From Aktau, Kazakhstan:

There is a weekly (or longer) sailing between Aktau in Kazakhstan and Baku. This route should only be attempted by seasoned travellers who have plenty of spare time. Aktau is very, very far from anywhere and takes many days to reach from Almaty or Nur-Sultan. Once there, there is no schedule and you just have to wait and phone the port every day. I waited 4 days before giving up and taking a flight.

From Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan

There are two new cargo ships that also have a large passenger lounge ($100 for a seat) and cabins ($170 for a bed). The Bagtyyar and Berkarer travel between Baku and Turkmenbashi each week. Buying the tickets for Baku to Turkmenbashi was easy enough but I haven’t done this journey in reverse. If you are in Turkmenbashi you can buy tickets from the Port Hotel. The hotel number is +993 243 49610. Ensure you have enough food and water for the crossing and any delays, which can last up to a week.

See the official Caspian Shipping Company website for more info.

Baku Weather

Baku weather is temperate with hot summers and cool winters. Due its proximity to the nearby Caspian Sea, it can be a windy city.

In summer the temperature averages 30c wirth little rain, making it a perfect destination for holidaymakers.

Spring and autumn are cool with rainy showers.

Winters are cool with the temperature rarely dropping below 1 or 2 degrees celcius.

Visas for Azerbaijan

Citizen of the following 95 countries and territories can apply for a single-entry Azerbaijan E-Visa valid for 30 days:

All EU citizens, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China (including Hong Kong and Macau), Columbia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Djibouti, Ecaudor, Guatamala, Honduras, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Nepal, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand, Trindad & Tobago, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Vatican City and Vietnam.

Apply for the E-visa online using the official Azerbaijan government website. The VISA costs $23 and takes 3 days to be emailed.

Citizen of the following countries can obtain a VISA on arrival valid for 30 days if entering Azerbaijan by air:

 

Bahrain, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Macao, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.

Citizen of the following countries can enter Azerbiajan VISA free for up to 90 days

Belarus, Georgia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russian, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

 

Food and Drink in Baku

One of the best things to do in Baku is enjoy the delicous and fresh local cuisine. You don’t have to go far in Baku to find an increddible array of cafes and restaurants.

The cuisine is influenced by nearby countries such as Turkey, Iran and Central Asia, with dishes such as plov and kebab. Rice is the staple and lamb is the preffered meat. You will also find a lot of fish given the proximity to the Caspian Sea.

Some local dishes to try:

Dolma – minced lamb and rice wrapped in cabbage or vine leaves.

Dovga – yoghurt with rice, chickpeas and herbs

Kebab – chunks of grilled meat, usually lamb.

Plov – safron-infused rice with meat and vegetables.

 

Baku’s Art Scene

Baku has a thriving artistic scene with many small galleries dotted throughout the Old City.

Some of the more interesting galleries include:

Yay Gallery, Kicik Qala 5

Q Gallery, Qulle Kuc 6

Ali Samsir’s Studio, Kicik Qala Kuc 84

Traveller Resources for Baku

 

Accommodation

Booking.com
Trip.com

Tours

Get Your Guide

Transport

Cheap Flights & Trains: Trip.com
Ferries: Direct Ferries

Insurance

World Nomads

Baku Hotels & Accomodation

Baku has plenty of accomodation options as you would expect to find in any capital city.

There are plenty of hostels for budget travellers (I stayed at the Old Town Hostel).

As you would expect from such an oil-rich city, there is no shortage of luxury hotels, but it’s also easy to find bargains too.

Check Booking.com for great deals on Baku Hotels!

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