To spherical out my Caucasus journey, my final cease was to go to Azerbaijan and its stunning capital metropolis of Baku. Azerbaijan will not be on most individuals’s checklist as most individuals enterprise extra in direction of neighboring Georgia and its capital metropolis of Tbilisi. I did spend rather more time in Georgia, and even in Armenia however in the long run I needed to go to Azerbaijan because it was close by.
Baku is A metropolis of Juxtapositions
I believe one of the best ways to explain Baku is that it’s the final metropolis of juxtapositions. It’s town with the final word distinction between outdated and new, one I’ve by no means seen earlier than. It’s the right instance of what discovering huge oil wealth can do for a rustic.
Azerbaijan found oil on the finish of the nineteenth century and shortly grew to become some of the influential nations of its time. Actually, close to the flip of the century, Azerbaijan produced 50% of the world’s oil. Sure 50%! These days, it accounts for underneath 1% but it surely goes to indicate simply how revolutionary it was when Azerbaijan found oil.
With this newfound wealth, the nation quickly expanded outdoors the outdated metropolis partitions. They constructed magnificent parks, buildings, monuments, inns all within the conventional European fashion. They actually had oil barons that might trip in nations like Italy or France, see one thing they appreciated, after which proceed to duplicate it again at dwelling.
As you stroll round Baku, you possibly can’t assist however be mesmerized by the truth that this metropolis which had nothing 100+ years in the past, impulsively appears to be like prefer it might Vienna or Rome. It actually went from 0 to 100 within the span of some years. These days, as you stroll via the streets of Baku, you’ll discover how impeccable and immaculate the circumstances of the roads are. It’s tremendous clear to the purpose that it simply appears to be like nearly pretend. It’s like Dubai which was additionally inbuilt the previous few a long time however with a a lot bigger emphasis on the standard European structure (and a fraction of the price of issues in Dubai).
Having simply visited Yerevan, Armenia and Tbilisi in Georgia which have been “regular” capital cities stuffed with huge metropolis grit, submit soviet attraction (should you may even name it that), Baku actually simply blew my thoughts. I couldn’t cease asking myself how this Caucasus nation bordering Armenia and Georgia appears to be like like it’s from a special world. However that’s what oil wealth does for you!
The place to eat and drink in Baku, Azerbaijan
Azerbaijani meals is completely scrumptious. It’s a mixture of Turkish, Persian, and Central Asian meals which is correct up my alley. You’ll discover no scarcity of kebabs, dolma, plov, stews, dumplings and the like. The meals is cooked with an array of various spices and herbs which have advanced over centuries of being on the forefront of the silk street.
The Plov, which is a dish of rice and meat is the nationwide dish of Azerbaijan. Plov will not be so standard in Turkish delicacies however quite a staple of central Asian delicacies like Uzbekistan or Tajikistan. There are quite a few varieties of plovs to try to my favourite of the bunch might be the lamb plov with the fried crust. Assume scrumptious saffron rice with seasoned lamb meat, chestnuts, spices, and raisins all wrapped in a scrumptious filo crust.
Eating can be extremely inexpensive in Baku. You get fine quality meals in a really good environment for discount costs. I might pay about 30-35 Manat ($18-25) for a dinner that included wine, salad, and insane quantities of grilled meats. I might simply have spent half this cash and nonetheless been full.
There aren’t many stylish hipster locations in Baku
Not like Azerbaijan’s Caucasus neighbors of Yerevan and Tbilisi, there aren’t many new age stylish eating places, cocktail bars, and cafes in Baku. I believe Baku is attempting to get there however has nonetheless principally centered on being this grandiose extravagant metropolis.
There aren’t any respectable cocktail bars or cafes that I might discover in Baku. This was significantly unhappy as coming from Tbilisi and Yerevan, there have been numerous spots like this on supply.
Qayana got here on the advice of my resort was most likely my favourite restaurant in Baku. It’s positioned within the outdated city and attracts locals and vacationers alike. They’ve an onsite clay oven that they use to make contemporary bread for each diner. The meats are grilled to perfection and the costs are very affordable.
I had quite a few kebabs and the plov as a result of I needed to strive the whole lot. It turned out to be approach an excessive amount of meals however I loved this place essentially the most. I got here again for breakfast the next day to have a conventional Azerbaijani breakfast.
Dolma is likely one of the hottest eating places within the metropolis. It’s positioned underground close to the outdated city and embellished within the conventional fashion. The meals right here is phenomenal with scrumptious dolmas and grilled meats. I stayed the course in just about each meal I had ordering lamb chops, minced lamb kebabs, and the like.
Lamb might be considered one of my favourite issues to eat and for the costs that they had right here, I needed to get my repair in earlier than going again to a spot the place I eat lamb just about by no means.
The Shirvanshah restaurant is a should for vacationers. The fifteenth century palace complicated is taken into account one of many masterpieces of Azerbaijan structure, and is of nice historic significance for the nation. For these causes causes, amongst others, it was awarded World Cultural Heritage standing by the UNESCO.
Nowdays, there’s a giant restaurant within the complicated which serves scrumptious conventional Azerbaijani delicacies. The decor and ambiance is extremely stunning and pays homage to the standard kinds. They even have dwell music enjoying conventional music for diners.
I just about had the identical meals right here as I did in every single place else which is heaps of lamb meat, dolma, and salad. This place is certainly a should go to.
Rooftop on the Hilton resort
For superb panoramic views of Baku, head to the rooftop resort on the Hilton. This 360 diploma rooftop is definitely a rotating rooftop so for people who get vertigo, this isn’t the place for you. From right here, you possibly can have fantastic views of the Baku skyline and particularly the very distinctive Flame Towers with their by no means ending gentle reveals.
The place to remain in Baku, Azerbainjan
Baku is an upscale metropolis (or no less than it portrays itself as such) and also you’ll discover no scarcity of the large chain inns that personal grandiose buildings. Assume JW Marriott, Hilton, 4 Seasons, and so forth. There aren’t many boutique inns that I discovered throughout my search as a result of Baku simply doesn’t entice that sort of crowd. A minimum of that’s my principle.
I additionally seemed for Airbnbs all through town and nothin actually impressed me, no less than nothing like what I discovered in Tbilisi, Georgia. Due to this fact, I ended up utilizing my Marriott factors to guide nights on the Courtyard Marriott. It’s a stage two resort so it’s fairly low-cost (solely 12,000 factors an evening). I ended up getting a tremendous room with a balcony overlooking town. Unbelievable deal for this resort. It’s additionally centrally positioned that means I might get in every single place simply by foot or by Bolt.
How you can get round Baku
Getting round Baku could be very easy. You simply have to obtain the app Bolt which is the experience hailing app of selection in Georgia and Azerbaijan (yandex in Armenia). Don’t even hassle with studying the metro system in Baku which is definitely fairly in depth with stunning subway stations.
The rationale for this? The value is simply too rattling low-cost to actually hassle with anything. A experience from Baku Worldwide Airport to town heart is about 7-10 Manat ($4-6). Sure it’s lower than $5 to journey from the airport to town by non-public taxi. If you’re too low-cost to pay these costs, you most likely shouldn’t be touring.
Bolts round Baku metropolis are between 1.7-3 Manat ($1-$1.7). Sure, I’m not joking, it’s about $1 to go by taxi round Baku. Having already been to Tbilisi and Yerevan the place costs are related, I nonetheless don’t perceive how anybody can earn money doing this. A minimum of in Azerbaijan nevertheless, the value of fuel is closely sponsored so no less than it makes extra sense. Worth of petrol is 1 Manat per liter (~$0.6 per liter).
What to do in Baku, Azerbaijan
Baku is a big metropolis with an unbelievable quantity of lovely buildings to see. There should not many conventional sights to see like in different huge capitals due to how new the whole lot is. Nonetheless, you’ll want no less than a day to see the primary highlights of town.
Take the free strolling tour
The free strolling tour is certainly an effective way to familiarize your self with town. The tour meets simply outdoors the outdated metropolis partitions on daily basis in the summertime (and on demand throughout off season months). I actually loved the tour because the information defined lots about this metropolis that’s so perplexing particularly having visited Tbilisi and Yerevan prior.
I significantly appreciated getting the information’s views on the Armenia-Azerbaijan battle as I had gotten a really biased model days earlier than with my information in Yerevan. The tour takes roughly 3 hours and principally facilities across the outdated metropolis.
Go to the Heyder Aliyev Cultural heart
Designed by the famous architect Zaha Hadid, the constructing is agency and gorgeous and one of many signature sights in Baku. The outer space and park provides a phenomenal view of town. It is strongly recommended to go to the centre earlier than sundown so you possibly can expertise each the pre- and post-sunset view of the constructing.
Stroll alongside the waterfront and revel in views of the flame tower
Go to the Baku Outdated Metropolis
Designated as a World Heritage Website by UNESCO, the traditional metropolis dates again to the twelfth century. Inside its confines are sufficient touristy gems, such because the Maiden Tower, Juma Mosque, Hamam Mehellesi public baths and the Palace of Shirvanshahs.
The outdated metropolis is extremely nicely preserved and also you’ll discover stunning shows of the standard architectural kinds of Azerbaijan. You’ll discover iconic slim streets that meander from one stunning view to a different. It’s loopy to assume that the majority of Baku was simply throughout the confines of the outdated metropolis partitions simply 100 years in the past.
I significantly appreciated the photographs the place I might see outdated city structure with the flame tower within the background. It simply goes to indicate how distinctive and the way totally different town of Baku is. The mixture of outdated and new doesn’t exist prefer it does in Baku.
Go to the Yanar Dag Flaming Mountain
A should go to sight in Baku is a brief drive to the Yanar Dag Flaming Mountain. It’s positioned about 25km outdoors of Baku to the northeast. Yanar Dag Flaming Mountain is actually simply that, a hill that’s on hearth. Due to the unbelievable quantity of pure fuel and oil within the nation, there are some areas of the nation which have have fires for many years and even centuries.
Yanar Dag particularly has had their hearth burning for 50+ years now. The oil reserves on this a part of the mountain imply the fireplace will burn repeatedly rain or shine. It’s not as huge as I believed it might be but it surely was nonetheless very spectacular to see.
Come right here proper round evening time to see the total impact of the fires. Don’t guide a tour to go to Yanar Dag however merely use Bolt to come back right here. I paid about 10 Manat a technique for the Bolt to Yanar Dag and informed him to attend for me. It solely takes about 20 minutes to see the whole lot and the drivers are normally completely satisfied to attend so that you can gather the return fare.
Take a day journey to Gobustan and the mud volcanoes
The Gobustan Nationwide Park is positioned about 60 km away from Baku and is likely one of the hottest day journeys from Baku. The standard itinerary goes to Gobustan and dirt volcanoes and takes many of the day. There are a lot of tour operators that you will discover within the outdated metropolis providing this tour. The going price is about 80-90 Manat per particular person which features a lunch.
This park was created to guard the true jewels of nature hidden within the lands that make up the Gobustan Nationwide Park, which was additionally declared a UNESCO Cultural Heritage in 2007.
The Petroglyphs of Gobustan
The mud volcanoes are attention-grabbing issues to see however most individuals come to Gobustan for the petroglyphs. What are petroglyphs you ask?
They’re a few of the most historic drawings made by early people. They have been chiseled with primitive instruments of the time into the uncovered rock within the Gobustan nationwide park. These drawings embody the pondering patterns of early human beings which makes it some of the essential historic discoveries. The drawings date again to so far as 40,000 years in the past lengthy earlier than civilization developed. Greater than 6,000 carvings have been discovered thus far.
Lots of the drawings depict animals like horses, lions, mammoths and so forth. in addition to dance ceremonies and different conventional practices of the time. It’s fairly mesmerizing to face right here in entrance of the drawings realizing that they have been accomplished at a time when individuals knew little extra than simply the way to survive.
The surroundings of the Gobustan is sort of stunning as nicely. You might be surrounded by giant rocky cliffs on all sides making it an ideal day journey. I additionally did admire having a information to elucidate the whole lot. I might have in any other case felt like I used to be simply taking a look at a bunch of scribbles on rocks (that are cool however not so attention-grabbing).
Mud Volcanoes of Gobustan
Close by to the Petroglyphs are the well-known mud volcanoes of Gobustan. Its muds are reputed to have many advantages for the pores and skin, bones and rheumatism.
There should not greater than 800 mud volcanoes in the entire world and about 400 of them are present in Gobustan. What are mud volcanoes? They’re volcanoes that eject flames and spew out tons of mud masking the encompassing space. A number of individuals imagine that volcanic mud has therapeutic qualities.
And what on the planet is a Gaval Sprint? These are musical gems that produce tambourine-like sounds when struck by a smaller stone. The place else on the planet can you discover Gaval Sprint? Nowhere, however in Gobustan.
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