Azerbaijan is a beautiful country in the Caucasus region sitting on the shore of the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains. Growing up in neighbouring Iran, I was steeped in the rich tapestry of Azerbaijani culture and history, a fascination that ignited my desire to explore this country. And so, with great anticipation, I finally made the trip to Azerbaijan and explored the country.
Azerbaijan, with a population of over 10 million, might not be known to many international tourists. Still, it is indeed a great destination for nature lovers, history and culture enthusiasts and foodies. People here are friendly and hospitable. Azerbaijan is truly a hidden gem that deserves its spot on every traveller's list. Plus, getting to Azerbaijan is a breeze for most nationalities, thanks to the new e-visa system.
If you are planning a trip to Azerbaijan and looking for some inspiration, you've come to the right place. In this article, I share the 12 best places to visit in Azerbaijan and the top things to do in the country.
This post contains affiliate links and if you click one I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Top places to visit in Azerbaijan
You've touched down in Azerbaijan, and guess what? Your adventure starts right here in Baku, the capital city. Baku is indeed a unique and lively city and it is worth spending a few days here.
As you stroll in Baku, you'll witness the striking contrast between the contemporary skyline and the echoes of its ancient past. The iconic Flame Towers, a testament to Azerbaijan's oil-rich history, stand tall against the backdrop of the UNESCO-listed Old City, a living testament to Baku's historical roots.
Baku Boulevard, also known as the "National Park", is a popular place for both locals and tourists to hang out. This promenade, stretching for several kilometres, has beautiful gardens and fountains, offering stunning views of the Caspian Sea.
For the best panoramic views of the city, you can up to Highland Park, right next to the famous Flame Towers.
Baku is also home to some of the most remarkable modern architectural buildings, including the Heydar Aliyev Center and the Crystal Hall, the venue of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. These buildings showcase the city's ambition to be a global centre for culture and architecture.
Baku can be your base for taking day trips to other parts of Azerbaijan.
Where to stay in Baku
Radisson Hotel Baku, located in the centre of the business and entertainment hub of the city, is one of the best places to stay in Baku. This 4-star hotel is just a stone's throw away from the Caspian Sea.
Molokan Inn Hotel located less than 1 km from Maiden Tower is another great place to stay in Baku. This stylish 4-star hotel offers airport transfers.
The Merchant Baku is a beautiful hotel in the centre of Baku. This elegant 4-star accommodation offers allergy-free rooms and a fitness centre.
2. Icheri Sheher
Icheri Sheher, known as Baku's Old City, is a must-visit when in Azerbaijan. Dating back to the 12th century, it offers a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Baku. Here you can see the evidence of Arab, Persian, Ottoman, and Russian influence.
One of the main attractions here is the Palace of the Shirvanshahs which is known as "the pearl" of Azerbaijan’s architecture. It is a complex from the 15th century that served as the residence of the Shirvan governors, the rulers of Shirvan.
The other attraction here is Maiden Tower, the oldest and most enigmatic structure in Baku’s old town. It is believed to have been built in the 12th century, although its exact date of construction and purpose is unknown.
There are so many traditional restaurants in the Old Town, which means you can try some traditional food here.
Qobustan is a unique and fascinating region in central Azerbaijan which has outstanding universal value. The region has been inhabited since prehistoric times and it is known for its collection of rock art engravings, some of which date back an astonishing 40,000 years.
These intricate engravings provide a window into the lives and beliefs of the people who once lived in the region and offer a unique glimpse into the history of Azerbaijan and the wider world.
These rocky and tony hills reflect the whole history of this region from the Stone Age to the Middle Ages.
Gobustan is just an hour’s drive from Baku which makes it a great day trip.
4. Mud Volcanoes
Many visitors to Azerbaijan may not know that the country has the highest number of mud volcanoes in the world. There are around 400 mud volcanoes spreading broadly across the country.
A mud volcano is a type of volcano that erupts a mixture of water, mud, and gas instead of molten rock. The mud in these volcanoes is composed of a mixture of clay, silt, and other minerals, which give the surface a unique appearance.
The mud from these volcanoes is considered to have therapeutic properties, and many people visit the area to experience the mud baths.
The most popular mud volcanoes in Azerbaijan are close to Gobustan, not far from Baku. This means you can visit both places in a single day trip from Baku. You can hire a taxi or join the Mud Volcanoes & Gobustan Group Tour.
Yanardag which translates to “burning mountain” is one of the best natural sites in Azerbaijan. This site is nothing short of extraordinary, this hill is always on fire due to the gas deposits under the sandstone surface.
This amazing phenomenon does not depend on human participation and occurs continuously day and night in any weather condition. Locals call it the eternal flame and many believed that this was a holy mountain and it became a place of pilgrimage.
While the exact history of Yanardag remains cloaked in mystery, a local legend has it that a shepherd once accidentally lit a fire there and the hill has been burning ever since.
One of the best places to visit in Azerbaijan is Ateshgah, often called the "Fire Temple of Baku". This temple is a special place on the Absheron Peninsula, where fire and faith have mixed for centuries.
Fire rituals started here a long time ago, around the 10th century, at the peninsula's natural gas vents. The temple we see now was built between the 17th and 18th centuries. The structure is similar to the caravanserais, similar to the old inns that travellers could stay at.
People still wonder if this temple was built for Zoroastrian or Hindu worship. It's like a mix of both in its design. Some experts think it was first for Zoroastrians, but later it became more like a Hindu place of worship.
In 1969, using up a lot of the natural gas in the area made the flame go out. But today, the flames are still here, thanks to Baku's main gas supply.
In 1975, the temple became a museum. Then, in 1998, the temple got special recognition from UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
You can visit Yarandag and Ateshgah can be visited on a day trip. One of the most convenient ways to visit both is to take the Burning Mountain & Zorastrian Temple Private Tour from Baku.
7. Diri Baba, a mausoleum of a Sufi saint
The Diri Baba Mausoleum is a hidden gem located in the city of Maraza in Azerbaijan. It was built in the 15th century. Inside, it's where Sheikh Mohammad, also known as Diri Baba, is buried.
According to some legends, Sheikh Mohammad possessed miraculous powers and was known for his ability to heal the sick. Some believe that his body has been preserved, without any shape of decomposition. And some believe that he was an angel and never died.
Gabala in the north of Azerbaijan, the ancient capital of Caucasian Albania, is surrounded by the country's highest peaks. It is a great place to visit both in summer and winter.
One of the best ways to explore the area is to take the cable car which takes you to an altitude of 1920 meters. During the summer you can enjoy a stunning panoramic view of the area. But in the winter, this place turns into a snowy wonderland, perfect for skiing and having fun in the snow.
Where to stay in Gabala
Qafqaz Riverside Hotel is a 5-star family-friendly resort in Gabala, offering two restaurants and a spa.
Trigon Villa Family is one of the best places to stay in Gabala, offering a private swimming pool. This 4-bedroom villa is perfect for families or a group of friends.
9. Nohur Lake
Just 3 km from Gabala city, there is Nohur Lake, one of the most popular destinations in Azerbaijan. The lake is surrounded by lush mountains. It is one the highest lakes in Azerbaijan, located 700 meters above sea level in the middle of three mountains.
Despite its high altitude, it can be easily reached by car. Some believe that Nohur was created after WWII to supply surrounding villages with water. But some other stories say that the lake appeared after an earthquake in the country.
There are hotels and restaurants around the lake, which make it a perfect place for relaxing and unwinding. You can’t swim in the lake but you can rent a boat or go fishing.
Where to stay in Nohur Lake
Chenot Palace Gabala is a luxury and unique hotel right next to the lake, offering celebrity treatment. The hotel offers unique programs tailored to the specific needs of the body's well-being.
Nohur Hotel Gabala is also a 5-star hotel next to the lake, offering free bikes, a garden and a bar. Guests can enjoy water activities, fishing and cycling around the lake.
10. Seven Beauties Waterfall
The Seven Beauties Waterfall in Azerbaijan is a true natural wonder that cascades down a series of seven terraces, each with its own unique beauty. The waterfalls flow from the highest peaks of the Caucasus Mountains. To see all seven terraces, you need to hike for around two hours. During winter, climbing the waterfall becomes tricky because it's all frozen and covered in ice. But when spring and summer roll around, things change. You'll find teahouses along the mountain roads. They're cosy spots where you can enjoy some tea and the special Gabala jam, which is a local treat.
There you have it, the 10 top places to visit in Azerbaijan, if you need more details, make sure to check out our Azerbaijan travel series.
Nestled amidst the rugged terrain of the Greater Caucasus in the north, Xinaliq, also known as Khinalug, stands as one the most extraordinary destinations in Azerbaijan. This remote village is home to approximately 2,000 people.
One of the most remarkable aspects of Xinaliq is its distinction as one of the oldest continuously inhabited places on Earth. Xinaliq sits at an altitude of 2,350 meters above sea level, and it ranks among the highest inhabited villages in the Caucasus.
This ancient village boasts a rich tapestry of traditions and even has its own unique language. Stepping into Xinaliq feels like a journey back in time, a stark contrast to the bustling modernity of Azerbaijan's capital, Baku.
Xinaliq is just 50 kilometres away from the city of Quba. One of the best ways to visit the village is to take the Quba and Khinaliq Village Tour from Baku.
Nestled in northwestern Azerbaijan, Sheki is one of the best places to visit in Azerbaijan. Once famous for its silk, it's now known as Azerbaijan's cultural hub. Sheki, home to around 68,000 people, is the ninth-largest city in Azerbaijan.
It's a place with a rich history, boasting the remarkable Sheki Khan's Palace, a UNESCO Heritage Site. Sheki's story goes back to the 8th century BC when it was one of the key Caucasian Albanian states. Later, during the Sheki Khanate's rule, the city's architecture flourished, leaving behind stunning landmarks like the Khan's Palace.
In its past, Sheki was a vital stop on the Silk Route, which you can still feel as you explore silk factories, mulberry groves, and impressive old stone inns called caravanserais.
One of the best things about Sheki is its natural surroundings, with hills and forests that make it a perfect escape from busier cities. It's a place where history, culture, and nature come together for a truly memorable experience.
Sheki is located about 300 kilometres from the capital, Baku, and it is close to Georgia. One of the best ways to explore Sheki is taking the 2-Day Private Tour to Sheki with an Overnight Stay from Baku.