10 Reasons to Visit Baku, Azerbaijan
Unique history, fantastic food and wine, as well as plenty of sights are awaiting travelers in Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan.
Baku is one of the most up and coming tourist destinations and is an exhilarating mix of oil-driven progress and ancient Asian cultures. The city offers a fantastic mix of old and new with futuristic skyscrapers set against the ancient architecture of local mosques and other landmarks.
Baku is the ultimate undiscovered tourist destination and there are so many things you can do here. Highlights include sampling the local food, exploring medieval palaces or going on a city stroll to admire the more contemporary architecture.
If you are planning your tour to Central Asia, here are seven reasons why Baku should be added to your travel bucket list and some of the top places you will want to check out:
1. Value for Money
Baku is an extremely cheap and you can get great value for money on accommodation and sightseeing. You can get around by walking or via bus and metro which cost around US$1 per journey.
Although tourist numbers are very low compared to other cities in Asia, Baku is very safe and you shouldn't encounter any issues exploring this city both during day and night. Local people are very friendly even with the language barrier and they will greet you with smiles and curiosity.
3. Baku’s Old City is a Sight to Behold
The Old City is a walled city, called the Icheri Sheher by the locals. It is a UNESCO heritage site and offers an incredible insight into the lives and times of people living in Baku between the 12th and 16th centuries.
You can take a guided tour of Icheri, but if you want to discover it on your own, then it is a good idea to get an audio guide at one of the many Tourism Kiosks throughout the city. Follow the sound guide and fall in love with the glory of a bygone era.
4. The Fortress Wall
The Fortress Wall in Baku helped protect the city from battles and walls until the 16th century. Initially constructed in the 12th century, The Wall was destroyed several times across the centuries. Then in the 16th century, the locals upgraded the wall and added a second fortress wall lower than the original one, to fortify it. That way, if any invaders would dare jump the wall, they’d end up trapped in a water-filled moat between the two walls and easy to catch.
The entry gate is marked with the city’s shield. You can spot the head of Ox, protected by lion heads and a sun and a moon, denoting the 24-hour, night and day protection. The Fortress Wall has 25 towers and five gates; good luck navigating through it!
5. Caravanserais For A Drink or Two
Baku has so many stories to tell because it lies in the Silk Route, the famous road taken by nomads and traders traveling across Asia for better business prospects. Caravanserais are the inns and hotels where they used to rest and recuperate. It’s incredible to note that the architecture of these Caravanserais is pretty standard across thousands of miles of Silk Route.
Baku has two very well-kept Caravanserais from the 14th century. These are still operational and are a great place to enjoy a drink or two under the shade of ancient trees.
6. Maiden Tower For The Climb of A Lifetime
Another UNESCO Heritage Site, the Maiden Tower, has perplexed archeologists and historians regarding its actual purpose and its unique shape. It could have been a part of the defense strategy of the locals in the 5th or 6th century when it was built.
Another theory asserts that the locals were trying to study the moon and other celestial bodies and that’s why they created the highest tower they could build. And finally, some believe that the tower was a fire-worshipping temple, and from the above, it does look like a buta, the symbol of fire and light.
There are eight levels on the Maiden Tower, and you will have a different experience on each of these levels. And once you get all the way up to the top, an exhilarating 360-degree view of the city awaits you. The Maiden Tower is also an architectural marvel as it has survived several centuries because of its 5m thick walls and a seriously strong foundation.
7. Kanegah Complex – See Sarcophagi From the Caspian Sea!
In 1964, the archeologists here discovered a church and nearby market ground that had been buried for centuries. Experience the Kanegah Complex and see the shaded area where the sellers did their business when it got sweltering in summers, as it still does in Baku.
In the middle of the market, you will find some interesting sarcophagi found in the Sabayil Fortress, which is now under the Caspian Sea. These Sarcophagi were relocated here, and they can tell so many stories. The monuments are engraved with symbols indicating about the person who died, for example, the ones with boots and shoes on them tell us that the deceased was a shoemaker. All in all, the market ruins are a great look into the life in the 16th century Baku.
8. Heydar Aliyev Center – Lose Yourself in Arts & Architecture
Zaha Hadid was one of the most celebrated architects in the world and the Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku is her ode to the city’s Islamic legacy. This building was inspired by Arabic calligraphy where the design elements seem to flow into infinity together.
Once you have recovered from looking at the fantastic visage of The Heydar Aliyev Centre, it’s time to go inside. Although some international exhibitions are also shown regularly, The Heydar Aliyev Centre is mostly home to displays of the local culture. You can easily expect to be mesmerized by the architecture here and spend at least half a day lost inside this beautiful building.
9. Yanar Dag – The Land of Fire
A fire that has been burning for 4000 years gives Baku the title of ‘The land of Fire.’ Yanar Dag burns at the base of a mountain, where gases escape from deep underground. These gases then react with the oxygen in the air and ignite a fire that hasn’t been extinguished for millennia.
10. See the Famous Flame Towers
The Flame Towers are three skyscrapers mimicking the mesmerizing movements of a flame with LEDs - you will love visiting this unique attraction which gives Baku a recognisable skyline. You can see the Flame Towers from all over the city and we highly recommend taking a river boat ride for a great view of the skyline. At night time the towers are lit up which looks fantastic for pictures.
The Last Word: Baku Beckons! Will You Heed?
Baku has seen an increase in the number of tourists over the last five years or so, but it is still pretty secluded and quiet. There are many tourist attractions here, and the city is expanding at an exhilarating speed, so rest assured, you will find many things to do here. And in case the nightclubs and ruins here aren’t to your touristy tastes, check out the pristine natural beauty of Baku. And oh, the wonderfully welcoming hospitality of the locals also helps.
By Ashley Rosa
Ashley Rosa is a freelance writer and blogger. As writing is her passion that why she loves to write articles related to the latest trends in technology and sometimes on health-tech as well. She is crazy about chocolates. You can find her at twitter: @ashrosa2.