Alternative things to do In Baku

Handy Guide to Baku

Baku is a beautiful blend of European and Eastern architecture, with a touch of the sharp edges of the Soviet era still visible. A rapidly growing city , with new skyscrapers shooting up from little idyllic tree lined streets, you can find culture and history from its Unesco-listed Old City (İçəri Şəhər) and also modern day masterpieces of architecture that will give you the feeling of being in futuristic megacity. Up to recently the country was quite hard to travel to , probably why it kept its authenticity, but now Azerbaijan has implemented the “ASAN e-visa” system which allows citizens from 81 countries to apply for a visa quick and receive it by email.

Azerbaijani Tea

Azerbaijanis love their tea, which is also grown in Azerbaijani region called Lenkaran. So much so, you can see several monuments for the tea in different cities. If you are in Baku, take a long evening walk at the Baku boulevard enjoying the views of historic Government building; and then take a sit at one of the tea houses and order a pot of tea to enjoy. Each pot will offer 4-5 glasses of tea. Not unusual for locals to order 3-4 pots of tea per one sit. People usually drink tea with local fruit preserves, which is a bit different than what we have here in the west. They also put sugar cubes in their mouth and let the tea melt it, giving small doses of sugar with every sip. Not unusual to have nuts and dried fruits on the table as well.

Famous Trio - the Highlights

At the end of boulevard walk you will see funiculars which will go up to the Hilltop Park. Famous amongst locals for 360 degree views of Baku, this park is also home for War Memorial that Azerbaijan suffered from in late 80s early 90s. At the end of the park you will find the modern symbolism of the city, Flame Towers. Three beautiful glass skyscrapers in shape of Flames, representing the country’s slogan “Land of Fire”. Going down, you will find yourself in the Old City and beautiful Maiden Tower. It is perfect place for history lovers, guaranteeing you a time travel like experience. You can end your walk at Nizami street, which is Baku’s High Street decorated with shops, malls and lots of fountains.

Food & Drinks

If you are tired after so much walk, time to eat. The local dishes we recommend are Xan pilau; Stuffed vegetables (Dolma); Stuffed vine leaves (also Dolma); Herbs omelette (Kuku); Yoghurt soup (Dovga); Open Lasagna (Xengel; Local Diary products, honey and nuts (all organic), Organic SHepherds Salads; Tandir Bread (if you can watch how it is made). Local desserts are Paxlava, Shekerbura, Gogal, Organic fruit preserves. You may also try local beverages. Azerbaijan is considered to be 2nd oldest wine maker in the world and one of the best. Beer is very affordable and good. Lots of small pubs and bars can be found around Nizami Street. Make sure to try beer like a local with smoked salty cheese or chickpeas.

Atashgah -Fire Temple

A magnificent sight to behold, temples with fires burning in them, that legend has it they are inextinguishable. Dating back five centuries back when first worshippers believed in Zoroastrianism. The temple has been destroyed a rebuilt many times, the one standing today was built around 17-18th century. Atashgah literally means ‘Home of Fire’.

Eternal flame of Yanar Dag

If you are visiting the Absheron Peninsula to see Ateshgah, you should also pay a visit to Yanar Dag , the “eternal flame”. According to legend it has been burning since the 50s when a farmer started accidentally with a cigarette. As a natural reserve the flame has constant fuel and no one knows when it will stop. It’s a remarkable sight to witness especially in the dark.

Musical Stone and Wall drawings of Gobustan

Gobustan hosts one of the most important artifacts of human history, the National Park is home to the oldest known rock art that dates back at least 20,000 years. The rock is very well preserved and you can distinguish the shapes of women and men hunting or going about their everyday prehistoric lives. You will also find 2 meter long stone, which is a natural wonder of it’s area with the climate and the effect of the natural gas affecting the stone, so when “played” by hitting it with other smaller stones it sounds like a tambourine. It has been used for centuries for ritualistic purposes and the archaic Yallı chain-dance.

Active Mud Volcanoes

Azerbaijan claims 50% of all mud volcanoes in the world, that ranks up to 400 volcanoes in the Gobustan area near the Caspian Sea. An eerie, almost alien environment, with little hill-volcanoes of mud that you can take a stroll around in and also take a dip in the rumoured therapeutic mud.

The museum of miniature books

The museum is certified by the the Guiness book of Records for having the largest collection of miniature books, containing over 6,500 , smallest being 2 millimeters by 2 millimeters which require a microscope to read.The museum looks like something out of a fairytale, made for a race of tiny literary fairies and we choose to believe it is. The miniature books are no new thing in Azerbaijan, but go back centuries where it was tradition for the books to be decorated with Persian miniature paintings. The Baku Museum of Miniature Books is free to enter and located in the Old Town.

Haggle for a carpet

We highly recommend the Carpet museum that is literally shaped as a carpet, although you might not find any flying carpets you will learn a lot about the art and history and you can also visit the shop within the museum where haggling is encouraged! Prices or large rugs begin at 1000 AZN (£460). More exclusive rugs can go in the price of £ 150.000. Azerbaijan has a long history of carpet weaving , both wool and silk and al handmade with the traditional methods and styles. In the museum is also guaranteed that you will get an Azeri carpet with an authenticity certificate issued on the same day.

Beyond Baku- Naftalan spa

Ever wondered what a bath in crude oil felt like? Well now you can find out in a little town, 320 kilometers west of Baku. “Black Gold” is the country’s most valuable resources bt crude oil too thick for commercial use and it isn't much good for burning. But it’s rumored to have therapeutic properties, legend started around the 12th century when Azerbaijani poet Nizami Ganjavi wrote of it being exported to neighboring countries through traders' caravans. The story goes that a caravan camel fell sick and was left behind. The camel rolled into an oil pool and when the caravan returned weeks later the creature was discovered by its herder, fully recovered. In the 13th century, Italian explorer Marco Polo wrote in "The Travels" of the oil used for "anointing the camels in maladies of the skin, and for other purposes; for which reason people come from a great distance for it."

Beyond Baku- Palace of Shaki Khans

This beautiful Palace is in the Unesco World Heritage List and was used as a summer Palace for the Khans. Located in Shaki city, 4 hour drive from Baku, consists of colourful mosaic windows and beautiful woodwork where no nails or glue was used.

Beyond Baku- Nature, Lakes and Mountains

Azerbaijanis love their nature and are proud of it. They say there 9 climatic zones out of 11, which lets them to grow almost every kind of fruit and vegatable imaginable. On the south you will find tea plantations and citrus trees, the central climate helps with growth of melons, the north is great for nuts and crops, the western part is rich with apples, pears, pomegranates, persimons, plums and vegetables. Every reagon is also fully involved into local farming. Thus all fruits, vegetables, crops milk and meat products and honey are all organic and eaten in the season. Not only it is amazing, but also the mountains, forests and lakes are stunningly beautiful. If you travel to west, near Ganja city you will find 7 beautiful lakes surrounding mountain Kapaz.

If you ever visit Baku make sure to check the tours and experiences on GetGuided.

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