The 24 Most Beautiful Places in Azerbaijan

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Sam Bedford

Combine mountains and semi-arid plains stretching endlessly towards the horizon with historic towns. Now add in wildlife, fire and hundreds of kilometres of coastline to get an idea of the real beauty of Azerbaijan. Here’s our roundup of the most beautiful spots in the Land of Fire.

1. Baku

Architectural Landmark

Baku cityscape with Flame Towers, Azerbaijan
Lloyd Alozie / Unsplash
Baku is one of the most beautiful places in Azerbaijan on account of its modern city centre and historical old town. The Flame Towers form the focal point of the capital and light up after sundown. Icheri Sheher, the medieval core, exhibits Islamic styles of architecture, while lavish European facades line the Old City. The most beautiful attractions are along Baku Boulevard, a long promenade near the Caspian Sea, and there are superb views from the hill near Martyrs’ Lane.

2. Absheron National Park

Park

Just over 60km (37mi) east of Baku sits Absheron National Park, whose arid plains caused by the semi-desert climate cover almost 2,000 acres (809ha). Stand inside and marvel at the rolling dunes against the clear, unpolluted waters of the Caspian. However, the mesmerising landscapes aren’t the main attraction. More than 50 species of animals call the steppes home, including the endangered Caspian seal and comb jellyfish, as well as gazelles, badgers and jackals.

3. Sheki

Architectural Landmark

Aerial view of the town of Sheki, Azerbaijan
Zaur Ibrahimov / Unsplash

Nestled at the foot of the southern Greater Caucasus Mountains is a place called Sheki. The town of 60,000 people dates back 2,500 years, making it one of the oldest Caucasus settlements. Sheki’s claim to fame for millennia was silk, textiles and embroidery, which made it a significant point on the Silk Road. Today, the historical region with ancient mosques, castles and the 18th-century Palace of Sheki Khans forms the foreground against the majestic green mountains.

4. Quba

Architectural Landmark

Beautiful view of snowy mountains taken from inside a car, Quba, Azerbaijan
Orkhan Farmanli / Unsplash
Quba, in the northeast of the country, is an important destination for Azerbaijani culture. The ancient mountain town along the Qudailchay River is a stone’s throw from remote villages full of history. A small all-Jewish settlement sits on the opposite side of the river traversing the town. Craggy mountains and valleys surround the cultural communities. The nearby village of Khinalug at 2,350m (7,710ft) offers stunning mountain landscapes and plenty of hiking opportunities.

5. Qabala

Natural Feature

Beautiful morning sky above the mountains in Qabala, Azerbaijan
Nilufar Aliyeva / Unsplash

The former capital of the Caucasus Albanians in northern Azerbaijan blends historical and natural beauty. Nearby archaeological sites dating back almost 2,500 years sit near the craggy Caucasus Mountains to the north. Valleys, canyons and waterfalls, as well as ski resorts, make Qabala one of the top places in Azerbaijan.

6. Shamakhi

Natural Feature

Sunset in Shamakhi, Azerbaijan
PICSAR / Unsplash

Another hotspot for history connoisseurs: Shamakhi. Boasting a history of two and a half millennia and housing the former Shirvan Empire’s capital, the small town is worth the two-hour drive from Baku. Medieval archaeological ruins and the crumbling Gulistan Fortress that dates back almost a thousand years make interesting sites. The region is historically a hotspot for carpet weaving as well as being the birthplace of several Azeri poets.

7. The Caucasus Mountains

Natural Feature

Two mountain ranges stretching from the Caspian to the Black Sea and splitting Azerbaijan and Armenia, form the Greater and Lesser Caucasus Mountains. According to experts, the mountains are some of the most culturally and linguistically diverse regions on the planet. Various ethnic groups and languages different to Azeri are found in these isolated communities contributing to their diversity. Hiking through uncharted wilderness and following the trails on the ambitious Transcaucasian Trail are highlights.

8. The mountain villages

Architectural Landmark

Head to the opposite side of the Qudailchay River traversing Quba and stroll through Qirmizi Qesebe (Red Town). This 2,500-year-old settlement houses a community of mountain Jews living in an enclave said to be the largest all-Jewish settlement outside of Israel. Other near villages include the remote Khinalug, Qusar, Lahij and Saribash.

9. Gobustan National Park

Park

Gobustan (or Qobustan) is one of the most visited national parks in Azerbaijan. Located 60 kilometres (37.3 miles) to the southwest of Baku, the UNESCO-listed site combines petroglyphs with mud volcanoes and musical rocks. Some rock carvings decorating the walls date back 40,000 years and depict various shapes from human figures to animals. Most intriguing out of the 6,000 carvings are those portraying whales and dolphins, which aren’t believed to be in the Caspian Sea. Gaval Dash, the symphonic rock, resembles a tambourine when struck. Azerbaijan’s mud volcanoes are nearby too. Gobustan is one of the more popular day trips from Baku which can often be arranged by the hotel.

10. Astara

Architectural Landmark

Luscious hillside in Astara, Azerbaijan
Orkhan Farmanli / Unsplash

According to locals, historical Astara tops the list of beautiful places in Azerbaijan. Mountains surround the town, which sits on the border with Iran, while lush green virgin rainforest and a variety of plant and animal life – including the Caucasus leopard – live in the nearby Hirkan National Park.

11. The Caspian Sea

Natural Feature

A boy rides his horse in the Caspian Sea, near Baku in Azerbaijan
Daniel Silva / Unsplash

The Caspian Sea, the largest lake in the world, makes for one of the best places to visit in Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani coastline stretches for more than 500km (310mi) from the southern border with Iran to Dagestan in the north. Despite some of the coast and beaches near Baku suffering from pollution, you can find beautiful resorts in Sumgait in the northern part of the Absheron Peninsula. Lankaran, four hours south of Baku, near the Iranian border, has some nice resorts too.

12. Ganja

Architectural Landmark

The second city and birthplace of famous 12th-century poet, Nizami Ganjavi, attracts relatively few tourists compared to Baku. But make the 370-kilometres trip (230 miles) journey from the capital, taking approximately four and a half hours, to experience this historical city. Ganja as the name might suggest doesn’t refer to marijuana. Instead, a rich history dating back to the 6th-century along with ancient mosques, caravanserai, churches and a house constructed from bottles awaits.

13. Lankaran

Natural Feature

Heading south from Baku along the Caspian Sea towards Iran reveals the sleepy resort town of Lankaran. With Neolithic origins and a long stretch of coastline, Lankaran is one of the local’s favourite places to visit in Azerbaijan. Stroll through the town and visit the Lighthouse, Lankaran Fortress, Heydar Aliyev Memorial Park and the Old Prison. Beach lovers are recommended to head a few kilometres south to Kanarmesha while fans of the outdoors can take a day trip to the Ghizil-Agaj State Reserve. The second houses more than 200 species of birds, wolves and boars.

14. Shirvan National Park

Natural Feature

This semi-desert national park, just over 100km (62mi) southwest of Baku, combines wildlife, dunes and a short stretch of coastline. Visitors can enjoy landscapes and a diversity of fauna with large populations of gazelles, jungle cats and turtles. More than 200 species of birds also live inside Shirvan National Park, including flamingos and 32 rare species. Bungalows and camping sites are available for overnight stays.

15. Agh Gol National Park

Natural Feature

Lake Aggol, the second-largest lake in Azerbaijan, sits inside the Agh Gol National Park in the Kur-Araz lowlands. The arid landscape creates a nesting spot for migratory birds, while the lake is full of fish. And the views are spectacular. Imagine a blue-green lake surrounded by a band of trees with mountains in the distance. Despite the beauty, travelling can be challenging because of language barriers. Learn a few phrases of Azerbaijani first.

16. Goyazan Mountain

Natural Feature

A short distance to the northwest of Qazakh District in northern Azerbaijan stands the 857m (2,812ft) Goyazan Mountain. Goyazan stands alone against a flat background of rolling fields and plains, giving it a prominent appearance in the landscape. The strange beauty of the mountain ensures its inclusion on the list of places to visit in Azerbaijan. Check out the nearby reservoir for views of the villages and border with Armenia too.

17. Lake Goygol

Natural Feature

Light shining on the waters of Lake Goygol, Azerbaijan
Samir Bahramov / Unsplash

Lake Goygol is one of the most beautiful places in Azerbaijan. The name means the Blue Lake, and it sits in the Murovdag foothills. Formed after an earthquake almost 1,000 years ago, Goygol has become a favourite tourist destination near Ganja. A total of 19 lakes lie in the Greater Goygol region, with eight at an altitude of more than 1,500m (4,921ft). The hour-long journey from Ganja passes through the mountains, providing plenty of spots for photographs.

18. Ghizil-Agaj State Reserve

Park

The colossal nature reserve occupying the Ghizil-Agaj Bay sits to the north of Lankaran. Stretching more than 70 kilometres (43.5 miles) from the Caspian Sea and encircling the bay, Ghizil-Agaj State Reserves is a haven for migratory birds. Birds from Northern Europe and Siberia make their way during the winter, forming just a fraction of the 250 species of bird who call the area home. On top of this, expect to see wolves, wild cats and almost 50 types of fish. Ghizil-Agaj along with Agh Gol are the only national parks in Azerbaijan featured on the World Heritage List of Ramsar Wetlands.

19. Lake Sarysu

Natural Feature

Lake Sarysu holds the title as Azerbaijan’s largest lake. Located in the Kur-Araz Lowlands and stretching a total length of 22 kilometres (13.7 miles), the freshwater lake offers both incredible views and a plethora of wildlife. Travelling here can be a challenge for even the most adventurous visitor, but the views and unspoilt terrain are worth the effort.

20. Mingachevir Reservoir

Natural Feature

Look at a map and see a large body of water located near Ganja. Stretching for 70 kilometres (43.5 miles) with a maximum width of 18 kilometres (11.2 miles), a visitor might assume it’s a huge lake. After all, it dwarfs both Sarysu and Agh Gol, the largest and second largest lakes in Azerbaijan. But it’s not. The water in Mingachevir contains a vast reservoir and Azerbaijan’s most important hydroelectric station. Known by locals as ‘the sea’ and with small sections of ‘beach’ along the shores, Mingachevir Reservoir might be worth visiting for a non-touristy day trip in Central Azerbaijan.

21. Kura River

Natural Feature

The Kura River begins in Eastern Turkey’s Lesser Caucasus before traversing through Georgia. Entering Azerbaijan from the north and passing through Mingachevir Reservoir, the meandering waterway eventually drains into the Caspian Sea. Not only is the Kura the longest river in Azerbaijan but at 1515 kilometres (941 miles) it holds the title as the biggest in Transcaucasia. Throughout history, the Kura provided a lifeline for several villages and communities for irrigation, especially during the long dry summers. Today, it’s the primary water source in Azerbaijan.

22. Araz River

Natural Feature

With a length of 1072 kilometres (666 miles), the Araz River ranks among the longest in the Caucasus. Formerly entering the Caspian Sea and now joining to the Kura, the Araz plays an integral role in regional history. Traders and armies used the river as a highway, and it later marked the territorial border between Russia and Persian. But most intriguing is the association with the biblical River Gihon first mentioned in Genesis. The rich biodiversity with almost 70,000 birds from more than 200 species live along the Araz’s shores and wetlands.

23. Samur River

Natural Feature

Beginning in Dagestan among springs and glaciers in the Greater Caucasus Mountains, Samur flows south before discharging into the Caspian Sea. The river itself only has a small portion in Azerbaijan forming part of the east-west border with Russia for more than 30 kilometres (18.7 miles). Two tributaries stretch south into Azerbaijan providing water for the Samur-Absheron Channel used for irrigation. Visiting the river and enjoying the views is possible on a day trip from Quba.

24. Naftalan

Architectural Landmark

Not typically included in the guidebook’s top places to visit in Azerbaijan but worth a special mention. The small town of Naftalan near Ganja offers a weird type of spa treatment. Believed to date back more than 1,000 years and popularised by the Soviets, Azerbaijanis today visit the spa to bath in crude oil. Some believe bathing in this special grade of oil has health benefits including treating skin disorders and neurological problems. Adventurous tourists can try this experience for themselves.

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