Fire Temple (Ateshgah)
Ateshgah Fire Temple lies approximately 20 kilometres (12.2 miles) to the east of Icheri Sheher, making it a common day trip from Baku. The temple itself has one large central flame and four smaller ones, which were built in the 17th century. Inside the complex, different rooms tell the story of the relationship between fire and Zoroastrianism in Azerbaijan. But Ateshgah may be much older. Some records suggest the temple dates back more than 2000 years to the days of the Silk Road. Either join a tour or take a taxi. The cheaper option, using public transport, costs less than $3 in total. Bus 184 from Koroglu Metro Station takes you to Ateshgah.
Ateshgah, Baku, Azerbaijan. Tel: +994 70 981 68 88.
Opening hours: Daily from 10:00am to 6:00pm. Admission: AZN2 ($1.20).
Yanar Dag, the burning mountain, is a bizarre natural wonder that lives up to Azerbaijan’s nickname as the Land of Fire. Underground gas seeps out of the mountainside stretching approximately 10 metres (32.8 feet) and burns continuously. According to some sources, Yanar Dag ignited after a shepherd in the 1950s discarded a cigarette. Head up the steps to get views of the scorched hills and the occasional shepherd from a bygone era. It’s possible to visit both Ateshgah and Yanar Dag on a day trip from Baku. Take bus 217 from Koroglu Metro Station.
Binagadi-Balakhany Highway, Baku, Azerbaijan. Tel: +994 12 340 45 47.
Few people have even heard of mud volcanoes let alone seen one in real life. The volcanoes spew freezing mud pushed to the surface from underground gas. Azerbaijan has more than one-third of the world’s mud volcanoes along the Absheron Peninsula, which you can reach on a day trip from Baku. Some are volatile and have the potential to explode. Getting to the mud volcanoes can be challenging, and you’ll almost certainly need to take a tour.
Gobustan (Qobustan) National Park
UNESCO-listed Gobustan, to the southwest of Baku, has more than 6000 rock carvings and paintings with the older ones dating back almost 40,000 years to the days of hunter-gathers. A museum details the origins and historical significance of the petroglyphs along with displaying human bones and tools that date back millennia.
Apart from the archaeological sites, there’s also an intriguing natural wonder called Gaval Dash, which is a large rock that when tapped sounds like a tambourine. A combination of the climate plus oil and gas over thousands of years cause this strange phenomenon. You can visit Mud Volcanoes near Gobustan too.
Most people take a tour, which costs at least $60. It’s possible to reach using public transport (bus 195 towards Alat), but expect a lack of English and ambiguous stops. You’ll need to walk a few kilometres to the National Park in Gobustan or take a cab from the bus stop.
Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape, Qobustan, Azerbaijan. Tel: +994 50 416 09 88.
Admission: AZN4 ($2.40) into the National Park. AZN5 ($3) for the museum.
Azerbaijan doesn’t have many beautiful beaches because of the inevitable pollution caused by more than 150 years of oil exploitation. But Biglah Beach on Absheron Peninsular’s northeast coast 45 kilometres (28 miles) from Baku is an exception. The beach stretches for a kilometre and is a pleasant place to relax for an afternoon. Popular spots include Amburan Beach Club and SeaZone Beach Baku. Just be aware that it may be difficult to reach without your own transport.
Admission: Free. Small fees apply to rent a sun lounger and use their facilities.
History fans can take a day trip from Baku to visit the ancient capital Shamakhi. The former centre of the Shirvan Empire dates back almost two-and-a-half thousand years and was the capital between the 9th and 16th centuries. The main attractions include the one-thousand-year-old fortress, archaeological ruins, and traditional carpet weaving. Expect at least two hours to reach Shamakhi from Baku.