November 25, 2017

I flew to Baku for £95 return from Istanbul. On arrival at the Heydar Aliyev International airport I got a taxi to the Old town in Baku. The taxi cost 15 AZN and it took about 25 minutes to get there (Beware as a couple of other drivers asked for 60 Manat. Insist on using the meter).


The taxi driver could not reach my hotel as the roads are narrow and you have to walk through the old town where there are lots of little stalls selling a variety of souvenirs and gifts. Walking through the streets of Baku, it became a real struggle to find my hotel that seemed to be well hidden. Lost, I decided to ask for directions, and became so lucky to meet Leyla from the Baklava shop. A while after, I reached the Qiz Qalasi hotel, which is Azeri for "Maiden Town" and it is also the name of one of the most famous monuments of the Old Town.




In Baku there is plenty to do: The Old Town is good for shoppers and foodies; and in the city centre, the modern architecture is astonishing. It is a must to visit the carpet museum, that is actually built as a rolled up carpet!




Azerbaijan is a very diverse country and there are many sights that you should visit outside the city:


  • Qafqaz Tufandag Mountain Resort Hotel was covered in snow when I visited. It is a very expensive hotel (over £100 per night). Although the skiing season hadn't yet started, we were able to go on the ski lifts, leading to a café at the top of the mountain to view one of the most breath-taking scenes of the whole trip.



  • I also went to visit the mud volcanoes in Qobustan heading south towards Iran. It wasn't easy to get there and it made a difference from the snow I had seen the day before. However, the desert-like scenery, dry and dusty was worth the trip; the mud volcanoes bubbled away as if it were not on this planet.



  • One of the most fascinating places I visited was called Yanar Dag (burning mountain), which is 20 minutes away from Baku and it is the reason Azerbaijan is known as "the Land of Fire". Yanar Dag is a gas source that burns in contact with oxygen, the flame has been burning for thousands of years. We were told that in World War II, when Azerbaijan was still part of the Soviet Union, Hitler wanted to Bomb this area as there was a military base close by. He planned to do it at night as he could see where to target from the fire. The locals tried to stop the fire but couldn't so they build a temporary thing to cover it so it couldn't be seen from the air.



  • Gobustan National Park is about 60km south west of Baku and is definitely worth a visit. Gorbustan is made of rocks with big gorges formed by Earthquakes, sun and wind and was named a UNESCO world heritage site in 2007. Here you can also find many carvings in the stone dated  5000-50,000 years ago and a you also have a museum to get a better insight into these carvings




I also watched English football team, Chelsea play against Qarabag in the National stadium of Baku halfway between the city and the international airport. This was the original reason I had chosen this time to visit Azerbaijan and I was pleased to witness a 4-0 win.


Please note that English isn't widely spoken in Azerbaijan, although this is changing in the younger generations. Most people in Azerbaijan can speak both Azeri and Russian, as it used to be part of the Soviet Union.


Overall I would really recommend Azerbaijan. It has great gastronomy (similar to Turkey), the friendliness made it easy to get around and the landscape diversity and cultural heritage are remarkable









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