Azerbaijan is one of those countries that’ll truly knock your socks off. It’s a place where tea is drunk with jam, carpets are woven into the cultural fabric and where you can literally have a bath in crude oil. Throw in some stunning mountains and you’ve got a great place for an adventure. Though 8 days are not enough to see all of Azerbaijan, we have carefully chosen all the sightseeing for this program to show you the best of it. Nice weather, cheerful smiles and a full camera battery are everything you need to start a new adventure and explore Azerbaijan.
PLACES TO VISIT
1st Day: Highland Park, Flame Towers Baku, Alley of Martyrs, panoramic view of the city
2nd Day: “Gala” State Historical Ethnographic Reserve and Open Air Museum; “Ateshgah” Fire Temple, “Yanardag” State Historical Cultural and Natural Reserve; Heydar Aliyev Centre, Icherisheher (“Old City”); Philharmonic Park
3rd Day: Guba province, Beshbarmag Mountain, Juma Mosque, Sakina-Khanum mosque, Carpet Weaving Factory; Gyrmyzy Gasaba (Red Settlement); Khinaliq village
4th Day: Gobustan Historical-Artistic Preserve & Museum; Mud Volcanoes; “Citrus Valley” farm with tea break; Lankaran city: Lankaran Fortress, Kichik-Bazar mosque, The Palace of Mirakhmad Khan; Hirkan National Park, Lake Khanbulan
5th Day: Gabala province, authentic bucket bazaar, Nohur Lake, Yeddi Gozel waterfall, “Tufandag” Winter-Summer Tourism Complex, Gabala Shooting Club, Nij Village
6th Day: Sheki city: Sheki Khan’s Summer Palace, local workshops, Karvansaray; Albanian church in Kish village; Gakh region: Ilisu reserve, Mamirli & Ilisu waterfalls
7th Day: Savalan ASPI Winery + wine degustation / Gabala /
8th Day: Baku
1st Day: BAKU
Arrival to Baku, meeting at the airport. Transfer to the hotel, check in (14:00).
Want to have a close look at the Baku`s most popular landmark? Baku business and hotel complex Flame Towers Baku is composed of 3 buildings. The surface of the Towers is fully covered with LED screens reflecting different visual characters in motion, easily visible from the far corners of the city in the evening. Walk along the Alley of Martyrs which is usually being included in the protocol visits of the foreign officials. Enjoy the panoramic view of the city and its bay from Baku’s Highland Park (also called Upland Park), the highest point in the Azerbaijani capital.
Free time suggestions:
Return to the hotel. Overnight.
2nd Day: BAKU & ABSHERON (map link)
Breakfast at the hotel. Pick up from hotel at 09:30 for Absheron tour (40 min drive from Baku).
Let`s begin our interesting tour around “Land of Fire”! Our excursion will start with visiting Gala village (40 min drive from Baku), which today is the State Historical Ethnographic Reserve and Open Air Museum offering the opportunity to see the original lifestyle of Azerbaijani people dated back to 10th-19th centuries. It is a unique place where you can not only make a tour into the past, but also try to bake bread in ancient oven “tandir”, weave a carpet, smear with clay in a pottery workshop or feed camels and horses.
Our next stop is Ateshgah Fire Temple in the village of Surakhani that for centuries has been attracting crowds of thrill seekers. Built in the 17th–18th centuries around naturally burning flames which were previously worshipped by Zoroastrians, the site then had become an important place of pilgrimage for fire-worshipping Hindus until the 1880s. Today it houses a well-designed open air museum.
And the final stop of our “fiery tour” is State Historical, Cultural and Natural Reserve “Yanardag” (literary “Burning Mountain”), a complex built around the hill located on the top of the natural gas pocket causing continuous flame eruption. Most probably the fire has been burning in Yanardag for over 20,000 years. These natural flames were described by Marco Polo in the 13th century and continue to mesmerise those who visit the site.
Visiting Heydar Aliyev Centre designed by world-famous architect Zaha Hadid. It is vast and jaw-dropping majestic statement of fluid 21st-century architecture forming abstract waves and peaks that seem to melt together. The real delight is simply pondering and photographing the extraordinary exterior from ever-changing angles. Make a stop next to the popular “I love Baku” sign to take some photos.
Coming back to the Baku for Old City Tour: Icherisheher (Inner City), known as a “Fortress” or “Old City”, a unique historical and architectural conservation area in the center of Baku. This is one of the most ancient places of the country where archaeological excavations revealed burial vaults of the Bronze Age. Maiden Tower (12th century) and The Palace of Shirvanshahs (13th-16th centuries) are the best known historical monuments located in the Old City. Besides them there are a lot of other unique monuments such as mosques, minarets, the remnants of caravanserais “Multani” and “Bukhara“, ancient baths, etc. Stroll down the paved streets of this ancient city and drop to some of the numerous souvenir shops where you can buy national clothes, kerchiefs, scarves and caps, dishes and handmade carpets.
In the end of our excursion you will have a walk through the Philharmonic Park, formerly known as the Governor´s Garden, that goes up the hill towards the Azerbaijan State Academic Philharmonic Hall (1910-1912) built in Italian Renaissance (exterior) and German Rococo (interior) styles. You can make nice photos next to a French-style Baroque fountain while listening to the classic music.
Back to the hotel. Overnight.
3rd Day: GUBA & KHINALIQ (Northern route map link )
Breakfast at the hotel. Pick up from hotel at 08:00 for tour to Guba city, Red Settlement and Khinaliq village.
Guba (2 hour drive from Baku) is one of the favorite tourist destinations because of its shady woods and gorgeous mountains. Famous for carpets and apples, the town of Guba sits on a cliff top overlooking the Qudiyalchay River.
Our first stop on the way to Guba will be Beshbarmag (Five-Finger) Mountain known for its mythical stories where locals coming to pray for strength and good fortune.
In and around Guba city there are still several significant historical places. Juma (Friday) Mosque is one of the oldest mosques in Guba, built from the red bricks in 1802. It has a cylinder shaped structure and the form of regular octagon, typical for Guba mosques. In fact, inside the mosque is larger than it seems from the outside. Another mosque that is worth seeing is Sakina-Khanum mosque, built in 1850 by the wife of Abbasgulu Agha Bakikhanov, in the name of her husband, famous historian and writer, one of the founders of Azerbaijani literature.
And, of course, excursion to Guba is not possible without visiting a Carpet Weaving Factory! Guba carpets feature intricate designs that take inspiration from nature and geometric patterns, plus a variety of vivid colors. Here people aim to bringing back the art of carpet weaving and reviving the skills and knowledge needed to keep this ancient art alive. After visiting the factory you can drop to a carpet-shop to buy some souvenirs and authentic carpets.
We will also visit Gyrmyzy Gasaba or Krasnaya Sloboda (Red Settlement) that has got its name because of distinctive red-tiled roofs. It is considered to be one of the biggest Jewish communities outside Israel and the world`s only place with a high concentration of the Mountain Jews. The history of the town is dated back to 1731, when the governor of Guba, Huseyn Ali Khan, took the Mountain Jews under his wing and allocated land to them on the left bank of the Qudiyalchay River. Today it is a town with developed infrastructure, having seven synagogues, Mountain Jews Museum, Yeshiva, an information center and so on.
Khinaliq village is located on a conical mountain peak at an altitude of 2300 meters above the sea level. There are about 380 houses that are 200-300 years old. Since the slopes here are very steep, the houses are built very close to each other. The roof of one house is the courtyard for another one located above. Khinalig people preserved their traditional way of life. Since the villagers are mainly engaged in sheep breeding, the weaving is widespread. Locals are one of the Albanian tribes and they speak a completely original language.
Back to Baku hotel. Overnight.
4th Day: GOBUSTAN & LANKARAN (Southern route map link)
Breakfast at the hotel. Pick up from hotel at 09:00 for the tour to Lankaran region (3 hour drive from Baku), visiting Gobustan Historical-Artistic Preserve on the way.
Have you ever seen where civilization has started? Seek no more, because Gobustan Historical-Artistic Preserve is exactly what you need! Included in the UNESCO heritage list, being one of the cradles of human civilization, Gobustan located barely one hour drive from Baku. It has an astonishing collection of over 6,000 ancient petroglyphs depicting the ways of life dating back as far as 40,000 years. Innovative technology will help you to get closer to the prehistoric times in Gobustan State Historical-Artistic Museum using its touch screens provided with special multimedia programs, educational and entertaining games, interactive displays, 3D video, etc.
Not far from Gobustan there is a second miracle that will amaze you no less than the prehistoric drawings on the rocks – these are Mud Volcanoes. NASA geologists have concluded that they are similar in structure to the hills on the planet Mars. Azerbaijan ranks first in terms of the number of mud volcanoes: 350 out of 800 mud volcanoes in the world are located here, one of which is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest in the world. (Visiting Mud Volcanoes depends on weather conditions.)
We continue our trip to the Southern part of Azerbaijan, the most special one due to its subtropical climate.
On the way to Lankaran the excursion to “Citrus Valley”: while showing around the owner of this 18-hectare farm will give a brief view of citrus gardening; you can also take an active part in fruit picking (Oct.-Dec.) or just try (and buy) local oranges, lemons, mandarins, kiwis or feijoa as well as the jams made from these fruits. Excursion will be followed by a tea break with jams made from local fruits.
Lankaran is often being called a paradise city, it`s the most fruitful and oldest settlement of Azerbaijan. The city’s major landmarks are Lankaran Fortress (18th cen.) and Kichik-Bazar mosque (19th cen.). Right in the city centre we will see the perfect example of oriental architecture, The Palace of Mirakhmad Khan, constructed in 1913 by French architects. The house with its three floors was the first multi-storey building in the city.
From Lankaran city we will move to Hirkan National Park, one of the pearls of Azerbaijani nature located in the south of the country, in the heart of the Talysh Mountains. Here, you won’t find any camping areas, cafes, bars, restaurants and other delights of modern tourism because this area is home to a natural wilderness dating back 60 million years with its own truly unique flora and fauna. This region has existed since the Ice Age and could easily be called a botanical garden. The Hirkan Forest is home to another natural gem – Lake Khanbulan, and while tigers used to inhabit the area until the late 1930s, today it is one of the last habitats of the Caucasian leopard.
Return back to Baku hotel.
5th Day: GABALA (North Western route map link)
Breakfast at the hotel. Check-out from the hotel at 08:00. Drive to Gabala region (4-4.5 hours) with excursion to historical and natural places on the way.
Gabala is one of the most beautiful provinces of Azerbaijan with rich and ancient history. For 600 years the city named Kabala used to be the capital of Caucasian Albania, an ancient state that used to exist on the territory of modern Azerbaijan back in the days. The ruins of the ancient city and the main gate of Caucasian Albania had survived until today.
On the way to Gabala you will pass so called Russian forest, river valleys, the famous Chestnut forest and numerous picturesque villages. Make a stop at authentic bucket bazaar to buy some fruits and vegetables which are measured and sold by bucket, not by scale.
The region is rich with natural assets. Nohur Lake has a fabulous location with a spectacular view to the Caucasus Mountains. Here you can enjoy boating or fishing. Yeddi Gozel (Seven Beauties) waterfall is situated near Vandam village in a mountainous area with dense forests. The name of the waterfall comes from the seven cascades falling from the highest peak of the mountain. Wooden stairs are leading to the very top. In spring and summer teahouses dot every mountain road, where guests can enjoy tea with traditional types of Gabala jam (for example, walnut or white cherry jam).
Spend time in “Tufandag” Winter-Summer Tourism Complex, it provides skiing in winter, going up to the mountains by cable cars in summer, as well as many other types of entertainment not mentioning breathtaking panoramic views.
At Gabala Shooting Club in the village of Bum you can improve your aim and enjoy its beautiful natural surroundings. It is a multi-purpose and world-class shooting facility that can serve both as a recreational and entertainment center.
Located just over 20 kilometres south-west of Gabala, the village of Nij is the home to the largest population of Udi people anywhere in the world. Udis are Christian people directly descended from one of the main tribes living in Caucasian Albania, an ancient state existing across much of today’s Azerbaijan from about 3BC to 8AD. In fact, they still speak an endangered language that is essentially the same as that of the ancient Albanians. Explore the history and culture of this warm community by visiting the beautifully restored 17th-century Albanian church (Chotari Church) which sits shaded by magnificent plane trees not far from the village center.
Check-in to the hotel in Gabala. Free time. Overnight at the hotel.
6th Day: SHEKI & GAKH (North Western route map link )
Breakfast at the hotel. Pick up from hotel at 09:00 for excursion around Sheki city (1 hour from Gabala) and tour to Gakh region.
Sheki is one of the most ancient and majestic cities of Transcaucasia, rich with many historical and architectural monuments, considered the country’s capital of handcrafts and an important stop on the Great Silk Route. Local craftsmen have managed to preserve their secrets till today, passing them from generation to generation. We will visit several workshops to see how they make “shebeke” (handmade frescos), “pakhlava” (special sweet famous in Azerbaijan) and “tekelduz” (a kind of weaving popular in this area).
The absolute must-see is Sheki Khan’s Summer Palace all covered in amazing miniature paintings from floor to ceiling. Thousands of small pieces of glass were used to produce its “shebeke” window mosaics. Next stop will be Karvansaray, a historical complex of two magnificent Caravanserais: “Yukhary” (“Upper”) and “Ashaghy” (“Lower”). Castle walls, ethnographic museum and handicraft shops are also very popular places of attraction. Sheki has been a major silk producer over the past four centuries, and is famous for its various silk products.
You will also visit ancient Albanian church in Kish village, a quiet spiritual place included in UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites located approximately 5 km north of Sheki.
After lunch we will move further to the Gakh region. Gakh is located in the north-west of Azerbaijan and attracts hunters and fishermen from all over the world. Unique nature of this region of the country fully discloses its beauty in the Ilisu reserve located not far from Gakh city. The region is also rich with waterfalls. The most popular ones are Mamirli waterfall located in the village of Lakit-Kotuklu in the depth of a dense forest and Ilisu waterfall with height of 25m. There are also many historic monuments on the territory of Gakh district, such as castle ruins and towers.
Back to Gabala hotel.
7th Day: SAVALAN WINERY (GABALA) (North Western route map link )
Breakfast at the hotel. Check out from hotel at 10:00 to drive back to Baku and visit Savalan ASPI Winery on the way.
The name of this wine is actually the name of the place where the grapes have been harvested, the most beautiful place in Gabala district, the heart of the province, the valley of Savalan. There is also a legendary mountain, a magnificent natural monument, which protects the area from all winds and nicknamed by people as a “sleeping beauty”. This mountain has become the symbol of Savalan wines and was put on the labels. The company’s international winemaking team combines experts from Italy and Azerbaijan to create a range that includes nearly 20 different wines.
During excursion you will get acquainted with the wine producing process, have excursion in the area and try 6 types of Savalan wines with snacks.
Reaching Baku and checking-in at the hotel. Free time to rest and self-explore the city. Overnight.
8th Day: BAKU
Breakfast at the hotel. Check out, transfer to the airport.
Accommodation: hotel in Baku on BB basis – 5 nights, hotel in Gabala on BB basis – 2 nights
All transportation according to the program, including airport-hotel-airport transfers and intercity transfers
Excursions according to the program
Professional guide (English, Russian, Arabic)
Wine degustation with snacks at Savalan ASPI Winery
Entrance to Citrus Valley including tea break with local jams
1 bottle of water per person per excursion day
Flight tickets & visa (if required)
Extras at the hotel, tips at the sites and restaurants
Lunches and dinners
Tickets to the museums(per person) compulsory: Gala – 7$, Ateshgah & Yanardag – 6,50$, Gobustan Preserve & Museum – 9$, special off road transport to reach Mud Volcanoes – 9$ per car (4 pax) – 9$ (compulsory), Sheki Khan Palace – 3$,
Tickets to the museums(per person) optional: Maiden Tower – 9,50$, The Palace of Shirvanshahs – 9$, cable car in Tufandag Resort – 13$ (should be paid at place in local currency, optional), Albanian church in Kish village (with additional sedan cars to reach to the church) – 3,5$
The organizer reserves the right to change the hotel to the different one of the same category.
The organizer reserves the right to change the order of excursions in case of necessity.
Check-in to the hotels: 14:00 (can be 15:00 in some cases).
Early check-in before 06:00 in the morning is subject to 100% of the room rate, early check-in between 06:00 and 14:00 is subject to 50% of the room rate (please confirm with our reservation managers before booking).
You can extend your stay, add more excursions and/or change the hotel category for additional payment (please confirm with our reservation managers before booking).
Comfortable shoes are strongly recommended during excursions.