Back in the days Azerbaijan was on the path of the Silk Road and made a significant contribution to the development of this global transit network. The goods and products of Azerbaijani towns and settlements had spread wide along the route. The Silk Road passed through several Azerbaijani cities in the North-Western direction. Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, located at the crossroads of the East and West, has remained the main administrative, political, cultural, ideological, handicraft and trade center of the region. In this 8-day tour you will visit the main cities of the North-Western route and see what they are today.
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: Shamakhi, Diri Baba mausoleum in Maraza village; “Yeddi Gumbaz” (“Seven Domes”) mausoleum, Juma mosque, Meysari Winery + degustation, Ismayilli, Lahij village.
4th Day: Sheki city, Sheki Khan’s Summer Palace, local workshops, Karvansaray, Albanian church in Kish village; Bio Garden
5th Day: Ganja city, Mausoleum of Javad Khan, Juma Mosque, Ganja fortress (“The Shield of Asia”), Bottle House, State Goygol Reserve, Goygol Lake, Goygol city (former Helenendorf), Shamkir city (former Annenfeld), Lutheran church, ruins of medieval Shamkir, Naringala fortress.
6th Day: Gabala, authentic bucket bazaar, Nohur Lake, Yeddi Gozel waterfall, “Tufandag” Winter-Summer Tourism Complex, Gabala Shooting Club, Nij Village
7th Day: Gobustan Historical-Artistic Preserve & Museum; Mud Volcanoes;
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.
After coming back to Baku we will stop to observe 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.
Then we proceed with the 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: SHAMAKHI, MEYSARI WINERY, ISMAYILLI & LAHIJ (North Western route map link)
Breakfast at the hotel. Check-out at 8:00 to drive to Sheki city with the tour around Shamakhi region (2-2,5 hour drive from Baku), stop at Meysari Winery and visiting Lahij village on the way.
Shamakhi is an astonishing place with ultra-extraordinary nature and incredible architecture, culture and unique history, interesting customs and traditions.
Your first stop on the way to Shamakhi will be at Diri Baba mausoleum, a two-story monument of the 15th century in Maraza village. Peculiarity of the construction is that it was embed in the cliff and it creates an impression that it is suspended in the air. The monument is considered to be a sacred place. Legend says that a saint named Diri Baba (living, immortal old man) was buried here and remained incorrupt for more than 300 years.
Then we keep moving to Shamakhi, an ancient city of Azerbaijan which was the capital of Shirvan Dynasty during 9th-16th century and the center of Shamakhi Khanate in 18th century. Not far from Shahmakhi city you will see “Yeddi Gumbaz” (“Seven Domes”) mausoleum, the 18th century mausoleum of the khans of Shamakhi.
In the city you will visit Juma Mosque, one of the oldest Muslim temples in Azerbaijan, as well as in the South Caucasus and the Middle East and the biggest mosque of the Caucasus.
After leaving Shamakhi we will visit Meysari Winery. Branded as ‘Meysari’ (the name of the company’s main base location), Shirvan Wines is one of Azerbaijan’s newest winemakers and the only EU certified organic wine producer in the country. With the first harvest in 2017, the 2018 bottling is all we have to go on, but signs are promising. Already the area under vine has grown to some 310 hectares, the brand new processing unit uses first top-quality French equipment, and a museum, restaurant and guesthouse have been built to facilitate wine tours.
During the tour you will walk around of grape trees, explore advanced wine-making technologies, visit the cellars and try 3 types of wine with snacks. You can have Lunch in the local restaurant ‘Abgora’ on the territory of the winery (optional).
Further way runs through high cliffs to the last point of today’s tour. Set on the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus, surrounded by forests and mountains, Ismayilli region is one of the most fascinating regions of Azerbaijan. A large number of ancient monuments of various periods have been preserved here. The colorful authentic villages of the region deserve your close attention. Lets look into one of these villages.
Beautiful Lahij village built on the canyon of Girdimanchay river. This small village is considered a cultural reserve and a popular touristic destination of the Great Silk Road. It is known for its production of copper items, decorated with carved ornaments. Traditional appearance & production processes remain the same till today, as they used to be throughout the centuries. In the numerous souvenir shops you can buy hand-made copper, knitted and weaved goods, wood and leather ware, souvenir knives and many more.
Reaching Sheki city (3 hour drive from Lahij). Check-in to the hotel.
Overnight in Sheki.
4th Day: SHEKI, BIO GARDEN (North Western route map link)
Breakfast at the hotel. Pick up from hotel at 10:00 for the Sheki City tour and visiting Bio Garden farm.
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 you will spend time in Bio Garden, an eight-hectare expanse of idyllic gardens containing over 100 different types of fruit trees, most of which are found in Azerbaijan. It aims to increase interest in agro-tourism in Azerbaijan. Fish and poultry are also raised here, and a range of exotic birds have been imported from other countries. You can pick the fruit and veg yourself (seasonal) and also learn how to cultivate them. Peaceful paths with plenty of nice places to sit offer opportunities to relax, while rural food and traditional tea sets will help you refuel your energy.
Return to the hotel. Overnight in Sheki.
5th Day: GANJA, GOYGOL LAKE, HELENENDORF, SHAMKIR (Western route map link)
Breakfast at the hotel. Pick-up at 08:00 for the tour in Ganja city, Goygol and Shamkir regions.
Ganja, with a history of over 2500 years, is the second largest city in the country, a monument to its ancient culture, the industrial center of western Azerbaijan and the home of the great poet Nizami. You will visit Mausoleum of Javad Khan, the last ruler of Ganja Khanate, located on the territory of Juma Mosque in the center of Ganja. Also, you will see famous Ganja fortress, known as “The Shield of Asia” and built by the order of the Turkish Sultan Murad III in 1588. Another point of attraction is a two-storey Bottle House built in 1967 by local architect Ibrahim Jafarov from 48000 glass bottles.
Then we will proceed to Goygol district, one of the most picturesque regions of the country. The State Goygol Reserve, established in 1925, is located on the banks of the famous Goygol Lake at an altitude of 1600 meters above sea level. Lake Goygol is considered to be the cleanest among other mountain water reservoirs of the Caucasus. The main city of the district was founded by German colonists in 1819 on the site of an ancient village and was called Helenendorf which was renamed as Khanlar during Soviet days until it finally became Goygol in 2008. Thanks to German settlers who planted the vineyards and started the family business of winemaking till today Goygol remains one of the famous wine brand names in Azerbaijan.
We are moving further to Shamkir region. Shamkir has a rich history long predating the German period. To discover it, step inside the local History and Ethnography Museum located at the back of the Lutheran church that charts the city’s development, beginning with the Persian Achaemenid Empire (550BC). Better still, head 10 kilometres east of the city to investigate the ruins of medieval Shamkir, located north of the village of Muktariyat on the left bank of the Shamkirchay river. Here, a fortress and citadel thrived on the Silk Road between the 8th and 13th centuries, when it was sacked by the Mongols and never fully recovered. Excavations beginning in 2006 have made it possible to see significant chunks of a fortress called Naringala.
Modern Shamkir began life as the German colony of Annenfeld which was founded in 1819 and went on to become a hotbed of winemaking in Azerbaijan. The Germans were tragically deported from here in 1941 but today the city center has kept a uniquely Germanic feel – think long straight streets with original German country housing, a Lutheran church dating back to 1909, and a German park with café, paths and benches.
Return to Sheki. Overnight in Sheki.
6th Day: GABALA (North Western route map link)
Breakfast at the hotel. Check-out from the hotel at 08:00 to drive back to Baku having a tour in Gabala region on the way (4 hour drive from Baku).
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.
Located just over 20 kilometres south-west of Gabala, the village of Nij is home to the largest population of Udi people anywhere in the world. Udis are a Christian people directly descended from one of the main tribes living in Caucasian Albanian, 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.
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.
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.
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.
On the way to Baku 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.
Reaching Baku. Check-in to the hotel. Overnight.
7th Day: GOBUSTAN & MUD VOLCANOS (map link)
Breakfast at the hotel. Pick up from hotel at 9:30 for Gobustan and Mud Volcanoes tour.
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.)
If guests are interested they may visit Bibi Heybat Mosque. Built in the 13th century by Shirvanshah Farrukhzad II Ibn Ahsitan II, which was completely destroyed by the Bolsheviks in 1936 and restored later in the end of the 20th century. The Bibi-Heybat Mosque includes the shrine of Ukeyma Khanum (a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad), and today is the spiritual center for the Muslims of the region and one of the major monuments of Islamic architecture in Azerbaijan.
Lunch time. Free time.
Free time suggestions:
Return to the hotel. Overnight.
8th Day: Breakfast at the hotel. Check out, transfer to the airport.
Accommodation: hotel in Baku on BB basis – 4 nights, hotel in Sheki on BB basis – 3 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 Meysari Winery
Excursion in Bio Garden farm
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.