If you are an offbeat traveller like me and are always in search of a holiday destination that feels like Europe but comes at an Asian price, you have come to the right place. Baku, Azerbaijan is a perfect holiday destination for a short, easy and economical trip. In this complete Travel Guide, you’ll find all the relevant info like the best places to visit in Baku Azerbaijan, the Dos and don’t of visiting the city, what is Baku popular for, where to stay, when to visit, what to pack and every other small and big detail that you need to know before booking your trip.
Discovering undiscovered and not-so-mainstream places always ignites a different kind of thrill in me which is why I decided to take a trip to this Eurasian country- Azerbaijan. So, what is it that makes this unexplored country worth the visit? But before delivering into that let me tell you where this little gem is located on the globe.
Where is Azerbaijan?
Many people are confused about whether Baku, Azerbaijan is in Europe or Asia. Like most other people, I first wondered where Azerbaijan is located. Later I discovered that Azerbaijan neighbours Russia, Georgia, Armenia, and Iran. Azerbaijan is a true blend of East and West, with a rich and intriguing past, due to its unique geographical location. This region, often known as the “Land of Fire,” is home to the Caspian Sea, mud volcanoes, and blazing mountains.
Azerbaijan’s capital- Baku lies 28 meters (92 ft) below sea level, making it the world’s lowest national capital and the world’s largest city located below sea level.
Why visit Baku, Azerbaijan?
Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, is the architectural love child of Paris and Dubai…with lots of hidden Soviet genes. The old city dates from the sixth century and has a rich cultural past that includes Zoroastrian, Sasanian, Arabic, Shirvani, Persian, Ottoman, and Russian influences.
Furthermore, Baku is one of the most promising tourist sites, with futuristic skyscrapers juxtaposed with antique architectural structures.
Is Baku safe to visit for travellers?
Having first-hand experience, I can confidently vouch that Baku is safe for both families and solo travellers. Violent crime is rare in Azerbaijan, but petty incidents can happen anywhere. Prevention is better than cure. Therefore I would advise being alert when walking after dark and not using unofficial taxis.
When is the best time to visit Baku?
The ideal months to visit Azerbaijan are April to June and September to October when you can avoid the 40°C summers and subzero winters. I was lucky enough to be able to visit in September when the weather was absolutely perfect.
How to reach Baku, Azerbaijan?
It’s simple: just book a flight with Jazeera Airways or any other airline that serves the region. I had a one-stopover flight (Delhi to Baku via Kuwait). My overall 7 hours of flying experience with the airlines was good and would recommend them for their friendly crew, delicious cuisine, and unexpected hospitality that totally made my flight comfortable and memorable. I felt like I was flying with a full-service airline and not a budget airline.
Return airfare to Baku from India with Jazeera Airways costs around INR 40,000. In case you want to fly direct, you can fly with Azerbaijan Airlines
The Baku Airport (Heydar Aliyev International Airport) impressed me from the word go with its sleek futuristic architecture, modern airport amenities, efficient immigration system and helpful on-ground staff for a hassle-free experience. The whole process from deboarding to immigration to baggage collection to currency exchange to taking a taxi to the city centre hardly took more than fifteen minutes.
Do Indians need a visa for Azerbaijan?
Indian passport holders must acquire an Azerbaijan Visa prior to arrival as visa-on-arrival is not an option. A regular tourist e-visa arrives in about 3 days at a charge of $25 whereas an express visa comes in 3 hours but at the cost of $60. For more info, check out the official Azerbaijan Visa website.
Where to stay in Baku, Azerbaijan?
Ideally one should be in a central location so that city attractions are within walking distance. My stay was at Hotel La Casa Nizami at Nizami street. A 10-room boutique 4-star hotel located on the 2nd floor of a historic building right next to the Fountain Square, Baku, a lively hub for locals and tourists alike. Breakfast was included and it cost around 3606 INR (45 USD) per night. Rooms were clean and a few of them had a balcony with a view of Fountain Square. Initially, I was offered a room without any balcony but I insisted on a change as it had a weird smell and I felt claustrophobic. But the receptionist was kind enough to adjust me to a corner room that was comparatively small in size but had a market-facing balcony. A buffet breakfast was served each morning at the property that included a mix of local and continental breakfast items. The chef, Emma, was super kind to make special vegetarian dishes for me.
Staying in the Old City Centre of Baku really eased and reduced commute durations for me. Most attractions that I visited were near the hotel only. While Fountains Square was a minute’s walk away Maiden Tower was at a distance of just 600 m from the property. They even provide an airport shuttle at 15 Mannat, which is far more economical than getting an airport taxi which usually costs around 60-40 Mannat
Other good hotels to stay at in Baku within different price ranges are as follows:
Premium range hotels in Baku, Azerbaijan (100USD – 400 USD) – All major international chains of hotels are available in Baku and you can choose from Hotel Fairmont Baku – Flame Towers, Hyatt Regency Baku, Four Seasons Hotel Baku, JW Marriott Absheron Baku, Hilton Baku, Intercontinental and many more.
Mid-range hotels in Baku, Azerbaijan (50USD – 100 USD) – Baku Marriott Hotel Boulevard, Baku Marriott Hotel Boulevard, Courtyard Baku, Central Baku Hotel, Boutique Hotel Baku, Park Inn By Radisson Baku Hotel, Holiday Inn Baku etc.
Cheap Budget range hotels in Baku, Azerbaijan (7 USD – 50 USD) – Travel Inn Hostel, Renaissance Palace Baku, ibis Baku City, Point Hotel Baku, Old City Inn Hotel etc.
How many days are enough for Baku?
From my first-hand experience of the multi-facility modern city, about 3-4 days are sufficient to explore Baku. If you’re on a 7-day trip, then visiting nearby cities and countries is highly recommended.
10 best places to visit in Baku
Baku is inexpensive, tourist-friendly, and can be toured in 3-4 days. People are helpful and genuine. Here are the top 10 places to visit in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Here’s a vlog I made on my travel experience in Baku Azerbaijan.
Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center
Designed by world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid, Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center is a majestic statement of fluid 21st-century architecture forming abstract waves and peaks that seem to melt together. Its unusual fluid aspect of curves and flows distinguishes it from anything else in the city. Exhibitions, activities, and gala concerts are frequently held at the complex.
Baku Old City (Icherisheher), Azerbaijan
800 years old Inner City will astonish you with its architecture, atmosphere and vintage shops. This medieval Inner City forms the historical core of Baku. It’s easy to spend a whole day exploring this medieval walled village.
There are a plethora of historical structures and atmospheric restaurants in Baku’s UNESCO-listed fortified old city (Icherisheher) serving delectable Azerbaijani cuisines, but it was the mesmerizing art galleries that really captured my heart. Especially the Ali Shamsi Art Gallery with a stunning Lion mural. The main attractions in the old city are Silwangsa Palace, Maiden’s Tower, “Bukhara” and “Multan” two commercial stores, as well as several ancient mosques. The north of the old city is the main gate of the old city, and the south of the city is the seaside of the Caspian Sea.
The three Flame Towers have become the signature of Baku. They’re most impressive at night when they come alive with a light show interchanging between fire effects, pouring water and the national flag. The view of Baku Flame Towers from the seafront near Milli Park is equally impressive. The towers can be viewed from practically anywhere in the city, but they truly come alive at night. I enjoyed roaming around Baku and enjoying its beauty more than anything else.
The carpet Museum displays and explains a superb collection of Azerbaijani carpets. The museum stores in it Azerbaijan’s most valuable heritage- the rich collection of artefacts and carpets. The Carpet Museum is closed on Mondays so be sure to plan your trip accordingly.
Located on the coast of the Caspian Sea, Baku Boulevard is one of the favourite places of Baku citizens and guests for its comfortable atmosphere. You can find very beautiful parks, attractions, shops and other entertainment for both kids and adults. This 4-km long promenade goes all the way from the House of Government to the Carpet Museum and many interesting things to see along the way.
Designed like an eight-petalled flower but five stories high and made of steel and glass, this mall’s architecture is derived from the emblem of Azerbaijan and resembles the geometric shape of the Sydney Opera House. It’s a great place to shop for international brands or dine at some wonderful restaurants like the seaside-facing Big Chef’s restaurant.
Martyrs’ Lane (Şehidler Xiyabani)
Built atop a former cemetery destroyed after the Bolsheviks came into power, Martyrs’ Lane is a memorial to some 15,000 Azerbaijani heroes who lost their lives for Azerbaijan’s independence in the early 1990s during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The main “lane” of the memorial has marble walls to either side bearing the names of the martyrs buried there.
In the centre of the memorial, the Eternal Flame keeps burning; it’s common to see fresh wreaths left here by Azerbaijani citizens to honour the dead.
Highland Park, also known as “Kirov Park”, is located on the top of the hill which provides one of the best panoramic views of Baku city. While I was there a commercial shoot was happening and I got to speak to. a local film producer who was a multi-talented person.
Just down from Highland Park, there is a very beautiful recreation of Venice, Italy. The Mini-Venice, a small network of waterways built to resemble Venice, is one of the most picturesque spots in Baku. Here while riding on gondolas, you can enjoy the sunshine and take pictures of this beautiful place.
Fountain Square is a public square in downtown Baku and is a public gathering place. It is an attractive tourist destination with many boutiques, restaurants, shops, hotels and passages. I would highly recommend trying local coffee at one of the endless coffee shops west of Fountain Square.
Nightlife in Baku, Azerbaijan
Before visiting Baku, I could have never imagined the kind of nightlife the city has. Although I am not a night owl I still couldn’t resist Baku’s late-night allure. It’s a perfect city to dance the night away or enjoy long conversations with your friends sipping cocktails or local Azerbaijani wine. Music is always top notch with many restaurants, bars and cafes having live music. I majorly partied at Hard Rock Cafe which is the beating heart of Baku’s nightlife. Other places worth trying are Madrid Bar, ETUD Cafe & Bar, ShakesBeer, BarDuck, 360 Bar, Harbour Restaurant & Pub, Finnegan’s Irish Pub, Zeppelin, People Livebar and CUBAR among others.
Cost of The Trip
The average price of a 4-day trip to Baku is less than $1000 for a solo traveller, $1,800 for a couple, and $3,500 for a family of 4. You can find hotels in Baku from $5 to $400 per night with an average of $50, while most AirBnB vacation rental homes will cost $20 to $400 per night for the entire house. Here is my trip’s cost breakup:
1. Return Flight from Delhi to Baku – 40,000/- ($500) per person (can go as low as 21,000 in low season)
2. Accommodation for 3 nights – Rs.4000/- ($50) per night for two people. So three nights would be = Rs.12,000 ($150)
3. Food Costs – Rs.2000 ($25)per day. Total Meal Cost = Rs.8,000 ($100)
4. Transportation Costs – Rs.1500 ($19) per day = Rs.4500 ($55)
5. Miscellaneous Expenses = Rs.10,000 ($122)
Total Costs for 1 person = Rs.74,500 ($927)
My first impression of Baku
They say “keep your expectations low and you’ll never be disappointed.” And, I wasn’t. On the contrary, I was pleasantly surprised by Baku. With the majority population of Azerbaijan identifying as Muslims, this nation brings the best of both worlds – the lifestyle of Europe and the values of Asia. The food, attractions and nightlife of this modern city were quite appealing for a first-time visitor like me. But what touched my heart the most were the people of Azerbaijan. Everyone I came across, whether a hotel staff or a random stranger was helpful, welcoming and genuine. I must say Azerbaijan’s biggest wealth is its people. I haven’t come across more generous and courteous people than Azeris.
Here’s a real-life miracle that happened to me in Baku.
I lost my drone and this is what happened next
On my second last day in Baku, while exploring the city, I met Zohre– a postgraduate science student with a million-watt smile that can melt an iceberg. Her flawless peachy complexion, deep black eyes, thick wavy black mane and slim figure ticked all the boxes that require one to become a Bollywood actress. After a casual hello, we started chit-chatting about her country. I loved her company and calm personality so much that I didn’t hesitate to ask if she would be willing to show me her city around. Surprisingly, she agreed. Despite living two hours away from my hotel, Zohre became my local friend cum travel guide, showing her city with a lot of enthusiasm and love. Her beauty wasn’t superficial. She was a beautiful person inside and out.
On the second last day of my trip, as fate would have it I forgot my drone in a taxi of which I had no details! I had nearly given up on finding my camera. But like an angel, Zohra came to my rescue, suggesting we reach out to the police. We visited the police station but English not being the primary language it was difficult for me to convey the details to the police, so Zohra communicated on my behalf. Thereon, the police were in continuous contact with her. The most unbelievable thing happened- they traced the driver and the taxi through CCTV cameras and on further investigation it was discovered that the next passenger had taken the drone with her. On the morning of my departure, I was summoned to the police station and my drone was returned to me! I had tears in my eyes and couldn’t contain my joy. Kudos to Azerbaijani Police who were really swift in their investigation and traced my drone within a few hours of filing the complaint. Neither I had to bribe anyone nor run pillar to post.
This was just one example of the large-heartedness of the people of Azerbaijan. But this incident really left a mark on me for the country and its locals. Zohre has become a friend for life. I am pretty sure when you’ll visit the country you’ll find many such Zohre.
Do and Don’ts in Baku – some practical tips for Azerbaijan
- Beware of Airport Taxi Scam – Avoid taking fancy airport taxis. They overcharge tourists. Instead, download the Bolt app.
- Ask the price for any add-ons when you order food: this is a sneaky way some restaurants fleece tourists. Always ask if there’s any extra cost for add-ons. For example, I was charged triple the amount one is charged for a Gutab with vegetarian mixed-filling.
- Stay at a central location – To avoid traffic and spending unnecessary dollars, stay in a central area that’s close to city attractions like Nizami street or boulevard.
- Enjoy Baku’s nightlife – Baku has great nightlife. Enjoy it until the wee hours but drink responsibly.
- Shop at supermarkets – like other European countries it’s far more economical to shop at supermarkets. Don’t forget to try their local dishes and dry fruits. Also, the liquor collection is pretty huge at their stores.
- Try local foods – The best way to know a country is through its cuisine. While Azerbaijan is majorly a meat-eating country vegetarians and vegans like me can also eat well here. Azerbaijani cuisine utilizes fruits and vegetables such as aubergine, tomato, sweet pepper, spinach, cabbage, onion, sorrel, beet, radish, cucumber, and green beans. Rice and products made from flour are widely used in the national cuisine. The must-try food items are Plov (Traditional Rice and Meat dish), Shah Plov (Traditional Rice with Fried Dough), Dolma (Stuffed Grape Leave), Saj Ichi (Azerbaijanian Barbecue), Piti (Lamb and Chickpea Soup), Buglama – Traditional Lamb Stew
- Mingle with the locals – get to know the real essence of the city by engaging with the locals.
- What to wear in Baku – In Baku, both the local as well as foreign women usually dress in western-style clothing. There are no strict rules as to the clothes to be worn in Azerbaijan, particularly in the cities. However, the clothes should not be too provocative.
- Don’t speak about Armenia: Azerbaijan and Armenia have a bad history. So, try and avoid talking about it to the locals.
- What to pack – Azerbaijan has extreme temperatures ranging from sub-zero temperatures in winter to over 45 degrees of scorching heat in summer. So, pack accordingly. It’s a city where you’ll walk a lot so definitely pack a good pair of sneakers and comfortable clothing. I would suggest packing at least one light jumper and one jacket, irrespective of when you visit. Pack more if you’re going during the winter months.
- What is famous in Baku for shopping – Baku is a shopping haven for shopaholics with plenty of options to choose from – international branded shops, high-end fashion boutique stores and traditional stores and bazaars. Shopping in Baku is as vibrant as the country itself and is a perfect place to buy some unique items for your friends, family and yourself. The best souvenirs to buy in Baku are jewellery and silk scarves, baklava, dry fruits and rich alpine tea, ethnic crafts, souvenir weapons (traditional daggers), ceramics, cutlery, crude oil Painting hammered copper dishes and Armudu crystal glasses. But the best thing for which Azerbaijan is immensely popular is its carpets, rugs and other carpet weaving products.
I hope you found this post relevant and would find it useful when planning a trip to Baku Azerbaijan. I would love to hear your feedback or experience. Please use the comment section below to convey your thoughts.
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Although I was invited by Jazeera Airways to fly with them to Azerbaijan the trip arrangement and the expenses were borne by me. All the pictures were taken by me and everything mentioned above was personally experienced by me during my stay in the country. Please do not copy or use any of the content shared above without prior written consent from Travel See Write.