2 Weeks Itinerary for Azerbaijan - A Complete Backpacking Guide to Traveling Azerbaijan

2 Weeks Itinerary for Azerbaijan

A Complete Backpacking Guide to Traveling Azerbaijan

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Azerbaijan, a country of 10 million, known mostly for its exports of oil, is rarely on any traveler's radar, but this so-called "Land of Fire" has a ton of surprises for those who dare to step out of their comfort zones and visit Azerbaijan.

With its significant location, connecting Europe and Asia as part of the ancient historical Silk Road, with the north straddling the lush green landscape of the Caucasus Mountains, and a hyper-modern metropolitan that is Baku, the capital city, we are going to explore everything Azerbaijan has to offer with our comprehensive 2-weeks backpacking itinerary.

Without further ado, let's begin our journey with a look at the overview map of where we will be visiting in Azerbaijan:

Azerbaijan 2 Weeks Itinerary Map

Azerbaijan 2 Weeks Itinerary Map

Azerbaijan Travel Video

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When to Visit Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan

A seating area in the courtyard of Caravanserai in Sheki, Azerbaijan.

The best time to visit Azerbaijan is in autumn from late August to October where the temperature (13 - 26°C) is not too hot in the low land and not too cold up in the mountains making it the perfect time to experience the beautiful outdoors of the country.

The mid-summer months from June - early August can be quite hot in the lowland with a temperature hovering around 30 - 35°C due to the nature of the semi-desert landscape the country has.

Spring from April - May is not as bad but rainfall tends to happen during this period and so this might hinder your ability to travel the country's backcountry efficiently.

Winter in Azerbaijan is cold both in the highland and lowland. The temperature can be quite extreme with an average of -5°C in the mountains and 7°C in the lowland area, so I would recommend you avoid this period if you want to enjoy the outdoors.

Where to Stay in Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan

Baku - Freedom Hostel (Budget) - 4 USD/Night (Dorm) | 15 USD/Night (Budget Room) | Baku City Hotel (Mid-Range) - 35 USD/Night (Standard Double Room)

Quba - Hostel Elvin (Mid-Range) - 24 USD/Night (Budget Twin Room)

Sheki - Inci Design Hotel & Hostel (Budget) - 5 USD/Night (Dorm) | Sheki Palace Hotel (Mid-Range) - 27 USD/Night (Budget Twin Room)

Ganja - VM Hostel (Budget) - 8 USD/Night (Dorm) | 15 USD/Night (Twin Room) | Vego Hotel (Mid-Range) - 64 USD/Night (Standard Double Room)

Nakhchivan - Grand Nakhchivan Hotel (Mid-Range) - 24 USD/Night (Standard Single Room) | Tabriz Hotel Nakhchivan (High-End) - 48/69 USD/Night (Standard Double Room for 1 or 2)

How to Get to Azerbaijan

The view of Baku at night from the Highland Park in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan has a well-established connection with Istanbul and Ankara so the best way to get to Azerbaijan is to fly with Turkish Airlines from literally anywhere in the world. You could also fly into Turkey with other airlines and fly into Azerbaijan with low-cost airlines such as Pegasus Airlines.

From the US, there is no direct flight to Baku but you can fly via Turkish Airlines to Istanbul or Ankara and transfer to Baku from there.

From within Europe, you should be able to fly direct from the UK via Azerbaijan Airlines, from Paris via AirFrance, or from Frankfurt via Lufthansa.

From Asia, there is no direct flight from the far east to Baku but the region is pretty well-connected via Turkish Airlines so you can fly to Baku via Istanbul or Ankara. Other Middle Eastern airlines like Qatar, Emirates, and Etihad Airlines are also a great option as well.

To find a cheap flight to Baku, I would recommend you use Skyscanner or Momondo to look for the cheapest route and schedule so you can compare and pick the best one.

How To Get From Tbilisi, Georgia to Baku, Azerbaijan

The Gergeti Trinity Church by a cloudy mountain in Kazbegi, Georgia

If you are already in the Caucasus, you can travel from Tbilisi, Georgia to Baku with an overnight train. It's a long journey though, taking around 12 hours and on a train that has seen better days.

The train leaves from Tbilisi daily at 8:35 PM and you will arrive in Baku at 9:00 AM the next day. You will be passing through immigration at around 11 PM so do not cozy up and ready for the night before then.

The train ticket should cost you around 15 USD (24 AZN) for a 3rd class sleeper (open plan). If you want a 4 person/2 person private compartment, go for 2nd or 1st class sleeper seat instead respectively.

Keep in mind that a lot of people take this train every day and so I would recommend you get your ticket a day or 2 earlier before your departure date.

SCAM to Watch Out: I have received a report that sometime, an old train lady will come up to your private compartment if there's space left and tell you that a big snoring guy coming and she can redirect the guy to another compartment if you give her money. This is often a ruse so avoid giving her money.

8 Hippest Things To Do In Tbilisi

How to Get from Baku Airport to the City Center

Baku Airport Express 24/7 Bus Schedule in Baku, Azerbaijan.

There is a 24/7 Airport Express bus that will take you from the airport to Baku Central Station and vice versa. The Airport Express runs every 30 minutes from 6 AM - 7 PM. From 7 PM - 9 PM, it runs every 40 minutes, and from 9 PM - 6 AM, it runs every hour.

In order to get on the bus, you will need to get the BakuCard electronic payment which can be purchased from a machine on the left-hand side of the Terminal Exit in front of the airport near the bus stop.

From the machine, there are 2 options, a 2-times paper card for the Airport Express and a plastic card that can be topped up as well as be used on the city bus/metros/museums, etc. I would recommend you get the plastic card so you can use it elsewhere in the city.

The plastic card will cost 2 AZN and then you can add money to it. I would say 5 - 10 AZN should cover everything (city bus will cost 0.3 AZN per trip) including a round trip to the airport via the Airport Express (1.5 AZN per trip).

After you get the card, go on to the bus and tap the card on the machine and you should be able to see how much money is deducted from your card and the remaining balance.

The Airport Express should take around 45 minutes to take you to the 28 May bus stop right in front of Baku Central Station and from there, you can walk or take a taxi, ideally using Uber or Bolt.

How to Get Around Azerbaijan

Lada on a cobblestone road in Kish, Sheki, Azerbaijan.

There are several ways to get around Azerbaijan and we are going to use them all with this itinerary. Here are the most common ways to get around Azerbaijan:

Things to Note: Most of the signs on buses as well as on booking websites might be in Azerbaijani language, and to make your life easier, here are all the city names in Azerbaijani:

  • Baku: Bakı
  • Quba: Quba
  • Sheki: Şəki
  • Ganja: Gəncə
  • Nakhchivan: Naxçıvan

A European-style train in Azerbaijan leaving from Ganja Train Platform.

Trains: This is by far the most convenient and cheap way to get around the city. Azerbaijan has modernized its trains with European-style double-deck train cars and yet, the price is only a little bit more than a marshrutka or bus.

That said, they do not run as often as buses and they often get fully booked fast and so if somehow, the train isn't available, you can go for marshrutkas or buses instead.

For an official train schedule and online booking, you can visit Azerbaijan Railways' official website here.

People getting off a marshrutka at Lake Maralgol in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

Marshrutkas: Marshrutkas are the cheapest way to get around the country. These little Soviet-era minivans run like a bus leaving from a bus station (all leave from Baku International Bus Terminal) on schedule, cost depending on the city you are going, and you pay it directly with the driver.

They are not the most comfortable though as they often clamp a lot of people, bags, and sometimes livestock into the limited seating area, but they are cheap, they go everywhere, and it is one of the best ways to see the countryside and experience how the locals actually travel themselves.

A big bus from Baku to Sheki parked somewhere in Azerbaijan.

Buses: There are also big buses leaving from the Baku International Bus Terminal but you might have to book a seat in advance as some routes like Sheki and Ganja can get packed quite fast.

For an official bus schedule and booking, you can check out Baku International Bus Terminal Complex official website here.

To get to the bus terminal from Baku city center, you can either call a taxi via Bolt (Android|iOS) or take the metro to Avtovaghzal Station for 0.3 AZN per trip.

A taxi parked on an empty road near Batabat lake in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan.

Taxi: The most convenient but expensive way is to take a taxi. Within cities like Baku and Ganja, you can use Bolt, a taxi-calling app, which is way cheaper than getting a regular taxi and much more reliable.

To use Bolt in Azerbaijan, you will have to get a local sim card at the airport and download Bolt (Android|iOS) on your phone, type in your destination, request a ride, and you are on your way.

For traveling to remote places like Khinaliq or around Nakhchivan, your only option is to hire a taxi driver which may cost from 60 - 90 AZN for a day depending on the distance of the location you are going to. You can easily organize these taxi-for-hires through your accommodation.

How Much Money Do I Need for Azerbaijan

With this particular 2 weeks itinerary, we can roughly calculate the minimum amount of money you will be spending in Azerbaijan as follows:

Accommodation: With the total of 15 nights, you will be paying around 194 USD (330 AZN)

Food: The average meal in Azerbaijan is around 8 AZN on average so you can expect to pay around 360 AZN for 15 days.

Transportation: Including the expensive taxis to remote places, marshrutkas and trains to each city, and a flight to Nakhchivan and back, you can expect to pay around 454.5 AZN for 2 weeks on transportation.

Activities: You can expect to pay around 62 AZN for 2 weeks of activities. Not a lot because you are paying most of the cost to the taxi drivers that will be taking you there.

Total Budget for 2 weeks in Azerbaijan: 1206.5 AZN (710 USD)

ATM in Azerbaijan

Not all banks and ATM accept foreign debit cards in Azerbaijan and after several attempts, I found Bank Republika Azerbaijan to be the most reliable, with a high daily limit and works well with a VISA debit card, so when in doubt, get your money out from Bank Republika Azerbaijan.

Is it Safe in Azerbaijan?

In generally, Azerbaijan is pretty safe to travel around. You might get a little stare here and there especially if you are a solo female traveler but that happens mostly in Baku. All the other places, especially in Nakhchivan, people are just curious to see a foreigner there.

As some of you may know, there is an ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the disputed area of Nagorno Karabakh and some attractions I recommended here are near the disputed borders and so you might see stricter security in these border areas.

Food can be quite unclean in random restaurants in Quba and Ganja so be sure to pick a restaurant carefully. I and my friend got food-poisoning in Ganja and Quba respectively and it is not something you would want to have while you are traveling.

Other than these points, Azerbaijan is very safe and you can travel the country worry-free.

Internet in Azerbaijan

In big cities like Baku and Ganja, you should have no trouble finding reliable WIFI in restaurants or in your accommodation but for other places, it would be best if you get a local sim card at the airport. With the local sim card, you will also have the ability to use the Bolt app to call a taxi, saving you costs and a ton of headaches dealing with regular taxis.

Azercall Data plan for local sim card as of 2019.

Azercell is a great option if you are looking for a local sim card to buy. You can buy one right at the airport in Baku when you arrive. The price ranged from 29 AZN (1 GB) all the way to 65 AZN (unlimited data) depending on the amount of data you need.

I would recommend you get around 5 GB of data (40 AZN) especially if you are planning to travel further in Azerbaijan after Baku.

For more information about Azerbaijan local sim card: Azerbaijan Prepaid Data Sim Card.

Travel Insurance

If you are looking for travel insurance to go along with your trip to Azerbaijan, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure.

Get a Quote from World Nomads

2 Weeks Backpacking Itinerary for Azerbaijan

Baku (3 Nights)

A view from the street of Baku's Old Town in Azerbaijan.

Baku, a hyper-modern metropolitan that will shatter your perception of Azerbaijan the moment you step foot into the city. Striking the balance between the old and the new, you will find both historical sites that will make you long for the old days and stunning curve architecture that will remind you of Singapore.

The Maiden Tower in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Given you have 2 full days in Baku, on your first day, you can spend your time exploring the Old Town, which is considered to be the most ancient part of the city. You will find many impressive structures here such as the Maiden Tower, are dated back to the 12th Century.

The view of the Flaming Towers from the Palace of The Shirvanshahs in Baku, Azerbaijan.

One of the sights in the Old Town I highly recommend is the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, a 15th-century palace complex consisting of the palace, the burial vaults, and the shah's mosque. You can get quite a nice view of the city's contrast between the old and the new from the balcony in front of the palace.

Baku's Old Town at night in Azerbaijan.

The Old Town is also beautiful at night and a great place for you to go out for a drink while walking around the crisscrossing streets of the Old Town in solitude.

The entrance of Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku, Azerbaijan.

With the injection of oil money, the city has become a playground of architectural experiments. The futuristic Heydar Aliyev Art Center is a beautiful fluid modern structure from the mind of Zaha Hadid where art exhibitions are often held.

Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku from the side, Azerbaijan.

The beautiful design of the exterior of Heydar Aliyev Art Center is worth appreciating in all angles and so be sure to spend some time walking around the building.

The lit-up Heydar Mosque at night in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Another stunning piece of architecture in Baku is the Heydar Mosque, a huge mosque built with special stones based on the Shirvan-Absheron design architecture, located in the northern part of the city. The mosque is best to visit at night when the entire structure is lit up with artificial light.

Baku Promenade in the evening in Azerbaijan.

Baku is located along the balmy coast of the Caspian Sea and they have built a beautiful spacious promenade that stretches for 4 km along the coast. I highly recommend you spend your evening strolling along the promenade checking out the Carpet Museum and Mini-Venice along the way.

The view of Baku at night from the Highland Park in Azerbaijan.

From the Carpet Museum, you continue on and make your way up the stairs to the top of Highland Park where you will be rewarded with a panoramic view of the city and a stunning sunset.

A fire projected on The Flaming Towers at night in Baku, Azerbaijan.

You will also be able to see the Flame Towers from Highland Park at night where they project beautiful light shows of animated fire, water, and waving flags every night.

The Gobustan Sign in front of Gobustan, Azerbaijan.

On your second day in Baku, I would recommend you get a tour to take you out of the city and see cool sights like Gobustan, Mud Volcanoes, Ateshgah Fire Temple, and the Burning Mountain of Yanar Dag.

More human depiction on a rock in Gobustan, Azerbaijan.

A tour company I recommend you go with is TES Tour and their office can be found in the Old Town. They often run daily excursion from Baku to Gobustan as well as mud volcanoes, Yanar Dag (Burning Mountain), and Ateshgah Fire Temple for 50 AZN per person including lunch.

Humans being depicted in the engraves found in Gobustan, Azerbaijan.

Gobustan is a great place for you to learn about the prehistoric people that settled in this part of the world since the 8th millennium BC. You will find thousands of rock engravings and petroglyphs that depict hunting scenes, people, ships, constellations and animals from 12th Century BC.

A popping bubble of the mud volcano in Azerbaijan.

Mud Volcanoes is another interesting sight to see near Baku. What makes the mud volcanoes here special is the fact that it is one of the few mud volcanoes in the world that is actually cold, due to the water from the Caspian Sea. You can even stick your hand in it. Really!

The inside of the Ateshgah Fire Temple where the eternal fire is located in Azerbaijan.

The tour will also take you to Ateshgah Fire Temple, a 17th Century place of worship that was frequented by the Hindus, Sikhs, and most important of all, the Zoroastrians. There is no better place to learn about Zoroastrians in this part of the world than here.

Yanar Dag and the burning mountain in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Personally, I think Yanar Dag is overrated. The burning fire is due to the natural gas reserve underneath it and it seems like the reserve is going to be exhausted soon as the fire is less and less dramatic every day. But, since it is included in the tour then why not go check out what all the fuzz is about.

Nizimi Street in the morning in Baku, Azerbaijan.

After an entire day of exploring the surrounding landscape of Baku, you can end your day with a little stroll along the Nizami Pedestrian Street, find yourself a nice restaurant like Xezer Restaurant and treat yourself.

10 Awesome Things To Do In Baku, Azerbaijan

Getting from Baku to Quba

Buses at Baku International Bus Terminal in Azerbaijan.

From Baku, you will have to get a bus to Quba from Baku International Bus Terminal. The bus runs every 30 minutes from 7:30 AM to 5:55 PM for 4 AZN per person.

The journey will take about 2 hours. For this bus, you do not need to book in advance as there are several buses going every day. Alternatively, you can rent out a taxi for 40 AZN per car and the driver will take you directly to Quba.

For an official bus schedule and booking, you can check out Baku International Bus Terminal Complex official website here.

Quba (2 Nights)

Juma Mosque and a park in Quba, Azerbaijan.

After spending 2 full-days in Baku, it is time to travel north and see what the Caucasus mountains have in store for you. Your second destination is Quba, a sleepy ancient town with not many things to do, but we are not here for Quba, we are here for Khinaliq and Laza, the mountain villages high up in the Caucasus Mountain Range.

The empty streets of Quba, Azerbaijan.

After arriving in Quba, you can spend that evening exploring the city, visiting Juma Mosque, and learn about the March Days, a period of troubled time where 12,000 Azerbaijanis and other Muslims were massacred in Baku at the Quba Genocide Memorial Complex.

The exterior of Juma mosque in Quba, Azerbaijan.

After exploring Quba, you can spend the rest of your evening at your accommodation and organize a taxi driver to drive you to Khinaliq and Laza the next day.

The Ultimate Backpacking Guide to Khinaliq and Laza, Azerbaijan

Getting from Quba to Khinaliq and Laza

Getting to Khinaliq: There are a few ways you can get to Khinaliq but the most convenient and reliable way is to hire a taxi through your accommodation. The price I got from my accommodation (Hostel Elvin) is 70 AZN for a roundtrip to Khinaliq whereas a random taxi driver at a bus station tried to charge me 100 AZN for the same trip.

It takes around 45 minutes to get from Quba to Khinaliq and you will go through some of the most stunning landscapes you will ever see in Azerbaijan, and the best part is, since you have a taxi, you can stop anywhere and take photos.

Getting to Laza: To get to Laza, I would recommend combining the trip to Khinaliq and Laza together in one day. You will get to see both places in one day and it will be cheaper that way.

You see, the prices to go from Quba to Khinaliq and from Quba to Laza are the same at 70 AZN each so you will be paying 140 AZN in total, but if you combine these 2 trips into one day, the taxi driver will only ask you for 60 AZN for the Laza trip and you will be paying only 130 AZN for the taxi.

Personally, I think there aren't enough things to do in Khinaliq and Laza to justify spending an entire day each, I recommend doing both in one day.

To get to Laza from Khinaliq, you will have to backtrack your way to Quba again and drive along another road to Laza which should take about an hour or so.

Khinaliq (Half-Day)

A road to Khinaliq going through a valley in the Lesser Caucasus, Azerbaijan.

Looking around in Quba, the landscape might not look very impressive but the moment you get out of town towards Khinaliq, the road will start to go through some really beautiful cliffs and canyons.

The canyon by the road from Quba to Khinaliq, Azerbaijan.

As the road twists and turns, you will arrive at an opening where the road will take you along a river bed through the valley and up to Khinaliq, the ancient Caucasian village standing at 2,350m above sea level.

The view of Khinaliq from Juma Mosque in Azerbaijan.

Legend has it that this settlement has been inhabited for the past 5,000 years. It is considered to be one of the oldest villages in the region. Due to its isolation, they were able to preserve their language, tradition, and their indigenous roots.

Juma Mosque at the top of Khina village in the Lesser Caucasus, Azerbaijan.

One of my favorite places to sit and relax while looking at the breathtaking scenery of Khinaliq is at the Juma Mosque located on the highest point of the village. Be sure to hike all the way up there for a rewarding view.

My friend looking at the landscape around Khinaliq in the Lesser Caucasus mountain, Azerbaijan.

I would recommend spending around 2 hours in Khinaliq, walking up to the Juma Mosque, exploring every narrow dusty road of the village, and strike up a random conversation with curious locals.

Laza (Half-Day)

The beautiful landscape of Laza on a clear day in the Lesser Caucasus mountain, Azerbaijan.

After spending half a day in Khinaliq, you can continue your journey to Laza which will take about 2 hours as you will have to go back to Quba and take a different road to Laza.

The unbelievable view of a river bed along the road to Khinaliq, Lesser Caucasus, Azerbaijan.

Laza is another mountain village located 1,300m above sea level at the foot of Mount Shahdagh. Due to the high cliff face and the number of waterfalls one can find in this area, Laza is one of the most popular destinations for local tourists to visit.

The road to Laza in the Lesser Caucasus mountain, Azerbaijan.

The taxi will drive you down into the valley and park at the foot of a huge cliffside where you will see 3 large waterfalls clustered on one cliff. You can spend an hour hiking around the waterfall and check it out up close if you don't mind being sprayed by it.

The 3 massive waterfalls near each other in Laza, the Lesser Caucasus mountain, Azerbaijan

The landscape around Laza is pretty incredible especially if the sun is out, so be sure to spend some time to hike up some of the hills near the waterfall so you can appreciate the true beauty of the landscape around Laza.

Me walking around the green hills of Laza, in the Lesser Caucasus mountain, Azerbaijan.

Both Khinaliq and Laza offer you a different perspective of the Caucasus mountain where Khinaliq is more about the village and surrounding rolling hills and Laza is more about the large cliffsides and waterfalls, hence why I recommend you to visit both.

Me saying goodbye to Laza as the sky opened up in the Lesser Caucasus mountain, Azerbaijan.

After 2 - 3 hours at Laza, it is time to head back to Quba. In about an hour, you will be back at your cozy accommodation in Quba, feeling accomplished for all the things you have seen in the Caucasus mountains in one day.

Getting from Quba to Sheki

To get from Quba to Sheki, you will have to go back to Baku first on one of the many marshrutkas from Quba Bus Station.

The bus from Quba to Baki runs every half an hour and it will cost you 4 AZN per person. The journey should take about 2 hours and you should be able to catch the afternoon bus from Baku to Sheki in time.

The bus from Baku to Sheki runs every 2 hours from 9 AM to 11:50 PM daily. The bus ticket will cost you 8.4 AZN per person and the journey will take around 6 hours due to the terrible road condition.

If you are worried you might not catch the bus on time, you can check out the official bus schedule and book the bus in advance here: The Official Baku International Bus Terminal Complex Website.

Sheki (2 Nights)

A seating area in the courtyard of Caravanserai in Sheki, Azerbaijan.

Sheki is a small but beautiful historic town located along the ancient Silk Road that will charm both your heart as well as your stomach. The city is well known for its local cuisine, sweets, and many beautiful remnants of the once prosperous Silk Road.

The Church of Kish and its courtyard in Sheki, Azerbaijan.

In the morning, I would recommend you visit the Church of Kish, a Caucasus Albanian Church located in the town of Kish, a few kilometers north of Sheki. You can reach Kish by taking the marshrutka #15 at a bus stop heading north in Sheki and in about 15 minutes, you should arrive at Kish Bus Stop where you can then hike up to the church.

The interior of Church of Kish in Sheki, Azerbaijan.

By the way, the Caucasus Albanian has nothing to do with the modern-day Albanian in the Balkans. The Caucasus Albanian got its name from the Ancient Greek name Albanía and the prefix "Caucasian" is added solely to prevent confusion.

More skeleton remain under Church of Kish in Sheki, Azerbaijan.

The Church of Kish is a great place to learn a little bit about the people who inhabited this part of the world so many centuries ago. It was told that the church was built on a ceremonial ground that dated back to 3,000 B.C which I think was pretty mindblowing 🤯.

A lada parked in front of a stone building in Sheki's Old Town, Azerbaijan.

After Kish, you can take the marshrutka back to Sheki and make your way to Caravanserai through the Old Town of Sheki where you will find many red-brick buildings with a unique blend between Persian and Russian influences. Not something you would see every day.

A seating area in the courtyard of Caravanserai in Sheki, Azerbaijan.

Caravanserai (Karvansaray) is an ancient roadside inn from the Silk Road era that accommodated travelers and merchants (caravaners) traveling along the Silk Road. The travelers often stop at Caravanserai, rest, and recover from a long day's journey.

The interior of Caravanserai in Sheki, Azerbaijan.

Today, the Caravanserai in Sheki is a hotel for those who want to experience what it was like to rest like caravaners during the Silk Road era. You can enter the premise for free but you can only stay in the large beautiful courtyard.

The vegetation in the courtyard of Caravanserai in Sheki, Azerbaijan.

It is always fun to walk around the beautifully decorated courtyard of a Caravanserai. You can almost imagine how bustling the place would be back in the ancient Silk Road days.

A crowded entrance of the Palace of Sheki Khans, Azerbaijan.

Around the corner from Caravanserai, you will find one of the main attractions in Sheki, the Palace of Sheki Khans. The palace is a beautiful historic building covered in intricate Persian-style patterns and the rooms filled with lavish decorations and colorful mosaic windows.

The exterior of the Palace of Sheki Khans, Azerbaijan.

I highly recommend you visit the palace but since it gets quite crowded and photography of any kind is prohibited, you might have to think twice about paying 5 AZN to go inside. If you do not like the crowds and you want to take photos inside, I have another place just for you.

The glass mosaic reflecting lights in the evening at the Winter Palace in Sheki, Azerbaijan.

The Winter Palace, located not too far from the Palace of Sheki Khans, is the true hidden gems of the city. The Winter Palace, although not as grandeur as the Palace of Sheki Khans from the outside, the inside boasts the same lavishly decorated rooms, beautiful wall-to-wall paintings, and the stunning mosaic windows you can find in the Palace of Sheki Khans.

The beautiful wall paints inside the Winter Palace in Sheki, Azerbaijan.

The best part about the Winter Palace is that you won't find many tourists here. When I arrived at the palace, there was no one here except me and the woman working at the gate. For the same price at 5 AZN, you get to have the palace to yourself and you can take photos inside as well.

The Three Saints Church found inside Sheki Fortress in Azerbaijan.

Around the Palace of Sheki Khans, you will find many interesting historical buildings that you can check out such as the Three Saints Church, a beautiful round-shaped Caucasian Albanian Church and the Wall of Art and Crafts, displaying the ceramic artwork of local artists.

Sheki Piti soup in a restaurant in Sheki, Azerbaijan.

A trip to Sheki doesn't end until you try the local cuisine. Sheki is known for the delicious local food and snack such as Piti, an aromatic rich and tasty soup, and Halva, a confection of hazelnuts, walnuts, butter, sugar, rice flour, and spices, both originated from Sheki, so be sure to try that before you leave.

Top 7 Things To Do In Sheki, Azerbaijan

Getting from Sheki to Ganja

To get from Sheki to Ganja, you will have to grab a marshrutka at Sheki Central Bus Station. There are 5 buses from Sheki to Ganja daily running at 8:00, 8:30, 9:10, 11:50, and 13:30. The bus will cost you 4 AZN per person and the journey will take about 3 hours.

You do not have to buy the bus ticket at the kiosk. Simply go to the marshrutka with a GƏNCƏ sign on the windshield, find a seat, and you can pay the bus driver directly. Be sure to go there early to get a seat as it gets full quite fast.

Ganja (3 Nights)

A bird flying above Shah Abbas Mosque at sunset in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

Ganja, the second-largest city in Azerbaijan with a name that is hard to forget, is a city full of beautiful red brick architectures, a plethora of things to do and see, and a great base to go explore the beautiful lakes of Goygol and Maralgol.

Shah Abbas Mosque and the Tomb of Javad Khan in Shah Abbas Square in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

One of the first things you should do when you arrive in Ganja is to check out the Shah Abbas Square in Ganja Old Town where you will find some stunning old architecture like the Shah Abbas Mosque, the Chokak Turkish Baths and the Tomb of Javad Khans, the last Khan of Ganja.

The Chokak Turkish Bath and the Ganja State Philharmonic Hall in Ganja, Azerbaijan

Shah Abbas is the great ruler of the Safavid dynasty that reigned this part of the world as well as Iran, and other parts of the Caucasus in the 16th Century hence why you see his name all over Ganja Old Town as many of these buildings were erected by him.

Ganja City Hall and an empty square during the day in Azerbaijan.

Not too far from Shah Abbas Square, you will find a large space with a huge building and a monument of Heydar Aliyev on the side. This is the Heydar Aliyev Square and the grand building is the Ganja City Hall.

Ganja City Hall at Sunset in Azerbaijan.

I would recommend you visit Ganja City Hall at sunset when the sky turns purple and the building is illuminated by lights on the building. You will also find many people out and about here in the evening as it is a popular meeting point among the locals.

Mount Kapaz from the road to Lake Goygol in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

After spending an evening in Ganja Old Town, it is time to go outside the city and visit Lake Goygol and Lake Maralgol. Before the day ends, go back to your accommodation and organize a taxi driver to drive you to the lakes the next day. It should cost you no more than 60 AZN for a roundtrip and Lake Goygol and Lake Maralgol.

Goygol lake viewpoint from Goygol Hotel Restaurant in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

Lake Goygol, one of the 8 great lakes around Ganja, is one of the most beautiful sights you can see in Azerbaijan. You can reach the lake by taxi but the taxi will only go as far as the parking lot and then you will have to continue on foot.

A cafe by Lake Goygol in Ganja Azerbaijan.

Due to the proximity of the lake to Nagorno Karabakh, which they are still technically at war, the security as extra strict in the area and you can not go wander away from the designated area, so other than the viewpoint at Goygol Hotel Restaurant, there is not much left to do.

The moment you arrive at Lake Maralgol in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

Thankfully, there is Lake Maralgol, which is a smaller lake, but in my opinion, a better of the 2 as it is not as crowded and you can wander off on the trail a little bit.

People hanging out by Lake Maralgol in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

Lake Maralgol is located deeper into the national park and you can only get there by transportation provided by the park through Lake Goygol so your taxi won't be able to drive you there.

Me looking at Lake Maralgol with a view of Mount Kapaz in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

The park's mini-bus will take you from Lake Goygol to Lake Maralgol where you will then have to hike up for about 10 minutes. Once you arrive at the top, you will find yourself face-to-face with Lake Maralgol and the iconic Mount Kapaz looming behind.

A small trail along Lake Maralgol in Ganja Azerbaijan.

At Lake Maralgol, you will have the opportunity to explore the lake a little bit more than at Lake Goygol. There are a few short walking trails along the lake that you can take to get away from the crowds.

Me looking at Maralgol Lake in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

Unfortunately, you can't swim in any of the lakes here due to security reasons, so no need to pack your swimsuits. After spending an hour or two at Lake Maralgol, you can catch the mini-bus back to Lake Goygol and return to Ganja with your taxi driver.

The Persian pattern design found at Imamzadeh Complex in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

Photos by Tarkhan Pashazade

For your second day in Ganja, you can check out some of the stunning sights around the city vicinity such as Imamzadeh Complex, a beautiful complex of old buildings covered in beautiful Persian-style patterns, and the photogenic Ganja Heyder Aliyev Park.

To reach these places, you can either hire a taxi for the day like you did for Lake Goygol which is quite expensive or you can use the app Bolt which is efficient and reliable to travel to these 2 places separately.

8 Best Things To Do In Ganja, Azerbaijan

Getting from Ganja to Nakhchivan

There used to be a domestic flight from Ganja to Nakhchivan but Unfortunately, the connection has been discontinued and the only way to get to Nakhchivan is to fly from Baku, so you will first have to get back to Baku.

From Ganja, you can take one of the 3 trains that run daily from Ganja Central Station to Baku. The train should take about 4 hours and it should cost you around 7 - 10 AZN.

For an official train schedule and online booking, you can visit Azerbaijan Railways' official website here.

After arriving in Baku Central Railway Station, depending on the flight you book to Nakhchivan, you might have to stay in Baku for a night. I would recommend staying at the Freedom Hostel as it is near Baku Central Station and the Airport Express Bus Stop.

To get from Baku to Nakhchivan, the only way is to take a domestic flight via Azerbaijan Airlines, the only operator, and they have 4 flights going to Nakhchivan and back daily.

The cost is fixed at 70 AZN for a foreign passport holder and you should definitely book it in advance as they get sold out pretty fast. The flight time from Baku to Nakhchivan is about 1.5 hours and once you arrive, you will have to get a taxi to drive you to your accommodation which should cost no more than 3 AZN.

Nakhchivan (4 Nights)

Me looking at Alinja Castle from above in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan.

Nakhchivan, a peculiar autonomous exclave republic of Azerbaijan bordering Iran, Turkey, Armenia, but not Azerbaijan. This peculiar situation is due to the Armenia-Azerbaijan War that ravaged the land, the republic got cut off with Armenia controlling Kraki exclave, leaving Nakhchivan isolated from Azerbaijan mainland.

The spacious square of Yezidabad Castle in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan.

On your first day in Nakhchivan, you can spend the day exploring Nakhchivan City on foot starting from one of my favorite places in the city, the Yezidabad Castle which consists of a large spacious garden square with a museum in the middle, surrounded by a large wall that you can walk on.

A walking path along the wall of Yezidabad Castle in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan.

In the morning, when the sun is not too hot, you can spend some time walking along the walls of the castle to get a view of the surroundings. From the wall, you might notice a mausoleum with a tall sharp roof not too far from the castle.

The Noah's Mausoleum from inside Yezidabad Castle in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan.

That is the Noah’s Mausoleum, a historical location of a mausoleum that was built in the 8th Century. According to Armenian tradition, and many sources from the 19th Century Russia and Europe, Noah's tomb is located in Nakhchivan and the locals here considered it a holy place of worship.

Momine Khatun Mausoleum in the middle of a park in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan.

Other interesting tourist attractions in Nakhchivan you should check out are the Palace of Nakhchivan Khans, Khan's Palace with beautiful exterior and an even prettier interior, the Momine Khatun Mausoleum, a 25m high mausoleum covered in exquisitely carved Arab writings and patterns, one of the most important landmarks in the city, and the Juma Mosque, another historical landmark of the city originally built in the 12th Century.

Alinja Castle seen from above in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan.

After spending your first day exploring Nakhchivan City, it is time to go check out the Machu Picchu of Azerbaijan. Alinja Castle is a 14th Century fortress built on a slope at the top of Alinja Mountain. Its scenic view from the top, unbelievable location, and the challenges required to reach the top are one of the few things why you will love Alinja Castle.

The stairs leading to the top of Alijan Castle in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan.

To get to Alinja Castle, I recommend you ask your accommodation to hire a taxi driver for a half-day trip to Alinja Castle as well as Ashab-I Kehf Cave, our next destination. It should cost no more than 60 AZN for a roundtrip ride to Alinja Castle as well as Ashab-I Kehf Cave.

The Alinja Castle from above in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan.

After you arrive at Alinja Castle, you will have to hike up a mountain for about 30 minutes to reach the top and you will see why they called Alinja Castle, the Machu Picchu of Azerbaijan.

A mosque seen from the Ashab-i Kehf Cave in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan.

After Alinja Castle, continue your journey to Ashab-I Kehf Cave, or as it is known as the Seven Sleepers Cave. This cave is an important religious site that attracts pilgrims from all over the country.

A mosque near the Ashab-i Kehf Cave in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan.

The cave itself is not huge. It sits at the foothill of a mountain and you will have to climb up more stairs to see the cave. Right by the cave, a mosque was erected by the Ottoman in the 19th Century and you will find many locals attending and paying respect to the mosque and the cave.

Local tourists visiting Ashab-i Kehf Cave in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan.

Spend about an hour at the cave before heading back to Nakhchivan City and prepare for the next day's adventure to Batabat Lake, Duzdag Therapy Center, And Qarabaghlar.

Me looking at Batabat Lake in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan.

To get to Batabat Lake, Duzdag Therapy Center, And Qarabaghlar, you will again, have to hire a taxi to take you to these places. Since these 3 places are all in a different direction, the cost to hire a taxi should be around 90 AZN and the trip should take an entire day.

Batabat lake and the floating island in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan.

Batabat Lake, the first stop of our third day in Nakhchivan, is a lake located among the mountains of the Caucasus at 2,500 m above sea-level, right by border between Nakhchivan and Armenia. It is a nice scenery break from all the desert you've seen the day before.

A close up of the floating island in the middle of Batabat Lake in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan.

In the middle of the lake, you will find a floating island shifting around slowly at the center. The island is made out of grass and peat and it is not attached to anything underneath it. The weather is quite cold up there so prepare a jacket for the visit.

The entrance of Duzdag Salt Therapy Center in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan.

After the lake, you can continue on to Duzdag Therapy Center, an old salt mine whose underground tunnels have been converted into a unique salt therapy center where one can stay overnight inside the salt cave.

Duzdag salt cave an a living quarter at Duzdag Salt Therapy Center in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan.

The entrance to the salt cave is free and you can walk along the main walking path surrounded by 130 million tons of pure natural salt. Apparently, this amount of salts is known for its ability to cure allergies, asthma, and pulmonary disorders, and many patients paid the Therapy Center to spend a night inside the cave.

The Qarabaghlar Mausoleum and the 2 minarets in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan.

After you've cleared your body from all the allergies in Duzdag, it is time for us to visit Qarabaghlar Mausoleum, hands down the most beautiful mausoleum in Nakhchivan, even more so than the one in Nakhchivan city.

The pattern and carvings of Qarabaghlar Mausoleum up close in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan.

Qarabaghlar Mausoleum is a mausoleum complex consisting of a stunning 30m tall 14th-Century cylindrical mausoleum with the exterior covered in one of the most beautiful Persian-style patterns I've seen on a mausoleum.

Me walking towards Qarabaghlar Mausoleum in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan.

Near the Mausoleum, there is also 2 minarets attached to a portal which I heard you can climb up one but unfortunately, there was no one there to open the door for me so, in the end, I simply sat there and be mesmerized by the intricate detail of the mausoleum.

Qala Restaurant from above in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan.

After Qarabaghlar, you can end your trip in Nakhchivan with a bang by going to Qala Restaurant and celebrate your Azerbaijan trip with the local organic cuisine Nakhchivan is known for.

The Ultimate Backpacking Guide To Nakhchivan

Baku (1 Night)

The Flaming Towers from the Highland Park in Baku, Azerbaijan.

After Nakhchivan, you will have to fly back to Baku and spend the night there before leaving Azerbaijan.

And there you have it, a complete 2-weeks backpacking itinerary for Azerbaijan. I hope you are inspired by the article to visit the country and experience the unbelievable beauty with your own eyes. If you have any questions regarding the itinerary, do not hesitate to ask me in the comments below.

Further Reading for Azerbaijan

Looking for more information for your trip to Azerbaijan? Here is a collection of articles about Azerbaijan that you might find them useful:

The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by Pete Rojwongsuriya, the founder of BucketListly Blog where we will follow his solo journey around the world as he experiences different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.


Categories: destinationsasiacaucasusazerbaijan


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