8 Best Things to Do in Ganja, Azerbaijan - A Backpacking Guide and a One-Day Itinerary for Ganja

8 Best Things to Do in Ganja, Azerbaijan

A Backpacking Guide and a One-Day Itinerary for Ganja

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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.

Within this guide, you will find all the information you need to travel to Ganja, important information like how to get around, and a list of all the best things you can do in and around Ganja. Without further ado, let's look at the map of incredible things to do in the city:

2 Weeks Backpacking Itinerary for Azerbaijan

Ganja Things to Do Itinerary Map

Ganja Things to Do Itinerary Map

Azerbaijan Travel Video

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When to Visit Ganja, Azerbaijan

Clouds floating above the observation tower of Ganja State Philharmonic Hall in Azerbaijan.

The best time to visit Ganja is from September to October where the temperature varies between 20 - 25°C and the colors of Autumn are in full-swing spicing up the scenery you will see at Lake Goygol and Lake Maralgol.

Spring (April - May) temperature is the same as in Autumn but it may rain quite a bit so if you prefer to maximize sunny days while you are here, I would recommend you avoid this period.

In the mid-summer months (June - August), it can be a bit hot and dry in Ganja with the temperature at 30°C during the day but it is still manageable and you will likely encounter a clear day more often than during other periods.

Winter (November to March) in Ganja is cold and quite inactive with a temperature at around 5°C during the day and -3°C at night so I would avoid visiting Ganja during the wintertime.

Where to Stay in Ganja, Azerbaijan

Budget - VM Hostel - 8 USD/Night (Dorm) | 15 USD/Night (Twin Room)

Mid-Range/High-End - Vego Hotel - 64 USD/Night (Standard Double Room)

How to Get to Ganja, Azerbaijan

How to Get to Baku

Me standing in front of Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku, Azerbaijan.

In order to get to Ganja, you will first have to get to Baku. Thankfully, Baku has a very well established connection with Istanbul and Ankara so you can easily fly into the city via Turkish Airlines or 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.

10 Awesome Things To Do In Baku, Azerbaijan

How to Get from Baku to Ganja

A lada driving towards Ganja City Hall in Azerbaijan.

From Baku, you have 2 options: taking a train or taking a mini-bus (marshrutka) to Ganja. The train in Baku is new and has gone through modernization making it the most convenient option.

On the other hand, marshrutkas run more often so if you can't align yourself with the train schedule marshrutkas are a great option as well. They both take about the same time and similarly priced so you can choose whichever mode of transportation that fits your itinerary.

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

Train: The train is the more convenient option of the 2 as you will get to travel on their newly modernized European-style trains. To catch the train from Baku to Ganja, you will have to get to Baku Central Railway Station which is easily accessible via 28 May Metro Station.

There are 2 - 3 trains per day with 2 of them traveling in the night and one during the day. The night trains will take about 5.5 hours whereas the day train will take about 4 hours. The price for trains from Baku to Ganja ranges from 7 - 10 AZN per person.

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

Things to Note: If you are searching for a ticket on the official website, you might have to input the destination name in Azerbaijani language so if you can't find Baku and Ganja, try BAKI and GƏNCƏ respectively instead.

Once you arrive in Ganja, the train will drop you off at Ganja Central Station where you can request a lift on the Bolt app or grab a taxi to Ganja city center.

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

Bus (marshrutka): If you want to get the marshrutka, you will have to get to Baku International Bus Terminal located in the northern part of Baku.

The bus from Baku to Ganja will cost you 7 AZN and it will take about 4.5 hours to get there. The bus runs from Baku every 30 minutes starting from 7:00 AM to 11:50 PM.

To get to the bus terminal from the 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.

Once you arrive in Ganja, the bus will drop you off at a bus stop by a roundabout outside of the city. From there, you can call Bolt or grab a taxi to your accommodation.

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

How to Get from Sheki to Ganja

A lada driving along the road to Lake Goygol in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

If you are currently traveling in Sheki and would like to go to Ganja, you can take a marshrutka directly from Sheki to Ganja without having to backtrack to Baku.

Bus Schedule from Sheki Central Bus Station to Ganja and everywhere else in Azerbaijan.

In Sheki, you can 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.

Sheki Central Bus Station in the morning in Azerbaijan.

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.

Top 7 Things To Do In Sheki, Azerbaijan

How to Get from Ganja Bus/Train Station to Ganja City Center

Ganja City Center in Azerbaijan.

The Ganja Bus Stop and Ganja Central Station are all located outside of the city center and the best way to get to the city center is to use the app Bolt and request a ride from there.

A ride from a bus/train station with Bolt will cost you about 2 - 3 AZN and it will take around 15 minutes to get to the city center.

How to Get Around Ganja, Azerbaijan

A bus stop in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

The majority of the tourist attractions are within walking distance from Shah Abbas Square so you can visit most of them on foot. Some places like Imamzadeh Complex are too far from the city center and you will have to take a taxi instead.

As mentioned earlier, the best way to travel around the city with a taxi is to use the app Bolt and request a ride from there. The price can range from 2 - 6 AZN depending on the distance.

To get to Goygol and Maralgol lakes, you will have to hire a taxi driver to drive you there and back. For more information, check out the Getting from Ganja to Lake Goygol section.

How Many Days to Spend in Ganja, Azerbaijan

A balloon floating above Ganja City Hall at sunset in Azerbaijan.

To see most of the interesting sights in Ganja, I would recommend you spend at least one full day here. If you have time and would like to take it slow, 2 full days is recommended as well.

Day 0: The day you arrive, you can spend the rest of the day exploring the Shah Abbas Square, Ganja Philharmonic, Javad Khan Street, and Heydar Aliyev Square which are all located in the same area.

Before the day end, talk to your accommodation and ask them to organize for a ride to Lake Goygol the next day.

Day 1: Spend the entire day exploring Lake Goygol and Lake Maralgol. It should take you about 3 - 5 hours for the trip. If you have enough time left in the evening, you can visit the Imamzadeh Complex as well.

Day 2 (optional): If you didn't have enough time the first day, you can move Imamzadeh Complex to the second day together with visiting Nizami’s Mausoleum and all the activities listed under Other Things to Do in Ganja.

How Much Money Do I Need for Ganja, Azerbaijan

From the itinerary above, we can calculate the minimum amount of money you will be spending in Ganja for one day as follows:

Accommodation: 8 USD x 2 nights = 16 USD (27.20 AZN)

Food: A meal in Ganja costs about 5 AZN and so for one day, you can expect to spend about 25 AZN per person on food including dinner on the day of your arrival and breakfast on the day of your departure.

Transportation: For transportation, the taxi will charge you about 60 AZN for a roundtrip to Lake Goygol. From Lake Goygol, you will have to pay 2 AZN for another roundtrip to Lake Maralgol. Together with a roundtrip taxi ride from the train/bus station on your arrival/departure date (2 AZN per trip), you will be paying 66 AZN in total for transportation.

Activities: For activities, you will be paying 3 AZN to enter Goygol National Park, and that is it.

Total Budget: 121.20 AZN (71.3 USD)

Is it Safe in Ganja, Azerbaijan?

Azerbaijan is generally very safe, and Ganja is no exception so there is nothing to worry about. Ganja like most of Azerbaijan doesn't get many foreign tourists and so you are unlikely to encounter any bad behavior or scam towards you while you are traveling there.

That said, Lake Goygol is bordering the disputed area of Nagorno Karabakh and they take security very seriously in that area so do not go and wander off outside of the designated trail.

Internet in Ganja, Azerbaijan

Ganja is quite reliable when it comes to finding reliable WIFI. Your accommodation should have working fast WIFI for you to use. If not, you can always find a cafe (Coffeemania is highly recommended) in Ganja Mall and use their free WIFI.

If you want to stay connected all the time while you are in Ganja, or if you are looking to use the taxi-hailing app, Bolt, I would recommend you get a local sim card.

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

8 Best Things to Do in Ganja, Azerbaijan

Check Out Shah Abbas Mosque (The Juma Mosque)

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

Ganja, through so many conquests by foreign powers throughout its lifespan since the 9th Century, has a plethora of beautiful ancient architectures all around the city and one of the most prominent ones is the Shah Abbas Mosque or as some call it Juma Mosque (Friday Mosque).

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

Built in the early 16th Century, the Shah Abbas Mosque was constructed by the order of, you guessed it, Shah Abbas, 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.

The minarets of Shah Abbas Mosque in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

The Shah Abbas Mosque is located right at the center of Shah Abbas Square which has a ton of other beautiful old buildings making it the perfect place to begin your exploration of Ganja.

Visit the Mausoleum and a Turkish Bath at Shah Abbas Square

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

From the Shah Abbas Mosque, you will find yourself in a large spacious square surrounded by other beautiful red-brick buildings that are all worthy of your attention.

The Chokak Turkish Bath in Ganja, Azerbaijan

Within the Shah Abbas Square, you will find the Chokak Baths, an old Turkish bath boasting several iconic Turkish Bath's domes that are hard to miss, as well as, the Tomb of Javad Khan, a tomb erected on the grave of Javad Khan, the last Khan of Ganja, where it was accidentally discovered during the USSR period while they were trying to build a fountain.

Admire the European-Style Architecture of Ganja State Philharmonic Hall

The exterior of Ganja State Philharmonic Hall in Azerbaijan.

Right by the Shah Abbas Square, you will also find a large grandiose building, reminiscent of some old buildings you might find in Europe. This building is the Ganja State Philharmonic Hall, a concert hall built for orchestral performances in the name of the great Ganja-born composer, Fikret Amirov.

The observation tower of Ganja State Philharmonic Hall in Azerbaijan.

This delicately designed building also has an observation tower as well attached to it as well as a beautifully designed fountain decorated with national ornaments right by the entrance.

The facade design of Ganja State Philharmonic Hall in Azerbaijan.

Although the building may resemble the old buildings of Europe, the Ganja State Philharmonic Hall was actually built in 1991, after they demolished an old Soviet cinema, a remnant of the Soviet-era with an ironic backstory.

The grandiose fountain in front of  Ganja State Philharmonic Hall in Azerbaijan.

You see, this Soviet Cinema was built on top of an old historical building which was part of the Khan's Palace that stood at the exact same spot before it was demolished by Imperial Russia when they took over the city. I guess it all comes full circle now 🙂.

Walk by the Javad Khan Pedestrian Street

The empty Javad Khan Pedestrian Street in the afternoon in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

Right across the road from the Ganja State Philharmonic Hall is the Javad Khan Pedestrian Street, a shopping street where you can find several historical buildings all lined up on both sides of the walking street.

The shops along the Javad Khan Pedestrian Street in the afternoon in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

The street runs along the side of Ganja Mall and you can find souvenir stores as well as restaurants and shops that you can indulge yourself in. You can also just go there to appreciate the beauty of the historical buildings or go people-watching as the locals like to hang out here in the evening.

Visit Heydar Aliyev Square and the City Hall at Sunset

Ganja City Hall at Sunset 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.

Heydar Aliyev monument in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

The Ganja City Hall was constructed during the Soviet-era in 1961 and it is a great example of the type of architectural style the Soviet had mastered during their reign.

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

The facade of the City Hall is an example of a Stripped Classicism architectural style that stripped off all the "wasteful" ornaments and leaving us with a simplified but recognizable classicism building.

The lit up Ganja city hall at sunset in Azerbaijan.

The best time to visit the City Hall is 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.

Admire the Beauty of Imamzadeh Complex

Imamzadeh Complex in the evening in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

Photos by Tarkhan Pashazade

After seeing all the tourist attractions in the Old City of Ganja, it is time to go out and explore what the surrounding area of Ganja has to offer. First and foremost, one of the most significant religious buildings that are popular among pilgrims that you shouldn't miss is the Imamzadeh Complex.

Imamzadeh Complex is located 7km north of Ganja City Center. The complex consists of a mosque, a caravanserai, cemetery and funeral monuments, and the most beautiful of all, the mausoleum, all surrounded by a red brick wall.

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

Photos by Tarkhan Pashazade

The exterior design of the Imamzadeh mausoleum is a great example of the beauty of Persian art and pattern which can be seen on many of the Persian-era ancient buildings around this part of the world.

The Imamzadeh mausoleum in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

Photos by Tarkhan Pashazade

Within the mausoleum, you will find the grave of one of the sons of Imam Muhammad al-Baqir, the great-grandson of Prophet Muhammad hence why it is considered to be one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the city.

You can reach Imamzadeh Complex via bus #33 or you can hail a taxi via Bolt app. The taxi should cost somewhere between 4 - 6 AZN one way. The entry to Imamzadeh Complex is free of charge.

Visit Goygol Lake

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

Located around 50 km south of Ganja, there is a beautiful blue lake situated on the foot of the Lesser Caucasus. The lake stands at 1,556m above sea level and it is one of the most popular lakes around Ganja for the locals to visit.

Mount Kapaz from the road to Lake Goygol 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.

Another view of Lake Goygol in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

There is a nice viewpoint at the Goygol Hotel Restaurant overlooking the lake from above so be sure to walk by there after the taxi dropped you off.

A cafe by Lake Goygol in Ganja Azerbaijan.

You can also walk down along the road to the lake and you will find another cafe/restaurant where you can sit, relax, and enjoy the sight of Lake Goygol up close.

Lake Goygol from the bottom in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

Other than these 2 viewpoints, there is not much to see around Goygol. Due to the proximity of Goygol National Park to Nagorno Karabakh, which is still technically at war, the security has a tight-grip over the area and you can not go hiking or wander away from the designated area.

Thankfully, there is another lake not too far from Lake Goygol that offers more things to do and has a significantly less number of tourists you can visit after Lake Goygol.

Getting from Ganja to Lake Goygol

Lake Goygol is way too far and too remote for you to be able to use a taxi-hailing app like Bolt successfully so your only option is to hire a taxi driver to take you there and back. You can easily organize your ride to Lake Goygol with your accommodation the day before.

I was able to get a taxi to drive me up to Lake Goygol and back for 60 AZN. The taxi driver picked me up at 9 AM and it took us an hour to reach Lake Goygol. I spent around 4 hours, taking my sweet time at Lake Goygol and Lake Maralgol before coming back down to the city at around 4 PM.

Hike Up to Lake Maralgol

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

Lake Maralgol is actually the highlight of my visit to Lake Goygol. It's a smaller lake 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.

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

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

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.

People hanging out by Lake Maralgol in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

There is also a cafe on a hill overlooking Lake Maralgol so you can take your time and rest from the hike. I ended up just walking along the lake to a remote part of the lake, found a shade to sit under, and enjoyed my packed lunch.

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 swim uits. 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.

Getting from Lake Goygol to Lake Maralgol

To get from Lake Goygol to Lake Maralgol, you can wait for a mini-bus at the bus parking spot located not too far from the Goygol Hotel Restaurant.

The mini-bus runs every 15 - 30 minutes and it will cost you 1 AZN per trip. The journey takes about 10 minutes and the mini-bus will take you to Lake Maralgol parking lot where you will have to climb up the stairs for about 5 minutes before you arrive at the lake.

The mini-bus works the same way when coming back. Simply go back to the Lake Maralgol parking lot, where they dropped you off before, wait until the mini-bus arrives, and get on one back to Lake Goygol for 1 AZN.

Other Things to Do in Ganja

Go Urban Exploring and Discover Abandoned Orthodox Church

An Abandoned Orthodox Church I found in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

When I was in Ganja, through the magical sight of Google Earth, I found an Abandoned Orthodox Church located not too far from Ganja City Center. On your way back from Lake Goygol, you can ask your taxi to stop by this church and you can go and have a look.

The interiod of the Abandoned Orthodox Church I found in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

I went ahead and climbed into the church through a window just to check out how massive the church is. The interior really reminded me of the Church of the Ancient Armenian City of Ani in East Turkey.

Lights shining through the ceiling of the Abandoned Orthodox Church I found in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

I could only imagine how beautiful it would be if the city actually renovated the church and turns it into a proper tourist attraction. Too bad it seems like they do not have any interested in restoring what was lost of the remnants of Orthodox Christianity in this part of the world.

A Backpacking Guide On How To Get To Ani From Kars

Visit the Bottle House

The Bottle House in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

Photos by Urmen19

Not too far from Ganja Old Town, you will find a peculiar-looking house built with 48,000 glass bottles appropriately named the Bottle House. It is a work of art by Ibrahim Jaffarov, a Ganja resident in the 1960s, who dedicated the house to Ibrahim Jafarov's brother who went missing during World War II. Be sure to drop by there when you are in Ganja.

Walk by Shah Abbas Caravanserai

The exterior of Shah Abbas Caravanserai in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

Like with most ancient cities along the Silk Road, Ganja also has Caravanserai, a place where merchants of the Silk Road would come and rest from the day's journey.

The sign in front of Shah Abbas Caravanserai in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

The building boasts a beautiful red-brick architecture that can be seen throughout Ganja. The Caravanserai was actually part of the Khan's Palace together with the Shah Abbas Mosque and the Chokak Baths, hence the similarity of the exterior.

The interior of Shah Abbas Caravanserai in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

Unfortunately, the building was being restored so I was unable the get in although, the architecture outside is still impressive and it is worth dropping by if you are around Ganja Old Town.

Check Out the Arc of Triumph at Ganja Heyder Aliyev Park

Located on the western outer rim of Ganja city, the Ganja Heyder Aliyev Park is the largest urban park in the city stretching for 450 hectares. There are fountains, flowers, an amphitheater, museums, and the most impressive of all, the Arc of Triumph located on the northern end of the park.

The park is especially beautiful after the sunset so be sure to drop by there around that time. To get there, you can either call a taxi via Bolt app for 3 AZN or you can take bus #1 and #4 for 0.3 AZN.

Visit Nizami’s Mausoleum

Nizami Mausoleum in the evening in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

Photos by Nuhun

Last but not least, outside of Ganja, there is another great tourist attraction to visit, Nizami Mausoleum, a mausoleum dedicated to the 12th-century Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi.

You can get there by taxi or take bus number 23. Bus number 23 leaves from Ganja Market and it will cost you 0.3 AZN per trip.

Where to Eat and Drink in Ganja

Sip a Cup of Coffee at Coffeemania Ganja

If you are looking for a nice cafe to take a break from the day of exploration, Coffeemania Ganja is a great cafe to do so. The cafe overlooks the Shah Abbas Square from the balcony in Ganja Mall giving you a great vantage point of the area.

They serve western-style food like sandwiches as well as kebabs together with a ton of options for drinks from lemonade to coffee. They also have reliable WIFI, making it the perfect place to sit and work on your laptop in Ganja.

And there you have it, the ultimate backpacking guide on things to do in Ganja. If you have any questions regarding your trip to Ganja, do not hesitate the 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.

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