Top 7 Things to Do 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.
It would be a shame if you come all the way to Azerbaijan and did not see Sheki. Within this guide, I will cover everything from the amazing things you can do in Sheki to how to get around independently. Without further ado, let's begin with Sheki attractions and itinerary Map:Table of Contents
- Sheki Things to Do Itinerary Map
- Azerbaijan Travel Video
- When to Visit Sheki, Azerbaijan
- Where to Stay in Sheki, Azerbaijan
- How to Get to Sheki, Azerbaijan
- How to Get Around Sheki, Azerbaijan
- How Many Days to Spend in Sheki, Azerbaijan
- How Much Money Do I Need for Sheki, Azerbaijan
- Is it Safe in Sheki, Azerbaijan?
- Internet in Sheki, Azerbaijan
- Travel Insurance
Top 7 Things to Do in Sheki, Azerbaijan
- Visit the Palace of Shaki Khans But Don't Go Inside
- Go Inside the Winter Palace Instead
- Walk Around Sheki Fortress
- Learn About the Caucasus Albanians at the Albanian Church in Kish
- Explore the Old Town
- Visit the Caravanserai, a Hotel used by the travelers of the Silk Road
- Try the Delicious Piti Local Dish
- What to Eat and Drink in Sheki
- Other Things to Do in Sheki
- Further Reading for Azerbaijan
Sheki Things to Do Itinerary Map
Azerbaijan Travel Video
When to Visit Sheki, Azerbaijan
The best time to visit Sheki is from June to August where the temperature varies between 20 - 25°C, thanks to its location on the foothill of the Greater Caucasus.
The shoulder seasons from April to May and September to November are also a great period to visit Sheki as the temperature is still manageable hovering around 12°C and there will be fewer local tourists you will have to deal with.
Where to Stay in Sheki, Azerbaijan
Budget - Inci Design Hotel & Hostel - 5 USD/Night (Dorm)
Mid-Range - Sheki Palace Hotel - 27 USD/Night (Budget Twin Room)
Special - Caravanserai - 30~ USD/Night (Twin Room) - Staying in an old Silk Road inn is not something you can do every day. For more information, check out "Staying Overnight at Caravanserai" section.
How to Get to Sheki, Azerbaijan
How to Get to Baku
First and foremost, you will have to get to Baku before you can travel to Sheki and there are several flights you can take from your home country to Azerbaijan.
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.
How to Get from Baku to Sheki
From Baku, you will have to get a bus to Sheki from Baku International Bus Terminal located in the northern part of the city.
The bus from Baku to Sheki runs daily every 2 hours from 9 AM to 11:50 PM. The bus ticket will cost you 8.4 AZN per person and the journey takes 6 hours.
Although Sheki is only 300km away from Baku, it will take you 6 hours to get from Baku to Sheki due to terrible road conditions. The roads are being renovated when I was there in 2019 but once that is done, the journey should take less than 4 hours to complete.
For an official bus schedule and booking, you can check out Baku International Bus Terminal Complex official website here.
How to Get Around Sheki, Azerbaijan
For the attractions I have listed here, most of them are within walking distance but for places a little further out of time such as Kish and Galarsan-Gorarsan Fortress, you will have to catch a marshrutka (mini-van).
How to Get from Sheki to Kish, Azerbaijan
In order to get from Sheki to Kish via public transport, you will have to flag down a marshrutka number 15 going north from this bus stop.
The marshrutka #15 comes every 20 minutes so you shouldn't have to wait too long. Marshrutkas in Azerbaijan works pretty much the same as everywhere else wherein you will have to tell the driver where to stop and then you pay the driver when you get off.
The marshrutka ride will take around 15 minutes and they will drop you off at Kish Bus Stop where you will have to be to get the marshrutka on your way back. The marshrutka ride costs 0.4 AZN per person per trip.
You can also walk from Sheki to Kish if you have time to spare. It will take you around 1.5 hours to walk, but beware that it can get blazingly hot in Sheki so be sure to prepare accordingly.
How Many Days to Spend in Sheki, Azerbaijan
Sheki is a small town that can keep you busy for a day and so I would recommend spending one full day (2 nights) here.
Day 1: Spend the morning visiting Kish and the Albanian Church. You can also hike to Galarsan-Gorarsan Fortress while you are in Kish.
After spending half a day in Kish, spend the rest of the day exploring Sheki's Old Town, visiting the palaces, check out Caravanserai, and end your day with Piti and a dish of Halva sweets.
How Much Money Do I Need for Sheki, Azerbaijan
From the itinerary above, we can calculate the minimum amount you will be spending in Sheki for a one-day trip as follows:
Accommodation: 10 USD for 2 nights of accommodation in a hostel (17 AZN).
Food: A good meal in Sheki should cost around 5 AZN per meal so you will be spending around 15 AZN per day.
Transportation: A roundtrip marshrutka journey from Sheki to Kish and back is 0.8 AZN and that is all you will be spending on transportation.
Activities: For activities, you will be paying 5 AZN to enter the Winter Palace and 4 AZN to enter the Albanian Church, so in total, you will be paying 9 AZN on activities.
Total Budget: 41.80 AZN (25 USD)
Is it Safe in Sheki, Azerbaijan?
It is very safe in Sheki. The locals are really friendly and I had no trouble walking around on my own at night in the city. Be aware that there aren't a lot of lamps around the city and so if you have to go outside at night, pack a flashlight and watch out for potholes on the road.
Internet in Sheki, Azerbaijan
Your accommodation and some restaurants should have good enough WIFI for you to stay connected most of the time, but the city does suffer power outages quite often and so if you really want to stay connected all the time, I would recommend you get a local sim card.
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.
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.
Top 7 Things to Do in Sheki, Azerbaijan
Visit the Palace of Shaki Khans But Don't Go Inside
Sheki Khanate was once the most powerful khanate in the Caucasus region ruling over Afsharid Dynasty in the modern-day Azerbaijan and the Palace of Sheki Khans is one of the last remnants left in Sheki from that time.
The lavish decoration of its exterior and interior with a taste of the Persian influence from the colorful glass mosaic windows to the beautiful crafted pattern found on the facade is undoubtedly one of the prettiest ancient buildings you will find in Azerbaijan.
The Palace of Sheki Khan is the most popular attractions in Sheki so you can expect a ton of people visiting the palace on any given day. To enter the palace and see the magnificent decor of the palace's interior, you will have to pay 5 AZN to get in.
Unfortunately, you are unable to take photos inside and I'll be honest, I was pretty bumped out by it. Such a beautiful, well-preserved interior, almost matching the beauty of Nasir al-Mulk Mosque in Shiraz, Iran, going unnoticed.
As I was about to leave, I got a tip by someone that there is a winter palace not too far from the Palace of Shaki Khans that has the same beauty but without anyone and photography is not prohibited. See the next section why you should go inside the Winter Palace instead of the Palace of Sheki Khans.
Go Inside the Winter Palace (Shakikhanovs' Palace) Instead
Located just a bit southwest from the Palace of Sheki Khans lies a true hidden gems of equal beauty, the Winter Palace.
Due to its hidden location within the crisscrossing streets of Sheki's Old Town, the Winter Palace does not get the same number of tourists as the Palace of Sheki Khans.
In fact, I was the only one there when I visited the Winter Palace allowing me to spend as much time as I like inside hence why I recommend you to go inside the Winter Palace instead of the Palace of Sheki Khans.
The entry fee for the Winter Palace is 5 AZN, same as the Palace of Sheki Khans, and you will get access to a few lavishly decorated rooms where you can really enjoy its presence without being cramped into a small room with other hundred tourists like at the Palace of Sheki Khans.
Inside the Winter Palace, you will find the same lavish decoration as in the Palace of Sheki Khans with colorful mosaic windows and highly intricate wall-to-wall paintings depicting plants and animals.
The best time to visit the Winter Palace is in the late afternoon, around an hour before sunset, where the light shines directly at the colorful mosaic windows creating a colorful reflection on the floor.
Walk Around Sheki Fortress
Not just the Palace of Sheki Khans, within the walls of Sheki Fortress, you will find many interesting attractions waiting for you to discover. One of the attractions is the Three Saints Church, a beautiful round-shaped Caucasian Albanian Church that is not so common to see.
If you are looking to buy some souvenirs back from Sheki, you can also visit the local craft market located not too far from the Three Saints Church where you can buy some local silk cloths and other handmade memorabilia.
Other interesting attractions within Sheki Fortress are the Wall of Art and Crafts, a wall full of ceramic artwork located right by the Palace of Sheki Khans, and the Sheki Government Painting Gallery showcasing the artworks of various famous artists and students based in Sheki.
Learn About the Caucasus Albanians at the Albanian Church in Kish
You may have been wondering quite a bit why there are several remnants of Albanians, a country in the Balkans that is some 2,000 km away, in Azerbaijan. I was as confused as you when I arrived in Sheki.
As it turned out, the Albanian mentioned in Azerbaijan has no relation with the Albanians in the Balkans. The Caucasian Albanians in Azerbaijan are simply the people who lived within this area in ancient times.
The name Albania is derived from the Ancient Greek name Albanía and the prefix "Caucasian" is added solely to prevent confusion between the ancient people who lived in Western Azerbaijan and the modern-day Albanians of the Balkans.
Research led by the Norwegians has discovered that even though the church was built in the 12th Century, the site it was built on is way older than that.
They discovered skeleton remains as well as various objects underneath the Church that dated back to about 3000 B.C. The archaeological evidence found within the area has led to the conclusion that the church was built on top of a Pagan cult site which may be where St. Elishe, a prophet mentioned in both the New Testament and the Quran, built his altar for the Pagan Ceremony.
There are several English information boards within the church area so be sure to check that out when you are there. The entry fee for the church is 4 AZN per person.
To get from Sheki to Kish, you will have to take a marshrutka number 15 from a bus stop in Sheki leading up north and get off at Kish Bus Stop. It should take no more than 15 minutes and should cost around 0.4 AZN per person. Check out the How to Get from Sheki to Kish section for more detail.
Explore the Old Town
There are a ton of beautiful red-brick old buildings from the Silk Road time in Sheki's Old Town that you can explore. The crisscrossing streets of the old town will take you away from the usual tourist spots and allows you to really be immersed with the culture of Sheki.
Looking around all the beautiful buildings of Sheki's Old Town, you will start to notice the little Persian and Russian influences that can be seen throughout the Old Town. It's a unique blend that you don't get to see very often anywhere else in the world.
From the Palace of Sheki Khans, you can walk to the Winter Palace and then continued on through the Old Town until you reached Caravanserai, our next stop.
Visit the Caravanserai, a Hotel used by the travelers of the Silk Road
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.
You can find many surviving Caravanserai across the ancient Silk Road even today and one of the most well-preserved Caravanserais is located within Sheki's Old Town.
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 spacious courtyard of a Caravanserai is a common feature found in almost every Caravanserai along the Silk Road. The purpose of the courtyard is for caravaners from all walks of life to come together, trade information, and hang out with each other.
If you are interested in immersing yourself further into the Silk Road culture found in Sheki, you can also stay at the Caravanserai overnight as well. For more information, check out our "Staying Overnight at Caravanserai" section.
Try the Delicious Piti Local Dish
Piti is an aromatic rich and tasty soup, a popular local cuisine originated from Sheki that you have to try in Sheki. Eating Piti properly requires instruction from a local and if you order one at a restaurant, the waiters will happily guide you through the process.
Its delicious texture, the aroma, and the taste of spice of Piti will be one of the experiences you won't be forgetting any time soon so be sure to try one before you leave Sheki.
What to Eat and Drink in Sheki
Learn How to Eat Piti at Buta Restaurant
One of the best and affordable places to try Sheki Piti is Buta Restaurant, located along the main road, tucked away between the soviet-era buildings of Sheki. Its large courtyard, welcoming staff, and the affordable price makes Buta Restaurant, one of my favorites in Azerbaijan.
You can order Piti here and the waiter will help guide you through the process of mixing the soup, spices, pieces of bread, and show you exactly how you can enjoy Piti the right way. If you are looking to try Sheki Piti, Buta Restaurant is the place to be.
Try Halva Sweets
One of the most popular Azerbaijan sweets to try in Sheki is Halva (baklava), a confection of hazelnuts, walnuts, butter, sugar, rice flour, and spices with an intricate pattern reminiscent of Shebeke, the stained glass windows originated from Sheki, on the top layer begging you to try.
The best place to buy Halva in Sheki is the sweet shop that had pioneered the intricate techniques of making Halva for centuries called Aliahmed. You can buy a pack of Halva here as well as other sweets for souvenirs.
Other Things to Do in Sheki
Stay Overnight at Caravanserai
If you would like to really immersed in the Silk Road culture of Sheki, you can stay overnight at Caravanserai. They offered a twin room for about 50 AZN and you get to stay and the very place where caravaners used to stay while they traversed the Ancient Silk Road.
As of 2019, I was unable to find a way to book Caravanserai online and so if you want to reserve a place, I would recommend you book it through a travel agency in Baku or contact them directly via their Facebook Page.
Visit Juma Mosque
Juma Mosque is a beautiful mosque worth stopping on your way from Sheki Main Road to Sheki's Old Town. It is located at an intersection before you approach the Old Town from the main road and you can see its minaret from miles away.
The building is old, built with red bricks that are common to see in Sheki's Old Town, and it has some really nice decors on the facade, so be sure to drop by while you are there.
Hike to Galarsan-Gorarsan Fortress
Photos by Эмин Мамедов.
Last but not least, you can go do some hiking in Kish and hike to Galarsan-Gorarsan Fortress, an old ruins from the 8th Century located on the foothill of the mountains behind Kish.
The hike starts from Kish and it follows a straight-forward trail along a dirt road and up to the fortress. The hike should take about 30 minutes one-way.
And there you have it, a complete backpacking guide and all the incredible things to do in Sheki in one day. Are you interested in visiting Sheki? If so, do not hesitate to ask me any questions 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:
- Looking for a complete travel guide to Azerbaijan? Check out: 2 Weeks Itinerary for Azerbaijan.
- The hyper modern capital city of Baku is unlike any other city in the Caucasus. It’s full of surprises and you will need a good guide to see them all. Here are 10 Awesome Things To Do In Baku, Azerbaijan.
- Two of the best sights you will see in Azerbaijan is Khinaliq and Laza, the ancient mountain villages in the Caucasus and to get there, be sure to check out A Backpacking Guide to Khinaliq and Laza.
- Ganja, the second largest city in Azerbaijan with a name that is hard to forget, has a ton of hidden gems for you to explore from Lake Goygol and Maralgol to the beautiful Imamzadeh Complex. Here’s everything you need to travel to Ganja: 8 Best Things To Do In Ganja, Azerbaijan.
- Nakhchivan, an autonomous exclave republic of Azerbaijan that is not attached to Azerbaijan itself due to conflict with Armenia is a republic you will have to see for yourself. To travel there, check out The Ultimate Backpacking Guide To Nakhchivan.
- Looking for something more visual to convince you about visiting Azerbaijan? How about a travel video? Azerbaijan, The Land Of Fire Travel Video
- Wondering where to go after Azerbaijan? How about you drop by the charming hipster city of Tbilisi, Georgia and after, visit Yerevan, Armenia?
- For all articles about Azerbaijan, visit Azerbaijan Travel Guide page.
- Looking to travel to the Caucasus Region? Check out all my articles about the region here: The Caucasus Travel Guide page.
- You can see all my Asia related articles here: Asia Travel Guide page.
- For more of my travel guides like this, visit my Destinations page.
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.
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