Previeously we didn’t know much about Azerbaijan and Baku. After doing some research on the internet about this destination, we felt encouraged to go there. It was a good choice, as visiting Baku was a very positive experience for us. And not only positive, but also absolutely surprising. Baku city combines two different worlds: it’s formally a muslim country but we haven’t seen or met any muslims there, it’s very rich and modern in the center and poor at the outskirts. It just has two faces and shows many contrasts – we’ve never been in such unique place before.
3 days in Baku
DAY 1 – Baku City
We got to Baku city by flight from Tehran very early in the morning. The airport in Baku is very modern and has a very unique architectural design. It looks very rich and we have to admit that we’ve never seen an airport like this before.
We took a bus from the airport to the city. In Baku we found a host on couchsurfing so we wanted to go straight to his place. We got off at the station that was very close to his apartment but getting to his place took us some longer time than we expected. Even then we noticed something specific about Baku – we got problems with crossing the streets couple of times because there was no crosswalks around. Of course, there are crosswalks in Baku but we just got the feeling that not many :)
After we got rested at our host’s place and spend some time with him, we went to see the city. The day was very hot so there was not many people around on the streets. Our host lived on the outskirts of the city. Many building there are old and look post-soviet. We took the metro to see the city center.
HEYDAR ALIYEV CENTER
Heydar Aliyev center is a great attraction of Baku city. The building is spectacular because of its architecture. It’s an example of modern, futurist projects and it really made an impression on us. One wall of the building is made in a way that we could partly walk on it:
The curve-shaped building hauses a museum and a conference hall. Although it’s one of the most popular attractions in Baku, there were no people around just like on the streets. Maybe it was because of heat or maybe because previously it was hard to get visa to Azerbaijan and we came to this country just after they made it easier for tourists to visit Azerbaijan.
After that we took metro to the city center to find a place to eat and sit for a while. We were lucky because our restaurant had also places to sit outside. In Azerbaijan and many other countries where it’s very hot, restaurants, metro and railway stations and shopping malls turn on air condition on very high level. For us it wasn’t a plus because it’s not a nice feeling coming from outside where is about 40℃ to a room in which there is a freezing cold :) It can be a shock for the body :)
The rest of the day we spent hanging around the city center. After getting there, we admired the walls of the castle, which makes the city center very interesting.
Later we headed to the Flame Towers. These three unique buildings could be seen very well from the distance. We thought they were very close and it was true, but again it’s hard to find crosswalks everywhere in the city.
Our host told us that it’s not legal to cross the street in any place but we saw people doing it all the time. Otherwise, getting somewhere in Baku would be like wandering in a maze :) When we finally got close to the Flame Towers. It’s really worth to go there by night and see how the 3 buildings are illuminated but we also wanted to see this place during the day. Flame Towers are another symbol of Baku with very unique and imaginative architecture.
CONTRASTS IN BAKU CITY
We were impressed after getting to the city center and seeing most popular places of the capital city. It’s because at first we saw the outskirts of the city as our host had his apartment there. We noticed that there is a huge gulf between city center and the outskirts. At the outskirts we saw that all buildings were built in a typical soviet style and they haven’t been renovated for a very long time. The situation in the city center is completely different just like it was completely different country. The center looks incredibly rich with modern buildings and very elegant underpasses. We’ve never seen something like this before, just compare the photos :)
Later we had a walk around a park that is placed in the city center. We enjoyed that moment – everything was well-kept and beautiful. The whole evening we spent at the promenade by the sea. We were sitting and looking at the water and saw many other couples – the atmosphere was so romantic! A perfect place for a date :) We watched the sunset and enjoyed the view, which was amazing.
After it got darker, we headed to our host. There were much more people on the streets than during the day. In the evening the weather was more pleasant as it was still very warm but not so hot as during the day.
Day 2 – Big Trip
BIBI HEYBAT MOSQUE
In the morning we set off to our great trip. We took the metro to station 28 May – it’s metro, bus, railway station and bus stop at the same time. In front of this station we caught a bus to a small bus station Bina. However, before the bus stops at the bus station Bina, it has a stop next to the Bibi Heybat Mosque. We got off at this station first to see it. The mosque is beautiful and it’s a little bit in isolation – there were no other buildings around. The mosque is beautiful and worth visiting, especially that it’s on the route to the Bina bus station.
OUR WAY TO GOBUSTAN NATIONAL PARK
Next we took the bus again and got to the bus station. On our way to the next bus, one taxi driver accosted us. Most people in Azerbaijan speak Russian as a foreign language and it’s rather hard to meet someone that would speak English. Fortunately, our Russian is communicative, so we could talk with him. He knew that we are tourists and want to go to Gobustan National Park. We needed to find a taxi driver anyway because the bus only takes people to the bus stop in Gobustan and then only taxi drivers offer a trip around the Gobustan National Park.
As it wasn’t our first trip, we knew how to haggle. He told us that we don’t need to take a bus and we can go with him straight away – but it would be much more expensive. We rejected his offer and told that we are going to take a bus and then will find a taxi driver to take us to the Gobustan National Park. He really wanted to make a deal with us, so he told that he will go there as well behind the bus and then will take us to the National Park :)
We agreed to do so but still had to settle the price. He offered to take us for 40 manats. Fortunately, the day before our host told us the regular price. He told that Azerbaijani would go for 15, but tourists should be able to go for 20 manats. We were haggling over this price about 10-15 minutes but finally managed to have it our way :)
GOBUSTAN NATIONAL PARK – BAKU CITY
When we got to our bus stop in Gobustan, our taxi driver was already waiting for us. First he took us to mud volcanos. Getting close the volcanos, we passed by burning landfill – very unpleasant view, but it seems like Azerbaijan is like this: beautiful modern buildings next to old post-soviet ones and landfill next to unique landscapes. It’s a country of contrasts.
When we reached the place, we were delighted. The whole area looks like on the moon and the volcanos bubble like some kind of magic potion from cartoons. There are not many places in the world with mud volcanos, so it’s a very unique attraction and definitely worth visiting. We enjoyed it a lot and can recommend not only for nature enthusiasts.
PETROGLYPHS – BAKU CITY
Our taxi driver took us to the petroglyphs next. There are ancient rock engravings that are dated to thousands of years BC. Some scientists even suppose that the oldest engravings in Gobustan are as old as 40 thousand years! We spent about half an hour in this place and had so much fun. Looking at the ancient paintings we were thinking what history is connected with them. We were also lucky to eavesdrop on a tour guide next to us :) He showed incl. a first engraving of a smile, which we would never notice by ourselves :)
The area with petroglyphs is situated on high rocks, which give a beautiful view to the sea and… a prison :)
The last stop was museum. We learned more about the life of ancient people who were living in the area thousands of years ago. Inside the museum, we could see dummies of those people wearing traditional clothes, their authentic bones and skulls and some original ancient dishes. A real treat for history lovers :)
On our way back, the driver showed us a tree with figs.
The taxi driver dropped us to the bus station in Gobustan. After we got to the bus, we fell asleep immediately – our little trip was intensive, we saw a lot and were additionally exhausted because of a great heat.
That day we only went to eat something and then headed to our host – there was enough of attractions during one day.
It was our last day in Baku and we planned to go to Yanar Dag. The place is outside Baku but we easily got there with a bus. The ride took us only about 35 minutes.
Yanar Dag is a natural fire caused by methane gas coming off the ground and it blazes continuously for about 60 years. The attraction is very impressive and just imagine how hot there is during scorching day in the area of burning mountain :)
In place there are some workers that guide and talk about burning mountain and some utensils that are placed nearby. We saw stoned utensils like bathtub that people once used.
We liked the most an instrument that made a real music. It was a big stone and we could take other small stones to hit with them this bigger one :) Just see the movie:
And that was it. Later we headed to train station. We had a train to Tbilisi and it took 14 hours to get there. We booked third class platzkart places – an open space sleeping compartment just like dorm in a hostel.
Our journey was great. Our companions were from Azerbaijan and could speak Russian. It wasn’t a problem at all for them that our Russian is on basic level and were asking us a lot of questions. That was so funny and all people were talking together. It was our first experience in such train and we really loved it.
Baku City – Our Conclusion
The capital city is surprising and very unique. It’s an amazing place – in the center very rich, at the outskirts – poor. The interesting fact is also that the Azerbaijan is officially a Muslim country, but.. it’s only officially.
For example Azerbaijanis are known for liking strong alcohol. We even had a very specific companion during our first flight to Azerbaijan from Kiev. He was a middle-aged guy and was sitting next to us in the plane. The guy brought his own vodka on board and drunk 2 cups of it chasing it with chocolate :) He told us that he always does it when being in the plane and it brings luck – if he drinks vodka, the flight will be safe. And thanks to him our flight was safe and everything was fine :) Thank you stranger for your great commitment!
Have you also met some interesting people onboard? Let us know :)