What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

Things to do in Baku – a budget-friendly guide to Azerbaijan’s exquisite capital city

 

What are the top things to do in Baku? If you’re on a tight budget and want to explore Baku without breaking your piggy bank, here is a list of the cheapest and most fun activities to do in Baku.

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

 

Baku, it sounds like a species of parrot but in reality, it’s the name of the bustling capital city of Azerbaijan. I’m not very fond of big cities and I prefer to sleep in my tent somewhere in the woods rather than being cramped up in a dorm room in a city, but I gladly made an exception for Baku!

 

This lively metropolis is a world on its own. The Lonely Planet describes it as “the love child of Paris and Dubai” and once you visited the city, you’ll understand why.

 

small streets Baku Azerbaijan - Journal of Nomads

 

I would also describe it as the big brother of Batumi, an odd but beautiful Georgian city on the coast of the Black Sea. Baku has a beautiful boulevard on which you can walk for hours and it’s particularly beautiful at sunrise or sunset.

 

The city also has many little parks where you can hide between the green bushes, an old historical city with the neo-Ottoman Shahidlar mosque, a museum of miniature books, incredible eye-catching architecture such as the Heydar Aliyev Center, and of course, the iconic Flame Towers towering above the city.

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

 

 

I always feel lost whenever I enter a huge city, especially during the first days. There’s a chance you’ll see me sitting on a bench dazed by the heavy traffic and crowds of people, not really knowing where to go or what to do.

 

That’s why I put together this guide with things to do and places to stay in Baku so you won’t feel as lost as me and you won’t need to break your piggy bank.

 

It can be an expensive city if you don’t watch out so it’s good to know a few useful things about Baku before you go. I would still recommend you to sit on a bench and observe the people and the surroundings. It’s always a fun thing to do, especially while sipping on a coffee.

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads
Or you can hang out with the ‘locals’

 

 

 

A short introduction to Baku

 

The name ‘Baku’ can be interpreted as ‘city of winds’. After a walk through the streets, you quickly understand why. Azerbaijan’s capital city is located on the western Caspian seaside and you can often feel the harsh sea breeze blowing through the city’s streets and messing around with your hair.

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

 

 

Baku is the largest city in the Caucasus and is the political, scientific and cultural center of Azerbaijan. The city is hip, modern, chaotic and multicultural with architecture that spans multiple generations and styles that neighbor in interesting ways.

 

For example, the futuristic Flame Towers are placed right behind the centuries-old city walls. One moment you find yourself walking in the hypermodern shopping streets and a few streets further you can come face to face with grand old 19th century styled apartment blocks or wooden houses with hanging balconies that evoke the spirit of the Silk Road.

 

Kind of a crazy mix but it works. It creates a unique atmosphere and your camera will love it!

 

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

 

 

Baku is also the industrial center of Azerbaijan. The city lies on the Apsheron Peninsula which is rich with underground sources of oil and natural gas.

 

That’s why Azerbaijan is historically called the Land of Fire. The many oil rigs on the coast are visual proof of that. Unfortunately this contaminates the seawater with oil so Baku isn’t exactly the place to go on a beach vacation (except for Bilgah beach).

 

But do not fear, you won’t get bored here as there are plenty of other (free) things to do in and around Azerbaijan’s metropolis.

 

city center of Baku - Azerbaijan - Journal of Nomads

 

 

Is Baku safe?

 

Before traveling to a new city, we often wonder if it’s safe. You might be asking yourself if Baku is safe for students or expats or if the Azerbaijan capital is safe for solo female travelers.

 

My take on it is that Baku is a very safe city. Crime level there is extremely low compared to other big metropolises around the world. Foreigners feel very comfortable in this city and the whole atmosphere of Baku is quite peaceful.

 

Even if you’re a solo female traveler, you can wander around the parks of Baku without worrying about being bothered or harassed by men.

 

streets of Baku - Azerbaijan - Journal of Nomads

 

The streets are very clean and with the creation of a new tourist police service Baku is safer than ever.

 

Now does that mean that nothing bad ever happens in Baku? Of course not. Like in all big cities, small crimes such as pick-pocketing are not unheard of.

 

Use common sense when traveling in crowded areas in the city center or late at night.

 

To avoid being a victim of pickpockets keep your wallet in your front pocket or carry a money belt. Another great option is to travel with a slash-resistant and lockable anti-theft bag. I would also recommend getting good travel insurance that covers theft.

 

 

Top things to do in Baku – 14 places worth visiting

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

 

1. Icheri Sheher

 

Icheri Sheher or “Old Town” is the heart of the city and is located right in the center of Baku. It’s the place where ancient Baku was founded and has a history of thousands of years.

 

Icheri Sheher was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000. The town is surrounded by fortress walls and is a historical ensemble of numerous unique monuments such as the Shirvanshah’s Palace complex, the Maiden Tower, mosques, minarets and the ruins of caravanserais (old inns where travelers could rest) and bathhouses.

 

Walking around in Baku’s Acropolis feels like walking back in time. There’s a cozy atmosphere, especially at night when the locals are preparing food, playing backgammon or just sitting around and drinking tea in the streets.

 

Entrance fee: Free

 

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads
Old Town of Baku

 

2. The Palace of the Shirvanshahs

 

Shirvanshahs literally means “the kings of Shirvan”. Shirvan was the main territory of the Shirvanshah kingdom and the palace was built in the 15th century in the center of Icheri Sheher.

 

The architectural style is very exquisite and it emphasizes the art of medieval Islamic civilization.

 

The Palace complex contains the palace building, the Royal mosque, the Key Gubad mosque, the Divankhana mausoleum where king Khalilullah is buried with his mother and sons, Sufi philosopher Bakuvi’s mausoleum and the ruins of bath houses.

 

Entrance fee: 10 AZN 

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads
Royal Mosque

 

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads
The ruins of the bath houses

 

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads
Key Gobad Mosque

 

3. Discover the city with the Hop on Hop off bus tour of Baku

 

If you just arrived in Baku and want to get a quick tour of the city for cheap, why not try a hop on hop off bus? This is a great activity to get a quick sense of the city and it brings you to so many of the places mentioned in this guide.

 

You can get on board at any of the 15 stops along the circuit and buy a 24-hour ticket from the conductor for only 20 Manat. If you have only a few days to spend in Baku and want to see as many places as possible, this is definitely an activity I would recommend!

 

The bus ticket includes earphones for the audio-guide, a city map, and extra information about most of Baku’s touristic attractions.

 

At each stop, the bus will stop for two minutes allowing some time to take pictures. You can also hop off the bus to explore the different sights and hop back on again when the next bus comes along, an hour later.

 

The first stop is across the road from the Hilton Hotel in Azadlig square.

 

This is where you can find the bus at the beginning of its loop:

 

 

The bus runs from 10 AM to 7 PM daily and the ticket is valid for 24 hours.

 

Bus fee: 20 AZN but the ticket is valid for 24 hours

 

4. Museum of Miniature Books

 

This museum, located in Icheri Sheher, is the only one in the world that is dedicated to miniature versions of books. This library is the private collection of Zarifa Salahova and contains thousands of tiny books that originate from all around the world and are written in numerous languages, including Azeri, Russian, English and German.

 

It’s definitely worth visiting this unique museum!

 

Entrance fee: Free, donations are welcome

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

 

5. Stroll around Taza Bazaar

 

One of the things we love to do while we travel is to visit local bazaars. They give a glimpse into the daily life of the local people, they are a sensory experience and usually very photogenic.

 

The Taza Bazaar is one of the largest markets of Baku and was opened more than 70 years ago. It’s actually one of the oldest bazaars in Azerbaijan. It is located in the center of the city on Samed Vurgun street.

 

If you want some amazing pictures of the bazaar, try getting there in the early morning when the light is just perfect. If you’re staying in a hostel and you feel like cooking, you can buy fresh vegetables, herbs, oriental spices and Caspian sea fish there.

 

 

6. The Workshop of Ali Shamshi

 

While you’re wandering through the narrow lanes of the Old City, you’ll suddenly come across a psychedelic looking wall. This is the exterior of Ali Shamshi’s studio, who is a talented artist.

 

His tiny studio is filled with colorful paintings and quirky installations. Pop in his studio while you’re visiting Icheri Sheher.

 

Entrance fee: free

 

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads
The artist sitting in front of his workshop

 

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads
one of the trees in front of the workshop

 

7. Sunbathe at Bilgah beach

 

If you want to swim and spend some time working on your tan, Bilgah Beach is the perfect place to do so. While many of Baku’s beaches are spoiled because of oil pollution, Bilgah beach is a clean sandy beach and a great spot to enjoy the sea.

 

It’s just 35 kilometers northeast of Baku. Admission is free and we’re sure you’ll end up staying there sunbathing for hours. You can get there by taking Bus 185 from Koroghly Metro. The bus stops at Bilgah Sanatorium.

 

The bus stop where you need to wait is located close to this intersection:

 

 

8. Maiden Tower

 

The Maiden Tower is probably one of Baku’s most famous landmarks. There are a lot of different theories about the purpose of this tower but none is confirmed.

 

One theory is that the tower was part of the Shirvanshah’s defense system and served as a beacon. People sent alarm signals from this tower to other towers, using smoke by day and fire by night.

 

Maiden tower in Baku - Azerbaijan - Journal of Nomads

 

Another theory is that this tower used to be a Zoroastrian temple of fire worship and that with the changing times in the Middle Ages later functioned as a defense tower.

 

A local friend also told us another legend about this tower: The Shah’s (king) daughter fell in love with a guy whom her father refused her to marry.

 

The king built this tower to lock her up and the daughter became so desperate that she jumped from the tower and killed herself.

 

inside maiden tower Baku - Journal of Nomads

 

One tower, many stories. You can go inside the tower, visit the interactive exhibits and climb the spiral stairs to the top and be rewarded with a nice view of the city.

 

Entrance fee: 10 AZN

 

9. Upland Park

 

Another place where you will be rewarded with an amazing view is Upland Park. The park summarizes the architecture in Baku – a blend of Ottoman, Soviet and ultramodern architecture.

 

It’s a nice place to walk around. I would definitely recommend you to go there at sunrise or sunset as you’ll have a fantastic view of the harbor and the Caspian Sea. It’s a fairly comfortable climb up the stairs but you can also get there by taking the funicular.

 

Entrance fee: 2 AZN if you take the funicular, free if you walk

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

 

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads
View from Upland Park at night

 

10. Flame Towers

 

The Flame Towers are the tallest skyscrapers in Baku, with a height of 190m. This iconic trio of buildings marks the city’s skyline and is evidence of the country’s oil wealth.

 

The towers also promote its historic identity as they are inspired by Baku’s history of fire worship.

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads -Flame Towers

 

 

The three flame-shaped towers are set in a triangular shape and each tower has a different function. The tallest of the three is a 39-story residential luxury apartment building.

 

Imagine the views from your kitchen while having breakfast in the morning! The second tower is a hotel and consists of 318 rooms spread over 36 floors.

 

The third one is an office tower that provides many commercial office spaces. Not a bad place to work if you ask me! I reckon that those offices definitely come with a nice view!

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads -Flame Towers

 

The towers provide a spectacular light show once the sun goes down. The facades of the three Flame Towers function as large display screens which uses more than 10.000 high-power LED lights!

 

The light show makes the towers look like they are burning as it depicts a beautiful array of red flames going towards the sky. The display of lights is also arranged to show the Azerbaijani flag in all its glory.

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads -Flame Towers

 

 

Entrance fee: The towers are not open for public visits, unless you’re a resident, office worker or hotel guest. The price of one night in the hotel costs around $170 per night, not exactly a budget-friendly price.

 

You could always try to become friends with someone who lives in the residential tower or give your best smile at the security guards…

 

11. Heydar Aliyev Center

 

The Heydar Aliyev Center is an architectural masterpiece! This cultural center is named after Heydar Aliyev, the first secretary of Soviet Azerbaijan and later president of the Republic of Azerbaijan (2993 – 2003).

 

The building is considered as one of the main attractions for tourists and became a symbol of modern Baku.

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads -Heydar Aliyev Center

 

 

The cultural center was opened in 2012 and was designed by the Iraqi-British award-winning architect Zaha Hadid. The overall shape of the building resembles a wave-like ascension from the ground towards the sky followed by a gradual descent down to the earth.

 

The center received an award in 2014 for Design of the Year.

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads -Heydar Aliyev Center

 

 

The Heydar Aliyev Center houses a conference hall, the Heydar Aliyev museum and multiple exhibition halls. The museum presents the history of Azerbaijan and different stages of Heydar Aliyev’s life and work.

 

One of the exhibition halls demonstrates all the periods of the history of Azerbaijan and displays items related to different areas of Azerbaijani culture.

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads -Heydar Aliyev Center

 

 

Entrance fee: Admiring the architecture of the building is free but if you want to go inside the center, you can buy a ticket for 12 AZN.

 

This ticket provides you access to the museum and the “Azerbaijan Treasures” exhibition within the Center. You can also buy separate tickets for the other exhibitions that are held.

 

Heydar Aliyev center - Baku - Azerbaijan - Journal of Nomads

 

12. Baku Boulevard

 

The Baku Boulevard is a 3 km long promenade which runs parallel to Baku’s seafront. It was established in 1909, in a time when the Baku oil barons built their mansions along the Caspian shore.

 

At the beginning of the Soviet period, the boulevard’s area was mismanaged and the situation became worse as the sea began to rise so high that many of the trees and shrubs in the park started to die because of the salinity of the water.

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads -Flame Towers - Baku Boulevard

 

After a big clean-up and a huge renovation and reconstruction work, the boulevard became a popular place for locals and tourists to stroll and relax.

 

There are now many small parks, fountains, and restaurants. There’s even a weird little Venice setting where you can rent tiny gondolas.

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads - Little Venice
Little Venice…

 

13. Get lost in the streets and get surprised

 

It sounds cliché but the best way to visit Baku is by picking a random street, start walking and getting lost. You’ll find interesting little shops, exquisite buildings, colorful mosques, beautiful parks, and odd monuments.

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

 

14. Enjoy the sunrise over the Caspian sea

 

Last but not least on this list of cool things to do in Baku: Enjoying a beautiful sunrise from the pier of Baku. Baku has a long pier that extends far out into the sea. some of the sunrise scenes I captured in this video are from that location.

 

It’s the perfect place to witness the sun rising above the sea in all its glory. You’ll hear the sound of the waves gently splashing on the peer while feeling the sun gradually warming up your skin.

 

 

What are the best day trips from Baku?

 

Azerbaijan is known as the Land of Fire due to the huge amount of underground oil and gas sources. The natural gas in Azerbaijan’s bowels is so much that it comes to the surface over and over again.

 

In some places a match dropped accidentally can ignite the gas, which will keep on burning until it fully exhausts. No wonder that Azerbaijan became a pilgrimage destination for fire-worshippers, followers of the Zoroastrian religion.

 

They believed that the fire sources were the manifestation of divine power so they built altars and temples to worship them. In the suburbs of Baku are some very interesting and unique places where you’ll learn more about the history and richness of the Land of Fire.

 

1. The mud volcanoes of Qobustan

 

 

There are about 1000 mud volcanoes in the world and Azerbaijan is home to one-third of them because the country is a big source of oil and natural gas. The mud volcanoes are formed in places where pockets of underground gas find a weak spot in the earth and force their way to the surface.

 

That starts first with a big explosion, then a huge flame but instead of magma, there will be a big eruption of mud. Interesting enough the mud is cold so you can touch it without hurting yourself.

 

The substance contains a lot of minerals so sometimes people come here to take a mud bath in the volcanoes. The mud volcanoes in Qobustan were formed in 2001 and they are definitely a very interesting phenomenon worth visiting!

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads - Gobustan mud volcanoes

 

Entrance fee: free

 

How to get to the mud volcanoes from Baku by public transport:

Take bus 125 or any other bus that goes to the Bina Mall. This trip costs 0.50 AZN and you can buy the bus ticket in the ticket machine at the bus stop.

 

Get off the bus at the mall (it’s the end station anyway) and take bus 195 towards Qobustan and Alat. Don’t get off at Qobustan unless you want to visit the museum.

 

Although the mud volcanoes are referred to as ‘the Qobustan mud volcanoes’, they are actually located near Alat. Ask the driver to stop at the bus stop in Alat.

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads - Gobustan mud volcanoes

 

It’s a tiny little bus station near a small village. The journey from the mall to Alat is about 55 minutes and costs 0.80 AZN which you pay to the driver once you get off the bus.

 

You’ve got two options when you’re in Alat. You can take a taxi to the volcanoes. Don’t worry about finding a taxi, the taxi drivers will definitely find you!

 

They will give you ridiculous prices but don’t give in. Don’t pay more than 15 AZN for a roundtrip! Start walking away and they will lower their price.

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads - Gobustan mud volcanoes

 

The second option is to walk. Walk for about 50m towards the village, take the first road to the left and follow this road for about 2km until you come across train tracks.

 

Cross it and keep walking. You’ll be up for a long walk in the desert – about 5km one way. Keep following the dirt track and you will see a sign that says ‘volcanoes’. Follow that sign up the hill and you’ll suddenly see the hidden mud volcanoes appear. Take plenty of water with you as it can be super hot in summer!

 

Check out our vlog about the mud volcanoes:

 

 

2. Qobustan National Park

 

 

The National Park of Qobustan is cut up with numerous ravines (in Azerbaijani Qobu), so it’s clear where the park got it’s name from. Qobustan is home to thousands of rock engravings spread over 100km.

 

The engravings display hunting scenes, people, ships, constellations, and animals. The oldest petroglyphs are 12.000 years old!

 

UNESCO included the Qobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape in the World Heritage List in 2007.

 

It’s considered to be of “outstanding universal value” for the quality and density of the rock art engravings, for the substantial evidence the collection of rock art presents and for the cultural continuity between prehistoric and medieval times that the site reflects.

There’s also a museum on the site that presents a lot of background information about the history of the area and the rock engravings.

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads - Gobustan

 

Entrance fee: 2 AZN, entrance to the museum is included in this price

 

How to get to Qobustan from Baku by public transport:

Take bus 125 or any other bus that goes to the Bina Mall. This trip costs 0.50 AZN and you can buy the bus ticket in the ticket machine at the bus stop.

 

Get off the bus at the mall (it’s the end station anyway) and take bus 195 towards Qobustan and Alat. The journey from the mall to Qobustan takes about 40 minutes and costs 0.80 AZN which you pay to the driver once you get off the bus.

 

You’ll know when to get off because you’ll see a sign with ‘Qobustan’. You can always ask the bus driver in advance to stop there.

 

The museum and rock engravings are at about 6km from the bus stop in the direction of the hills. You can walk the distance if you’re up for it but make sure that you’re prepared as it can be very hot during summer.

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads - Gobustan

 

The walk is partially uphill. You can also opt for a taxi, which will be very easy to find but less easy to bargain with taxi drivers. Don’t pay more than 20 AZN and maybe you can make a deal to include a visit to the mud volcanoes for this price (see the section above). The museum is open from 9 am until 5 pm.

 

3. Atesghah Temple of Baku or Fire Temple of Baku

 

 

The Ateshgah Temple of Baku (‘Atash’ is the Persian word for fire) is a religious temple in Surakhani, a suburb of Baku. The pentagonal complex was constructed in the 17th – 18th centuries. In the middle of this complex sits an altar with a natural gas vent, which is known for its natural “eternal flame”, a phenomenon of burning natural gas outlets.

 

This flame went out in 1969, after the exploitation of petroleum and gas in the area but it’s now lit by gas pipes from the nearby city.

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads - Ateshgah Temple - Fire Temple

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads - Ateshgah Temple - Fire Temple

 

 

The temple was founded as a pilgrimage and holy place of Zoroastrians – a group of religious people who worship fire – who were involved in the Silk Route Trade.

 

They attributed a mystical significance to the inextinguishable fire and came here to worship the relic and practice fire rituals. The temple altar is surrounded by a number of small cells, which accommodated the ascetic worshipers and pilgrims.

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

 

 

The temple ceased to be a place of worship after 1883 with the installation of petroleum plants and the complex was turned into a museum in 1975. It was also nominated for the List of World Heritage Sites in 1998.

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

 

 

Entrance fee: 4 AZN

 

How to get to Ateshgah Temple from Baku by public transport:

Take the metro to Koroghlu. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket machines in the metro stations and costs 0.50 AZN. Get out at the metro station called Koroghlu.

 

Walk out the station and to the buses that go towards the suburbs (there’s a sign that will tell you ‘towards Baku’ and ‘to suburbs’). You’ll also see a lot of taxis but you can ignore the drivers who will call out to you.

 

Take bus 184 towards Amirjan settlement. The last stop of this bus is directly next to Ateshgah temple. All you need to do is cross the train tracks.  

 

The ride takes about 16 minutes. Pay the driver 0.40 AZN once you get off the bus. 

 

Walk towards the big walled complex. Chances are that you’ll see a few buses parked there. Enter the gate, go to the right and purchase your entrance ticket at the little kiosk right next to the entrance of the temple.

 

4. Yanar Dag (Fire Mountain)

 

 

One of the most famous tourist places of the “eternal flame” in Azerbaijan is the mountain of Yanar. Well, the word mountain is a bit exaggerated as it’s rather a hill but it’s still quite a fascinating place.

 

It reminded me a lot of Mount Chimaera in Turkey – which can be properly called a mountain. Both places have natural gas burning in its slopes since ancient times.

 

Perfect place to have a campfire if you ask me! Yanar Dag has a 10m long wall of fire that is burning continuously alongside the edge of the hill.

 

The best time to watch it is in the evening when the sight of the blazing hill is most effective. The legend goes that it was a shepherd who actually ignited the fire in the 1950s by tossing a cigarette and that the hill has burnt ever since.

 

Yanar Dag is declared a state-protected conservation area since 2007.

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

 

 

Entrance fee: 3 AZN

 

How to get to Yanar Dag from Baku by public transport:

Take the metro to Koroghlu. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket machines in the metro stations and costs 0.50 AZN.

 

Get out at the metro station named Koroghlu. Walk out the station and to the buses that go towards the suburbs (there’s a sign that will tell you ‘towards Baku’ and ‘to suburbs’).

 

You’ll also see a lot of taxis but you can ignore the drivers who will call out to you. Take bus 217 towards Yanardag qorugu. This is also where you have to get off the bus. The journey takes about 30 minutes from Koroghlu and you pay 0.45 AZN to the driver when getting off the bus.

 

 

 

Where to stay in Baku

 

Baku is a city that is worth taking the time to discover, so you will want to stay there at least a night or two. It is a city rich in traditional architecture but it also blends in modern elements.

 

Baku also offers a wide selection of hostels for budget travelers who want to save money to explore during the day and swap stories with fellow backpackers in the shared kitchen or bar in the evening.

 

Maybe you’re asking yourself What are the best and cheapest budget hostels in Baku? Here are some hostels where we stayed that we absolutely recommend:

 

Mr. Hostel Baku

This is a very colorful and cozy hostel right in the city center. It’s the perfect place to relax after a backpacking adventure around Azerbaijan. The staff speaks perfect English and will help you with your registration if needed.

 

The old city is just 10 minutes away from this hostel so it’s a location where a lot of backpackers end up staying. Freedom Square and the flame towers are less than a 20-minute walk from Mr. Hostel.

 

Although this establishment is right in the city center of Baku, it feels really calm and quiet inside. There are plenty of desks and cozy couches to work from in the main lobby and the internet connection is super fast.

 

When we were there, the receptionist helped us get our ferry ticket to cross the Caspian sea and they showed us tons of cool activities we could do in the city. We can’t recommend this place enough.

 

Click to check out rates and availability for “Mr. Hostel Baku”

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

 

Freedom Hostel

The living room of this hostel reminded us more of a luxurious home than a budget accommodation. Freedom hostel is a very spacious establishment and the kitchen is huge!

 

There is also a nice terrace where Cynthia and I spent our evening relaxing in the setting sun.

 

Baku metro station, as well as the subway station, are not far and can be reached in a few minutes.

 

Click to check out rates and availability for “Freedom Hostel”

 

Cheeky Carabao Backpackers Hostel

This hostel has some really cool features. It has a ping-pong table where you can play in the evening with other backpackers, cool walls covered in graffiti and massive rooms. We loved chilling in the lobby and meeting kindred spirits.

 

The dorms of this hostel are very spacious, and clean and they have very big windows. If you like to cook, there are a few corner stores nearby in Baku where you can get vegetables. The kitchen of the hostel comes fully equipped with pans, dishes and a working stove and oven.

 

Click to check out rates and availability for “Cheeky Carabao Backpackers Hostel”

 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

 

 

What are the best and cheapest restaurants in Baku?

 

Baku has a really wide range of restaurants. There are options for all kinds of travel budget. Whether you can’t wait to try local dishes at a great price or you crave international cuisine, eating in Baku won’t disappoint you.

 

Here are a few budget restaurants that we recommend you check out while in the Azerbaijani capital:

 

Araz Cafe

This small cafe became one of our favorite places to eat out when we stayed in the Azeri capital. Araz Cafe is a cozy place with fantastic food almost right next to the fountain square on Nizami street.

 

For being an Azeri cafe, Araz has some of the best Plov I ever had. It’s as delicious as the rice dishes I ate in Uzbekistan. If you don’t like meat, there are different good options for vegetarians in this restaurant.

 

Araz Cafe is also a great location to smoke shisha while listening to some live music. If you don’t like the smoke of shisha (how can you not love that perfume?) the cafe has a huge terrace where you can also eat and enjoy a great time.

 

This is where you can savor the delicious meals and experience the ambiance Araz Cafe offers:

 

 

Dolma Restaurant

This restaurant is also located near fountain square close to the old city. The establishment owes its name to a dish famous in Azerbaijan; the dolma.

 

It’s a dish made of rice and meat stuffed inside grape leaves. This restaurant is probably the best place in Baku to enjoy the typical Azeri dish.

 

If you’re very hungry, this is the place where you should eat, the portions are humongous and you’ll leave the place absolutely stuffed. If you enjoy wine, you should try out the local pomegranate wine and finish your meal with a shot of strong Raki.

 

This is where you’ll find Dolma Restaurant in Baku:

 

 

Sumakh

This is the restaurant I recommend if you’re looking for a quiet and romantic venue. Eating in Sumakh feels like eating in a five star Michelin restaurant, both for the high quality of the food and for the beautifully decorated dining room.

 

From the quality of service to the food, design, and atmosphere of the restaurant, in Sumakh everything is at the highest level.

 

This restaurant has very traditional and authentic Azerbaijani dishes as well as some savory European options. To accompany the meal, Sumakh also offers a fine selection of Azerbaijani wine.

 

This is where Sumakh is located:

 

 

 

How to get to Baku and travel around the city

 

How to get from the airport of Baku to the city center

If you fly to Azerbaijan, you’ll be landing at Heydar Aliyev international airport in Baku. Getting from Baku’s international airport to the city center is not very complicated. The airport is located just 21 km away from the city center and you can there by taxi or by city bus.

 

I explain everything you need to know about reaching the city center from Baku’s international airport in this article.

 

ferris wheel Baku Azerbaijan - Journal of Nomads

 

How to get a taxi in Baku

Taxi drivers in Baku tend to ask exorbitant prices if they see you’re a foreigner. For Azerbaijan as for Central-Asian countries like Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan, it’s better to download the Yandex app on your phone.

 

Yandex works as a cab-hailing app meaning you won’t have to negotiate directly with the driver and you can avoid being ripped off.

 

If you use Yandex in Baku, the taxi rides become extremely cheap. Short taxi rides with this app cost 2-3 AZN which is the equivalent of 3 USD.

 

If you don’t travel with a phone or can’t download Yandex, getting a taxi in Baku might be a bit more complicated. Most official taxis in Baku don’t have a taximeter and drivers typically charge around 15 AZN for rides around the city.

 

If you don’t speak Russian or Azeri they might even ask more. Taxi drivers generally don’t accept foreign currency so make sure you have some manats with you.

 

As in Russia it’s quite common to flag down private cars and agree on a price for the ride, this might seem strange, but you’ll see plenty of locals doing it.

 

Traveling around Baku by city bus

Baku has a very good city bus system. Buses are quite modern and rival city buses you would find in Europe. A bus ticket inside the city costs around 0.20 AZN while buses to the suburbs will typically charge from 0.30 AZN to 0.50 AZN.

 

Here is a map of all the bus stops in Baku.

 

Taking the metro in Baku

Traveling around Baku by metro is very practical and you can easily reach a lot of interesting sights around the city. There are two main metro lines in Baku, one going around the city center and another roughly in a northwest-southeast axis. Twenty metro stations are currently opened in the Azerbaijani capital.

 

A single metro ticket costs 0.30 AZN and the metros are operating between 6 AM and 1 AM the next day.

 

 

Top things to do in Baku - Azerbaijan - Journal of Nomads

 

I hope you will enjoy your stay in Baku as much as we did! In case you have to wait multiple days to catch the boat to Kazakhstan, and have some time to kill, you’ll know what to do in Baku!

 

* Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of the links, we get a commission at no extra costs to you! See it as a small donation to keep this blog going. Thank you!

 

Have a look at our videos of Azerbaijan. Hope we can inspire you to visit this beautiful and off-the-beaten-track country!

 

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO – AZERBAIJAN TRAVEL TIPS:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow Cynthia - Journal of Nomads:

Writer, travel photographer, Panasonic Lumix Ambassador and co-founder of Journal of Nomads

I have Belgian roots but the world has been my home for the past 8 years. I'm an artist at heart and often get lost in my thoughts. I like to create some-thing out of no-thing and once I feel inspired, I'm unstoppable. I love telling stories and taking photos, showing the beauty and extraordinary of the world around me. Oh, and I love making the impossible elegantly probable. Once you realize that you're a creator and the world is your playfield, there's no limit to what can be done!

2 Responses

  1. Visit Azerbaijan LLC
    | Reply

    I have read your it’s very informative for readers.Thanks for sharing your valuable knowledge.Keep writing.

    • Cynthia
      | Reply

      Thank you for reading! Happy to hear you appreciated our guide to Baku!

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