The best day trips from Baku will take you to locations filled with high artistic achievement, mysterious temples, and amazing natural phenomenon.
After a couple of days exploring Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan with a Baku city tour, it’s time to discover its surroundings. I’ve gathered a small selection of some of the most interesting day trips from Baku. All of these outings are within one or two hours of Baku giving you an opportunity to visit them all within one or two days depending on how much time you spend at each location and what your interest level is. But they are all worth visiting.
From richly decorated mosques to blazing mountains to prehistoric rock carvings and cave art, these day trips from Baku will make you rethink your impressions of this little-understood country.
Day Trips from Baku, Azerbaijan
This graceful, cream-colored mosque appears deceivingly understated on the outside. But once inside you are greeted with a kaleidoscope of colors from the light streaming in through the stain glass windows.
The domes are decorated with emerald green mosaics and golden colored inscriptions from the Qu’ran. The tombs rest in an enclosed area encased in silver gates and gold-colored roofs. The combined effect of the colors, designs, and textures is stunning.
Rebuilt in the 1990s after the identical model the Soviets destroyed in 1934, the mosque stands majestically before the Caspian Sea about 20 minutes from Baku Old Town. It contains the tomb of Ukeyma Khanum, a descendant of Muhammad.
When visiting, women will be provided with a robe covering–that looks like an old hospital gown–to wear while in the mosque.
The Mud Volcanoes
About one and a half hours from Baku is an area known for submarine mud volcanoes. The road there is in great condition until you hit the detour to the location. Then the road becomes unpaved, bumpy and very steep. There are taxis nearby to take people whose cars cannot travel to the volcanoes.
Once you get there you will see a barren grey landscape with dozens of volcanoes from tiny ones less than a foot high to much larger ones.
Azerbaijan is home to over a third of the mud volcanoes in the world. They are formed from pockets of underground gas that force themselves to the surface. You would think that the volcanoes are hot but since they are not caused by magma, they are very cold. A totally weird and counter-intuitive feeling is to dip your fingers in the “boiling” mud and feel the cool texture.
The local residents believe the mud has medicinal qualities to cure or alleviate skin conditions and they collect the mud in plastic bottles for sale to tourists and residents.
The Petroglyph Museum in Gobustan
A few minutes from the Mud Volcanoes is the Petroglyph Museum in Gobustan. The museum offers an in-depth explanation of the prehistoric petroglyphs, or rock carvings, found in the area. The exhibit recreates the people who made the petroglyphs, why and for what purpose.
The petroglyphs are significant because of their variety and artistic achievement which many compare to the cave art found in the Altamira caves of northern Spain. The area has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
More than just a museum, the location functions as an educational center with over 20 exhibition rooms and a small 3D theater.
Kids will love the “please touch” exhibits. I thought they were pretty cool too.
Gobustan Rock Art in the Gobustan National Park
After learning about the petroglyphs the fun part is to stroll through the grounds of the Gobustan National Park and actually see them close up.
It is fascinating to imagine our long-ago ancestors carving their visions into the rock. There are designs of bison and other animals that were so important to their survival. Images of pregnant women also feature prominently, perhaps an homage to a fertility goddess.
One set of carvings I found especially interesting were those of groups of people next to each other that appeared to be holding hands. Some of the figures were clearly male, others female with smaller figures representing children. They appear to be moving together, perhaps dancing. What were these people trying to do all those tens of thousands of years ago in that cave? What fears were they trying to dispel? What prayers were they hoping to get answered?
I found the images poignant and moving.
As these destinations are so close together, it is easy to combine the Petroglyph Museum, Gobustan National Park and the Bibi Hayat Mosque into one of the perfect day trips from Baku.
The Fire Temple of Ateshgah
The Ateshgah of Baku is often referred to as the “Fire Temple of Baku.” This is a structure that looks like a cross between a medieval castle and a Hindu temple about an hour from Baku. In fact the temple has been used by many religions including Zoroastrian, Hindu and even Sikh.
Constructed during the 17th and 18th centuries, the Ateshgah has been turned into a museum and was declared a state historical-architectural reserve by decree of the President of Azerbaijan.
The central temple sits in the center of a courtyard surrounded by stone walls with little alcoves which were used as cells. To convey the historical use of the temple, wax figurines have been placed in the cells depicting the lives the worshipers lived.
The star attraction is the fire in the central temple. The fire blazed naturally from escaping natural gas for nearly a century and has been replaced by a gas pipe line. If you take a picture at a particular angle, it appears as if you are engulfed in flames.
All the while I was wandering the temple and the exhibits I was thinking about what interesting creatures we humans are. How we have been driven to create and to connect spiritually throughout history no matter where we are. I always come to the conclusion that the more I learn about the world the more I realize how little I know.
Yanar Dag is a natural fire that burns continuously on a hillside in Baku near the Caspian Sea. The flames can rise as high as 3 meters in the air. It is said the fire was initially lit by a shepherd in the 1950s and has remained blazing ever since.
Geologists say the Yanar Dag fire is the result of hydrocarbon gases sprouting up from the earth’s surface.
Azerbaijan is known as the land of fire. This natural phenomenon is unexplained when seen with the naked eye. The site has taken on religious significance for some residents over the years.
The site is the base of a large hill surrounded by an arena of sand. There is a small seating area for people to sit and observe the blazing fire. It’s amazing to see it burn with no visible fuel, it’s just fire sprouting from a mountain.
The site is impressive enough during the day, but at night, the sight of the blazing flames against the night sky is truly remarkable.
Want to know more about Azerbaijan and its fascinating capital? Check out these books.
Is Baku, Azerbaijan on YOUR bucket list? How do these day trips from Baku sound to you? We’d like to know.
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