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Ummm, so what is Baku? Where is Baku? When I told people I was heading to Baku, not a single person knew what I was talking about. So if you’re looking to get dumbfounded stares from your friends and family, Baku is the perfect off-the-beaten-path holiday.
Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, hosts an eclectic mix of Asian and European cultures, which still raises confusion on whether its part of Europe or Asia, making it all the more interesting. The orangey hue of the limestoned buildings give off a very romantic European feel, but talk to the locals and indulge in their gastronomic delicacies, and you might think otherwise. Go on and ask a local which continent they believe their country is on, I promise you will get varying answers.
A quick insight into Baku: Predominantly Muslim in culture, it’s no wonder you will find Islamic influences on its architecture and culture. Though not a Muslim-country, their traditions borrow heavily from the Islam religion. Architecturally, you will notice the buildings look more European, with splashes of Islam influence as well. The people are still relatively conservative, though the younger generation is getting more progressive with Western influences creeping in through the media.
Hearing the names Baku and Azerbaijan may not spark any immediate impressions, but the wealth of this oil-rich country can immediately be seen once you step into the airport. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this but I had no idea how modern Baku is. It’s no surprise that the city is modernizing rapidly, with Rolls Royce showrooms and high-end boutiques all over the city, but what makes Baku unique is how they still manage to stay true to tradition. In fact, Baku seems to be the most developed city comparted to the other Caucasus countries, Georgia and Armenia. Many have compared it to Dubai, but to me, Baku definitely possesses more soul!
So now that we know a wee bit more about Baku, what is there to do in this city of new and old? Let me entice you with this 3-day Baku itinerary!
Visitor Travel Visa for Azerbaijan
Do you need a visa to visit Baku, Azerbaijan? At the moment, only citizens of Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan don’t require a visa. If you hold any other passport, you’ll most likely need to apply for a visa in advance.
Luckily, applying for a travel visa to Azerbaijan is super easy, and can be done online. You can apply for your e-visa here. The single entry visa costs 24USD and takes roughly 3 working days to process.
Travel insurance for Azerbaijan
Any seasoned traveler will tell you never to leave home without travel insurance, and Baku, Azerbaijan is no exception.
Travel insurance is the most overlooked purchase when traveling, but one of the most essential. Anything can happen when you’re on holiday and you’d want to be covered in the case of travel mishaps such as flight delays, personal accidents or theft.
Where to stay in Baku
One of my favorite parts of Baku was the old city. I woke up early one morning and had the old town to myself, which was one of my favorite memories of the city! For that reason, I highly recommend staying in the old city, near Maiden Tower.
- Budget option! Sahil Hostel & Hotel – From $6 per night for a bed
If you’re on a budget, this is the best and highest rated hostel in Baku! Only 600m from Fountain Square and 700m from Maiden Tower, the location is unbeatable.
- Icheri Sheher Hotel – From $33 per night
Located right next to Shirvanshah Palace, this hotel even has its own park you can enjoy your morning walks in!
- Premier Old Gates Hotel – From $53 per night
Featuring stylish rooms and a terrace with a stunning view of the Flame Towers. Just 300m from Maiden Tower!
- Shah Palace Hotel – From $95 per night
Enjoy some luxury for less at Shah Palace Hotel, with elegant classic-style rooms, and only 200m from Maiden Tower!
- ART Gallery Boutique Hotel – From $142 per night
If aesthetics are important to you, then you can trust an art gallery not to disappoint in that department. Very stylishly decorated rooms to gain you those IG likes! Strategically located just 25m from Maiden Tower! Another great thing is that this hotel has elevators, which is hard to come by in Baku’s Old City!
- Unique! Hotel Fairmont, Flame Towers – From $178 per night
How about staying in the Flame Towers itself? Staring at the Flame Towers from the outside is pretty cool, but how about taking a look at it from the inside and be treated to stunning views of the Capsian Sea!
- Splurge! Four Seasons Hotel Baku – From $292 per night
If your wallet can stomach it, why not? It’s the Four Seasons.
Getting around Baku
The cost of living in Baku is relatively low, so we chose to get around with ride-sharing apps, Bolt and Yandex. Rides cost only about 2-3AZN (1.20 – 1.70USD), so it’s especially economical if you’re traveling in a group of two or more.
Getting a taxi from Baku Airport
There are plenty of taxis waiting outside the airport, but to not be ripped off, I recommend using the ride-sharing app, Bolt or Yandex to book your journey to your hotel. It should cost less than 15AZN (9USD) to the city. It’s also much easier since English is not widely spoken in Baku, so having your drop off points specified in the app would save you from the hassle and miscommunication.
3-day Baku Itinerary: Things to Do
Depending on what time you arrive in Baku, take the first day to just explore the Old City or join a free walking tour. Our flight arrived at Heydar Aliyev International Airport at 11 am, and we pretty much only had time for lunch and the free walking tour. I would allocate a bit of time at the airport too, because it is truly one of the prettiest airports I’ve seen, so you might wanna take some pictures!
Go on a free walking tour
On the first day of any trip, I always love to get my bearings by joining a free walking tour. Tours start at 11 am and 5 pm every day in front of the KFC at Fountain Square. Some free walking tours are really boring, but I really loved this one because you really learn so much about their culture and way of life. It’s a real eye-opener, and I promise you will learn something you never knew about Azerbaijan!
On this tour, you will already be walking through Downtown Baku and Fountain Square, which gives you a glimpse into the modern side of Baku.
Get lost in Baku Old City
There is a certain charm to Baku’s Old City, and while strolling through the winding cobbled streets, you’ll get glimpses of Baku’s signature Flame Towers, which gives Baku its unique new-meets-old vibe. While in the Old City, you definitely won’t miss the Maiden Tower which stands tall above the city walls. You can climb up to the top for breathtaking views of the city for just 15 AZN (8.90USD). But read on if you’d like to get stunning views of the city, for free!
Another building you have to make a stop at is Shirvanshas Palace, a stunning 15th-century mosque. Entry is also 15AZN (8.90USD).
Did you know that Baku is home to the smallest book in the world which can be found in the Miniature Book Museum, which also holds the Guinness World Record for the largest collection of miniature books? Now, how cute is that?
Close to the Museum of Miniature Books, you’ll also walk past this now-famous lion mural! It’s no wonder it’s gaining in popularity because it really is an impressive work of art!
The Flame Towers
If you’re in Baku, you definitely won’t miss the Flame Towers peeking over the city skyline. But if you want to see the towers, I suggest seeing them from afar. And one of the best viewing points is from Upland Park.
Sunset at Upland Park
If you want the best views of The Flame Towers and Baku’s cityscape, head up to Upland Park. You can either take the stairs all the way up, or just hop on the funicular for AZN 1! Spend the later part of the afternoon exploring the park and wait for the sun to set on Baku’s beautiful city.
Day trip to Guba and Khinalug
If you had only one day trip to choose from while in Baku, I highly recommend Guba and Khinalug. You will be taken out to the mountains and up to a remote village up in the mountains, where its villagers are believed to be descendants of the prophet Noah! For jaw-dropping, awe-inducing views, Khinalug will not disappoint; we were ooh-ing and ahh-ing at every turn! And wait for the fog to roll in, which adds a mystical feel to it.
On the way, you will make a stop at a carpet-weaving factory where you can see how the beautiful Azeri carpets are woven by hand!
It will be a long day though, so make sure you have an early night before! I went with Guided Azerbaijan, and am so glad I made the choice! Our tour guide, Emin, made our day so much more enjoyable and made sure we were comfortable and satisfied throughout the day! I highly recommend them, you can book your tours with them here.
Half-day trip to Gobustan and Mud Volcanoes
Only an hour’s drive from Baku will transport you back in time to Gobustan National Park, which houses over 6,000 ancient petroglyphs, the oldest dating back about 40,000 years. Entry to the park is only AZN10 for adults, and AZN1 for students.
You’ll also get to visit the mud volcanoes, that are still bubbling and expelling mud. The best part is, you’ll get to hop into a vintage Russian Lado and ride through bumpy dirt roads! If you get a cheeky driver, he’ll give you a thrill ride (read: speeding, sudden braking, twists and turns not for the faint-hearted) complete with traditional Azerbaijani music like we did. Definitely an experience I will never forget!
Just staring out at the landscape, I felt like I’d landed on Mars; minus the months-long journey to get there.
This half-day tour is perfect if you’re catching the night train to Tbilisi as we did. So you have the second half of the day to explore Baku City before your train journey. I went with Guided Azerbaijan again for this half-day tour. You can book your tour with them here.
Take an evening stroll down Baku Promenade, and admire the sun setting on the water. Baku even has its own Little Venice where you can ride a gondola (motor-powered might I add!). You definitely won’t get the authentic Venetian experience so it might be best to skip this gimmicky attraction. If carpets tickle your fancy, pop into the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum. Otherwise, admiring its unique shape from the outside is also a treat for the eyes!
Heydar Aliyev Centre
If you’re a fan of Zaha Hadid’s work, you’ll notice this from a mile away. The Heydar Aliyev Centre won the 2014 Design Museum’s Design of the Year award, making Hadid the first woman in history to win. Take a walk around the whole building and admire it from all angles, and then make a stop at the I Heart Baku sign to take that touristy photo!
What to eat in Baku
Sampling the local cuisine is half the experience of traveling to a new country, so indulging in some Azeri cuisine is definitely a must. You’ll find the dishes borrow inspiration from its neighboring countries such as Iran, Turkey, Georgia, and Iran, which makes for an interesting mix of flavors. Lamb is rather predominant here, but you can always request for beef and chicken if you find the smell of lamb too gamey. Here are some interesting dishes that are must-tries!
Pilaf is one of Azerbaijan’s signature dishes, and also one of my favorites! It’s a rice dish with a crispy crust, usually topped with some meat.
Qutab is Azerbaijan’s very own savory crepe. Inside the thinly rolled dough, you’ll find all sorts of fillings to your liking, such as pumpkin, meat, cheese and greens.
Who doesn’t love a good dumpling? These lamb-stuffed dumplings are Azerbaijan’s local dumplings and taste oh-so-good!
For something unique, how about some yogurt soup? You can have them served hot or cold, but apparently having it cold makes it less sour and more palatable.
Where to eat in Baku
These are some of the restaurants we tried during our time in Baku, and we thoroughly enjoyed them!
I’m all about going where the locals go, and Xezer is it. The food was extremely affordable and even more delicious. It’s tucked away underground and is a popular place for locals to commune. Most dishes are under 10AZN (5.80USD)!
Address: 61a ул. Истиглалият, Baku, Azerbaijan
Qaynana offers sumptuous food and an enchanting interior that’ll transport you to old Azerbaijan. Here they also serve tandir bread, which we couldn’t get enough of!
Address: Kichik Qala, Bakı, Azerbaijan
I recommend Azercell as it is the largest mobile operator in the country. Coverage and speed is good, and plans are very affordable. If you don’t want to be ripped off, do not purchase SIM cards at the airport! They are way more expensive than what you would get downtown.
We went to the Azercell store downtown and got a SIM card for 7AZN (4USD) that got us 3GB of data, more than enough for a 3-day trip.
Cost Breakdown of 3 Days in Baku
Azerbaijan is a relatively affordable holiday destination especially if you are on a budget. Based on everything I mentioned in this post, your costs per person for 3 days are:
- Accommodation for 2 nights: $21
- Food: 60AZN ($35)
- Tours: $85
Total cost: $141 per person for 3 days
So have I managed to pique your interest about Baku? Have any questions about your three days in Baku? Feel free to drop a comment below!
Visiting Baku Checklist
⇢ Compare flight prices to Baku
⇢ Apply for your e-visa
⇢ Compare accommodation options and prices on Booking.com | HotelsCombined.com | Agoda | Airbnb
⇢ Don’t forget travel insurance! Travel insurance is the most overlooked purchase when traveling, but one of the most essential. Anything can happen when you’re on holiday and you’d want to be covered in the case of travel mishaps such as flight delays, personal accidents or theft. Choose World Nomads Travel Insurance, designed by travelers for travelers.
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