Heydar Aliyev Centre, Baku

Holidays are meant to be relaxing and at the same time adventurous too, so this time our pick was Azerbaijan. The trip really turned out to be an ideal getaway that blended tranquillity with odyssey. Commencing our exploration on December 15, 2023 by Azerbaijan Airlines, my better half and I landed at Heydar Aliyev International Airport, Baku City, and obtained a visa on arrival using our UAE Emirates ID and passports, before departing for the hotel via taxi and traversing the 27-kilometre distance in about 50 minutes.

We strolled towards Nizami Street, a bustling pedestrianised avenue, eager to immerse ourselves in the city's night life, capturing the glimpses that painted Baku’s beauty before us.

Fortress Wall, Baku Image Credit:

Next day we ventured into the old city, classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Most of the majestic and beautiful monuments were built between the 11th and 16th centuries, which contribute to the charm and beauty of Baku, drawing visitors to admire their historical and architectural significance. Maiden Tower, Shirvan Shah’s Palace, and the Fortress Walls collectively stand as the crowning glory of Baku's Old City.

The most fascinating place to visit was The Museum of Miniature Books, which offers a unique perspective on the evolution of bookmaking and printing techniques throughout history. It's a testament to human resourcefulness and creativity to condense vast knowledge and literature into such minuscule forms.

Third day we explored the modern facet of Baku. The Flame Towers dominate the skyline of the city with beautiful display of laser at night, Baku’s futuristic landscape is further highlighted by the prominent presence of the Heydar Aliyev Centre, new modern boulevard along the Caspian Sea and Baku's Upland Park, the highest point in the Azerbaijani capital, opening a panoramic view of the city and its bay.

We stayed at two hidden paradises in Azerbaijan, Sheki and Gabala over the course of next three days. Sheki, Azerbaijan’s Silk Road city now a UNESCO World Heritage site, embraced by lush greenery and nestled in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains, is known for its cobbled streets, ornate architecture, the mesmerising Palace of Sheki Khans, and traditional cuisines especially Sheki Piti.

Gabala, on the other hand combines nature's beauty with modern attractions. The beautiful scenery, like hills and forests, makes it perfect for outdoor adventures. We took a cable car up Tufandag mountain and saw an amazing view of the city and its snow-covered tall mountains from the top.

Every journey reaches its conclusion, but with every end point, there's a chance for reflection, reminiscing about the experiences gained, the lessons learned, and the memories made along the way. Few tips for travellers heading to Baku: Purchase a local sim and use Bolt App for hassle-free transportation as petrol/diesel is too cheap. Avoid local taxis as they pick up fights and negotiate after reaching the destination.

Keep small denominations handy, especially at the airport, if you are planning to take a bus instead of airport taxi which is quite expensive. Do not rely on tour operators. Plan your own journey as transport is cheap and buses are available for every city, and lastly use google translate to communicate with Azerbaijanis.

Except for the chaotic traffic, Baku offers a rich tapestry of history, culture, and modernity that makes it a worthwhile destination for any traveller. Farewell until we embark on our next destination.