A gallery of my favourite Baku photos and rural Azerbaijan photography to inspire you to visit the Land of Fire.
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Azerbaijan might not be at the top of everyone’s bucket list, but the former Soviet Republic and ‘odd one out’ of the three Caucasus countries certainly has a lot to offer.
Travelling overland through the Land of Fire might not be the smoothest of journeys, but it’s an unforgettable experience full of contrasts and contradictions.
Of course, it helps that Azerbaijan is incredibly pretty and its smaller rural towns a street photographer’s dream.
Essential reading: 12 things you should know before visiting the Caucasus.
You’d be forgiven for mistaking the oil-rich metropolis of Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital city, for Paris in the spring.
Wide boulevards, perfectly manicured gardens, Belle Epoque architecture and gigantic fountains characterise downtown Baku. The iconic Flame Towers loom in the distance; a constant reminder of where you are and just how Baku’s fortunes were made.
The Heydar Aliyev Center, a true architectural masterpiece, is one of the most incredible buildings you’ll ever see or have the privilege of photographing.
Baku’s Old City, Icherisheher, is a maze of ancient Zoroastrian towers, converted Silk Road caravanserais, mosques and carpet shops.
It backs onto the Bulvar, a vast boulevard that’s counted among the largest parks in the world, which in turn unfolds onto the satiny Caspian Sea.
You don’t have to venture too far from Baku before the scenery changes dramatically.
Oil rigs line the coast on the drive down to eerie Gobustan, a landscape of oozing mud volcanoes that is positively otherworldly. The Azerbaijan landscape beyond Baku is like nothing else I’ve seen before.
Small towns like Quba – with their friendly locals, carpet workshops and Soviet relics – are a paradise for street photographers.
I challenge you to come away with a shot that doesn’t feature either a Lada or a colourfully painted cigarette stand. Sheki – with its divine Summer and Winter palaces, caravanserai hotel, and charming backstreets – is the gem of Azerbaijan and a place that stole my heart.
My best Azerbaijan photography
Here are 32 of my favourite photos of Azerbaijan to inspire your visit.
Here are some of the websites and services I use when I’m planning a trip to Azerbaijan and the Caucasus. Remember to check out my full list of travel resources for more tips.
– Find affordable flights to Baku on Kiwi.com, a booking site that mixes and matches airlines to find the best route (there’s a money back guarantee if you miss a connection).
– Use iVisa to check if you need a tourist visa for Azerbaijan and apply for an expedited visa online.
– Pre-book a private transfer from Baku Airport to your hotel.
– Short on time? Get to know Baku on this Old City walking tour, or join this panoramic night tour to see Baku in her best light.
– Buy your tickets for the Tbilisi to Baku sleeper train online in advance through my partners at Geotrend (get a discount when you use the code in this post).
– Find the best Azerbaijan hotel deals on Booking.com, book a Baku hostel, or find a unique Airbnb (use this link to sign up and get $55 AUD off your first Airbnb booking).
– Find the best city tours and day excursions in Azerbaijan.
– Pre-order the new Lonely Planet Caucasus guidebook (coming out in June 2020).
– Pick up a copy of Ali and Nino, Azerbaijan’s national novel. I can guarantee that Kurban Said’s evocative descriptions of Baku will get you excited for your trip!
7 things to pack for Azerbaijan
- An anti-theft backpack. As a general rule, Azerbaijan is a very safe place and petty crime against tourists isn’t really an issue. Still, a good anti-theft day pack is worth having to keep your valuables safe in the city. If you’re having trouble deciding, here are a few of my favourite minimalist backpack designs.
- A scarf for visiting mosques (women). A lightweight cotton scarf is my number one travel item. In Azerbaijan, it will come in extra handy for covering your hair when entering a mosque or for draping over your shoulders when visiting a market or a rural area. This neutral travel scarf goes with anything, and it even has a hidden pocket. Remember the dress code in Azerbaijan is quite conservative – women and men alike should avoid shorts and wear pants or a skirt that covers the knees.
- Walking shoes. From the cobbled streets of Sheki to the hills of Baku and the muddy landscape around Gobustan, you’ll likely be spending a lot of time on your feet in Azerbaijan. Comfy walking shoes are absolutely essential. I love these ones for women, while my partner lives in these waterproof shoes.
- A reusable water bottle. Avoid single-use plastics whenever you can. I love my S’Well water bottle for warm climates because it doesn’t sweat. Silicone bags, a reusable straw and a portable cutlery set might also come in handy in Azerbaijan.
- Wine Wings. Should you decide to buy a drinkable souvenir in Azerbaijan, these handy custom-made bottle protectors will keep your vino safe and sound in your luggage. A travel corkscrew and a wine stopper are bound to come in handy, too.
- Entertainment for long bus/train journeys. If you don’t suffer motion sickness, an e-reader is great for passing the time on long bus or train journeys. If you have a travel buddy, pick up a headphone splitter – probably my favourite travel gadget of all time – so you can share a screen or a podcast. Check out my full list of essential items to make a long train or bus journey more comfortable.
- Biodegradable wet wipes. Try this convenient travel pack.
More Azerbaijan travel resources
- My best photos of Azerbaijan to inspire your travels
- Plan your trip: The ultimate Caucasus itinerary or an efficient 10-14 day Azerbaijan Georgia itinerary
- How to travel to/from Baku and Georgia by overnight train
- Tips for travelling around Azerbaijan by bus
- Guide to exploring Baku Old City
- Why you must visit the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku
- How to take a day trip from Baku to Gobustan for the mud volcanoes
- Guide to Sheki, Azerbaijan’s most beautiful city
- Guide to Quba, Azerbaijan’s capital of carpet weaving
- How to spend the night in a Silk Road caravanserai in Azerbaijan