The mud volcano landscape at Gobustan National Park is one of the most interesting things to see in Azerbaijan. Here’s how to get from Baku to Gobustan on easy and affordable day trip.
Post-apocalyptic is the only way to describe the landscape in Gobustan National Park. Situated just 67km south of Baku (or an hour’s drive) along the Caspian coast, Gobustan (Qobustan) is all rock and oozing mud, scars and craters. Easily accessible from the capital, the mud volcanoes near Baku are a must see if you’re visiting Azerbaijan.
Here’s my travel account, plus everything you need to know about visiting the mud volcanoes and petroglyphs on a Gobustan tour from Baku for less than $35 per person.
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Where to stay in Baku
- Budget: Sahil Hostel & Hotel (from $6/night). Baku’s premier hostel offers dorms and private rooms plus beautifully designed common areas.
- Boutique: Shalimar Boutique Hotel (from $43/night). Clean, comfortable rooms within walking distance of the Old City and waterfront.
- Airbnb: Quiet and cosy apartment (from $28/night) – use this link for a discount.
- Luxury: Four Seasons Baku (from $344/night). Located on Baku’s Bulvar corso at the southern corner of the Old City, it features an indoor swimming pool with glass vaulted ceiling.
- Distance from Baku to Gobustan: 67km (42 miles)
- Gobustan National Park hours: 9am–5pm daily
- Gobustan entrance fee: 10 AZN (5.80 USD)
- Best Gobustan day trip: Bag Baku Tours (55 AZN or 32 USD per person)
- Best Gobustan private tour: This 5-hour itinerary with hotel pick up
Exploring the Gobustan mud volcanoes
Despite initial appearances, Gobustan is not actually dead but living – living in the 14,000 residents who call the nearby town home; living in the blistering mounds and temperamental coastline that are constantly shifting on Mother Nature’s whim.
Beyond, an azure Caspian floats just out of reach, a backdrop to the flat-top mountains this retreating inland sea pummeled into shape. Above, the azure sky is dotted with choppers surveying the oil rigs below.
Azerbaijan is often described as otherworldly, and Gobustan is otherwordlyness incarnate.
Like what you see? check out My favourite photos from Azerbaijan.
It’s not oil or tar bubbling up from the earth as you might imagine, but mud – thick, goey, cold mud. More than half the world’s mud volcanoes – about 300 in total – are found in Azerbaijan, and some of them are here in Gobustan.
Mud volcanoes are not really volcanoes at all, but take their name from their resemblance to the molten-lava kind. Mud volcanoes come in all shapes and sizes and many are very small. Because they have no lava and rarely erupt, it’s safe to get up close.
Methane and carbon dioxide gases released from deep within the Earth cause Gobustan’s mud volcanoes to constantly bubble away, releasing a slow drizzle of wet mud that paints the ground grey and black.
Gobustan’s weather is windy and salt-crusted, so the mud dries out quickly, cracking and changing colour almost before your eyes.
Exploring this wicked landscape is great fun; it really does feel like you’re standing at the edge of the Earth out here. A vista of Gobustan is like a glimpse at the end of existence.
The stark, almost hostile landscape is a wonderful juxtaposition to the other tourist attraction this area is famous for – a place where people come to ponder the beginning of life as we know it.
Gobustan Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape and petroglyphs
Most people don’t travel to Gobustan for the mud volcanoes – they come for the petroglyphs.
Petroglyphs are symbolic and figurative ‘drawings’ made by early humans by chiselling shapes into the patina of exposed rock. Petroglyphic rock art (crude as it may be) is evidence of the development of symbolic thinking, making it one of the most important artifacts of early human history.
The Gobustan rock art petroglyphs date back up to 40,000 years to the Upper Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods. More than 6,000 individual carvings were discovered here in the 1930s and have been protected through the Gobustan National Park (Gobustan Milli Parkı) ever since.
The Gobustan Natuer Museum sits adjacent to the petroglyphs and this is the first port of call for visitors. The Museum contains interactive displays that explain the meaning of the carvings as well as a more general exhibition to help you understand the context of Gobustan.
Many of the petroglyphs found here depict horses, goats, lions and big game. Evidence suggests that animals were carved into the rock as part of pre-hunting rituals – or maybe even for target practice.
Other petroglyphs are visual records of Gobustan’s culture: dance ceremonies, pregnant women depicted in profile and abstract tamgas or status symbols.
Outside the Museum, walking tracks wind through Gobustan’s surreal landscape of stacked boulders, rock shards and caves, tumbledown from the countless earthquakes this area has endured.
This part of Gobustan is noticeably greener, but it’s just as windswept and dry as the mud volcanoes.
It’s essential to visit the Natuer Museum before going out to see the petroglyphs in-situ. The carvings are well-preserved but difficult to identify, so it helps to know what you’re looking for. Better still, have a guide from the Museum accompany you like we did.
How to travel from Baku to Gobustan with Bag Baku Tours
Gobustan National Park makes for an ideal trip out of Azerbaijan’s capital. The mud volcanoes are located half an hour’s drive south of the museum, so it’s a good idea to pair the two and make a day of it.
The Natuer Museum is well signposted and you should have no trouble getting there by taxi. The mud volcanoes, however, are off-road and hidden away. There is no Baku to Gobustan bus, and most taxi drivers won’t know where to take you. That’s why it’s not recommended to do this trip independently.
The most convenient way to see Gobustan’s petroglyphs and mud volcanoes is with travel company Bag Baku. They run a daily minibus from Nazimi metro station to Gobustan Museum during peak season (leaving at 9am and returning to Baku around 3pm), plus off-season trips on request. At the Museum, they’ll organise your guide. Bag Baku staff then coordinate with a fleet of Lada taxi drivers to take you out to the volcanoes.
We travelled in the off-season with six other people and paid 35 AZN each, including all transport plus entrance to the Museum and our guide.
The price has since increased to 45 AZN per person, plus an extra 10 AZN for entrance to the Museum (total 55 AZN, including transport and guide). Prices often fluctuate – I always do my best to keep information presented here accurate, but for the most up-to-date prices, I recommend double checking with the tour operator.
Alternative Gobustan tours
This private tour lasts for 5 hours and includes transfers from your hotel in Baku by SUV. After visiting the petroglyphs and the mud volcanoes, you’ll have a chance to see the Bib-Heybat Mosque on your way back to the city. Check tour prices and availability on Get Your Guide.
For an extended day trip option, this 7-hour small group tour visits the world’s first industrialised oil well, the petroglyphs and the mud volcanoes, plus Yanar Dag ‘burning mountain’ and the Ateshgah Zoroastrian fire temple outside Baku. A traditional Azeri lunch spread is also included in the price, along with transfers from the city. Check prices and availability on Get Your Guide.
What to bring with you to Gobustan
- Good walking shoes. The terrain is rough around the mud volcanoes, so comfy walking shoes are absolutely essential. I love these ones for women, while my partner lives in these waterproof shoes.
- A hat. You’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors and since the area is very exposed, sun protection is key (even in winter). It’s also a good idea to carry a travel raincoat and/or collapsible umbrella in case you get caught in the rain.
- A refillable water bottle. Avoid single-use plastics whenever you can. I love my S’Well water bottle for warm climates because it doesn’t sweat.
- Snacks. Apart from a small ice cream and tea store inside the museum grounds, there’s no real opportunity to buy food. Best to bring some snacks with you.
- Biodegradable wet wipes. Try this convenient travel pack.
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!
More fantastic Baku day trips
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