Sheki Karvansaray Hotel (AKA the Sheki Caravanserai Hotel) is one of the most unique and memorable accommodations in Azerbaijan. Here’s what it’s like to sleep inside a historic Silk Road Caravanserai – plus everything you need to know to organise your stay.

Long before I’d ever considered setting foot in this part of the world – before I knew about the Silk Road or had any knowledge of Central Asia – I have been enamoured with one word: caravanserai.

When I was in my teens, a Turkish restaurant bearing the name Caravanserai opened close to my house. This was probably the first time I heard the word uttered, and I’ve been fascinated with caravanserai and everything it conjures ever since.

Sheki’s Karvansaray Hotel embodies the word I love so dearly. Located inside the Upper Caravanserai – one of several historic trader’s inns in Sheki – it is as authentic (and impressive) a caravanserai as you’ll ever see.

The internal courtyard of the Sheki caravanserai, with arched brick rooms on three sides.
The interior courtyard of the Upper Caravanserai and Karvansaray Hotel in Sheki.

Back in 2017, I spent two nights at this hotel in the historic town of Sheki in northern Azerbaijan. It was one of the highlights of my time in the Caucasus and part of the reason I fell in love with the region (and eventually why I decided to move here!).

Along with the Sevan Writers’ House in Armenia and the Tskaltubo Spa Resort in Georgia, I rate it among my top three unique accommodation experiences in the Caucasus.

I have since been back to Sheki several times and on every trip, I revisit the caravanserai to see how the hotel is going.

Updated for 2023, this guide tells you everything you need to know about staying in Sheki’s Caravanserai.


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History of the Upper Caravanserai

Caravanserais were constructed in the 18th and 19th centuries to accommodate travellers on the Silk Road.

The Caucasus isn’t traditionally considered part of the famous trading thoroughfare that connects China with Turkey and Europe. But the Silk Road was actually an ad-hoc series of different routes that extended across Central Asia and branched out into Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia.

You can find a few beautiful caravanserais in Tbilisi, too – one of the biggest surviving inns has been converted into a museum/shopping/wine bar precinct.

The Shaki Caravanserai, a large stone building with an arched entrance.
The Lower Caravanserai, home to the Sheki Karvansaray Hotel.

Sheki was an important stop on the Silk Road. There were at least two massive inns built in the centre of the city to accommodate traders. They were known as the Yukhari (upper) and Ashaghi (lower) caravanserais.

Yukhari Karvansaray plaque on the front of the historical monument in Sheki, framed by roses.
This sign marks the entrance to the Yukhari Upper Caravanserai.

I can’t emphasise how huge the stone and brick Upper Caravanserai is (but incredibly the Lower Caravanserai, currently closed for restoration work, is even bigger!).

Courtyard of the Upper Caravanserai in Sheki, home to the Karvansaray Hotel.
Inside Sheki’s Upper Caravanserai.

There are close to 600 individual rooms of various sizes – that’s counting the underground storage cells that merchants could access from their sleeping quarters by stepladder if they wanted to check on their goods during the night.

The sun peers through a series of brick archways at the caravanserai inn in Sheki, Azerbaijan.
This upper level corridor links the different rooms.

In 1988, after a period of abandonment, a number of these chambers were turned into guest rooms and travellers once again started treading the stone paths of one of Azerbaijan’s oldest accommodations.

Arched walkway on the bottom level of the Upper Caravanserai in Sheki, home to the Karvansaray Hotel.
The lower level of the historic caravanserai.

The Karvansaray Hotel currently has 14 refurbished guest rooms plus a traditional tea house and restaurant.

The internal courtyard of the Sheki caravanserai, with arched brick rooms on three sides.
Stone arcades at Sheki’s beautiful caravanserai.

Karvansaray Hotel location & how to get there

The Karvansaray Hotel shares its entrance with the Upper Caravanserai, the heritage monument on Sheki’s main street, Mirza Fatali Akhundzada Avenue. See the exact location pinned here.

Entry is via the wooden doors on the corner.

Three boys standing in front of a large wooden door outside the Sheki caravanserai.
Hanging out in front of the ancient doors to the Upper Caravanserai.

The caravanserai is located opposite the Sheki Palace Hotel, around 800 metres downhill from the Sheki Khan’s Palace or 2.6 kilometres from Sheki Central Bus Station.

A taxi to the hotel from the bus station costs 1-3 AZN. Alternatively you can take bus 22 or any of the other buses that are bound for the castle.

When you enter through the doors, you will find yourself inside a dimly lit covered courtyard area with a big fountain in the centre. The Karvansaray Hotel reception is located in one of the rooms directly to the left.

Sheki Karavansaray Hotel reception behind wooden doors inside the caravanserai entranceway.
Karvansaray Hotel reception.

Rooms at the Sheki Karvansaray Hotel, facilities & what to expect

The rooms at the Karvansaray Hotel are certainly not luxurious, but the atmosphere and the history of the building more then makes up for that.

Rooms are located inside the brick chambers of the caravanserai, along the upper level. Each room opens out to the central balcony from where you can look down onto that gorgeous central courtyard.

Leafy spring courtyard of the Upper Caravanserai in Sheki, home to the Karvansaray Hotel.
The central courtyard at the Upper Caravanserai in spring.

The Upper Caravanserai is part of Sheki’s UNESCO World Heritage Listed Historic Centre.

Non-guests are allowed to visit the caravanserai and wander through the courtyard between 11am and 7pm daily. (To give hotel guests some privacy, visitors are not allowed to walk up to the second level.) Outside of these hours, the caravanserai is all yours!

A man reading a kindle while sitting inside the caravanserai in Sheki.
My husband Ross reading a book in the courtyard of the Caravanserai Hotel during our stay.

As you can envisage from the pictures, rooms all have an impressive domed brick ceiling. The rooms are split into two sections, with a quaint sitting area in the front and a bedroom at the rear. Every room seems to have two single beds.

The old brickwork and poor sealing around the doors means that the rooms are a little cold at night. But every room does have a radiator.

Linens, towels and warm bedding is provided.

Guest rooms inside Sheki Caravanserai Hotel, with two beds.
A standard room inside the Sheki Karavansary Hotel.

When we stayed in Sheki in April, it was still quite cold. We had enough blankets to keep us warm in bed, but walking around inside the room after sunset was difficult. Hop under the covers before dark if you can!

Each room has its own private ensuite bathroom – I’m quite sure this wasn’t the case back in the Silk Road days. The bathrooms are a bit outdated in terms of design and fittings, but they are clean and most importantly, there is steaming hot water.

Guest bathroom inside Sheki Caravanserai Hotel, with a private toilet and shower.
Ensuite bathroom inside the caravanserai hotel.

As I mentioned, the hotel also has an onsite restaurant and tea house located at the back of the complex. We ate dinner here during our stay in 2017 – the piti was very tasty.

Breakfast is included in the room rate, but for some reason we missed the memo and skipped it.

If the weather is warm enough, I highly recommend eating in the restaurant garden which is hidden through one of the arches on the side of the building. There are several covered gazebos where you can sit.

Garden for eating at the Karvansaray Hotel restaurant in Sheki.
The restaurant garden at the Karvansaray Hotel.

This isn’t the only caravanserai you’ll see in Sheki, but it’s certainly the only one you can sleep in. If you are planning to visit Azerbaijan, make sure you visit Sheki and stay at Karvansaray Hotel for at least a night or two: It’s a truly unforgettable travel experience!


How to organise a stay at the Caravanserai Hotel in Sheki

Karvansaray Hotel prices

Rooms at the hotel are very reasonably priced. Currently the rates are as follows:

  • Standard room: 30 AZN per room per night (around 17.50 USD)
  • Deluxe room: 50-120 AZN per room per night depending on the room (around 29-70 USD)

Karvansaray Hotel bookings & contact info

As of summer 2023, it is still not possible to make a hotel reservation online.

You have two options: Chance it and ask for a room when you arrive in Sheki (which is usually acceptable in the low or shoulder seasons), or call ahead to reserve a room.

Yasin at reception speaks a little English and can be reached on +994 557 555 570 or +994 557 125 717.

The hotel also has an (inactive) Facebook Page.

Payment is made on check-in. Both cash and card are accepted.

View of the Upper Caravanserai in Sheki, Azerbaijan from the rooftop of a nearby building.
View of the Upper Caravanserai and hotel from the rooftop opposite.

Things to do around the caravanserai & where to eat nearby

The Upper Caravanserai is perfectly positioned for exploring Sheki on foot. The Khan’s Palace and castle complex are walking distance from the hotel.

Follow the street along the side of the caravanserai and you will find yourself in the charming backstreets of Sheki, where there is an old silk factory, ancient minarets, and lovely vernacular architecture. I also highly recommend visiting the newly reopened Khan’s Mosque and Cemetery, which is directly behind the caravanserai.

Walk the opposite way down the main avenue, along the bottom of the caravanserai, to browse the little pottery shops, antique emporiums and Sheki Halva workshops set behind the archways.

For a full list of things to do, see my Sheki travel guide.

There are a number of restaurants near the Karvansaray Hotel including Qaqarin and Old Town.

Another must-do is to stop for a glass of Azerbaijani wine at Khan Wine House, located directly opposite. While you’re there, pop up to the rooftop of the adjoining hotel for a great view down onto the caravanserai.


Other hotels in Sheki

If the Karvansaray Sheki hotel is booked out, there are a number of other accommodation options in Sheki to choose from. Here are my recommendations:

Boutique hotel room in Sheki, Azerbaijan, with historic carpets on the walls.
My room at MinAli Boutique Hotel.

BOUTIQUE: MinAli Boutique Hotel (⭐ 8.9). Furnished with antique silverware and carpets, this cute boutique hotel harks back to Sheki’s Silk Road days. Be sure to request one of the heritage rooms (I stayed in the bottom-floor room). A generous breakfast is served in the top-floor dining room with panoramic city views.


A comfortable room at Macara Sheki Hotel in Sheki, Azerbaijan.
My room at Macara Sheki City Hotel.

MID RANGE: Macara Sheki City Hotel (⭐ 9.1). One of the best value mid-range hotels in all of Azerbaijan, Macara Sheki has luxe rooms and a great buffet breakfast. Staff are friendly and helpful. The location in the centre is around 30 minutes by foot to the Khan’s Palace. I stayed here recently with my dad.


Central Hostel in Sheki, Azerbaijan.
Central Hostel. Photo courtesy of the property.

BUDGET: Central Hostel (⭐ 9.5). This popular hostel in Sheki offers four bright and clean dorms (mixed or single-sex). The central location is convenient to the bus station, and buses up to the palace can be hailed nearby. The adjoining cafe serves the best coffee in Sheki! A great option for budget travellers.


Azerbaijan essentials

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.

FLIGHTS: Find affordable flights to Baku on Skyscanner.

VISAS: Use iVisa to check if you need a tourist visa for Azerbaijan and apply for an expedited visa online.

DOCUMENTATION: Use OneWayFly to obtain proof of onward travel/hotel reservation for your visa application.

TRAVEL INSURANCE: Insure your trip with HeyMondo, my preferred provider for single-trip and annual travel insurance.

AIRPORT TRANSFER: Pre-book a private transfer from Baku Airport to your hotel.

ACCOMMODATION: Find the best Azerbaijan hotel deals on Booking.com or book a Baku hostel.

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.

AZERBAIJAN GUIDEBOOK: Get your copy of the new Lonely Planet Caucasus guidebook (February 2022).

ALI AND NINO: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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