Azerbaijan

From the time Azerbaijan gained its independence from Soviet Union in 1991 and the petroleum boom in the country, the region has been developing as a major tourist centre. Every city has got its own unique history and related testimonials which tell interesting stories about the country’s ancient history. Also with the passage of  time, new constructions with improved technology are coming up which provides a wonderful spectacle of ancient Azerbaijan and upcoming Azerbaijan in the 21st century.

Palace of the Shirvanshahs located in Baku is a UNESCO World Heritage Site built in the 15th century by the Shirvanshah dynasty. This monument is the biggest piece of architecture under the Shirvan-Absheron branch and includes the main building, diwankhana, The Mausoleum, The Palace Mosque and The Palace Bath-house. The construction of the palace was initiated under the rule of Ibrahim first of Shivran dynasty.

The Maiden Tower is one of the most dominant architectural pieces, due to its vague design and the stories that surround it. Said to be built in the 12th century originally on the shore of Caspian Sea (later due to land reclamation, the tower is no more near the Caspian sea), it was supposed to serve as a watch tower. But the construction and architecture, points the needle to nearly 2500 years back. It’s an important part of Azerbaijani history considering that it features on the country’s currency notes and other documents.

The Atashgah Fire Temple or simply the Fire Temple of Baku is situated at Surakhani near Baku. This castle style temple is similar to that of Hindu temples with inscriptions in Sanskrit stating that it was Punjabi and Sikh people’s place of worship. Today it houses a museum and is no longer used as a temple

Yanar Dagh is a mountain near Baku that continuously vents flames of fires all year round a process that has been going around for 1000 years. Natural gas vents on the sides of the mountains make sure that the flames don’t subdue inspite of rain.

Azerbaijan made advancement in its economy due to its oil reserves. So the oil rocks complex near Baku has become an attraction for many. But prior permission from State Oil Company of Azerbaijan is needed to view the complex.

A hamam / public bath is a type of a sauna that originated in Middle Eastern countries. In Baku the main “hamam” lies near the Baki Soviet Metro railway station as it is oldest public bath in the city. Known as Hamam Mehellesi, different days are allotted for men and women with Monday’s and Friday’s for women and the rest of the days for men. Another public bath, only for men, is located in the old town and is known by the name of Teze Bey Hamami. A little expensive as they offer a variety of baths like Turkish, Finnish, etc.

Icheri Sheher or the Old Inner City is the oldest part of Baku that is surrounded by fortification walls dating to the 9th century. The streets inside the city have been so designed so as to block the strong gust of air coming from the Caspian Sea.

Lying just outside the city, the tomb was built in honour of poet and writer Nizami Ganjavi. The monument was rebuilt in 1991 on the existing old structure which dated to the 1940’s. The mausoleum is 20m tall and the area surrounding it displays the poet’s books inscribed on metal

In the city of Ganja, lies a two storied building, aptly named “Bottle House”. It is decorated with nearly 50,000 glass bottles. A private family house, the decorations include a portrait of a member of the family who went missing during WWII.

The Shah Abbas or Juma Mosque includes two a 17th century minarets built as a tribute to the independence of Ganja from Osman Empire. The red bricked building has been designed by Sheykh Bagauddin and has been decorated by “Shebke” stained glass paintings.

The tombs of Seyid Khalifa are situated in the village of Jil, nearby Lankaran. The tombs are supposed to have been built in the 19th century with tall and heavy stones / slabs inscribed with pictures of arrows, shields, words, footprints and hands. The place is famous because it is the burial place for many religious saints who came to Lankaran to spread Islam.

Yanar Bulag is a hot water spring that is constantly burning which is comparable to a gas stove. It is located on the highway that joins Lankaran and Astara.

Located on the M.F.Akhundov Avenue, Caravan Sarai or Caravan Palace is a historically cherished monument that was built by the Sheki Khans. The Caravan Palace was built as a resting place for the caravans that passed along the Silk Road through Azerbaijan. The site on which Caravan Sarai is built is said to be one of biggest stopovers for caravans in the Caucasus region. The Caravan Sarai has been decorated with traditional stained "Shebke" glass and frescoes and finds its notation among many poems of Azerbaijan.

Hiking is the best possibility in the northern region of Azerbaijan with a wide range of hiking routes available. In Sheki there are many hiking courses such as the Sheki-Bash Kyungyut-Bideiz-Sheki route, Sheki-Kish-"Gelersen-Gorersen" fortress-Sheki route, Sheki-Oraban-Bashkeldek-Keshnazar-Gyurgala-Sheki route and the Sheki-Ortazeyzit-Bashzeyzit-Quzuyolu-Khanyaylagi-Markhal-Sheki route. The mountains, vivid scenery, bonding with local Azerbaijani’s, having the local “Chay” and “kebabs”, is a dream come true.

Albanian Mosque is an Islamic religious place, built in the 4th century. A similar mosque can be found in Qabala which today is a city in Sheki region, but served as the capital of Albania for past many centuries.

The  monument is one of earliest constructions which were built in the mausoleum style which was later extensively used in the 16th and 17th centuries. Sheikh Yusuf who was a renowned philosopher and writer has been buried along with his wife and four sons in this mosque.