Crux of the review: Azerbaijan is love! Real Azerbaijan begins "outside" Baku! And a good travel guide gives you >200% the worth of your money. Ideal trip is atleast 4 full days, and departure on the 5th morning. 2 days in Baku, 2 days beyond. During our 4 days, each day we saw a different weather – extreme wind, lovely chill, snow on mountain top, and rain+dense fog! Lastly, Elnur is highly recommended.. we quiet enjoyed travelling with him!
Day 1 (Baku): So while we have travelled widely, this was the first time we had no itinerary. As a result, Day 1 was lazy, too windy and cold to even stand and pretty much a waste. We arrived at 11 am, checked in (hotel in Icharisher is NOT recommend as they are old, tiny, with aweful plumbing issues! Not saying you cant get lucky ), and just roamed about Nizami street, took pictures outside HyderAliyev Cultural Centre. The only saving grace was dinner at Mangal restaurant in Icheri Sheher with its awesome Bbq…..very juicy kebabs & chops (dont mistake this for Mangal steakhouse which is on Nizami street).
By dinner time we decided to do ourselves a favour by booking Elnur for Day 2 – he graciously accomdated us for an exrra/ unplanned day.
Day 2 (Baku): was a whirlwind.. Elnur chartered a great itinerary around Baku and we covered a lot. Highland Park, Flame Tower, cheap souvenirs (bought loads at a shopping centre in outskirts of the city!), Bibi Hebyat mosque, massive lunch buffet at 50 coins (extreme value for money for Azeri food), Ataish Gah, and ended with Yanar Dagh in the night (very smart as the flames and pictures looked mighty pretty) ! Weekend night at Nizami street was pleasently chilly, festive and beautiful.. loved it!
Day 3 (enroute Gabala): headed at 8 am for Gabala and stopped enroute at Shamakhi (where a local sang a welcome song for us! and we had local Azeri breakfast at Shamakhi restsurant), Ismaiylli and the lake surrounded by yellow and red autumn leaves on one side and snow capped mountains on the other – ALL offering BEAUTIFUL picture opportunities throughout – followed by the Gabala chair lift ride from Tufandaq resort up into snow covered mountains – it was AWESOME playing in the snow. Lunch was at Alibaba & Pizza (it was reasonable).
Oh, by now we were craving for spicy Karhai for dinner! Voila.. we found a Pakistani head chef at an Indian restuarant who was kind enough to cook Peshawari Karhai and Karak chai for us himself (!). We all ate and chatted together till 11 30 pm.. what a night! See the picture for (left to right): Elnur, one of our travel mates, and the now- famous chef Rahim Shah at Raja restaurant, Gabala!
Btw, Qafqaz Karavansarayi is a very comfortable, beautiful, and definitely an international quality hotel for night stay (though, much to our surprise in a small city like Gabala, after the horrid experience in a metro like Baku).
Day 4 (Lahich, Baku) – Azari outskirts are DIVINE! We started from Gabala in dense fog, mmm.. the chilly, misty morning was💞💞! We drove past the greenest farmlands and hill sides, cattle grazing, on to a scary (but beautiful!) metal bridge between two mountains near Lahic village. Sadly we had to turn back just before Lahic Village for fear of landslide in continuous rain. However we stopped at a road side shed where these Azari Khanums treated us with hot baked bread, cottage cheese (it was fresh!) and traditional mountain chai in freezing cold! 🙏🙏😍
Elnur planned the day and paced us well, so we could catch up and see the Baku sites we missed on Day 1- hence, we checked out Little Venice, Carpet museum (absolute must see for carpet lovers, for an AZN 7 entrance fee!) And ended with early dinner at the quite oppulent and historic Shirivanshah Museum Restuarant. You HAVE to visit this place for its imposing fort-like walls, oppulent decor and historic exhibits (different in each roam), all the way from the Shirvanshah reign to the Soviet rule. I am not able to verify this but we were told the building is over 200 years old though it opened as restuarant/ museum recently.
Our two cents: A good guide shows you the amazing nooks and crannies you would've missed otherwise (esp when the route and the cities are as scenic as in Azerbaijan – postcard beauty!).. Haggles with vendors on your behalf .. tells you how to save money.. And def goes beyond the call of duty, hanging with you till 12 in the night.. shareing stories and laughs, and refuses to let you hail a cab at any time.. Yes #Elnur was all that. And thanks to him we had a great trip! Highly recommended to engage him as a tour operator!! Azerbaijan is a good mix of modernity and picturesque beauty – While Baku is nice, a cross between Turkish and Russian influence, the real beauty of Azerbaijan starts beyond Baku. So go and explore! happy travels!
#baku🇦🇿 #azerbaijan #rain #chill #fog #travelbug #traveldiaries2018
— with Elnur Allahverdiyev and 2 others.