I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Baku, Azerbaijan. Who goes to Azerbaijan? There has to be a reason for that, right? We were headed there due to my wife’s work conference. We go to places we would never go on our own. We departed Dulles 11PM Monday night on Turkish Airlines and after a 5-hour layover in Istanbul arrived in Baku at 1am Wednesday morning. My wife had work for the first three days. My daughter and I were on our own for a day(which we used mostly for rest) and then taken around to the sites the other two. The Azerbaijani’s were great hosts. They made sure we made it to the major sites and had a nice lunch and paid for it all. We were invited to all of the official events. They made an effort to make sure we had a good time while my wife was at work. A+ hosting and a nice change from last year when it was clear we weren’t really welcome.
Baku was a very nice city. It is very walkable. Our hotel was near the Caspian Sea and it was an easy walk over to the waterfront and its nice walkable park. We were able to walk along the water and then cross over to the historic old city area in less than half an hour. The old city area is a very nice historic area filled with sites, souvenir shopping, and food. You can spend hours there(and we did Saturday evening). The city is also very safe. You could find people strolling along the waterfront way past dark with no concern about crime. I never found an area that made me leery of my surroundings. I’m sure having hosts to make sure we went to the nice places helped with that.
On our excursion with our hosts, we were taken to the Haydar Aliyev Museum where we learned some Azerbaijani history and saw their classic car exhibit. We went to Atagash Fire Temple. We toured the Baku Carpet Museum. We were driven out to the beach area to experience the Baku beach resort life. We walked up to an overlook of the city that was also a memorial to Azerbaijanis who lost their lives in conflicts. On our social day with the entire group, we went to Gobustan National Park where we saw prehistoric carvings and then back to the city for lunch and a tour of old city. Our tour guide was excellent. One of the best I’ve ever had on a tour. The only disappointment was not being taken to see a mud volcano while at Gobustan. I would recommend a trip to Baku. It is a nice place that is not yet overrun by tourists.